Compendium | Stonewalled

The death of arrangements has unforeseen effects

“Hello, is this the set in stone man?”

“Oh God, finally.”

“No, I’m Peter.”

“Oh. Wait. I meant oh God, thanks for for calling, Peter.”

“Ah. You’re welcome. Is something the matter?”

“Nobody speaks to me anymore.”

“Okay. But I was just calling in to get a job done, if you need to speak to someone…”

“You can help me.”

“I’m not really trained for this sort of thing…”

“No. I meant that your business will help me.”

“My custom?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. Is business going badly?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, explain.”

“Nobody wants anything set in stone anymore.”

“No one?”

“No. To tell you the truth, you’re the first call I’ve had in weeks. I think I’m going to have to just let it go.”

“Weeks? Surely not? People still make plans. They must need some set in stone.”

“Not like they used to. You know, in the old days it was simple. People would make some plans, throw a few ideas about a final time around, find out what works for everyone, and then give me a call to get it all finalized, carved into a nice piece of granite or something. I’m quite skilled with a chisel.”

“I’m sure you are; that’s why I called you.”

“I’m the best. It’s a talent, an art if anything, but it’s also hard work. It took a lot of training to get here you know. Years and years of chipping away at the career ladder. There’s quite a hierarchy in this profession. You have to hammer on more than a few doors but it pays off in the end. At least it did.”

“What’s changed?”

“It’s technology. All these newfangled phone-eyes and plastic tablets. I remember when a tablet was just a good old-fashioned piece of sturdy clay, something good to set down your thoughts in. Moses was a great customer of mine; he ordered ten of them. There was a time I could keep myself in business just by selling ten commandment knock-offs to cheeky bishops and priests looking to make a quick buck.”

“And then what?”

“Carbon dating.”

“And so the new tablets are putting you out of business?”

“Yeah. People today are all about their on-the-fly plans. They like to ‘change it up’ as they say. ‘We don’t need plans ‘cause we can just make a call if we’re gonna be late’, they say. But it’s a mess. It’s a real mess.”

“In what way?”

“They think making plans on the fly is not really making a plan. But it is. It’s just penciling it in over and over again. Look, Peter, I don’t want to sound jealous, cause I’m not, I’m not a jealous guy, you know – commandment ten, ‘thou shalt not covet’, one of my best pieces of work – but the penciling-in guy? He’s absolutely loving it right now. Fair play to him, the last few decades, with the Biro, you know, they weren’t so kind on him. But these days? I mean, fuck. It’s all penciling in. I’m surprised events ever happen. And the waste! He’s almost drowning in paper. I went to see him last week, you know, to see if he had any tips on some confirmations that might be coming up, and all I could see of him was his head. His head above a sea of paper. I don’t know how he gets those plans down correctly. Can he even see his hands? But, you know, fair play to him. But fuck it’s a mess.”

“Right. Well that’s awful, Simon. I hope it picks up for you. In fact, I might have a little something for you.”

“Oh good, good. ‘Cause I’ve had years of training. Did I mention that?”

“You did, but…”

“Oh good, good. I’ve been in the business for epochs. And I haven’t been lazy during my downtime either. I’m always working on that CV. Gotta show what I’m doing between gigs, as they say. I’ve been making some really nice progress fine-tuning Garamond in sandstone – real flaky stuff, real tricky to work all the little serif flicks into it, but it does look absolutely fabulous at the end. Shall I put you down for something like that? Or I suppose you want Helvetica? Very rock ’n’ roll these days I know…”

“I just want to make sure I don’t miss my anniversary next week. I’m just looking for something simple, something permanent in a nice piece of rock…”

“And don’t I have the rock! I have got literally tons of rock sitting in my workship right now. Granite, basalt, claystone. A lovely bit of dolomite just begging for a wedding or an anniversary to be carved into. Oh, and don’t get me started on Paleocene era bauxite – it puts the stuff from the Cisuralian era to shame it really does. And just last epoch I put some Cenomanian age Glauconite in the catalogue to see if it would do well. It didn’t really take off until your own subatlantic age but it’s been a real seller since then. Looks fabulous on a mantelpiece, makes for a real conversation starter…”

“Look, I think this is all a bit much…”

“Please. Peter. How about something from the Pliocene epoch? You gotta help me. I’ve got hundreds, maybe thousands, of chisels on backorder. And rock isn’t cheap. Cash flow is essential in my line of work; I just need a little leg up.”

“Simon. I’m really sorry, but…”

“What?”

“My wife just called me. She wants a divorce.”

“You moderns…zero staying power. Zero. And fuck Henry VIII, too.”


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