The Tambinder Engine (part four)

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structure




The Tambinder Engine 
A McAlley Story

(part four)



McAlley had told her he did not. She believed he did.

Summer of that year passed to autumn, and Dustin did not write. Deenie settled for an exercise of Tirza’s. Tell your frustrations, when they crowd up, that you see them, that you’re a busy person and can’t give them your time. She made herself resolute at bettering her work…

Think of this, think of nothing else.

Her earnings at Gaia allowed for rent, electric, filling her car’s tank, a few groceries for days off. The chapel’s eateries fed her otherwise. They were not charity kitchens; they served a meal, not a menu…as a parent would, and the lost souls who congregated in her spaces paid a fixed price.

Deenie left her sewing machine, starting mornings at the Whip (so-called for having been an ice cream shop). She carpooled, took her turn driving others. She learned to cook scrambled eggs, a jellyroll pan of dozens beaten together, thickened in the oven, a pat of butter plopped on the grilltop, zip zip zip with the spatula… The eggs skimmed free, chopped, salted, swished.

Workers, mostly local orchards’ pickers, augmented their eggs with a ladle from a pot of oatmeal. Some days brought cinnamon raisin, some banana. Milk, not to make packaging waste, was from an urn, at twenty-five cents a cup.

This was an article of faith at Gaia. To spend the least, to find and repurpose. Deenie grew trusted to make the banana rounds, as Rory joked, bargaining at groceries for fruit and veg they were tossing. The news of the world continued grim, horrors bursting in a bolt of lightning, another shoddy tower crashing.

She came home one day near Solstice. Snow had fallen and melted from the pavement, heavy wet snow that left fat caps on the yew hedge, outside the apartment she’d taken. Deenie rummaged the bottom of her bag for keys.

Her foot crinkled a paper something.

She dropped the bag, stooped to unzip a boot, and saw an envelope. A handwritten address. McAlley at last, she thought…turned the bolt, and carried the letter to the bathroom, where the light was fluorescent.


Ms. Carmadge, I am Victor. I have decided it will be helpful to you to understand the truth. Unlimited energy is a possible thing, and achievable. The destruction of the human race is no natural corollary to the exploitation of energy. A free and harmless source is ever available, if tapped. Our means of energy are ultimately fatal to us, but our deaths in molecular terms furnish a rebirth.

The planet moves; the galaxy moves; the universe itself moves. And with no proof that matter is ever lost. Those astronomical bodies that fall—so slowly as to be of no human concern!—into the moribund, are recycled. The movement slows, and the body passes through a reversal of creation to emerge as a vibrant stream of energy, renewed. The observable mechanisms of the universe defy the folkloric








A few words strongly marked out.


the received belief that there can be no perpetual motion engine.

Is it not true that a tree will live decades, hundreds of years in some cases, though consuming the waste of its own fallen leaves? And when a tree dies, no part of it is lost to nature. This is nature’s way


“Oh, god.”

She left the bathroom and laid the letter…its three pages…on her stand for coming-and-going articles: phone, pens, keys, picked-up mail.

Yet a sense of Victor was what she needed—

“Gratitude, Deenie.” For blessings in odd packages.

She could imagine Victor’s words spoken, if he happened to possess a thrumming voice. And if he were a touchy type, an elbow-usherer, a knee-tapper, a maker of warm eye contact…

A boy like Dustin, not able to thrive at school…

Poor at his studies but genius at his puzzle-solving. A man like Victor, then.

But Victor might be a sweaty, logorrheic type, taking insult at a hat’s drop, wild in the eyes. Here, she recalled McAlley, leaving her.

“Speculation against facts is of no use to an investigator. We must derive our path from the map given.”

Dustin had gone off with Victor. Victor, ergo (she giggled), was attractive. Would I like him?

Would he like me? She fixed a peanut butter sandwich, fending the silly fantasy from her mind. “The nuptials of Deeann Carmadge and Victor Tambinder are announced. They will make their home together with Ms. Carmadge’s adult son, Dustin.”

She allowed herself cocoa, boiled in the microwave. She laid plate and mug on the sofa table, and carried back the letter. Nature’s way…

(Lines skipped.)


What force in nature responds to the motion of the universe with motion of its own? The tidal waterways.

 All these things I speak of were thought centuries ago, not by my ancestor alone. He had fled his native land under religious persecution, to settle where his inability to communicate—with but a small community of his countrymen—had proved a boon to the development of his theories.

In gratitude for the city’s welcome, he left to it all his notes and drawings. Many who had visited, at first the university libraries, later that museum called the Old Parish Heritage House


Deenie stopped, and sighed. Then said to herself, read it. How do you know what’s important?






The Tambinder Engine

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structureThe Tambinder Engine (part five)
















(2022, Stephanie Foster)




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