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Author Topic: Here There Be Hobbits  (Read 2643 times)

Joel

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Here There Be Hobbits
« on: May 03, 2005, 05:20:50 pm »

Chapter Fourteen – Here There Be Hobbits

“Dad, another big truck is coming.”

Walter rubbed his knuckles over his eyes and stretched voluptuously.   It was too damned chilly to fight out of his sleeping bag, though Jessica’s call and imperious demands from his bladder agreed that he must.  He’d lain half-awake on his foam mat under MB for over an hour as the sun rose, too damned lazy and comfortable to move.  Besides, Gallatin’s warm body pinned the bag against his side.  One mustn’t disturb a recuperating dog, right?  It was simple humanity.

But seconds after Jessica’s call, Gallatin’s head shot up.  His body became rock-hard for a moment as all his muscles tensed, and then he rocketed silently off toward the trees.

Walter shook his head.  Poor mutt hadn’t shaken his fear of trucks.  Walter could only guess at whatever had scared the hell out of him down by the interstate.  Neither Walter nor Jessica, whom Gallatin was growing to adore, had yet been able to coax him into the Magic Bus.  They kept working at it, though.  No way they could be ready in time to spend the winter here, so they had to leave.  Gallatin had to be tamed down by then, or they’d lose him.

“C’mon, dad!  Get out of bed.”

“All right, all right.”  Walter groped for his boots, shook them out, and reluctantly struggled out of his bag.  No rest for the weary.

Jessica pointed at the truck which was just coming into view on the meadow.  “What’s all this?”

“Three sections of eight-foot culvert, sheet steel, and assorted building materials,” Walter grumbled.

“What for?”

“Something to fill that hole you’ve been digging so busily.  Help me help them get it off the truck, and I’ll show you my fiendish plan.”

An hour later they sat together at MB’s table.  Gallatin had re-emerged from the woods in record time, and now Walter sipped coffee and watched through the window as he prowled the meadow’s boundary.  Maybe he’s decided this is his territory, Walter thought.  Good.  He’s getting over whatever gave him such a fright.  As he watched, Gallatin lifted his leg and baptized a bush next to the entrance road.  Avaunt, begone, foul trucks.

“Dad?  You were saying?”

“Ah.  Yes.  Okay.”  Walter opened one of several three-ring binders he had filled in the frantic days before he lost internet access.  “This is an idea I got from a writer I admire, Claire Wolfe, who in turn got it from somebody else, who probably…you know.  It’s not what you’d call a new idea, but seems like a very simple and quick way to make a warm living space.”  He turned the binder so Jessica could see the downloaded pages.  “You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like.  The simplest way would be to weld plates on either end of a length of culvert and put a door in one plate.  That would give you a tubular space, which would be fine for one person, but awfully confining for two, since the floor’s only about five feet wide.”

He turned the page to sketches he’d drawn months ago.  “So I’ve elaborated on it.  We’ll use two sections of culvert side-by-side, held together by spot welds and those big pressure treated timbers.  Now, the two main sections are already laid out next to the hole.  What I want to do first is bolt the timbers to the top of the culverts.  We’ll do the welding on the bottom, swab the whole thing with roofing compound, then use the backhoe – I hope; this part might need some fiddling – to flip the whole thing into the hole.  Then we can get to work welding the top.”

Jessica’s skepticism showed in her face.  “So…what, to get from one to the other we have to go outside?”

“Of course not.  We’ll cut three openings between them – I’ll have to bend steel to seal those – and a fourth for a side entrance.  Look…” pointing at another sketch, “This first culvert is the main living area and kitchen.  A short piece here, coming out the side, is the entranceway.  Beside the vent tubes on the roof, that’s the only part that shows to the outside.  The second culvert will be two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a pantry.”

“What about the third section?”

“Storage building; much simpler.  We can work on that as we have time.”

“Yeah, well, what about time?  Can we finish this before winter?”

Walter closed the binder and sighed.  “No way.  We got too late a start.  We’ll do what we can, while we can, then make like swallows and go south for the winter.  There are just too many things to do, and not enough hands to do them.”

Jessica rose and picked up her cup.  “So what do we do now?”

