Bob’s article #7


Nigel S Claybourne 3rd LEED ADDT RRC RWC REWC RBEC ABS ADDT placed his pen carefully on to his drawing board. He wore the smug and self-satisfied look of one of his trade who had written the most impervious, exclusive spec ever conceived.

The University of Manila had commissioned his architectural firm to design a complex 500-square slate roof, an addition to the existing structure. He had attacked the project with relish, designing a random width, graduated, variegated roof with staggered butt, intermingled thickness and highlights of freak and crazy slate. The field slate was spec’d from an as-yet unopened slate bed, buried 180 feet below a Greek diner in Burlington Vermont.

Nigel, grinning like a Cheshire cat, had never been so pleased with himself. So pleased, in fact, that as he left his office he decided to do something completely out of character. A block away from his office was a dingy bar called the Overburden. Still beaming from his triumph, he went in, situated himself at the bar and ordered a large bottle of Big Foot. He thought the name was hilarious and was completely unaware of the 11.2 % alcohol content.

An hour later he was detailing his entire spec to an unshaven, pot-bellied drunk who had the misfortune to sit next to him (he had to tell someone!). But Nigel’s ivory-towered career did not prepare him to be socially discerning. He had poured out his heart to a local slate distributor.

The same distributor left the bar a little earlier than usual (why not, he was onto a good one). In fact, he was so pleased with this windfall of information that he stopped at another bar on his way home (he’d only had seventeen beers) and ordered a martini—completely out of character—already spending his anticipated margin. If I get this one, he thought, I’m going to stick fifty bucks a square on it!

Unaccustomed to martinis, he was soon relating his astounding luck to an exotic lady with a foreign accent. From Galicia, she said, smiling. To his drunken ears, the very place sounded like a sex act. How was he to know she was a rep for a distinguished Spanish slate company called La Bamba.

Being a girl, she left the bar, went home and took care of business.

“Universidad de Manila!” she shrieked into her I-phone. “Cinco ciento squaros!” The entire block heard the news.

Word was out. Quotes were requested for 502 squares of ‘mixed’ slate from every quarry in Vermont. Spanish phone lines were soon crackling with mas a menos cinco ciento y seis ciento pizzeras.

Nigel’s goose was cooked.

Every quote included an equal or better Greek diner in an equal or better city than Burlington. The roof now had to be installed by crazy freaks (what’s new?) who mingled well, various of whom had to have graduated.

The bidding deadline approached.

Stepping from the shadows of a Baltimore alley, Dirk Teflon snapped open his cell phone and punched in a number. He sucked hard on a sample cigarette, turning back into the shadows as his call was answered.

“Neverclean quarry!” piped a cheerful voice.

“Gimme Stan,” Dirk muttered into the phone.

“One moment.”

“Waddya want?” It was Stan.

“I gotta job f’yous up there,” Dirk spat.

“Yeah, like what, an outhouse? A bus shelter?” Stan crowed.

“It’s a big job, I’m tellin’ ya. In Manila, or some place!”

“Manila? You want some frickin’ ice-cream with that?”

Dirk held on.

“It’s frickin’ five hundred squares!”


“Y’shittin’ me!”

Dirk braced himself.

“I want something outa this one.”

“Yeah, like what?” Stan growled.

“A hat. A new hat!”

“A frickin’ hat? A frickin’ new hat?”

Dirk pulled hard on his battered fedora.

“I’m tellin’ ya Stan, I gotta get a hat out of it!”

“Gimme the specs. I’ll take care of y’frickin’ hat!”

The sun spread its crimson-red glow across the Manila horizon, climbing step by bloody step into the morning sky. The University of Manila stood solid, braced in a mass of scaffolding, its soaring roof papered-in, waiting. A fleet of trucks rumbled their way towards it, in the dawn’s early light, bringing an army of roofers, the best of the best, hardened mechanics from the deep Midwest of the United States. The cavalcade came to a stop, the men dismounted. Tool belts were strapped, hammers holstered, pouches loaded. The Delabole Slate Company were primed for the biggest job of their careers.

Their foreman, Chad Acton, answered a call on his Apple iPhone 5.


“Heya, yeah, this is Stan?”

“Are you asking or telling me?” Chad said curtly.

“Say what? This is Stan, Stan from Neverclean.”


“We got your order together here. It’s all ready for ya, but we were held up a bit.”

Chad’s face froze.

“It’s not here?”

“Oh no, it’s here alright,” Stan answered. “We got it all here, but not there yet. But we’re on it an’ it’ll be right there.”


“The usual.”


“Well, there’s been a lot of rain for June. We even had some frost yesterday. You know what that does and deer season is only a couple months away, but we’re on it, when Jason gets in. You know how it is.”

Chad lowered the phone, Stan’s voice trailing away.

The sun had fully risen, burning dry every shred of color from the sky. A blinding whiteness replaced the dawn’s inferno and the pulsing heat beat mercilessly down on a senseless world.

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