Of Mud and Men

I hadn’t seen PyjamaSam in a long time. His call was unexpected and welcome.

“You should come see the farm.” he began. “The vineyard’s going well, got some various fruit trees, a greenhouse, and the house is self-aware.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that last item, but knowing PyjamaSam, it was easier for me to not say anything then to ask him to explain it to me.

“Well, send me some coordinates.” I replied. “You kind of went off the grid there. I always wondered what happened to you.”

He did, and since I had some leave time the following two days, I decided to make my way out there for a visit.

“Make sure you come in cloaked.” he advised. “It’s a bit of a backwater and they are still a bit skittish about capsuleers.”

Lovely.

I had been there once via public shuttle, but it had been a short visit and was during the dark season. Seeing his property during the light was nice, even though he lived on a planet that was ignorant to the effects of climate change and just spent the week prior enduring one of the worst storms in history.

It was after casual conversation about said topic that Sam told me why he had really invited me.

“Well, the guys I hired have poured the footing and rebar, but they’ve bailed on the actual laying of the foundation walls. I’ve got the forms that need to go up, but as you can see, there’s about four feet of water in the hole from the storm that needs to come out, and we’ll need to dig some trenches to keep the footing clean for the pouring.”

Two things of note:

  1. “hole” meant a 30 x 35 foot pit.
  2. “we” was the royal we, as in me.

Some people would’ve complained at being manipulated into manual labour. Some people would’ve been offended and left. Real friendship doesn’t have such superficial barriers. Sam didn’t manipulate me. He’s just that type of guy. He has a billion things on his mind at once and while he can focus on millions of them at a time, he sometimes forgets things. Plus, I really don’t pay attention much. I was just happy to see him.

I looked at it as a challenge, something to further push my physical limits.

Four hours of thoroughly saturated mud shovelling later, I was beginning to find those limits. My back was sore. My legs were weak. My hands were calloused in ways I never thought possible. I felt horribly spoiled as there were millions in the universe that did this as their only means of income, and I was complaining about doing it for only a few hours. Luxury spoils us.

I took a small food break then was back in the hole to place the Forms. Essentially, they’re heavy wood walls that go in place on the footing, then are clamped together and reinforced in place with supports so that when the concrete is poured they don’t burst.

Five hours later, my back was done, and so was I. The contractors had decided to show up after all, and after some yelling, some comedic entertainment, and some more yelling, they had things well in hand.

Sam was busy overseeing the project, so I quietly said my goodbyes to his wife and his young daughter, and took my leave.

As I flew back to Heimatar Region, I smiled at the compliment Sam had given me several times throughout the day. “Roc strong like bear, smart like wall.” He had a nice way with words.

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