To the interview, the Engineer Heartfield wears safety glasses, rubber boots and
a bulletproof vest. “An engineer can never be too careful,” he says soberly.
The Engineer Heartfield lives in a two-story brick ranch with a 56-year-old
woman who is not his wife. The woman knows next to nothing about flexible
automation systems, but is a master of the hurdy gurdy. She has two grown
children from a previous disaster, both in their mid-thirties. The Engineer
Heartfield lives within a comfortable 45-mile radius of work but wouldn’t mind
residing a few miles farther out “in the country.”
The Engineer Heartfield’s current project involves tailoring his company’s
critical-use expansion joints to suit demanding industrial ducting and piping
applications, though he doesn’t much like to talk about it. “If you talk
about it too much you never do it. You talk yourself out of it,” he says
sagely. If I were to describe the Engineer Heartfield to you, I would start with
his ears which were designed to redirect the flow of fluid systems around the
auditory canal to the jawline. Then I’d move on to the temples which contain
two massive cogs that revolve at enormous speed. Patent Pending.
AN EXCERPT FROM THE INTERVIEW
THE ENGINEER HEARTFIELD: Only a nincompoop believes man can live in harmony
with nature. Nature must be put in her place. She is a rough beast that must be
subdued, a wild horse whose spirit must be demolished. We engineers are in a
constant struggle with the wench over control of the planet. In the past, she
has had the upper hand. But no more. No more, I tell you! We have tamed her
sprawling rivers, reduced to pulp her tall dark forests, made Swiss cheese of
her purple mountains, given a whole new design to her native landscape. I like
to think the world is a much safer place thanks to our planning. What newspaper
did you say you were with?
INTERVIEWER: I’m with E Magazine.
THE ENGINEER HEARTFIELD: Does the E stand for Engineering?
INTERVIEWER: No. Environment.
THE ENGINEER HEARTFIELD: Well. That’s not good.
The Engineer Heartfield’s firm has been awarded a multi-billion dollar
government contract to build a large electric plastic tube the size of a Russian
aircraft carrier to redirect the flow of the West Wind.
The government is Somalia. The Engineer Heartfield calls his design the Wind
Tamer I, which seems to suggest a Wind Tamer II and, quite possibly, a Wind
Tamer III. The Engineer Heartfield is ticking off all the wondrous possibilities
that a post-Wind Tamer I world holds in store. “No more West Wind,” he says
The Engineer Heartfield is concerned about his colon. He has been reading a lot
lately about colon cancer and how it attacks 50,000 men his age annually. The
Engineer Heartfield’s doctor suggests an exam and slips on a plastic glove,
dipping his index finger in a generous tub of petroleum jelly. The Engineer
Heartfield drops his pants and bends over while his physician jams an index
finger up the Engineer Heartfield’s rectum.
“You’re fine,” the doctor says. “You might want to wipe off your bum
though. It’s kind of messy.”
The following books can be found on The Engineer Heartfield’s bookshelf:
- Orbital Mechanics: Theory and Applications
- Microsale Energy Transport
- The Art of Control Engineering
- Valve Handbook
- High Risk Parts: Application of LEFM and FMDM Theory
- Practical Introduction to Pumping Technology
In the evenings The Engineer Heartfield goes shopping with the 56-year-old woman
he lives with. Along the way to the shopping center, he points out structures he
has designed. “I designed that,” he says. “I designed that. And that. Oh,
see that? I did that! And that.” As they pull into the shopping center parking
lot, he confides, “I designed the shopping center parking lot too.”
The Engineer Heartfield would like to have children of his own someday.
Little engineers about the place. But the 56-year-old woman he lives with is too
old, too old. That is why The Engineer Heartfield is sad. That is why he weeps
in his whiskey at night. No little engineers about the place. If he had a little
engineer, he would name him Otis. Otis Heartfield.
“No little engineers, no West Wind,” he says through tears and clenched
The Engineer Heartfield dreams of building great bridges of liquid steel and
industrial metal. Palaces of gold and myrrh. Airports of recycled newspaper.
Coliseums of chert and feldspar. Hippodromes of electric plastic. Cathedrals of
bytes and digits. Skyscrapers of pyrite. Universities of cold coffee and tears.
Train stations of dead dreams and rain. All of these visions occur while he is
awake, of course.
AND NOW THIS
The BBC is reporting today that 256 Somalians were crushed to death when a
fierce West Wind toppled a 600-ton machine known as the Wind Tamer I. The
machine’s designer was quoted as saying, “We regret this horrible loss of
life. Our engineers are working on the problem.”
©2000 Christopher Orlet
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