Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #8: A Hard Day's Work

Beginning of story
Previous part

I had anticipated the possibility of starting over, but I didn't think I would have nothing but the clothes on my back.  This presented a problem.  I figured I would have something other than my bare hands to dig up my buried treasures with: a knife, perhaps, or at least a spoon.  I looked around the Shelter to see if there was anything appropriate.  I did find some rocks, one of which looked flat enough that it might work.

I knew that I might not have a good digging implement, and it would be the first thing I wanted, so I had strategically placed it by the sapling that was furthest north and west.  I had four spots for each sapling, three feet away from the trunk in each direction, north, west, south, and east.  Or did I start with the west?  Shoot, now I wasn't sure which spot I wanted to dig first.

I decided to go with west.  I put my left heel on the sapling, my right heel in front of left toe, then my left heel in front of my right toe, and made a scuff mark where my left toe was.  I started scraping away the weeds with the rock.  It was slow going, but it worked adequately.  After 10 minutes, I had a decent size patch cleared, but my hands were burning.  The rock was just to cumbersome to continue working with.  I needed to find something else.

A few of the cut saplings were still lying around, but they were too thin to be of much use for digging.  I left the shelter and started searching through the forest.  Walking out into it, I realized another of my follies: I'm sure even to someone who had never seen a forest before, like on my first day Outside, I would have been able to tell that there was something different, that someone had been at work.  Because I was always in a hurry whenever I went Outside, I just picked up whatever dry deadwood was closest.  So for a fair stretch surrounding the Shelter, there was none to be found.

Luckily, that wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  An old, dry piece of wood was going to be too brittle; I need something fresher that could bend a little without breaking.  After about 20 minutes I found a tree that had fallen recently enough its leaves hadn't dropped off yet.  I spent about 10 minutes trying to break off some branches, but they were too green and flexible.  Had I had an axe I might have been able cut one off, but then I probably wouldn't be needing the digging stick.

After about another hour of searching I found a downed tree that had lost its leaves but didn't look decayed at all.  Pulling back on one branch that was half the size of my wrist, I had it just about pointing backwards and was practically hanging off of it when a sudden crack dropped my butt on the ground.  The branch came to a nice jagged point with a good 6 inches of flat, exposed wood, and with a few minutes of twisting the remaining bark and wood fibers, I was able to liberate it from the tree.  I repeat the process 3 more times -- I even managed to stay standing the third time! -- and decided to head back to the Shelter.  Since I was a bit further out than normal, I did pick up what dry wood I could find until I couldn't carry any more comfortably.

When I got back the Shelter I was quite hungry.  I knew I was going to have to make that a priority soon, but right then I wanted to get to work on the digging.  Setting down the firewood and digging sticks, I went and filled up my stomach with water.  I realized it wouldn't keep me satisfied for long but at least I could focus on the task at hand.

I started in on the cleared patch.  I wasn't able to move much dirt at a time, but it was nice to be able to get some leverage with both hands holding on solidly.  While the stick held up well, the edge didn't stay sharp long, and I switched to the next stick before I had finished clearing the roots.  When I got about a foot down I hit something.  My triumph only lasted for a few seconds when I realized it was a bioplastic case.  I had chosen the wrong spot.  I finished digging it out and opened it up.  My set of ceramic knives were still in beautiful condition.  One Cook had gotten a lot of Beans for those; ordinary people didn't have knives of that quality, and since they were virtually indestructible, replacing them too often would arouse suspicion.

Naturally, I couldn't risk something so precious on digging.  They did, however, make the task of clearing the vegetation from the spot 3 feet north of the sapling much quicker.  I gave up on the second digging stick soon after I started on the second hole, and switched to the last one once I had cleared the roots.  It wasn't long before I saw the reassuring flash of metal, and soon I had my vitally important aluminum trowel in my hand.  It was not much less indestructible than the ceramic knives, and rarely did anyone but a Gardener have one, but since they were considered useless as a weapon, they were not quite so closely monitored.

Between the ceramic knives and the aluminum trowel, the third, south hole went much quicker.  I was a bit surprised when I hit a thick clay jar, carefully sealed.  Then I remember making it and laughed so hard I cried a little.  Here I was, holding what would have been a fortune, now almost useless to me.  Inside were fresh Bean seeds, carefully packed and sealed so that they would remain viable for as long as possible.  I had stored them again precisely in case I lost all my trees and had to start all over again.  But I never anticipated the shelter being ruined.  Still, perhaps I would find another shelter out there somewhere and could start growing them again.  I might never be able to trade them again, but at least I would have my own supply.

A lengthening shadow reminded me I had to finish my work quickly.  Still working cautiously so as not to damage my tools, I did work steadily on the east hole until I reached another bioplastic case.  Inside was a magnifying glass, the second thing I really wanted after the trowel.  I would need to work quickly before the sun got too low.

Part 9: Light My Fire

No comments:

Post a Comment