Tasha Kubiak tried to tune out the pompous ass who was still pontificating. Somehow both Tracy Kubiak and Danielle Kowach, the two other members of the Kubiak Country partnership who could speak competent German, had managed to be needed elsewhere when this trip had come up. It was now two weeks since Dr. Gribleflotz had commenced deliveries of Gribbleflotz Sal Aer Fixus, also known as baking soda. But there had been no word from the good doctor about when he would commence production of baking powder. Someone had to travel to Jena to find out what the hold up was and do whatever it took to get Dr. Gribbleflotz making baking powder. Tasha had hoped her boss, Sebastian Mora of Mora's Café, would refuse to give her the time off to travel to Jena. However, as soon as Sebastian had heard she was going to ask about baking powder, he had all but packed her bags for her.
So here she sat, letting the drone issuing from the good doctor pass over her head. Growing restless while she waited for Dr. Gribbleflotz to finish, Tasha tried to relax. It wouldn't do to aggravate the good doctor by interrupting. In an effort to give her restless hands something to do she reached for her purse. Well drilled hands felt inside for the cigarettes and lighter. Still looking attentively at Dr. Gribbleflotz, Tasha expertly felt for a cigarette. There were only a few left. Did she really need the comfort a precious cigarette would offer? Yes.
It was the action of a moment to remove a cigarette and place it in her mouth. For a brief moment, just the time it took to put the flame to the end of the cigarette and to inhale that first blissful lungful of nicotine laden smoke, she took her eyes off the doctor.
"What is that you have there?"
Tasha looked up. The change in tone and volume penetrated her best efforts to shut out his drone. She waved her left hand. The one with the smoldering cigarette in it. But Dr. Gribbleflotz didn't follow. His eyes were locked on her right hand. Looking down she couldn't see what was holding the good doctor's attention. It was just an ordinary cigarette lighter.
"It's a cigarette lighter." Tasha offered it for inspection. "You pull that jewel down and a spark ignites the gas."
Phillip looked at Tasha. Then, his eyes alight with interest, he carefully examined the lighter. He flicked it several times. Each time a flame issued from the hole on the top. "How does it work?"
Tasha stumbled mentally, trying to remember anything she had ever heard about cigarette lighters. "It uses a flammable gas for fuel. When you pull down the jewel the gas is turned on. At the same time, a spark lights the gas. It says lit as long as you hold the jewel down." Tasha felt quite proud of herself for remembering all of that. It was almost word for word the explanation her daughter Amy had given when Tasha had asked the same question.
"But what makes the spark?" Phillip asked, a little too controlled.
"Oh." Tasha looked back at the lighter Phillip held. This was getting too deep for her. "It's an electric spark. Pulling down the jewel completes a circuit which creates an electric spark which lights the gas."
"Yes, like . . . " Tasha struggled for a synonym, something Dr. Gribbleflotz might be familiar with. Her eyes reached out searching for something. And there it was. A pole towering above a building. A lightning conductor. "Like lightning, only much smaller."
Eyes wide, brows lifted almost to the back of his balding head Phillip looked back at Tasha, hastily dropping the lighter. "Lightning? You carry a lightning maker on your person?"
"No, silly." Tasha rescued her cigarette lighter, shaking her head gently. "Lightning is much more powerful. The electric sparks in my lighter can only jump a tiny distance." She held her thumb and forefinger a hair's breadth apart.
Carefully, Phillip reached out again for the lighter. Holding it once again, he tried to light it. "How does it store the lightning?"
"Oh, that type of lighter doesn't use a battery. It uses some fancy crystal that emits a spark when you pull down the jewel."
"The 'fancy crystal' stores the lightning and releases the spark when you pull the jewel?"
"Something like that. I do know it doesn't ever need batteries, though. We have one of the same kind of thingeys to light the gas range. It must be more than ten years old, and neither I or my husband has ever replaced any batteries."
Phillip looked carefully from the lighter to Tasha. Each time he glanced at the lighter he flicked it on. "Do you know how to make these crystals?"
"Oh, no. They're way beyond me. My daughter, though. She grew all kinds of crystals when she was at school. Why, if I remember correctly, she even grew some pezzi . . . piezo . . . ah . . . pezeyletric crystals for a science project once."
Eyes beaming brightly, Phillip took a deep breath. He carefully placed the lighter on the table in front of him. Releasing his breath, he looked Tasha in the eyes. "What . . . are . . . pezeyletric crystals?"
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff