Hiram on the phone

Based on a monologue by Frederick John Cooper, Deputy Provincial Grand
Master of Devon.

(A man is sitting at a large table covered with plans and drawings.
He has a pair of compasses in his hand, and he is describing an arc on
a design. The telephone rings. He takes no notice except to frown. It
rings again. Exasperated, he lifts the receiver.) 

Hello! Hiram here! (pause) Hello, hello! Hiram of Tyre speaking! 

No, no, not His Majesty! The Great One is up in the hills, where it's
cool. This is Hiram Abif. Who is this calling? 

Adoniram! Great to hear from you! Where are you? What are you up to? 

Lebanon! You lucky son of a camel! And in charge of the saw-mill
operation too! 

That's great! No wonder we're getting all the wood-products up to

Wish I could say the same about the quarry stuff! No labor problems, I

How many thousand? I know there's a policy of full employment in
Lebanon, but that's ridiculous! What are you doing with them all? 

One working and ten looking on? Well, that system isn't unique, you
know, Adda.

We're moving along all right, I suppose, but I'm getting a lot of
trouble over the rationing. I said at the start that this system of
giving these young boys a weekly allowance of corn, wine and oil would
never work. We supplied them with little hand-mills for the corn, and
field ovens for the baking -- but they just wouldn't use them. As soon
as they got their ration each week, they flogged the corn for the wine
-- with the predictable result. We got some pretty funny looking
ashlars! However, things are better now. We do our own baking, and
issue the rations already cooked -- but still there's a lot of
fiddling going on. 

I'm worried to death really. We have this deadline for the opening,
but it will be a miracle if everything is ready in time for the
Dedication. The trouble is that YOU KNOW WHO can never make up his
mind on detail. He's continually changing the plans. Now, after we
thought that we had everything under control, he has this brilliant
idea about the Memorial pillars. 

That's right, MEMORIAL PILLARS! (pause) You know -- the Fire and Cloud
and all that jazz! 

Well, it was too late to incorporate them into the actual building,
and so they'll have to be placed outside the Porchway or Entrance. His
idea is to make them out of METAL, as if stone wasn't good enough.
There's only one place I know of to cast something that big, and
that's down there between Succoth and Zeredatha; you know, in the
claygrounds on the bottom land of the Jordan. Transportation is going
to be a nightmare, uphill all the way; and just one jolt, and the
wretched things'll crack. 

No, I haven't a clue who he thinks he's going to get to supervise the

Oh, and I forgot to tell you, he wants them formed hollow, with only a
hand's breadth of material. And he wants to put Archives in them.
(pause) Yes, Archives; scrolls of vellum and parchment and so on. Can
you imagine keeping the files in there? Once these young clerks and
secretaries get in there and start messing about, they'll be in there
all day! 

We tried to get the names of the Pillars out of him, so that we could
include them in the casting, but he'll only give us the name of one.
That's to be named after his great great grandfather. But he's being
very coy about the other one. 

I think he's going to announce it on the day. Probably going to honor
one of the officials who take part in the Ceremony. You know how it
is, Adda. It's always the fellow who can do a good piece of ritual
that gets the honor, not the one who's been doing all the background
work. Gawd, I hate this masonic politics! 

But my main trouble here is the unreliability of the overseers. Some
of them can't even read a blueprint! Do you know, every morning when I
get into the office (and that's about the sixth hour), there's a
line-up of Fellowcrafts, supposedly overseers, asking me to explain
detail that should be obvious to anyone competent. I spend half my
time doing work that should be done by the overseers. I tell you,
Adda, I'm convinced that if I ever took a day off, the whole Project
would be plunged into utter confusion. 

Apart from that, the overseers are quite incapable of carrying out the
trade testing. This means that a lot of fair workmen who should be
getting trade pay are not receiving any differential -- and it's
causing a bit of bad feeling. And when the work ends here, and they
move on to other jobs, they won't have any evidence of their grade. 

As a matter of fact, I had three of them in my office the other day
who were very rude to me about the delay in their trade testing. I
promised them faithfully that I would carry out their test today,
after the midday break. So we'll have to see about that! 

Now, is there anything else on your mind? (pause) I don't want to
appear rude, but it's almost time for the noon whistle. I like to make
a bit of an inspection during the lunch break. Also, Phase One is
completed now, you know, and it's cool and peaceful and quiet in
there; great view over the valley from the gateways. Not a soul in
sight, and it gives me a chance to collect my thoughts. 

Only moment of quiet I have all day! Then, after a few minutes there,
I'll come back here, have a bit of bread and cheese, and maybe a
pomegranate, and then I'll be all set for the afternoon. 

Oh, yeah, sure! I'm okay. It's just the pressure, the constant
pressure. It gets to me! I sometimes feel I don't have much time. . .
. I don't have much time. But it'll soon be over with! 

Well, it's been nice talking to you! We must get together when you're
in town again. Take care now! Good bye!