Abutment

In building the bridge that would connect the island town of Tiki-Free with the peninsular colony of Tiki-Bagombo, it was discovered, at a disturbingly late stage of the construction, that the underwater spots that were to serve as the bridge’s anchorages were absent from the submarine soil. This news was disturbing in itself, but it perturbed Chief Odwalla, who had promised his tribesmen (and the few voting landed women) on both sides of the ocean that the bridge would be completed in time for the great festival of seasonal transition scheduled next month, as it had been for the last four hundred moons of recorded history.

The Chief took his primary architect aside and asked, kindly, what the holdup was. For Chief Odwalla, this kindness extended to allowing the primary architect to keep his favorite toe, but no more. After thanking his glorious moon-bestowed sachem for his tolerance, the architect explained in halting, bloodless hiccups that the submarine soil that was meant to provide the foundation for the bridge’s abutments had disappeared. The Chief first asked where the soil had gone to, and then if it might be coaxed into returning. The architect explained, while bandaging his leaking stumps with wads of Mellowberry leaves and tobacco paste, that the terrain appeared, to their most seasoned divers, to have simply fallen deeper into the earth than their lungs allowed them to visit. And attempts to cajole the soil back to its former shelf were unsuccessful. They had sent two of their tribe’s wittiest conversationalist down into the holes with frankly discomforting results.

The Chief then asked if more dirt might be pushed into the holes, to make up the difference. The architect replied that they had tried that, for the last ninety days, with limited success. The sand would rise to the lips of the holes, only to drop away after several hours. It was his professional opinion that there was something large beneath the dirt, perhaps feasting on the dirt, or at the very least using the piles of sand for its own amusements. The Chief asked what that could be, and the architect produced a list of marine gods they had sacrificed to, or failed to appease, in the last ten moon cycles. The Chief considered this list and then had it burned into the architects belly while he considered his options.

When the branding had ceased, the primary architect rose on lopsided feet and asked if Chief Odwalla might consider a ferry instead of a bridge.

Let it be known that when the primary architect was laden with heavy rocks and tossed into the mouth of the largest hole, he was somewhat relieved to be demoted to ritual sacrifice. He felt that the stone and mortar buttressing required for the proposed bridge’s central abutments was lacking in long-term feasibility, insofar as his engineering skills allowed. The cool water was also a relief on his scorched and ink-stained belly. He would not be able to breathe long, coming from a clan of thatchers, not divers, but if the sand-eating god at the bottom of the world might indulge him, perhaps they could together build a roof of bubbles to appease Chief Odwalla and his campaign promise.

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