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Body and Soul

CHAPTER 5-- CONSTRUCTION SITE

After he hung up the phone, Stan looked at the clock on the wall. It was 9:15. For some reason the conversation with Doctor Loken seemed to have taken less time than what Stan thought. The employees of Norris Construction should arrive any minute now.

Stan grabbed the newspaper and continued to scan the headlines.

Some time later Stan heard cars drive up to the construction site. The first to arrive was Ken Hobbs, who usually arrived right after Stan. Stan knew it was Ken the minute he heard his car. It had its own unique sound. It was a diesel powered Ď98 VW Beetle. Ken had a fascination toward Beetles. He once commented that the Beetle had a style all its own. And Stan replied that the Beetle looked like a car from another dimension. Stan also liked the Beetle, especially its curvy design, which reminded him of domes, the strongest shape in nature. It also had a retro/futuristic appeal that made people look twice when it drove by.

Stan folded the paper up and finished the rest of his coffee. With three cups of coffee, he was as chipper as a squirrel.

Before every working day commenced, Stan would gather the workers in a semi-meeting, and discuss the dayís events. Which section each person needed to focus on, what tools should be used. Since the weather was dry and clear, the meeting took place outside.

A round table, about the size of card table, was set up outside the trailer. Set a couple feet behind the table, attached to the side of the trailer, was a dry erase board with a bulletin to the right. A paper was tacked to the bulletin. The paper had a drawing of the construction site, sectioned every five square feet with a grid work drawn in light blue lines. This was set up to help everyone understand the layout of the domes. Stan had never built anything of this size, and found that illustrations helped to visualize the complexity of the ground space.

Four circles were centered on the drawing. These represented the domes. Like any other architectural drawing, it had dimensions drawn to scale. According to the dimensions, the circles were spaced twenty feet apart.

"Today," Stan commanded, "I want to finish the footing of dome number two." He pointed to the drawing on the bulletin board, indicating the circle on the right. The workersí eyes followed Stanís gesture. Most of them nodded, others didnít move, but Stan knew they all understood.

Just to make sure the workers knew what he was saying, Stan asked, "You with me so far?"

This time they all nodded, muttering something that sounded like they understood.

Ken was standing off to the side, holding a cup of coffee, sipping it slowly. He nodded when Stan looked in his direction.

Stan walked to the table and looked down at the blueprints, which were unfurled and held down with paper weights that looked curiously like petrified dog turds, but werenít. They were a joke given to him by Ken, the class clown of architecture.

Every time he looked at them, Stan just shook his head and laughed. Ken had a sick sense of humor. "Youíre a sick puppy," Stan said, laughing, when he first saw them laying on his desk. He didnít realize they were fake until he picked one up. It was much heavier than a dog turd, plus it didnít have that unmistakable vulgar odor.

Stan pointed to the blueprints and told everybody to look. Since the dome was 300 feet in diameter, they had to pour the concrete pad in sections. It was like making a concrete pie a slice at a time.

"If we have enough time, Iíd like to start on the footing for dome number three." Stan glanced to the outer edge of the pit. The concrete truck stood, spinning its giant mixing reservoir, diesel engine chugging a throaty growl. It was truly a monster of power, Stan marvelled.

"I donít think that you guys should have too much trouble finishing the second domeís footing. One-hundred twenty workers can get a lot done. You were able to finish the first domeís footing in under three hours; thatís almost a record. Letís see if you can beat that time."

The crew all looked at one another, talking amongst themselves. They looked a little restless. A few seconds past when they all started nodding.

"Iím willing to bet that we can finish the footing before lunch starts, with one hour to spare. Whoís with me? Huh?"

Half the group raised their hands.

"What was that?" Stan yelled. "I couldnít hear that!" He raised his good arm to demonstrate. "I want to hear whoís with me!"

"We are!" Still, only half spoke up.

Stan shook his head in disappointment. "Oh, come on, you guys can do better than that. I know you can do better than that. Say it like you really mean it."

"WE ARE!" This time they all yelled. They were loud enough to almost wake the dead.

"Thatís more like it. Thatís what I like to hear, a team effort. Who has a stop watch?"

Nobody spoke up, until Steve Daryl raised his hand and said something. "Iíve got a watch," Steve said. "What do you need it for?"

All eyes were directed toward Steve, but his brother, Mike, standing beside the group, rolled his eyes, and made the gesture for a crazy personóhand over the ear, drawing imaginary circles with the index finger. Mike stopped just before Steve glanced in his direction.

Stan heard Ken chuckle a little. Ken must have caught the gesture, anticipating that the Daryl brothers would start fighting so that he could punish them again. Was it Stan or did Ken enjoy picking on them?

"I want to keep track of the time it takes to finish the footer, and compare it with yesterdayís success," Stan said. "Does your watch have a timer?"

"Yeah. How long do you want me to set it for?" Steve asked.

