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13.12.08

Engine room


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Visiting the engine room, we bump into Marija, from aunt Humperdink’s glass fibre factory in Utah. Mahalath ask Marija why she is here, Marija holds out a filament and explains that, because the engine uses glass fibre for insulation, and the filament particles are very abrasive, only people who work with glass fibre can maintain the engine. Mahalath, suddenly scratching her stomach, asks why only glass fibre workers can do the job and Dorothy explains that, working amongst glass dust, it takes a long time for the skin to thicken and become inured to the itching caused by the particles. Seeing Mahalath starting to scratch herself, Marija tell her not to scratch, as that only makes it worse, and she explains that it is the glass particles caught in the fabric of her clothes that is damaging her skin, which is, she adds, taking off her pullover, why glass fibre workers normally work naked. My arms and legs are starting to itch and, although I can see that Mahalath is starting to tremble with the effort of not scratching herself, she politely asks Marija how the engine works.


Marija, removing her shoes, tells us that it is the same as when you have crab juice in your hair, on a cold day, you might not notice, but, stepping into a warm library, for example, and standing near the heater, the juice will warm up and the smell of crab will become apparent. Taking off her blouse, Marija explains that the engine has the same effect on the space-time continuum as a library heater does to a festering tramp. Mahalath, giving in to the incessant itching, wildly scratching and slapping herself, asks how this creates momentum. Marija, taking off her trousers, explains that, as with a vomit-encrusted beard, when it is cool, people might not notice but, on a hot day, for instance, even if the beard is relatively static, the steam will make everybody move away. Applying the same principal, Dorothy explains, unclipping her bra, when it is functioning correctly, the engine stays where it is, and everything else does the moving. Marija finished this explanation, peels off her pants, and returns to work, looking entirely comfortable; but I am itching all over and Mahalath is behaving like a squirrel in a bucket of itching powder. I tell Marija that it has been wonderful to see her and that we will come back and see her again as soon as our skin eruptions have stopped oozing, and we’ve recovered from the lesions, pruritus and papulovesicular dermatitis. Now, tearing our clothes off and scratching ourselves like flea-ridden chimps, we leave the engine room, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary