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Rated: E · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2318824
Darla designed it. Javier built it. Now it's time to drive it.
Word Count: 1490

Darla and Javier pushed the wagon out from the barn. Nearby the horses collected next to the railing, watching them. The wagon had four wooden wheels, a seat for the driver and a room to put cargo, but in the front, where the horses would go, was a metal looking rounded looking thing that made the horses cock their head. They had no idea what to think of the ugly contraption.

They got the wagon out to the dirt road. Darla stood for a moment admiring her handicraft. She rubbed her hands together and put her hands on her hips. “Well, Javier, this is it.”

“I’ll drive,” he said. “You got the coal?”

She dug into the pockets of her riding pants and held up a couple of small lumps of coal. “Check the water.”

He walked over to the brass cylinder and examined the water level line. “It’s full.”

“The Crankshaft? The pistons?”

Javier looked under then over the engine. “Everything is hooked up. It’s now or never.”

Darla drew in a breath to deal with her anxiety. She’d been obsessed with making a steam engine ever since she dreamed about it when she was twelve. That summer she spent the entire time inside, sketching and drafting. Her mother thought she was crazy, but Darla believed in herself, and as long as she did her chores and took care of the horses and fed the pigs, her mother didn’t fuss.

When Darla was done with her sketches, she ran over to her next-door neighbor and found Javier. He was her age. He loved to make things. He was always wood carving or tin smithing. He helped his father with his black smithing business, too. Javier always had a spot of dirt on his face from something, but Darla loved that about him.

It was a nice day to test the steam engine. The sky overhead was cerulean blue with only a couple of lazy white clouds lingering on through.

Darla walked forward and gave Javier the coal. He placed it in the steam engine, struck a match and threw it into the small opening, closing the door. After a few minutes, the whistle blew a small blast of steam out. Javier checked the water line. It was a little lower. He turned to Darla. “We’ve got steam!”

“Let’s go!”

They jumped into the seat on the wagon and Javier fiddled with some regulators. The wagon jerked and lurched and finally began to roll forward.

“Where should we go?” he asked.

“Into town!” she exclaimed.

He eased off something and the wagon continued forward onto the street. He had to pull on something and ease off of another line, but her engine was working!

Glancing back at the horses, one frowned, and one dug his hoof against the ground. She wondered if they were jealous.

Javier drove the contraption down the road, over the bend, and past the oak trees until it rolled into town on the main street.

Windows flew open. People stopped on the street and stared. ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ filled the air.

“Crazy Darla actually built that wagon she was talking about!” someone muttered.

“Look at Javier drive that thing!”

“Hey Javier can you stop that wagon?” the town constable yelled.

Javier glanced at Darla.

“Let’s hope the brakes work,” she whispered.

Javier pressed a button, and nothing happened. He pressed it harder. The wagon jerked again and slowly came to a stop.

“Open the top and let the steam out so it will idle,” Darla said.

He juggled something else, and the top of the cylinder opened. Puffs of grey smoke escaped.

“Well, what have we here?”

Darla and Javier glanced toward the telegraph business. The Duke of Elmont approached, dressed in white linen shirt, riding pants, and black boots to his knees, his hands on his hips. Two of his footmen walked behind him.

“It’s a steam engine, Your Grace.” Darla replied.

The glared at the cylinder. “How on Earth does it work?”

“Well, you light a make steam, steam turns the positions, that turn the crankshaft and make the wheels turns,” Darla replied.

“Why aren’t you driving it?” the Duke asked. He was about thirty. Darla had to admit he was attractive with his black hair and hazel eyes. He was slim and well built and totally available.

“I promised Javier he could drive it. I designed it,” Darla replied.

“But I built it,” Javier added proudly.

“I simply must show this to my cousin, the Prince,” said the Duke. He walked around the wagon rubbing his chin and admiring the craftsmanship.

“Well, it’s a long way to the capital,” said Javier.

“Nonsense. Only twenty miles,” said the Duke. He put his hands on his hips and looked at them.

“We’ll need more coal. Maybe two pounds,” said Darla. She cupped her check in her hands, trying to do the mental math. “And we might need to fill up once on the water.”

“Ah, so it’s do-able!” the Duke exclaimed.

“We’ve never driven it so far.” Javier pursed his lips. He glanced at Darla. The wagon could make it, she was confident of it, but she had no idea how long it would take.

“I’m confident in you!” He spun around and glared at his footmen. “Jake, you go find two pounds of coal. John, you find a couple of barrels of water and follow behind in the royal carriage. We’ll leave in an hour.”

Darla leaned forward. “That’s quick.”

“He’s a Duke. He can make things happen like that,” whispered Javier back.

“I insist on riding in the seat with you,” the Duke said.

“Sure, there’s plenty of room,” Javier motioned to the space between him and Darla.

The Duke clapped his hand and his footmen ran off.

“Let’s have some lunch while we wait.” The Duke motioned to the nearby tavern.

Javier and Darla jumped down and tied the wagon to the nearest hitching post, joining the Duke for a meal.

After an hour, it was time to go. Both Javier and Darla enjoyed a hearty bowl of stew. The Duke’s footmen had procured coal and water and would follow behind in the coach. After all was settled, Javier topped off the water, and Darla topped off the coal.

The Duke sat between them in the front seat. Javier twisted his gears, pushing and pulling and the wagon jerked off before settling in a comfortable speed.

Darla had never traveled so fast. The wind breeze past her checks, making her a touch cold. She glanced at Javier. He had a wide grin, thrilled at the speed. The Duke shared the grin, and she suspected the men enjoyed how fast the wagon went. After about an hour, they stopped to refill the water and off they were again. The Duke loved how fast it went. Javier hooted and hollered, while Darla held onto the side railing so tight her knuckles turned white.

Finally, they approached the Prince’s castle, Raven’s Gate. The zipped over the bridge and into the main courtyard. Gray smoke puffed into the air. The Duke stood on the bench as the wagon came to a stop in the middle of the courtyard.

“George! George! Come out and see this!”

The servants threw open the windows. The doors opened. From cooks and maids to tin smiths, and black smiths, the servants were speechless.

The prince raced out followed by his father, the King and two of his brothers. “Devon, what in the world is that … thing… you’re on?” George stopped and placed his hands on his hips, staring at Darla and Javier.

Devon the Duke laughed. “It’s a wagon with a …what… do you call it?” He motioned at Darla.

“A steam engine,” Darla crossed her arms.

Javier just grinned from ear-to-ear. “Do you want a ride, Your Grace?”

“It’s my turn to drive,” said Darla, non-plussed.

“Oh, even, better,” Devon exclaimed! “C’Mon, George!”

Javier and Darla switched seats. If they were going to take the Duke and the Prince on a joyride, she was going to do the honors. George climbed into the front seat and Javier and Devon climbed into the back of the wagon.

“Darla, close the top,” Javier said.

“I got this,” she grinned. She tugged on the sticks.

George pointed to something. She tapped his hand. “Don’t touch.” Then she released a switch and the wagon jerked forward. Darla did circles and even a wheelie in the courtyard. Glancing at Javier she could see his teeth threw his gritted expression. Devon and George shouted with excitement. This was the best thing they’d ever ridden in their lives. After Darla was done doing her tricks, they stopped again, in the courtyard and everyone rushed over to check out the wagon.

“How do I order one?” asked the King.

Darla looked at Javier and they smiled.

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