Thursday, January 03, 2008

Copper Tower

Jack looked down. He whistled. "What, three thousand feet down, is it?"

"Closer to a kilometer," Rafiel answered, leaning over the side.

Jack yanked him back playfully. "Damn Italians," he complained. "Seriously, though: It's a long way down."

Rafiel nodded.

"So, why are we here, anyway?" Jack asked.

"Hell if I know," Rafiel answered with a shrug. "We're getting paid, aren't we?"

"Well, sure," said Jack, turning back to the tower itself. He and Rafiel stood on a large wooden scaffold, near the top of the tower. Below them, the cylindrical, tapering tower was plated in gleaming copper, but the structure next to and above them was still naked to the sky. Copper plates lay on the wood next to Jack; he leaned down and picked one up with a grunt, heaving it up against the exposed steel frame of the tower. Rafiel began riveting it on while Jack held the plate in place.

Over the noise of the rivet gun, Jack continued his questioning. "But, why's anyone want to build the tower? It's the middle of nowhere!"

"Maybe he wants a custom-built retreat," Rafiel suggested.

Jack frowned. He thought about this. "But there's no support for any floors!" he said. "Pretty odd retreat, with no floors."

Rafiel finished riveting the left side of the plate and reloaded his rivet gun. They switched positions. "All right," Rafiel asked. "Why do you think he wants the tower?"

Jack scratched his head with his free hand. "Maybe he just wants it to look nice?" he hesitantly offered. "A big empty open tower... could look pretty good, I think, if you added a few decorations along the sides..."

Rafiel shook his head. "Then why build it in the middle of nowhere?"

"Maybe he wants a nice view?" Jack retorted.

"We're surrounded by mountains!" Rafiel shouted. "There's nothing to see but the sides of mountains, right next to us!" He drove in the last rivet.

Jack released the plate. It held. "Well, what do you want me to say?" Jack complained. "I was the one who was asking in the first place! For all I know, the whole damn thing could be a housing for his giant space cannon, which he's using to launch himself and his three-hundred and seventeen tortoises all the way to Venus!"

Rafiel shouted right back at him, "Well, maybe it is!" Then he thought the better of his temper. "Look, maybe it is just for looks," Rafiel conceded. "Land prices must be dirt cheap out here."

Jack nodded, mollified. "Could be," he said. "Could be." He picked up the next plate.

Rafiel pushed the plate back down. "Wait," he said. "Do you hear that?"

A quiet noise, muffled by the rivet gun and shouting, was growing louder in the alpine air. Within moments, it was discernible as a repetitive thwap-thwap-thwap. It grew deafening; Jack and Rafiel covered their ears. Then, alongside their scaffold, a helicopter rose. A man, wearing formal clothes and a top-hat, leaned from the open door. "Doing all right, are you, fellows?" he asked. "Musn't delay, no no, the work must go on. My darlings can't wait much longer!" In his arm, he cradled a brown-shelled tortoise.

John and Rafiel, somewhat nonplussed, nodded and waved, and the helicopter peeled off and descended, sinking into the valley below. In the palpable silence that followed, they looked at each-other.

"...space cannon, huh?" John asked Rafiel.

Rafiel, wordlessly, handed him the next plate.

The work went on.

1 comment:

King Kessler said...

I nominate this post for illustration!