Tools for a Job

Tools for a Job

A Story by Avery Moric

A stone worker learns the value of his own life.

Tools For a Job
The sound of chisel on stone has been burned into my memory. The incessant scraping has turned into a daily rhythm for me. I am awoken every morning before dawn by the man next to me chiseling away at his cell wall, I spend all my waking hours with my chisel in hand, and I end my night falling into an exhausted sleep to the sound of the night crew and their chisels blasting away. My chisel and hammer are the only extensions of myself in this prison, the only thing I can call mine. Even though I am defined by my tools the idea of them is repulsive to me. Three of the four walls in my barren cell are filled with dashes, each representing a day that I have had to work on the great monument. I calculated that the great monument would be completed by the time I finished marking the second wall, but I am almost onto my fourth. This is undeniably due to all of the accidents and deaths caused by this monument. Even in my current situation I consider myself lucky. Lucky that I carve stone and not push it like the thousands that have died before me.
The guard bangs on my cell door. Another day begins. I get up from my bed and open the door wearing the same clothes I slept in, the same clothes I’ve worn since I got here. I step out into a candle lit hallway and begin to walk down it. The hallway starts to fill with other stone workers as we all head to the food tent. The sun is slowly peeking out over the hill behind the tent. A ladle of stew is dumped into my wooden bowl. It’s less than what everyone else gets-it has always been-but I never say anything. I always like to think that they are trying to starve me because I have been here the longest, I hope so at least. Work begins soon after I finish eating my stew. For the past forty days I have been focused on a detail piece on the great monument. It is about fifteen paces wide and almost twenty five paces tall. It will be a corner on the great monument. I don’t know what the great monument is, nobody knows. We all know who it is for, it is the one thing that connects all of us. The great monument is a personal project for the Prince of Leeds, Prince Nicholas. His conquest for land and power is what brings us all here. His unrelenting conquest and pillaging of towns all across the land is his greatest achievement. Going from townsend to townsend enslaving the men and killing most of the children and women. Most men don’t know how to work with stone so they are delegated to pushing and mining raw stone. The “lucky” ones like me who knew masonry got a slightly better job. However, I am still a slave to the kingdom and the prince.
The corner piece depicts a battle lead by Prince Nicholas. It is ironic that I must spend all my waking hours depicting the source of my torment as a flawless deity. I have been given drawings of what the finished piece must look like. It depicts the Prince atop of a horse as he and his soldiers storm through a burning village. The engraving is reminiscent of how I got in this position. I used to be a stonemason in the small town of Shardsworth. I had a wife and two small boys that would help me with my job. Masonry is something I enjoyed in my previous life, but now it is monotonous to me. A child may enjoy to play with sticks and stones but as soon as you force their hand into using the sticks and stones they are repulsed by it. I try to not think about what happened the day my town was attacked, what happened to my family. This is my life now.
The day is over before I know it. At this point my hands function independently of my mind. I couldn’t tell you what I think of during the day while I work, I don’t know if I think of anything. The guard comes to take me back to my cell for the night. I am usually the last to leave the work site.
I wake up the same as the previous day, same as every day. Gate. Stew. Work. Sleep. Gate. The day to day monotony of work is interrupted when I arrive at my site and discover a visitor. I have never seen him before and he is in fresh garments. I have always worked alone so this is a shock to me. I pause unsure of what to do, it has been over a year or so since I have spoken to anyone. I have not really had any friends here at the work site. I snap out of my trance and decide I must do something. I walk up behind the man.
“Can I help you” I say in a raspy voice. The man turns around. He is young, no more than twenty years old, he has thick long black hair flanked by large sideburns. He gets up and faces me.
“Pardon me sir?” the man asks. I clear my throat and repeat myself.
“Can I help you?”
“Oh why yes. The name is Job I have been told to help you finish your job here then start the next piece.” he says. He extends his arm out to shake.
“I’m Barnard.” I say as I shake his hand in return.
“Oh Barnard! What a wonderful name, I once knew a man named Barnard. He was one of the kindest souls I have ever encountered. I remember vividly one day we were- “
“Why are you working on my piece?” I reply bluntly.
“Oh well I said already, I was told to by th-”
“But why you”
“Um sir I am afraid I don’t know what you want from me, all I have been told to do is work with you on this piece.” He gives me a tentative look hoping that his answer has satisfied me. I look him up and down again and simply reply with a grunt and go to the spot I have been working on.
