Jack and Susan in 1913

Jack and Susan in 1913 by Michael McDowell

Book: Jack and Susan in 1913 by Michael McDowell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael McDowell
“Did you speak to Mr. Fane about your ideas for his cameras?”
    â€œYes,” said Jack, leaning against the table opposite her. His legs really did seem most absurdly long. “He thought they were very interesting, and felt that I should go forward with my experiments.” Jack smiled a melancholy smile.
    â€œBut he didn’t give you any money,” said Susan.
    â€œNo. But he said he’d be happy to see how I was progressing at any time.”
    â€œI’m sorry,” said Susan. “You know, I don’t really know what it is you’re doing with those cameras.” It was difficult to center her attention on Jack’s project, when what she really wanted to do was jump into the air, spin around, and clutch seven five-dollar bills to her breast in an agony of relief, pride, and hope. Nevertheless, she gazed at him with what she hoped was interest on her face.
    â€œI’ve thought of a small device to go inside the camera. You know how sometimes the moving pictures are jerky?”
    â€œThey are always jerky,” said Susan with perhaps more enthusiasm than she strictly felt about this technical matter. “And I’ve always wondered why someone didn’t do something about it.”
    â€œWell, once I’d looked inside the cameras, I realized what the trouble was. What’s needed is something that will steady the film as it passes behind the lens—something that will make the speed absolutely uniform, which it isn’t now. If I were to come up with something like that, it would be an improvement for every camera in the moving-picture business.”
    â€œIt sounds simple,” said Susan, “but I’m sure it’s not.”
    â€œSo what I would like to do is develop the device, patent it, sell it to all the moving-picture companies, and retire from tinkering on a fabulous income. But I make a living now making small repairs, such as on your typewriting machine. That takes all my time, and I’ve none left over for the work that might bring in real money.”
    Without thinking what she was doing, Susan took two of her precious five-dollar bills and proffered them to Jack.
    He held up his hands. “Oh no, please, I won’t.”
    â€œWhy not?”
    â€œBecause that is your hard-earned money.”
    â€œBut it’s more than I need.”
    Jack shook his head. “No. I won’t take money from you. I’m not destitute, and I’m young and strong and my constitution will be able to stand a few late nights of work. While the rest of the city is asleep, you’ll be up here going scribble , scribble , scribble on your next scenario, and I’ll be down below, grind- , grind- , grind ing away at some broken moving-picture camera. So you can pace and dance and act out all the parts to your heart’s content without fear of keeping me from sleep.”
    â€œYou’re certain you won’t take the money?”
    â€œPositive. It would make me ashamed.”

    For the next weeks Susan was in heaven. She could think of no other situation that would compare to her present one. She sat all day in the great comfortable chair in her sitting room, with her mending leg propped up on the ottoman and Tripod squeezed in beside her. She wrote and wrote and wrote. While she dressed, bathed, and prepared her little meals, her imagination was in another place. She daydreamed as she had not daydreamed since she was a little girl staring at the dusty road that led out of Winter River and wondering where it would take her. She dreamed now of impossibly sweet romances, improbably comic weddings, and exciting adventures fraught with danger to the hero. She even imagined a beautiful young woman, kidnapped, sequestered, and threatened in a lonely house in a forbidding landscape. But the difference between her childhood imaginings and these sweeping fancies was that these would bring Susan money, if she was able to dream them in

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