Sneak Peek: The Veneer Clause


         “I’m fifteen, father,” Rex whined. He looked up from his work, a platter-sized parabolic mirror, polished to provide the utmost clarity. “Surely I’m mature enough now to go with you into town.”

            His father, Todd, glared back and Rex realized how poorly his plea supported his case. He straightened his posture, pulling his shoulders back. After clearing his throat, he resumed his argument in his most adult voice. “My star-scope would be finished by now if I’d been able to go with you and help.”

            “You’ll be able to see town from where we’ll set up your invention,” his father replied. “Wait until we’ve finished with this project before you consider new ventures.”

            “And all these inventions in my head, all the ideas I’ve had; they’ve all been thought of before?”

            “Long before either of us ever existed,” Todd replied.

            “Then why don’t we have them here?”

            “It was a preference of the first settlers to keep a simple existence and I honor it.”

            Rex wrapped the mirror and placed it in a cushioned box. “You’ve helped me build my star scope. Isn’t that a violation of their preference?”

            Todd looked to his son and flashed a smile. “The telescope is harmless enough.”

            Rex frowned.

            “That is the proper name for what you’ve invented,” Todd explained. “Others will call it that.”

            “Who invented it first?”

            Todd’s expression froze. Rex recognized the blank stare of his father deep in thought. There were times when Rex’s questions sent his father’s mind far away, searching for an answer. As Rex matured, his questions perplexed his father more frequently while his mother ignored his inquiries. While she seemed agitated by his curiosity, his father indulged him. Though most of his questions brought rapid answers, others tied up his father’s mind beyond Rex’s patience. The telescope’s creation had come from such a conversation. Rex yearned to explore the wonders beyond their idyllic world.

            “I’m not sure,” he answered finally. “It’s been so long, and history’s not my specialty.”

            “Is there a place where I can get all my answers?”

            Todd shook his head. “Not all, but many. But why would you leave such a perfect place? Are you unhappy here?”

            “It’s not that,” Rex answered apologetically. “I just feel like there’s more to life, like I’m supposed to be doing something with myself, something important.”

            Todd’s eyes widened. “What does that feel like? How can you ‘feel’ a pull towards something unknown?”

            “Haven’t you ever watched a bird fly and wonder what it felt like, ever wonder if you could find a way to fly too? Did you ever feel like a coiled spring, ready to catapult into an adventurous unknown? You didn’t feel the same way at my age?” Rex asked. His father’s stolid gaze made him feel foolish for asking.

            “I enjoy my simple life with you and your mother.”

            “But I want to go beyond our little valley one day,” Rex countered. “I want to see new marvels like my telescope, and more. Can’t we take a trip to the nearest village at least?”

            “We could, you and I,” Todd said in a slow cadence. “Your mother might not approve.”

            Rex looked at the telescope’s pieces, all packed for the trek up the hill just outside of town where they’d begun work on their observatory. Todd’s knowledge on the subject eliminated any need for experimentation. Rex only needed to posit a theory and his father would ask the right questions to teach him the value or folly of each calculated step towards its invention.

            “What if we didn’t tell her?” Rex ventured. As the boldness of his words struck him, his palms immediately began sweating.

            Todd stared, blank faced at Rex. “Let’s wait until we finish our telescope project before we discuss that again.”

            The lump in Rex’s throat withheld any rebuttal and he quickly busied himself, loading their telescope pieces into a rickety, wooden, two-wheeled push-wagon. They trudged through the shady glade between home and the hillside site chosen for their observations. Only the heavy wheels tumbling across the uneven cobblestone road broke the silence between them. At the base of the hill, they unpacked their cargo and lugged each piece to the summit. Rex stopped to admire the view. The forest canopy rippled in the breeze, a glistening sea of green. An archipelago of grey oblong stones, buildings in the nearby town, dotted the horizon. Rex yearned to see the town firsthand, to meet people and converse with them. Interesting things came from town: like the materials to build their telescope.

“Why’d we have to lug this up here?”

After a moment’s hesitation his father replied, “The trees around the house block too much of the sky. From this hill we’ll have a better view of everything.”

            “I don’t suppose they have machines invented that could’ve made the trip up here easier,” Rex sputtered between breaths.

            His father turned from admiring the sunset, no smile on his lips and no glimmer in his eyes. “They have machines for everything.”


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