When the wood is green
Second point of order that will be disposal of the remains point four on the register here before any of us can go home tonight to our families if I can just bring your attention here this document in front of us document four it’s all but already contracted now gentlemen this has been earmarked same way everything is earmarked wheels are already some long time in motion same way they always are we all of us have dinners waiting for us at home and there’s no need in the least to drag this out any longer than needed all the lower Committee sent this on over for was a rubber stamp nobody’s asking for a debate. Light of the projector streaked his shoulder in soft outline moved along the elbow crease of his jacket caught the glint of a watch bright enough to disturb the whole table out of general stupor majority of them reaching for their water. He turned pressed his palms flat onto the table head dropped a moment they watched his shoulder follow suit almost unwillingly took once again his seat put in a request to the next room for more water and that they not be interrupted. Somebody perhaps, he said, can up the lights in here we’re losing them at the back no I didn’t want to have you here so late either fact was Lower committee only put it through a half hour ago took a whole day over it. Why time is a factor now owing to them naval gazing all afternoon beat the decision to death before passing it on.
If I can just interject here hour that it is if no one else is about to up and say something it won’t be me the one to make trouble, Fields hid his face two thirds covered running a forefinger over his lip some of them couldn’t quite catch what he said, only point is I heard about a meeting over on Fifth they came out of all of them saying it had gone to Lontana rather than us who had already set aside factory time for production into the new year not to mention loaned against forecast profit based entirely, entirely mind, upon the project so somebody tell me what we have to rubber stamp and why we should even be asked seeing the decision’s over and done with a week now.
Think we’re here to hold things up gentlemen you think we’re paid to roll out the red tape beat the thing to death you know how long it took the boys at Lontana getting this passed it was timed on a stopwatch. Came in I shouldn’t think less than under a minute reason why we’re in this mess system of committees approving committees only advantage they have over us. Light infiltrated gradually up from streaks set into the lower wall rear corner revealing a tabletop and podium having lost their lustre through the evening palm prints and chains of water rings demarked territory reflection off the surface irritated enough people started squinting against it. Gentlemen we’re half a day already in arrears now is not the time for soul searching. That much has already been done for us, we need your signatures on this we need it out within the half hour. Lontana have beaten us to the Southern Province there are still the Western and North Western granted these are more populous, lower dividends that much is granted but the opportunity remains. Fields here we know what he’s like would have us ponder that little bit longer haul out the old Greek rhetoric and watch the clock tick by until the whole goddam province is sewn up tight and it comes to war. And what do I go back home and say? We waited till just about every last tomfool got wind of what it is we’re at till it was too late missed our window mother of… Fields don’t put us through all that you’re aware well as I am the scale of the opportunity here, Cullen drew back once again from the backlight caressed the armrest of his seat drew open a folder, deposits in the far Western province it’s still a rich harvest out there now this is no longer news even to them all it needs is one of them just one takes the time to reason out the kind of money up for dispute we’re finished. One of them? Fields rose forward in his chair tip of his index finger pressed onto the tabletop glass he had been the first of them removing his jacket. You even been down there, you see how they live? They have cows down there two hundred head a herd each of them coming to three-tonne feed a town a whole week you think they sit around reasoning out money? You ever talk to any of them have you even read up on any of this they don’t work like that. They move cattle through districts ensuring everyone gets fed, they see to their crop yields make sure theirs are compatible with those in the next district don’t know the first thing do you? Deposits in the West you think they care a damn all they need out there is corrected water treatment and that we can help them with. Now some of us here are aware of the first meeting earlier in the week not going into how point being we don’t like to be side stepped somebody woke me up same night told me markets closed we’d steadied at two and two eighths didn’t take much to figure out we’d gone Hayes’ route without even being asked. How it’s going to be spores rather than ordnance delivers the cholera into the Western Province lab came up with a method saved us point nought five in the books tell you that was a fine night’s work the boys they celebrated with honest to god champagne until the small hours that one. Dispose of the remains he says none of us even know the population out there its been rounded off to the fifty million since day one tell that to whoever has to work out the logistics getting the haulage shuttles over there why cost of fuel alone could wipe us out. I’m not saying we can’t go in that it’s not worth our while but you know one ship it can handle coming to five hundred thousand no more than that. We go Hayes’ route we’ll have trains of the things working round the clock I’m aware of that let me finish round the clock burning up the same fuel we’re trying to mine faster than we can mine it and for what?
