The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 06
Carthalo figured he could do that. Before Padus Boca fell into the furnace mouth, Carthalo had several dracmas stashed away for work he did on the side.
Maybe he was lucky. Besides, the woman who was buying him was attractive. He might be able to seduce her. Then he learned that he wasn’t being bought by this woman. She was just acting as agent.
He was going to sail on the Reliance. To New America.
214-216 12th Street, Fort Plymouth, Trinidad
June 30, 320BCE
Stella woke to a siren that lasted for almost a minute before it was shut off. Then the public address system reported native attacks on the outlying farmsteads. It also warned everyone to stay inside the walls, and included a request for emergency housing.
Stella got up, got dressed, and headed to the community center. She had extra room. In the community center, she was introduced to a farm family, Mrs. Banner, two kids, and four natives were assigned to her. They were especially worried about Brad Banner, who had stayed at the farm to try to protect their super turkeys.
For the next two days the town of Fort Plymouth was cut off from its outlying territories and invested by a force of locals from the River Orinoco.
July 2, 320 BCE
They couldn’t see the Indians, not even from the second floor balcony. But they could see the arrows that the Indians were shooting and they could see the troops on the parapet with their crossbows and occasional guns. Fort Plymouth was crowded now, not only with all the passengers, but with the allied tribes. That was most of the tribes that lived on Trinidad. All of them that were close enough to get here before the Tupky and their allies invested the fort.
Stella was watching the battle as best she could when the public address system announced that the Reliance was in the Gulf of Paria.
Reliance, Gulf of Paria
July 3, 320 BCE
Carthalo limped over to the side of the barge portion of the Reliance and helped hand bullets up to the steam cannon crews. He wasn’t the only one. The Reliance had twenty passengers. About half of them were transportees like Carthalo. The others were immigrants who wanted to go to New America, but couldn’t afford passage on the Queen, often people who signed employment contracts to raise the fare.
Still, Carthalo was worried what would happen to him if the ship person who owned his contract died in the battle. They said he was a free man now, just one with an employment contract. But Carthalo didn’t really believe that.
July 4, 320 BCE
Carthalo walked across the gangplank to the long wooden dock that the Reliance was tied up to and was met by a ship person. He thought he could tell ship people by now. This one was a man who said his name was George Grosskopf. For the rest of the day, the transportees were herded from here to there, dropping off the transportees, until a local dressed in a loincloth and body paint led him to a house.
Stella looked up from an argument between the two Banner kids to see a man limping along with one of the Indians. He looks like a Tupky but apparently one of the Tupky on our side. In very broken English, the Tupky said, “Your slave.”
“He’s not a slave,” Stella insisted, and the Tupky shrugged and turned away, leaving a man with short cropped hair and a beard that was just starting to grow out standing there.
Stella introduced herself, and best she could tell, the only words he understood were her name. She called Mrs. Banner to take care of her kids, and using gestures, she led Carthalo through her townhouse to the kiln in back. It was better than walking around the block to get there. By now her house had some furnishing, mostly local work. A table, some camp chairs. A chest with gourd mugs and wooden plates. Even some wall hangings. All locally made. Stella wasn’t spending her dwindling cash supply on things like glass cups or plastic trays.
She noticed that Carthalo was looking around curiously, and once they got out the back to the kiln and he was sure she didn’t object, he examined it carefully.
214-216 12th Street, Fort Plymouth, Trinidad
July 23, 320 BCE
Carthalo turned the knob that increased the amount of heated oil that was fed to the burner. This was the third day of the melt. One of the big things that Stella didn’t know was how you could tell that you were melting the glass long enough and hot enough. You got them both by looking and seeing what it looked like. The trick Carthalo used for heat was one he had learned back in Carthage. You took a wooden plank with a small hole in it, then as the light of the melt shone through it onto another piece of whitewashed wood, you looked at the color. You needed to do that at night or you needed your kiln in a room, because daylight washed it out so you couldn’t tell the color well. For time, you stuck a rod into the glass and pulled out a blob. If there were unmelted bits or too many bubbles, you needed to keep it melting longer. He needed the glass to glow a yellow closer to white at this part of the melt, so that the bubbles would be able to escape.
Another day at the increased heat should do it, he thought. The idea of using oil to control the flame struck him as brilliant. At least it did now. His first reaction was that they should be using wood like they did in Carthage.
He put the iron plate back over the opening in the kiln using tongs, then left the kiln and went back into the house. He had a room at the back of the house next to the back door. The whole place stank of tar.
He thought of running away. He had thought of running away almost every day since he was sold into slavery at age six. But usually only a passing thought. There was nowhere to run. Now, well, there was still nowhere to run. No one spoke his language except a few other transportees and, as was amply demonstrated by the battle being fought as he arrived, the Indians were dangerous.
Besides, he had his own space, even if it stank of tar. He had meals and access to the community center. He could move on his own. He wore no chains or any mark that he was a slave. And he got paid. Most of his pay went to the debt he owed Stella for buying him, but he got some money every week. Not a lot, but enough to buy an extra glass of wine when he wanted one, or new clothing if he saved up.
July 25, 320 BCE
Stella watched as Carthalo shoved the big spoon into the melt. The spoon was a brass bowl with a long wooden handle and must weigh twenty pounds empty. Full, it was closer to forty, and as he walked with it, Carthalo jiggled it, tossing the glass blob up out of the bowl with every step until he got to the stone table, where he plopped it down. It was glowing red-orange and still very flexible as he used a pair of shears to cut off a smaller blob, and put it in a ceramic mold. Then he pressed the other half of the mold onto it. If this worked, they would get a lens-shaped piece of clear glass.
Carthalo then took a hand press made of iron and pressed the rest of the blob into a roughly flat sheet about two feet across. He used a knife to cut the glass into a square about a foot across.
It didn’t work. The glass was Coke bottle green. The lens shape was rough and the lens had a dozen little bubbles in it. Carthalo was quite happy with it, though, insisting that with reheating and smoothing it would make a lovely ornament that would fetch a good price.
They weren’t where they wanted to be, but they were in the glass making business.