#FridayFlash: The Heart's Primordial Fire

I could tell you a lot about electric arc furnaces, probably much more than you would ever want to know, or could possible care about. I could reel off statistics about the metallurgy, economics, and environmental impact of re-melt scrap steel vs. virgin iron ore, but I know it's an esoteric topic, one with a limited appeal.

Maybe if I were to talk about how Big Steel died? Relate how the old smokestack and coal mine Big Steel of Pittsburgh, Allentown, and Johnstown got the shit kicked out of it by electric minimills like mine, maybe then you'd care. After all, that's people, right? Men, women, kids, small town America. Wrap a flag around it and put a shivering puppy in the picture, then maybe you'd care.

But I don't come from Pennsylvania and I don't have any puppies on hand.

How about bulk shipping prices from the reclamation breakyards in Malaysia? Feed material mix ratios of shred to pig iron to big scrap? The impact of carbon and molybdenum content on the resultant steel's quality, market destination, and price?

No, that's stuff I care about, but you wouldn't. After all, I'm boring, I'm tiresome, I'm a one-note Charlie because all I care about is my mill.

What if I were to tell you that there's over two hundred tons of scrap in this melt? Busted engine blocks, mostly, about a thousand of them dumped them into the bowl. A thousand old cars, a thousand old chariots of the modern Rome, broken up so I can melt them down and start the whole thing all over again. I renew America with my filthy, boring, tiresome mill, day after day after day.

Still nothing?

What if I told you that in the middle of that pile of broken steel was the mortal remains of one Jeantte Alice Spurling, native of Weshona, WY? And what if I told you that the cap is already over the bowl, and that the electrodes are already primed? And what if I told you that when I throw this switch, sixty-five million volts is going to slice into all those engine blocks? Do you know what will happen?

Do you care?

In about forty minutes, the whole melt will be at two thousand, nine hundred and fifty degrees; the bowl will be filled with two hundred tons of molten steel, golden and powerful with an ancient, primordial fire. All the residual oil, engine fittings, and combustion gunk will vaporize, right along with sweet, plump, cheating little Jeanette. She'll be steam, then smoke, then ash, then nothing. She'll never have to complain about being bored ever again, not with my mill, my steel or with me.

After the melt stabilizes, in an hour or so, the foreman will order the rigger to pull a sample of the melt for the metallurgy QA/QC lab. Would it interest you to know that there isn't enough calcium in her bones to show up on the meter? I know, because I did the compositional math on the mass ratios last night.

And would it interest you to know that even though Richie McCauliffe, that piece of shit, is keeping little Jeanette company down there under the engine blocks, he won't show up in the melt chemistry either? Two hundred and thirty pounds of muscle, hair gel, and thick necked charm is still mostly just water and carbon. Compared to the weight of steel, one cheating lover with big tits plus one greasy redneck with crooked teeth equals nothing... nothing at all.

Oh, I could tell you a lot. Maybe after the ready light switches from red to green. Maybe after the melt starts.

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Brains are stupid

Listen, I have no idea why I feel differently about being a writer than I did a few days ago, but I do. Is it the period of quiet introspection with my pen-and-ink journal that gave me a chance to work out how I feel? Is it the conversation I had with a friend? Is it the weather? Is it the restful splash of scotch I had last night after a long, hard day?

Who knows?

Maybe it's that I've been reading a book of short stories by famous, successful authors. My reaction to them has been a mixture of, "Gosh, that's a well-set scene! Gosh, that's an interesting character!" and "Ugh, why is this character so boring? Ugh, what a formulaic plot twist! Ugh, what a dumb resolution!"

There is no stronger goad than the feeling of, "Hell, I could do better than that!"

Granted, I still don't have any fresh ideas, but I have a reworked second draft of an existing novel-in-progress I can dive back into. Will it eventually be a good book?

It'll be as good as I can make it, and that's enough.

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Former writer

Today is one of those days when I feel like it would be more accurate (and more truthful) to change all my online biographies (Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn, this blog, etc.) from "writer" to "former writer". Because I've got to say, where creativity and invention used to be a lush garden, it's now nothing but a dead, empty wasteland inside this heart of mine. All sere, no serenity.

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