Title: Mattie and the Machine
Genre: YA Historical
The Bag Division's six bag-making machines are, as Old Jake used to say, pernickety as a moody racehorse. When everything is perfect, they run like a dream, whisking out paper bags by the thousands. But one thing goes off kilter, and they chew the paper feed to bits. And with these machines, a hundred things can go wrong.
Fortunately, I've gotten quick at figuring what's wrong.
Ida's gray-streaked head shakes with amazement as I wriggle out from beneath Machine 3 with a cracked bevel gear in hand. "Mattie," she says, raising her voice over the factory clatter. "I swear you got a sixth sense with mechanical things."
"It's just practice. If you took them apart as much as I do, you'd get good, too," I say, easing my legs out. While my height comes in handy working with the factory's overhead line shaft, it makes crawling under things difficult.
"No, you have a gift," Ida insists. "Old Jake never fixed things this quickly."
That's because Old Jake liked beer for breakfast and rum in his noon coffee.
I don't say that out loud, of course. It's disrespectful to speak ill of the dead. Not to mention, Jake's the reason I'm no longer an ordinary hand like the other women at Columbia Paper. Most mechanics would laugh at the thought of training a young girl, but Jake taught me his trade and taught me well.
For that, I'm grateful.