The day felt thousands of times longer than normal. He was a competent mason but his presence there was such a disturbance to my mind that I could not function on autopilot today, every second felt like a hundred. The sun was three quarters up the sky when I made a mistake. The only mistake I have ever made. I chipped the nose of Prince Nicholas. It was a momentary lapse of focus, but a split second of absent-mindedness caused me to fail at my one duty. I instantly felt dread fill my body, the cold winter wind was negated by a sudden rush of heat over me. I knew what they did to people who made mistakes, it is why the project is so far behind schedule. I first look to Job on my right. He is working steadily on the portion of the piece I allotted to him. I couldn’t tell if he had noticed my accident. I then look to guards watching over my part of the site, the east most guard tower is empty but the western one, only forty or so paces to my left, was occupied. I then look into the eyes of a deformed Prince Nicholas, I had spent days chiseling his eyes with immaculate detail and they in return chiseled into my soul. I knew that I would have to report to him for my mistake. Those would be the final set of eyes I would see before my punishment.
I stand up and wipe my apron of limestone dust. Job looks up at me, he has not been here for long but he knew we were not supposed to stop working under an circumstance. I look at him briefly before turning around and walking down the scaffolding ramp in the direction of the supervisor tent. I did not look back but I can only assume that Job sensed something was wrong. I walk as fast as I could to the tent with what felt like hundreds of eyes following me, all of them knowing my crime. Only one hundred paces till the tent, now eighty, forty, now a dozen. The project manager is leaning over the blueprints of some sort of underground room, I could not be concerned by it or it’s purpose. He looks up from the parchment and locks eyes with me.
“What in the Lord’s name are you doing away from your station get back there before I condemn you to-”
“Sir,” I interrupt him. “The man next to me has defaced the great monument, he has been incessant with his hate towards the Prince and in an act of violence he pushed me to the ground and assaulted the great monument, look.” I show the man a bruise I had gotten earlier on my arm from an unrelated accident. He looks at the bruise and and back at me. I pray that my face does not give away the truth. After what seems an eternity of him staring at me he asks,
“Which man?” I point to Job. From here he is a small black speck contrasting the limestone monolith he is working on. The manager whistles and two guards come to his side.
“Bring me that man atop the scaffold.” he says as he points to Job. The larger guard nods and they both jog towards the scaffold. I watch as they run up the ramp and grab Job by the arm, he tries to resist them but they are much too strong. He is carried down the ramp and towards the tent screaming and kicking. The whole work site has now stopped and stared as he is dragged across the field. He is thrown to his knees in front of the project manager and me. His face is distorted with fear, his eyes beady and his skin deathly pale and lifeless. He is fumbling for words before the manager speaks.
“Enough. You have disgraced the prince, the king, God, and the whole kingdom of Leeds” belts the manager.
“Wha-wha-I uh- I don’t know what you mean” sputters Job.
“Yes you do” answers the manager. He hits Job across the head with a drafting ruler.
“Pray that the lord forgives your sins.” says the manager. The guards lift him by his shoulders.
“Barnard please, I beg you. You know I have done nothing. Please!” begs Job. I stare at the ground. I cannot bear to look him in his eyes. I’m sending this man to his death. Only me and the Lord know the truth.
“Enough!” shouts the manager. “Guards.” The guards take him away. Behind me, he screams and begs as they drag him across the dirt and behind the tent. His screams are silenced by the sound of steel cutting leather,flesh, and bone. I tell myself I will not look but something possesses me to. Whether it be God forcing me to acknowledge my actions or my morbid subconscious taking hold of me, I turn my body to see the carnage. The guards are still going at Job long after he has died. The manager hit me across my back with the drafting ruler.
“You, get back to your position and fix his mistake or you will end up as he did.” says the manager.
“Yes sir” I say with my head hung low. I hurriedly scurry back to my post. The feeling of being watched is much worse going back. Only myself and God know the truth. There is no evidence suggesting I lied, I escaped death but I must live with my actions still.
I begin to tackle the job of restoring the Prince’s nose. I don’t get much done that day, it takes me more than a week to reshape the face and nose. Despite trying to not think about him, Job is all I can think of while I work on the Prince’s face. I thought of his face so much that I am sure it influences my recreation of the Prince’s face. The face sitting at the base of the great monument is now a subtle blend of the most evil man to live and the most innocent man. I may be the only one who can see it but I can’t deny its existence. Slowly I am able to move my mind past Job. I fill another wall in my cell with marks by the time I finish the corner piece and move on to my next area. My chisel keeps chipping away. My mind goes numb as the days all follow the same pattern. I am alone at work doing what I do best with my two possessions, my hammer and my chisel.

© 2019 Avery Moric

Author's Note

Avery Moric
Written for a school project.

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Added on May 15, 2019
Last Updated on May 15, 2019


Avery Moric
Avery Moric

Paradise Valley, AZ

I am a student at ASU Barrett more..