by Kat Heckenbach -
Gavin lifted his head, blinking. His eyes ached from straining over the microscope. Dr. Spiner had shown him how to work all the buttons and dials, how to focus and find the tiniest of particles. It had been fun at first, but today’s work was boring and Gavin couldn’t stop his mind from wandering.
The wizard-scientist’s eyes were all that moved. And at that they only peeked out from under his shaggy bangs for a moment.
“I know it’s late, and you’re tired, son. It won’t be much longer though.” His hands shuffled nimbly among the various instruments in front of him.
“I just had a question, sir.”
“What’s your first name?” Gavin hoped he hadn’t crossed a line by asking. It had only been a few months since he started his apprenticeship with Dr. Spiner, and the scientist had never treated Gavin like the child he was. Other than calling him son—which put a lump in Gavin’s throat each time he thought about it even though he knew it was just a nickname.
Dr. Spiner raised his whole head this time. “It’s Spiner, of course.”
Gavin felt his forehead scrunch. “But…but you’re Doctor Spiner. I thought…”
The scientist shifted on his stool. “What kind of first name is Doctor?” He smiled, but it was a smile that didn’t travel to his eyes.
The smile dropped and he sighed. “My first name is Spiner, Gavin. I abandoned my last name years ago. I suppose it’s still in my records, but no one knows it, not here. I’m just Spiner…or Doctor Spiner. And no one, until you, has asked me about it.”
Gavin’s skin flushed hot. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to…” He reached for the microscope again, but before he could put his eye against the lens Dr. Spiner was standing beside him. Gavin slowly looked up and met his dark eyes.
“I don’t mind, Gavin. I come from a family I’m not very proud of, that’s all.” The scientist lifted his hand and stroked a stray hair from Gavin’s face. “You don’t have a last name either, do you?”
“Just what the other kids call me. “
“And that would be?”
Gavin swallowed, throat burning. “Talker.”
This time the scientist’s smile lit up his whole face. “Seems we both need one then.” He turned, grabbed his stool and pulled it over. When he was seated, he leaned his elbow on the tabletop, work seemingly forgotten. “What shall our new last name be, son?”