First thing introducing the spore all it will take is a thimble full, Hayes sleeves rolled adjusted the magnifier on the screen brought up a series of coloured graphs turned his chair an angle left as if in reference. Compared to here below how much is involved in Field’s idea introducing the narcotic. Second point call it what you will it certainly isn’t Cholera. Granted that’s the stem the boys worked off what they arrived at it only takes out the young males. Now round it to five hundred million or what you will fact is we have the contract for clearing the area and disposal we will have to land shuttles on the surface show we’re there we don’t have to actually deal with the bodies leave that to the families, what we do we organise sealed areas for them to do it. Save on fuel, manpower not even a consideration and on top of that we’ve endeared ourselves to the populace helping them in their hour of need. And furthermore nobody here incidentally gentlemen ever said anything about ordnance. Somebody opened the door with a hip bussed in a tray on top of which sat two decanters of water and a round of glasses throwing a silhouette onto the partition of the screen solitary arm reaching into the light-stream to wipe off a body of spring water someone had spilled down the far end of the table she took an order for some more biscuits preference for the custard cream. Fields picture of restraint his chair off centre hands dealt with paperwork going back three months back when the idea was introduce religion tapped again the table mat in front of him for attention. Acting in haste, he said, is one thing lets not anyone act out of ignorance here lets not wall ourselves into what could down the line be viewed a criminal act I’m not in favour of how this committee is going haven’t been for some time now. It was all going fine until somebody turned up those deposits. Gentleman I was on one of the first so-called Jettison ships I made it out there I met them have any of you? Any of you even read up? Soon as they found out the damage done with industry they rolled it back they tested out theories on how to alleviate infertile land in the West where we’re talking about feed the locality everything they tried worked. They don’t need those deposits they’ve found a way to get by entirely without them says on these sheets it’s a culture of leisure nothing could be further from the… they work every hour given that’s a sixty-odd-hour day gentlemen they have no intention of standing in anyone’s way they’ll march us there hold our torches for us while we mine all we’ll have to do plan ahead. Widespread dependence upon the narcotic in advance of our mining teams renders them anything but a threat captive market spilling over on us the boys downstairs already have four options to go with. Best of all two of them they’ve got ready one year’s use they’re still hale and hearty enough to work mining. Want to go in there lay waste to the male population that is his answer to everything, this is what you get with men never been in the service given control over big decisions it always results in heaps of bodies some mess some unfortunate has to go mop up.
Dust settled the circumference of the wet ring in front of him Hayes poured himself his third glass resisting the urge to slip right out of his jacket roll up his sleeves like he would’ve done back on the floor times like this. Went back over in his head they can’t see you interfere with your face can’t see you look down hands upon the desk all times anything other than that they won’t buy a word you say, don’t show any teeth don’t scratch that itch. Some of you, he said, might’ve had the chance to read up on Jettison ships why they were out there in the first place. Fields’ there with his council for turning up a new colour, wasn’t it? Stop me if I’m wrong here this was your plea to the test-bed committee the value to the print and graphic industry if you could arrive at a new patented colour and this planet might be the ticket. Talk about men never seen service those test-bed boys never saw as far as outside their front lawn. Held up a blank slip-sheet it was hard to make out in the light most of them leaning forward squinted trying to take it in. This, he said, is as close as they got, something called Colloquin looks like dulled mauve to me they tell me it’s the real deal. Point being they dished out rides on those Jettison ships to whatever crack-pot could amuse them a half hour with fairy tales about new colours and this one here, he held up a photo of a young woman detail pixellated for being rendered out of a smaller image printed associated press along the bottom two three notes in red already peppered the left hand side gaze into the camera of cornered defiance, this one we know all about gets a ride down there takes a month to arrive I’m convinced she had the guts of that article written before she as much as stepped onto the surface. You remember her the one got the sea-bed factories closed pulled the rug from under