Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fifty-ninth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          Before daybreak, Gwilym climbed the hill to the palace. He brought a rag to cover his nose and carried a few tools with him: a sledge hammer, a chisel, a shovel and a stiff broom. On reaching the palace at daybreak, he walked to the outside of the palace wall on the slope leading to the fields above town. He took the chisel and sledge hammer and broke holes in the wall. As the rocks fell out, so did some of the cow dung and a lot of the smell. He tied the rag over his mouth and nose.
          After making three holes in the wall, he was surprised to see Fred approaching from the fields below him bearing a shovel. Fred looked at the holes Gwilym made and started digging trenches from each to trenches he had already dug in the fields below. Looking further down at the fields Gwilym saw workers and a team of oxen digging ditches and dikes. Gwilym was starting to understand what Fred was up to but he was too busy to stop and verify. If he wanted to impress these men and get them to live up to their commitments, he must finish his job today.
          Gwilym moved around to the entrance of the palace and opened the end of the aqueduct there. Water rushed out and filled the courtyard in front of the palace. Some entered the palace but was stopped by the mounds of manure inside. The palace overlooked the sea and was positioned at the lowest point in the courtyard. Walls connected the palace to the other buildings so the water pooled up in front of the doorway and could not escape elsewhere.
          He jogged upstream along the aqueduct and reached the swollen river. Here he completely opened the sluice to the aqueduct. He ran back to the palace, watching in satisfaction as the water rushed by him in a torrent. On arrival he saw that the level of water in the courtyard was rising and was pouring in through the doors of the palace. He ran around to the back where he had opened the holes and saw some seeping out full of manure. He attacked these holes with his shovel. As he pulled hardened manure out, watery poop took its place and started gushing through. He attacked each hole in turn, freeing blockages as they came. When all were running freely, he opened two more holes and spent the next three hours keeping the watery manure flowing out of these holes. Fred dug trenches leading from the new holes. Gwilym shook his head in amazement at his foreman and they both smiled.
          Gwilym broke for dinner, washed his hands in the aqueduct and ate the bread and cheese the tavern-keeper had given him last night. After dinner he walked back around to the front of the palace and entered. Water was flowing through the palace in wide rivers, clearing off a beautiful mosaic that lay under all this. He toiled hard now, pushing manure into these piles with his shovel and watching it flow out of the holes. The water was doing most of the work, all Gwilym had to do was keep feeding the flow with fresh manure.
          After several hours, however, the water was going straight out the holes and Gwilym was expending all his strength chopping away at the old, compressed manure to knock chunks into the flow. He knew he had to soften it up. So he moved large sections of dried manure to cover the five exit holes and stepped out while the palace filled with manure. This gave him a chance to rest outside for an hour, wash his hands and have a snack. He then re-entered, moved the blocks and worked again with softened manure. He repeated this sequence several times.
          By an hour before nightfall he was pretty sure he could finish it all before tomorrow morning but realized it would be difficult in the dark. He would have to go back to the village and gather some brushes to light. He blocked up the exits again so that the manure would have a chance to soften again while he was gone.
          Walking out into the courtyard, he was surprised to see many villagers gathered watching his efforts. They broke into wild applause and clapped him on the shoulder when he approached. Tollemache said, “Ve knew you couldn’t do it viz just your strength. But you’ll need your strength as vell as your brains to finish dis today. Can ve help?”
          Gwilym shook his head. “I want to live up to my end of the bargain. I just need some lights so that I can continue.”
          “Not if ve help you finish ze job before dark.”
          The men went inside and wielded the shovels and brooms they were carrying and started breaking up the compressed manure.
          “Wait!” yelled Gwilym. “We have a bargain!”
          “You already von de bet!” yelled back Tollemache as the rest of the crew nodded in agreement. “I’m sure you vill help us finish our activities if you are not busy.”
          With the whole crew feeding the streams, the men cleaned out the last of the manure in an hour, then walked back to the tavern for drinks on Gwilym. He shouted for the tavern-keeper to ply the men with drinks, then went back outside to wash himself clean before re-entering. The men cheered him on arrival and Gwilym toasted them with ale.
          “Tomorrow we start laying out the tower!”
          Another cheer from the men and then Tollemache stood up to speak. “You and Fred vill make a lot of money from your plan. Ve congratulate you on outsmarting us.”
          “What did Fred do, hire some people to fertilize your fields and use the free manure to do it?”
          Tollemache roared. “No Gvilym! He is smarter zan zat! He bought ze fields below ze palace for almost nozing, and has been digging trenches all yesterday and today to spread out all ze free manure all over zem. He even has a holding pond up top so he can add manure later. He owns ze best fertilized fields in Salthouse right now. And a fertilizer farm.”
          A smile of realization had been spreading over Gwilym’s face during this speech and, seeing this, the men laughed even louder, seeing how their boss had been outsmarted by his foreman.
          “Good for Fred! Let’s have a toast for Fred and his new wife. May they live in prosperity!”
          “Prost!” cheered the men.
          Just then the men cheered even louder and Gwilym noticed that Fred had entered. The men all shook his hand and slapped his back and offered him drinks. Fred gave a shy smile and made his way to Gwilym.
          “Are tha mad at me, Gwilym? For taking advantage of tha. I were thinkin’ today, I should split the profits with tha. I couldn’t have done it without tha.”
          “Not at all Fred! My idea solved my problem. You took my waste and made something else for yourself. May you and Heilin be prosperous farmers here.”
          “Oh, no Gwilym! I’ve no wish to be a farmer. I’ll let the villagers get jealous of that good land and someone will offer to buy th’fields back from me at a good profit. My dream is to be a Project Manager like you. I just wanted th’profits to buy my Heilin a fine house to live in.”
          Both men were bone-tired from all the digging they had done that day and so they prepared their beds in the hall and were ready to sleep at the same time as the twins. Before closing his eyes Gwilym asked Fred, “What do you think of adding something to the project plan about gathering the team? Some kind of plan for getting the right kind of people at the right time to do the things we need. If we do that right, we can make sure that we don’t waste money having the wrong people on activities or sitting around when there is no work for them or have the project wait until we get those right people on the project.”
          “Sounds good, Gwilym. Let’s talk about it more on the morrow.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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