The Streetsweeper of Between (In Progress, Extract)

About 9k words into this story our heroine Cecilia and her travelling companion Jake (who is trapped in a small pocket watch case) encounter the unusual Archie. All subject to change, but I was having so much fun with it I thought I would share:

 

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The last request was somewhat easier said than done. There were piles of clutter everywhere. Cecilia thought she spotted a chair back peeking out from under one such pile, and began excavating. Most of the clutter was papers, piles of them, littered with calculations. She held one up to meagre light from the window, the title in neat, clear script read “Time Dilations and Relativities in the Region of Between, by Archie Khwarizmi”.

“Which one have you got there?” he asked, coming over to peer around her elbow. He turned his head up so that he could look through his spectacles at the paper. “Ah yes, early effort, superceded of course by my theory of differential angular momentum, but still a good place to start for the beginner.” He looked at Cecilia, “Are you by any chance a mathematician?”

“No.”

“Then what are you, other than a cat of course, that much is empirically obvious.”

“I’m not really sure, I suppose you could call me a seamstress for now.”

“Hmmm, well I have some items in need of repair, but there is not much call for seamstressing around here. Why have you come out all this way?”

“I’m on my way to see Nelli in the mountains.”

Archie blinked at her. “Really? All the way to the mountains. Well I suppose Nelli in the mountains could need a seamstress as much as anyone else, but it seems a long way to go. Did she ask for you?”

“Oh no, I was on my way there to see if she could help me answer some questions.” Cecilia had put the paper down and continued unearthing the chair. It emerged at last and she sank gratefully into it.

“In that case you have come to the right place, answering questions is what I do best. I’m a scientist, mathematician, accountant, and something of a philosopher as well.”

“My goodness, what do they call someone who does all that?” For a moment Cecilia was genuinely impressed. Mr Arris, with whom she had spent her early life, was a lawyer; Old Mother Gwen was a washerwoman and seamstress; Sten and Agnes were farming folk. She had never met anyone with four professions.

“An economist.” Archie replied with one of his big smiles.

“And you can help me answer questions?”

Archie hesitated, “well maybe not answer them, no. I can help you ask better questions and propose some possible theories on what the answers may be.”

Cecilia looked at him sceptically, “Just how many theories do you have?”

“Sixty three.” Archie said proudly.

“Sixty three!” Cecilia and Jake echoed.

Archie jumped back in alarm. “Who said that?” he called, looking about. Cecilia opened out the case, and Jake’s eye peered out curiously.

“Archie meet Jake, Jake, this is Archie, he’s an economist.”

“He’s a liar is what he is,” Jake’s mouth said. “Sixty three theories indeed. If anyone around here had sixty three theories I would have heard about them by now.”

 

 

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