everybody there including those needed the work but not to stray off point spends enough time with them down on the surface tends those three-tonne heifers you mention wins trophies back here for the effort what they never told you is she never actually came back. Went and learned the language she’s down there now with them, told them about how we filtered our image the PR sweep we’d worked so hard on coming to four years down the pan told them about ICLLA and the crisis in the compliant fuels market, this isn’t something you let slip she had to go learn the right lingo to get this over had to sit them down explain to them how it works over on this planet this wasn’t any slip of the tongue, tells them we were about to introduce a religion and not to take any medicine offered from us because it’ll be addictive and ravage communities. Only thing in fact she wasn’t privy to was the Ovbon-2x, don’t ask me how and the only pity is in my book when it’s opened up on them down there she won’t be a casualty. Held up another photograph this one hazier still asked a spotlight be shined upon it flare off the gloss surface dazzling a few of them, what looked like a satellite photo of people stood assembled into squares eight lines of them to a square and three squares across a lone figure presiding over them from the front.
Fields up out of his chair fought to string words together coherently hands around the knot of his tie loosening it unbuttoning the collar. That there you’ve presented us I can’t believe you people you’d go that far that’s a doctored image those are people tending to crop yields that image has been tampered with. I can’t believe you people would… they’re planted a metre spaced in every direction for light, so that the plant doesn’t have to contest other plants for nutrients in the soil eight lines to a square indicates one crop six lines another, have any of you even read the pamphlet given you I mean I outlined all of… I mean it was only nine pages Christ you could’ve read it in the elevator here. Sunday leant into the spotlight attended as ever to his beard with a thumb and forefinger face like the bearer of an unpleasant truth that had Fields reacting aghast before he could even open his mouth. You’re ready to sign it aren’t you? He said, you came here willing and ready to sign to get home before you’re children get to school you didn’t even need doctored images stories about organised protest just needed a box to check just wanted... What we don’t want, Sunday interrupted palpable fatigue in his voice, some kind of land skirmish in defence of the deposits. What we don’t want is any kind of trouble. I know we have gear ready to mine the land out there I’m not so sure about transporting artillery that far cost alone would eat into what we’re doing let alone how that will go over with the public this after all being a family concern going back six generations and that does look like a gun in that one’s arms that one in the corner, to me a few of them seem to be bearing arms we don’t want another Cupola Pass gentlemen. Gathered up loose documents into his hands arranging them by colour in the gloom made a point catching as many of them in the eye he could manage shot his hand into the spotlight for emphasis. The bottom line is we’ve budgeted for this the books have already digested it and nobody has anything but good things to say. It has already benefited dividends across four sectors before we even announce officially we’ll be helping them contain the outbreak. It is hardly our worry if they’re aware or unaware down there it is hardly our matter leave that to whoever’s job that turns out to be our concern is Lontana anticipating our least delay to step in themselves. That is what is going to happen. Can’t stress that too much. This is a decision already taken months ago only nobody was willing to put it down in writing. We’re already all of us well on track the canisters already in place a month and a half and gentlemen that photograph seals it for me. Set down his folder open on the first page his hand reached out of the light for the container of stationery in the centre of the table. Fields slipped down into his chair watching them passing pens thought up how he could get word through to Janet in time. The cracks in the shutters already bore light settled dust outlined white pockets of the boardroom unseen since the day before colours strobed through cream yellows into cream grey projecting the photograph the ceiling already thundered with staff starting their morning above a girl had already arrived in to clear up the trays of water one of them left behind his jacket hurrying out the rear door getting details to the press division.
A native of Dublin, Alan Walsh lived for a time in Bologna, Italy. He has worked as a freelance journalist for magazines like Magil, In Dublin, and the Illustrated Ape and has had fiction and poetry published in a several countries. He currently works and lives in London, where he is at work on his first novel.