Substandard.

via Daily Prompt: Substandard

The work he completed was below par. Not up to what it should have being. He knew it. They knew it. Everybody on the site knew. But nobody really cared. It was after all, more money for all of them. Even when the lowly paid government inspectors came to check out the work, many were open to the large brown envelopes which everyone knew would help smooth the way of the project. Help to avoid any awkward questions or very close inspections of the work completed.
‘Get it done, and get it done fast, and get it done cheap’. That was the order from the top. Another rushed job, another contract completed at speed. Everybody making money, everybody happy. In the Arabian peninsula, the heat sapping, draining weather was always the same. No let up. Life was good here in these foreign lands, with good money to be made in quick time. The only few drawbacks as he saw it were the the lack of available alcohol, unless smuggled in surreptitiously, and the lack of a pretty woman to catch a man’s eye.
The Arabs, as determined by their governments, were forbidden to drink alcohol, which to him seemed a nonsensical and cruel law. Secondly the women were forced to cover up everything except for their eyes. Another crazy law in his view. He had being in the country for close to six months , and was looking forward to his return to normality, back to America. Looking forward to seeing his wife and newly born child whom he had yet to meet.
He didn’t want to leave them, but with the lack of employment in ‘The States’, and the subsequent continual arguments that the lack of money, and boredom were causing with his long term sweetheart, and now wife. It just seemed like the best solution to a bad situation, at the time.
In Arabia, it was good to be working once again. His happiness and joy for the occupation, replacing the depression, that had dogged him for many months, in the past. The feelings of worthlessness and failure he felt as a man. Unable to provide for his wife, and family. The thoughts of ending it all. How different it was now. Those bad times behind him, a happily distant memory. But money making was very high on his agenda, after so many, many months of being without. He had a lot of catching up to do, financially, and he was determined to catch up, in whichever way he could. Regardless of the consequences.
The management back home in America, were well impressed how he was able to move the job along with such speed. While keeping costs way down. Congratulating themselves on choosing some a competent man to oversee the work. It was of course his decision to purchases supplies and materials from the unlisted, unlicensed companies. His choice not to question the low cost of such purchases. Again his choice to pay the immigrant workers just slightly above the national rate they were paid. An incentive to work harder, and faster, which they happily adhered to. Of course, the wage they received, a pittance, in comparison to the wage paid to the workers from the west.

He didn’t like him, when he first met him. Something about him. That upright posture, and purposeful stride. The dark business suit. The tanned face, and the neatly trimmed black hair. He exuded an inner strength, an inner belief in his own abilities, in his own worth, for such a young man. No more than early thirties, Jim guessed. A man not easily pushed around, or persuaded. Jim tried the friendly route first. When that was having little impact. He went for the brutish, loud, angry path. But the schools building inspector, remained quietly solid, strong and unmoved. He demanded to see the schedule of work. Demanded to know how the work was progressing at such speed. He further demanded free access to inspect any of the materials used, and see the records and details of the current suppliers to the school building project. Of course he could not be allowed to have his demands met. So as the young inspector was leaving the building project, Jim approached him.
As he was stepping into his shiny black cadillac, he placed a hand on the inspectors arm. The inspector looked down at the hand, and then at Jim , with a look of disdain.

‘Here, take this package. You’ll enjoy it. Will make life easier ‘, offering him the stout envelope.
‘My life is fine, I don’t need nor want anything from you’, and he pushed the envelope away.

Early the following morning just as the sun broke the horizon, and work began again on the construction project, the young inspector returned accompanied by two further car loads, of similarly diligent civil servants. They enforced an immediate cessation of the work, and went about examining the materials used, and the contracts signed. It did not take them long to come across anomalies. Materials not up to standards, and regulations. Works completed in a haphazard and unsafe manner. It was enough evidence to enforce immediate cessation of the project.
Jim watched from the portacabin office, where he liked to oversee the progress on the site. With his favourite coffee cup in hand, he watched the young inspector accompanied by two policemen approach his office.

Bursting through the door in the blazing mid day heat, disturbing the dust and paperwork in the office.

‘ I am closing down this project’, with immediate effect’. He spoke slowly, with much assurance and calm authority. ‘You, as the project co-ordinator here, bearing full responsibility for all that goes on in this project, are to be prosecuted for using substandard and dangerous materials, and engaging in unsafe  and haphazard working practices. Endangering the lives the the employees currently working here, and the further employees and children who would have attended this school in the future. Also you are further to be prosecuted for attempting to bribe a government official’.

With that the two policeman stood either side of Jim, and escorted him down from his office. The next few weeks passed quickly, and before he knew it, he was enduring the sweltering heat and blazing sunshine from the confines of an overcrowded Arabian prison cell. He was slowly coming to terms with the violent prison guards, who delighted in tormenting and torturing their prisoners, especially foreign prisoners. Coming to terms with his violent prison cell mates, none of whom he could dare to trust. Forced to stand for up to twelve hours a day, it was an impossible torture. The stench of urine, of continual perspiration. The sense of claustrophobia, of being unable to move freely, of being trapped, with no space of his own. With unfriendly people he did not know, using a language he could not understand. The continual pushing and shoving. The sense of violence waiting to explode at any moment. His very real fear of homosexual rape. The lack of sleep, his anxiety. Wishing now, had he being given his time over, perhaps he may have being a more honourable, honest man. Not racing headlong chasing money and wealth at any cost.

