Lightning Strikes

The previous Building Control Officer had approved many big projects. Looking through the files, Shama saw a 500 metre suspension bridge, a moated castle in the forest, and a medium sized Chinese palace.

Whether any of these had ever been built was hard to say. Admin was not his predecessor’s strong suit. There were partially legible application forms and “APPROVED” stamps, but very few maps, plans, budgets or schedules.

A file named “SKYSCRAPER” caught his eye. It was, fittingly, near the top of the very tall stack of applications on his desk. There were also further documents in the file. Not too many but enough to make his eyes pop.

They detailed a thousand metre high skyscraper in the shape of a lightning bolt, to be built over ten years, with a budget of $1 billion. He checked the file’s status. It said “APPROVED” Was this a joke? Did somebody really intend to build it in the valley?

The map indicated that the site was in the Upper Valley, around the bend at Camel Mountain. If it was being built, that’s why he hadn’t seen it – it wasn’t yet visible, but it certainly would be when topped out.

Shama jumped into his truck and drove to the Upper Valley. He thought,  you can’t have a structure like that here! It will overwhelm everything in the valley!

But then he thought, would it really? Maybe the sculpture would form a relationship with natural features, the mountains, forests and rivers, and the sky, which produced the lightning providing its inspiration. Didn’t such firebolts connect heaven and earth?

As he rounded Camel Mountain, the structure came into view. It was almost complete! But it wasn’t a thousand metres high – nowhere near. Arcadian firs nearby were almost its equal.

They must have changed plans. Shama didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed.

The construction site was filled with activity. Crews were working at full speed. Shama asked for the foreman. A carpenter pointed to the top of the lightning bolt. “You can go up,” he said. “He isn’t coming down this morning.”

“It’s been a strange project,” said the foreman. “It started off as the world’s tallest building. I’m amazed that the plans were even approved. Rumour has it that the client is the same person who approved it – Lucerne’s old Building Control Officer. It has nothing to do with the village though; it is an entirely private project.

“Have you ever met him?” asked Shama.

“I can’t say that I have. But I’ll tell you this. If he can afford to build this structure, then he’s done pretty well for himself. You’ve chosen a good profession, my friend. I get the impression there are many benefits to the job.”

He winked and continued, “But you can’t take it with you, he knows that. I’ve heard he’s sick; really sick. This is going to be his memorial, but he’s only got one year left, not ten like he’d thought. That’s why it’s going to be one hundred metres high, and not a thousand, and the budget’s been cut to one hundred million. But if we get it done in time, we all get to share what’s left.”

He made a move to go, saying, “Nice to meet you, but I must get back to work now. This is one project that is definitely coming in on time and on budget. We’ve never had a nine hundred million dollar incentive before.”


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