"Set it for two hours. That should be plenty of time. A nine-hundred forty-two foot ring of concrete thatís three feet thick and two feet deep should be easy to tackle. With everyone working together, itís a piece of cake."

Steve fiddled with his Timex watch for a couple seconds and said, "All set, boss."

"Good." Stan looked toward the crew again. "Before we start, are there any questions?"

Mike raised his hand immediately after Stan asked the question.

"Yes, Mike?"

"Seeing as how Steve and I are being punished, you actually only have one-hundred eighteen workers."

At first Stan was confused, then he recalled the conversation he had with Ken yesterday in the office trailer. The Daryl bothers were on site cleanup crew.

Ken stepped forward and whispered in Stanís ear. "Iíll handle this."

Ken clapped his hands together, making a loud noise; it startled Mike and he flinched, stepping back, it was such a quick movement that it was barely noticeable.

"Well, what are you trying to say, Mike? Do you two want to work?" He held his hand out to indicate Steve.

"Sure, why not?" Mike replied.

"I donít see why you guys canít lend a hand, but youíre still on site cleanup. Sorry, Mike. Nice try. Iím not as slow-minded as you think I look. I may happen to be pushing forty, but I still know how kids manipulate their elders. I used to be young like you. I knew how to fool my parents. Itís clear that you need more practice. Then again, if you guys can show that you can cooperate, I might be a little more lenient. You could be free for good behavior, in other words."

Mike looked disappointed and defeated. Then he swung his arm down, in an ah damn gesture.

Ken stepped back and nodded at Stan, giving him a silent agreement that he was finished.

Stan agreed that Mike and Steve should work along with everyone else, but it was Kenís decision that they still work the site cleanup crew. Besides, no one else wanted the job to cleanup after everything else.

"If there arenít any more questions," Stan said, "itís time to get to work."

The group began to disperse and talk amongst themselves. Some of them made jokes that were aimed toward Mike and Steve. But the jokes were good-natured, almost like teasing. As long as it didnít provoke any fights, Stan allowed the jokes.

Each construction worker walked up to the equipment shed that stood at one end of the trailer and collected what they needed. Since they were working with cement today, each worker required special yellow legins to wear over their jeans, this was to prevent the cement from sticking. When cement hardens into concrete, itís very difficult to remove, especially from clothing. And with any construction site, the workers had to wear hard hats. The hats werenít just for safety, though, but also prevented cement from getting in the hair. It wasnít like they were flinging the cement in the air, but it had a way of getting in places that you didnít realize.

The forms for the footers of the second dome were already laid out. The forms consisted of rebar spaced evenly every two inches. And plywood frames were constructed on the outer and inner ring of the footer, these were required to prevent the concrete from being disproportionate. Since the dome was so large, the footer had to be a certain width to prevent the dome from sinking. The depth of the footer had to be poured below the frost line, this was to prevent upheaval when the ground froze during the winter months. The dome was going to be three hundred feet in diameter.

With all the tools and equipment at the ready, the workers in their concrete combat gear, they were ready to do battle against cement and time. To make the timing fair, Stan didnít have Steve start his watch timer until the workers were ready. But once the timer had started, there was no stopping.

For two and a half hours, the construction workers worked fast and hard. In order for the cement truck to reach all angles of the dome footer, a gradual incline was dug so that the cement truck could be driven into the pit.

If one were to stand at the edge of the pit and look down, they would think that an arena was being built, but three hundred feet was much too small. The arena in Rome was at least twice that. But if you four domes together it equaled twelve-hundred feet. Stan had decided to build four separate domes because he wanted the domes be spread out. And while just one large dome cost less than four separate smaller domes, they seemed to be more aesthetically pleasing. It also helped to distribute the weight, which allowed the footers to be smaller. Still, with the domes built separately, the footers had to be three feet wide and two feet deep.

By the time the workers reached the other end of the footer ring, it was almost lunch time. To tell the truth, Stan didnít know for sure if they could do it. But no one knows what they can do unless they are pushed beyond their limits.

The workers surprised Stan when they finished the second domeís footing under two hours, with ten minutes to spare. Steve Daryl stopped his watch timer at one hour and fifty minutes. When Stan looked at his employeeís handy work, he saw a perfectly circular ring with two feet of rebar sicking out, spaced every six inches. Now there were two three-hundred foot footers lying in the pit. They looked like giant alien mouths with ribbed rebar for teeth. After seeing this, Stan was so proud that he allowed lunch to start early, and gave fifteen extra minutes break time.

Since lunch had to be taken in shifts, the first to get to the trailer were to eat and vacate the trailerís dinning area so the others could have a chance to eat. Most of the workers had no trouble with this arrangement because they prefered to smoke outside anyway. Those that smoked usually ate outside; some liked to smoke while they ate. If they happened to have TV dinners that required a microwave, they were allowed to heat their food. To speed things up Ken suggested that they buy another microwave so that two TV dinners could be heated at once.

 

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