Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Astonishment (02/02/12)
TITLE: Ya Gotta Hand it to Harry!
By Noel Mitaxa
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His small, nondescript abode matched his bland, monochrome existence as an IRS clerk, and it was all-too apparent that the 7:26 am express to town and the 5:38 pm express out of town packaged his whole world.
Unless you scratched beneath the surface, for Harry had answered the call from a world of wide-open spaces that mocked his confined weekly regime.
Every internal wall of his unassuming cottage was encrusted with posters, bookshelves or magazine racks, and his home cinema was dominated by a huge 3D screen, with DVDs and downloads. He needed no index or filing-system for the reading matter. It could all be filed under “T” for Tractors.
Harry’s secret vice was an obsession with these agricultural monsters. All the more amazing was that he had never actually seen a live one. This small detail did not slacken his vice-like grasp of every detail of how tractors worked, the trends that were emerging, and the special requirements that manufacturers needed to address in order to maintain their competitiveness.
Anyone who met Harry at a party was rapidly engulfed within his amazing memory of every aspect of tractors. But Harry was also astonished to find the dramatic and sudden turns in the lives of his listeners as their interest rapidly waned. Some had just learned of war breaking out, and they must enlist. Others needed to visit their grandparents. Some listeners had such challenging health problems that their doctors would suddenly phone them – half-way through one of Harry’s more detailed discourses – with news that their long-awaited surgical procedure was now awaiting their attendance!
Harry finally realised that he needed some first-hand experience of his fascination, so he booked a weekend train ride to an agricultural fair which promised his exposure to all the latest gizmos.
Arriving at the fairgrounds, he was surrounded by thousands of farmers and primary industry agents, all discussing ways to improve their production. And so many tractors....
Harry was in his element, although his suit did look a little out of place.
He approached the first exhibit, where he carefully inspected the back axle assembly. A smirking sales agent cast a glance his way.
The smirk faded in astonishment at Harry’s first question: “Isn’t this the new pourostatic drive that couples the hesenffaner with the micro-organic laser-fired technoffleheimer?”
The agent covered his astonishment with a forced smile as he thought of an impending easy sale and held out the keys. “Would you like to start her up sir?”
Harry needed no second bidding as he leapt high into the cockpit. All his fantasies were coming true as he inserted the key and attacked every switch within reach, as the monster erupted into life and hurtled off its stand, crashing through five other display stands before tipping over and bursting into flames.
Emergency service people cordoned off the area and extinguished the fire before any more damage was done, but Harry’s injuries were so serious that he was taken to hospital; where he needed months of rehabilitation.
His rehabilitation complete, Harry was finally able to leave hospital.
He hurried home and launched himself into a frenzy of destruction; consigning every last sign of his tractorial fascination to the garbage and muttering furiously: “I’ve had it with those things!”
Finally the house was clear, and he took himself off to the nearest bar, where he hoped to drink in celebration of his new start in life.
He strolled in through the foyer to the main lounge, where he saw an astonishingly-beautiful woman sitting alone at the bar. Crying. He quickly approached her: “Why so sad?”
“I’m not sad,” she replied, “all the cigarette smoke in here is hurting my eyes!”
“Leave it to me,” he said, emptying his lungs before inhaling with a harsh sucking sound that increased in pitch, until his cheeks were swollen and his face was turning crimson.
Then, racing out to the back alley, he let it all out.
He returned inside to find the air crystal-clear, and everyone looking at him in astonishment.
“How did you do that?” they chorused.
“Easy,” replied Harry. “I’m an ex-tractor fan!”
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