Asteroid

“Ok! Back up! Back up! More! More! More!” Lugus called out. “Ok! That’s it!”

The truck stopped and hissed, dropping an inch. Its cab door opened but no person emerged. There was a faint noise like someone talking, but someone far away. Was it the radio? Eventually a hand appeared, drawing his attention, beckoning him. Lugus walked to the cab and peered upward. The driver’s ear was glued to his phone, with a hellish woman’s voice pouring out, sounding like pork skin crackling and spitting. The driver listened intensely but also tried to break away. Clients these days were really rude, and changed their minds like the weather. The poor trucker was not to blame.

Lugus waved his left arm about and mouthed to him, “What do you need?”

The driver covered his phone’s speaker and said gruffly, “Road job – Footballs – fill her up.”

Lugus wandered to the loader. Rocky’s was Lucerne’s premier, and only, sand and gravel merchants. The gardening centre and hardware store sold some material too but you couldn’t take them seriously. Any serious project – a road, driveway, or private beach – required a visit to Rocky’s.

Lugus bore responsibility for maintenance of the fourteen bays. It was his idea to give the different aggregate sizes memorable names. The smallest size of sand was called Pollen, the next up was Smack – a British term for heroin, then Coke, Salt, Peppercorn, Coffee, and Granola. The Gravel range began with Pea, followed by Bean, Eyeball, Football, Basketball, Swissball, and ultimately, Asteroid. The latter was anything over a metre wide. The colours of the sands and gravels varied dramatically, but Rocky’s dealt in size rather than colour. The colour was just whatever it was.

The driver’s arm appeared again, wanting attention. The pork skin crackling continued on his phone. Lugus had started up the loader, preparing to fill up with Footballs. He left it running and hopped out. The driver covered his phone and said, “Sorry pal, change of plan – beach job – Salt – fill her up.”

Lugus wasn’t annoyed. His job was to serve. So he nodded and headed back to the loader. His boss had told him about the Wentworth Scale for particle sizes, ranging through Clay, Silt, Sand, Pebbles, Cobbles, and Boulders. It was a comprehensive spectrum but lacked a sense of humour. His Pollen to Asteroid system was way more memorable, and made work fun. That’s why truckers drove to Lucerne rather than Strattus. It gave them a word to reflect upon – for example “Eyeball”– rather than a dull descriptor like “One-inch-minus crush.”

The drivers liked coming here but their bosses tried to dissuade them, saying that Lugus’ system was flaky. What did they know? Had they ever even held a rock? He looked into a more descriptive system covering composition, texture, and genesis – including weathering, explosion, earth movements, and meteoric – but then thought, “Screw them!”

He was about to fill up the truck with Salt. The arm appeared again waving frantically. “So sorry – Dike job – Swissballs.” Lugus closed his eyes and nodded. He pointed the loader towards the Swissballs.

Two years back he’d spent a summer working an excavator. It was really hard initially – with many controls and twelve motions to master – but after some days he’d became proficient. It was a huge infrastructure job on a Valley farm, but seeming more an excavation of an ancient culture. He’d imagined being in Greece, Egypt, India or China, digging out a temple. Maybe it would be fun to work with archaeological teams, finding tombs, treasures, and mummies. Working with a mix of delicacy and brute force. The Mughal culture of India, he’d heard, “built with the might of Titans and the skill of jewellers.” Uncovering wonders also required this approach.

The arm appeared again, and Lugus raised his eyebrows. The trucker was deeply embarrassed saying, “Driveway – Peas”. Lugus nodded and began immediately – to help the trucker as much as himself. Once the load was in, ownership transferred. He filled the truck with four scoops of Peas. That’s it. A dust cloud arose and drifted across the yard. All was lost for a moment. He could be anywhere; any place and time. The trucker waved his arm in panic, then both arms. He jumped out of the cab and spoke into the phone urgently. He called out to Lugus, “Why did you fill it so quickly? There’s been a change of plan!”

“I’m sorry pal. I was just following your orders. I can take it out if you want, but there will be a 25% charge.” The trucker relayed this to the client, and then said, “She says we’ll take it.” He whispered to Lugus, “Thanks pal.”

Lugus knew that there wouldn’t be any problems. The client would be happy with whatever he sent, and would use it for something. All rocks were the same essentially. During his summer excavating at the farm he’d made an important discovery. He had uncovered an asteroid deep in the earth, a smooth black block 2 metres wide, with glassy sides. Set within it were fossilized pollens. That’s what had inspired his aggregate naming system – running from Pollen to Asteroid. He knew that their source was the same.

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