“We’ll wedge rocks under the culverts and lay out the timbers, and I’ll get you started on drilling and bolting them into place.  Then I’ve got to go to Drummond to get a welder and a cutting torch, and the other stuff I need.  Need to fill MB with gas, too.  We’ll be running the hell out of the generator for a while.”

“Let me guess.  Now I have to learn to weld?”

Walter smiled up at her.  “It’d be a good time.  But no: You did the digging, and there’s still digging to be done.  I’ll do the welding, or at least most of it.”


Four hours later he parked MB in front of Frank’s Machinery Supply & Repair.

“Hey!  Howya been?”  Frank always seemed to greet him like a long-lost friend, though they’d only met twice.  “What c’n we rent ya taday?”

“I need an arc welder, a cutting torch, and a grinder.  And rods, clamps, mask, goggles, all that.”

“No problem!  George’ll fix ya rat up.  Hey, George!  Fella needs a welder!”

‘George’ was a stark contrast to Frank in every way Walter could imagine.  Frank was pillow-shaped, slow-moving and almost absurdly loquacious, but this guy was skinny, nearly silent, and given to quick, nervous motion.  The angry, drawn-in attitude that Walter had noticed on the morning George had delivered the backhoe was apparently his default state.  But he worked efficiently enough, finding the equipment Walter needed and helping him load it into the bus.  He followed Walter back into the office.

“Whacha buildin’ with all this stuff?” Frank asked, fiddling with paperwork.

“An underground house,” Walter replied.  “It’s all new to me, and I’m kind of feeling my way through it.”

“Weldin’ it together?”

“Yeah, the base structure is made of steel.  Once we get it up, we’ll start with the carpentry.”

“Y’oughta talk ta George here, you need a carpenter.  Go back and look at the shelves he put up in the shed.”

“Yeah?”  Walter wasn’t much interested in having this guy hanging around the property, but couldn’t think of a polite way to say so.  George said nothing, so maybe it would all go away.  “You can pick this stuff up when you come for the backhoe?”

“Sure.  Y’still need a week?”

“A week from today, yeah.  If we finish earlier, I’ll call.”

“You betcha.”


Oh, god, I wish I’d remembered, Walter thought as he painfully raised his arms, about flash burns.  Working inside the structure with the arc welder, he’d remembered to wear long sleeves but forgot that the flash would reflect in all directions from the steel walls.  He’d never welded a project of anything like this magnitude.  Thank god it started to hurt before I raised blisters.

But it worked.  It worked!  Jessica was scraping the final loads of earth onto the mound as he worked on top with a shovel.  In the spring there would be a great deal of landscaping to pretty up what was now a pile of dirt with some protruding pipes.  But that was just detail.  The structure was complete.  It worked!

They celebrated with barbeque and beer, followed by a shooting match and a moratorium on work for the rest of the day.  As evening fell and Jessica retired to MB with her book, Walter lit a lantern and entered the house.  Gallatin followed and, to Walter’s surprise, squeezed past him in the doorway and trotted inside, his claws clicking on the steel.

God, it looks awful, he thought.  And it looks beautiful.  He sat down on the sloping, corrugated floor, carefully setting the hissing lantern beside him.  Once the floor was in, they’d have to decide how to build benches, shelves and beds.  They’d have to do something to de-ugly the walls.  Maybe next year they’d dig it up and put in some tubes for windows.  He needed to find a wood stove, he needed to…oh, to do a million things.  But now there was something to work on.  The idea worked.

Gallatin came clicking back and sat on his haunches beside him.  Walter reached lazily and scratched between the dog’s ears.  “What do you think, bro?” he said quietly in the echoing darkness.  “Is this the craziest damn thing you ever saw, or what?”

The dog grinned back, and said nothing.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2005, 05:41:24 pm by John DeWitt »
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Jac

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2005, 06:38:32 pm »

Quote
“This is an idea I got from a writer I admire, Claire Wolfe..."
Kiss-ass. :D

I like it... I keep waiting for "George" to come out his bloody shell and display his mad skillz to Walt, so we can get a gulch going.

And giving beer to an underage girl?!? :o  :P

Cool, house, BTW.
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
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penguinsscareme

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2005, 09:35:51 pm »

Quote
“This is an idea I got from a writer I admire, Claire Wolfe
Teacher's pet.
Quote
The dog grinned back, and said nothing.
That's because he knows Walter's going to have terrible problems with condensation inside the culverts.

