Not Sitting Pretty
Barnabas lifted the package onto the boat. It was bigger than Emilia had thought it would be and weighed a ton, and that was without the boiler, which was already installed. She ripped it open. Inside were pipes, pistons, screws and all manner of other parts. And one of those funny pretend screwdrivers. What did they call them? It didn’t matter. She should’ve expected it. It was a flat pack, after all. The Steam-4-U Company weren’t known for bells and whistles -- unless you ordered them as extras, of course. The only parts that made any sense to her were the oars. But she was good at following instructions. She dismissed Barnabas and he retired to the back of the boatshed. He knew better than to offer help when she hadn’t asked for it.
Six hours and a couple of frustrated telegrams to the manufacturers later, it was finished. There were only two screws and one bolt she hadn’t used, which was pretty good for this kind of thing, or so she’d been told. It looked fabulous. She was going to be the envy of all her friends.
The next day she stoked the fire and untied the boat, letting it drift away from the its mooring. When enough pressure had built up, she engaged the mechanism.
It was lucky she had her wits about her, because the instructions hadn’t mentioned that the long thing that looked like a pendulum, actually was one. She nearly ended up in the water watching the boat chug away. The other thing they didn’t mention was the incessant rocking motion the mechanism induced as the oars alternately lifted out of and dipped into the water. She was sure when Barnabas did the rowing he put both oars in at the same time, but maybe she hadn’t been watching closely enough. She quickly began to feel seasick and that really hadn’t been the point. She’d only wanted the system so she could drift across the lake on her own whilst reading her book. She could hardly see the text for the movement. And the smoke that billowed out across her every few minutes.
It was no good. Privacy was overrated.
She put two fingers to her mouth and whistled. Barnabas jumped into the water and began to swim toward the boat, two normal oars strapped tightly to his back, his white locks bobbing up and down on the surface.
Good old Barnabas. Always prepared.