Wednesday, 2 April 2008
In the beginning there was the blank. A space between tiles before the building. Then there was Sid who scratched his head, looked at the design and after a little narrowing of the eyes sighed and went away to the tile-yard. He bought boxes of small tiles - tesserae and on the Monday, after several people had left the glamorous building he put down his tatty old cushion and an old blanket and began to work. First the sand then the levelling it off.
Now the tesserae were put down into their sandy bed one at a time. Sid began with the lower edge, letting the patterns develop with each piece pulled from the boxes. White, pale green, pale yellow, a darker blue - each tiny tessera went into the sand bed. By the end of the morning he had most of the lower half done. By the end of the day the lower edge of the border of the word. He put a board over the whole area and went home for his supper.
The following day he began... the first word began to take shape. He'd made the scroll and the background to it. Even the shadow behind the scroll. He pulled out the blue and black tesserae for each letter until slowly the 'T' took shape. More background - the 'H' by little bit. A man in a black suit and tie with a briefcase and a nervous look passed him into the lobby taking care not to tread on the work or to get his shiny black shoes dirty with sand. Still Sid kept working. The Landlord of the building dashed past him into the lobby and followed the suited man. Some few hours later, Sid straightened up, rubbed his aching back and left 'THE' as it was to go and have a cup of tea and a sandwich. When he came back... the Landlord was being taken off by the police and the man in the suit was nursing a bruise. When Sid asked if everything was alright, somewhat tentatively the man in the suit took out his wallet and handed Sid a wad of money. Sid's eyes widened even as his heart dropped.
"Finish that 'THE' and then go. This building's closed down. There's no more money. There's no more money!" the suited man told Sid.
Then he hurried away leaving Sid with a wad of money in his hands and an unfinished 'THE'. The tiler knelt on his tatty cushion mixed up some tiling cement and smoothed it over what he'd done. Then he scraped it slowly off. The tiling cement filled in the gaps between the tesserae, fixing the 'THE' into place. When it was done, Sid gathered up his old blanket and the cushion. He hauled the remaining boxes of tesserae into his van and locked it up. At the last, he turned and gazed for a moment at what work he had done.
"In the beginning was 'THE'," he said sadly.
He got into his van and drove away.