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Steel (Guest story by Comic's Scott)
7.8.2003 by Rosemary, every Tuesday.

This week's story is by Scott, who also writes the Comics column. Scott wrote this while slogging through a frustrating tech support job. When his complaints met deaf ears, he began to imagine what life would be like in 1920s Russia. Scott calls his lead character's mood "enthusiasm through necessity".

The steam rises off of their bodies. The men I work with have to work with their shirts off while around the smelt, as it is just too hot in there, and the sweat causes the shirts to stick to your skin uncomfortably. But every now and then, they open the bomb bay doors, and the cold air rushes into the place, and you can see the body heat, like smoke, pouring off of everyone.

The metal screams into the molds. It's awfully dangerous in here, but people have to work fast and hard. Andrei has been burned so many times that even he has lost count. He lost two fingers once, just melted them right off as he tripped and fell against the vats. He didn't even scream. He said it didn't have time to hurt. He came back to work the next day, even though they told him to take a week off. I have burned myself too, a splatter across my leg. They had to cut the skin off, with my jeans and the metal all stuck to it. I was asleep when the cut it though. I had to take the week off.

I have only been here for six years now. They still call me "Little One", as I am still the youngest here. The others are in their forties, but I am twenty-two.

We make steel girders here, for buildings in Riga. We are far from Latvia, but even though it is it's own country now, they still need our steel. This makes the men proud. This is why Andrei keeps at his job. This is why we work the year round.

Sometimes, I think about my family. We fork so far, I cannot go to see them much. At Christmas I was able to see them for a day. Illyana was getting much bigger. She is very smart too. She will become a doctor, I am sure of it. Mother and Father are very proud of her, and I am as well.

My room in the factory is pretty small, but I don't notice it much. I have the top bed, and Nikoli is very funny. He is 52, and has been here for over 30 years. He was in the army before he came here, but he didn't like the idea of learning how to kill, but liked making steel for buildings better. He tells me stories that he say his father told him, from the war. He tells jokes about his first girlfriend, who he says was really fat.

The only thing I really wish I had was a good shower. We have them here, and they are nice and hot, but they don't spray hard. There is a lot of grease in the factory, and it gets all over. I need to keep my leg clean after work, but it takes a long time because of the shower. When I went home, it was nice to have one there and feel extra clean. To clean my face and have it hit so hard against me.

The steel vats are my favorite. The metal glows and stirs. It's a light that is so soft, but if you stare at it, it can etch itself into your eyes. It glows orange, and swirls around. It is light, but slowed down and made liquid. And the heat of it, when you stand above it, is dry and it can shock the air out of your lungs. I will sit above it, on the catwalks and eat my lunch, every now and again, just to watch it. If I die, I hope I die in the steel.

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