But otherwise it's pretty kickass.  I'm almost ready to start thinking about not hating you anymore.  As much.

Tell us more about the lady on the lam with her kids.  Don't take any guff from that Quaker guy on the internet.  You can't trust what anyone says on the internet. :unsure:  :ph34r:  
« Last Edit: May 03, 2005, 09:36:55 pm by penguinsscareme »
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

Joel

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2005, 10:18:53 pm »

Quote
That's because he knows Walter's going to have terrible problems with condensation inside the culverts.
He might know it, but Walter doesn't.  Guess who clues him in to the culverts' poor design?

Quote
You can't trust what anyone says on the internet.
er, yeah.  Thanks for the advice.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2005, 10:23:31 pm by John DeWitt »
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Joel

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2005, 01:24:11 pm »

Quote
Tell us more about the lady on the lam with her kids. 
I'm having to do a lot of re-thinking about this.  My original planwas to set up situations for her and "george," get them to safe places, then let them stay there while Walter and Jessica built some infrastructure.  3000 words later this was clearly a poor choice, dramatically speaking.  So I'm starting to mingle George and Walter's story lines.  Walter has a lot of energy and reads a lot, but he hasn't much experience doing what he's trying to do.  Since he's in charge of the planning he's making some expensive mistakes.  (some of the mistakes, like the bit with the well and the poor ventilation in the culvert house, were planned from the beginning.  Some I'm just stumbling over, since I don't know what I'm doing either.)  George has a lot of practical ability and would be very useful around the gulch.  But he isn't very good at warm&fuzzy, and Walter will not be quick about warming up to him.  Getting George back into the story was an easy fix.

Ellen is a different problem.  Although a couple of people have said she's their favorite character, I'm not very happy with what I've done with her so far.  She has some steel in her spine, but is still really just a damsel in distress at the moment.  I don't want her to be just somebody to rescue from time to time.  Also, right now she's in a fairly comfortable position, where I'd prefer to leave her for the moment, so I'm not quite sure what to write about her just now.  But clearly I can't just leave her out of the plot as originally intended.  I need to noodle it.

Basically, the next chapter will probably be a few days coming.  I tend to pace a lot, then sit down and type like a crazy man.
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Jac

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2005, 02:07:34 pm »

Quote
I tend to pace a lot, then sit down and type like a crazy man.
Heh... that sounds familiar. Rought drafts are for pansies, I like to say. 3/4 of the last bit I wrote (the one I posted) was written right here in the TCF entry box. :huh:

Well, get to pacin'... this bunch is impatient. :D  
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
--PSM

Claire

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2005, 02:39:23 pm »

Quote
Basically, the next chapter will probably be a few days coming.  I tend to pace a lot, then sit down and type like a crazy man.
I understand everybody else's itches for more. But I'm so behind in reading episodes I'm eager for you to slow down. But not TOO slow, mind you! It's a vicarious rush to see you in such a creative frenzy.

This weekend I'm hoping to sit down and catch up on everything I've missed in Writer's Block -- which recently is quite a lot.
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Docliberty

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2005, 05:45:28 pm »

Quote
“This is an idea I got from a writer I admire, Claire Wolfe,

I either missed the memo or have a much poorer memory than I thought, But I can't seem to remember this.
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Doc

"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on.  I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them."  Marion Morrison

"I do not fear my government.  I fear what my government will cause me to become."   Docliberty

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." H. L. Mencken

Claire

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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2005, 06:29:04 pm »

Quote
Quote
“This is an idea I got from a writer I admire, Claire Wolfe,

I either missed the memo or have a much poorer memory than I thought, But I can't seem to remember this.
Oh, it's an idea I got from somebody else ....

http://www.theclairefiles.com/Columns/WND/...RTICLE_ID=14083
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Joel

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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2005, 06:29:48 pm »

Home, Home Under the Range
wups.  Holy redundancy, Batman.  Got there a second too late.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2005, 06:30:54 pm by John DeWitt »
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Docliberty

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Here There Be Hobbits
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2005, 08:26:28 pm »

Thanks you two.  

Redundancy is a good thing John. :D  
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Doc

"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on.  I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them."  Marion Morrison

"I do not fear my government.  I fear what my government will cause me to become."   Docliberty

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." H. L. Mencken

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