His only contact with another english speaker, was the weekly visit from the middle aged man from the American council. His job to keep Jim informed of the likely date of his court case. It could take years, he had being informed. Arabia was in no rush to release the inmates of their prisons. Jim in a strange way looked forward to these weekly visits. At least it was some human contact, without the fear of violence. A short sense of freedom. A brief thirty minutes out of the stinking , overcrowded cell, that had being his home for the last three months. With someone he felt he could trust.
He walked into the light grey plastered room, with the open windows, accompanied as ever by two severe looking prison guards. He noted the brightly colored  bird sitting on the tree branch outside the window, chirping away  happily. Jim looked at the bird, and smiled, envied his freedom. The ability to do what he wanted, when he wanted. To have his own space. To fly away and be free, anytime he choose. The man from the American council entered the room. Jim immediately noted his more than usual serious demeanor. His grey and  drawn face. The deadness in his eyes. He sat at the table, slowly, and opened his black briefcase. Hids movements were slow, as was his speech.
Quietly he began. ‘Jim, I have some news from home, and I’ll come straight to it. I’m very sorry, but there has being a fire  back home, and their have been fatalities. Jim held his breath, and began to perspire slightly. The veins tightened in his arms and shoulders, and he clenched his fists. ‘It’s your wife’, then he stopped, to steady himself,and catch his breath, and after a moment, ‘and your newborn child. I’m so sorry’. Jim listened, but didn’t really hear, and asked for him to repeat what he had said. He sat back in the soft chair trying to comprehend what had being said, his body feeling weak. ‘ The initial outcome of the investigation are, the fire was the result of the substandard materials been used, when the house was first built’. ‘If there’s anything I can do’, his voice trailed off.
Jim sat back in the chair, and quietly muttered to himself, ‘Substandard materials, substandard materials’, over and over. Precisely when the thirty minutes were up, the two prion severe, angry prison guards , roughy lifted Jim from the chair. Pulled and dragged him back towards the overcrowded, sweltering, stinking, violent prison cell. The man from The American council watched for a moment, as he stood underneath the ceiling fan, enjoying its cooling air, before taking his briefcase, and making his way towards the exit.

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Echoes.

 

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Echoes.

Was it really her voice calling to him,as he walked along the claustrophobic valley,at the foot of the steep cliff faces on both sides,rising high.Bleak and desolate,not a sound.

                                                                                   ‘Come home’.the voice called.He tried to laugh it off,but could not.He knew he was tired.He had been walking for hours,even though it felt like weeks.Searching for a way,the way back.He was certainly going to argue with her,when he found her,if ever he would.

                                                                                                             The blazing sun weakening his body.The perspiration damp on his forehead and neck.The light grey khaki shirt sticking to his back.It seemed impossible.Unsure how much more of this he could take.The absolute silence.The blazing heat.The physical weakness,and now strange voices calling to him,from invisible people.

                                  It was greed,pure and simple that had taken them to this Godforsaken place.This God awful country.This not a third world country,more a fifth world country.How he so wished he was back in civilization.Back in London,city of his birth.Even though at times he had complained bitterly about the cost of living in the city.The noise,the overbearing traffic,and way too many people.What he would give to be there now.

                                                                                    ‘Come home’,the invisible voice called again.He looked around behind him.He scanned the sheer cliffs to his left and right.His eyes following them as they reached high into the clear blue sky,but nothing,and no one to be seen.How he hated her for bringing him,no,forcing him to come to this damn country,far from normality,all in the name of money,and wealth.The usual in her case.The same grasping attitude.Greedily chasing after wealth.It was never ending.Some like her would never be satisfied,no matter how much they had accrued.They would always be grasping after more.Their greed and thirst was unquenchable.

                                                                                                              He was even unsure what had attracted him in the first place.Of course the shapely figure.That sweet smile.That charming personality.Like any normal man he was drawn in.But he had decided that once this was sorted,he would be waving goodbye to her.There had to be easier ways of moving through life.Here he was like a fool,searching for her.Having no idea where she was, even if she was still alive.Silently wishing she was dead,and now voices calling to him.

                      Tired beyond belief,he sat on a nearby rock.The blazing sun,sapping him of energy.He eagerly bent forward to the merger water filled hole,and greedily splashed his face with the warm water.Ingesting as much as he could.It had been at least three days since he had eaten solid food.Having had his fill,he moved from the blazing sun,and sat in the shade by the foot of the cliff.Grateful to rest.his body weak,his eyes resisting the his struggle to keep them open.His sleep was deep.The dream intriguing.He could see her clearly in his dream.In her designer clothing,totally unsuitable for the sweltering heat.The prime white cotton blouse,now torn and sullied with the dirt of the earth.The expensive designer blue jacket,looking so out of place in the cave.The expensive bracelets on her wrists,still sparkling in the darkness of the cave,as the rays of the sunlight touched upon them.

                                                                           He looked at her hands,which were locked in a harsh grip around the prize she had chased.The blue diamonds and sapphires were so sharp and clear,glistening as the sun touched upon them.The snakes,guardians of the diamond encrusted cave,slithered over her body.Pecking at the veins in her neck.moving down,stopping to sink their fangs into the insides of her wrists,gorging on the sumptuous flesh.Others,taking it in turns to gorge on the soft skin of her once beautiful face,as they slithered away,through her long mousy brown hair,and into the darkened corners of the cave,from where they had come.

                                                                     He looked down from where he was viewing her,and saw her eyes wide and smiling,as she held the sapphire and diamond encrusted jewels in her hands.At least she was happy.His breathing became soft,barely audible,as his body began to close down.The blazing sun,overhead,offering no respite from it’s sweltering heat.

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Inspired by a writing prompt : Echoes.

 

                                                                                                                                     

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