Thief of time, p.10
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       Thief of Time, p.10

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 10

 

  Next morning, no sweepers turned up for work. They stayed in their huts, with the doors barred. After making inquiries, the abbot, who at that time was fifty years old again, summoned the three novices to his room. There were three brooms leaning against the wall. He spoke as follows: You know that the dreadful Battle of Five Cities did not happen because the messenger got there in time? They did. They learned this early in their studies. And they bowed nervously, because this was the abbot, after all. And you know, then, that when the messengers horse threw a shoe he espied a man trudging beside the road carrying a small portable forge and pushing an anvil on a barrow? They knew. And you know that man was Lu-Tze? They did. You surely know that Janda Trapp, Grand Master of okidoki, toro-fu and chang-fu, has only ever yielded to one man? They knew. And you know that man is Lu-Tze? They did. You know the little shrine you kicked over last night? They knew. You know it had an owner? There was silence. Then the brightest of the novices looked up at the abbot in horror, swallowed, picked up one of the three brooms and walked out of the room. The other two were slower of brain and had to follow the story all the way through to the end. Then one of them said, But it was only a sweepers shrine!

  You will take up the brooms and sweep, said the abbot, and you will sweep every day, and you will sweep until the day you find Lu-Tze and dare to say “Sweeper, it was I who knocked over and scattered your shrine and now I will in humility accompany you to the dojo of the Tenth Djim, in order to learn the Right Way. ” Only then, if you are still able, may you resume your studies here. Understood?[6] Older monks sometimes complained, but someone would always say, Remember that Lu- Tzes Way is not our Way. Remember he learned everything by sweeping unheeded while

  students were being educated. Remember, he has been everywhere and done many things. Perhaps he is a little. . . strange, but remember that he walked into a citadel full of armed men and traps and nevertheless saw to it that the Pash of Muntab choked innocently on a fish bone. No monk is better than Lu-Tze at finding the Time and the Place. Some, who did not know, might say: What is this Way that gives him so much power? And they would be told: It is the Way of Mrs Marietta Cosmopilite, 3 Quirm Street, Ankh- Morpork, Rooms For Rent, Very Reasonable. No, we dont understand it, either. Some subsendential rubbish, apparently. Tick Lu-Tze listened to the senior monks, while leaning on his broom. Listening was an art he had developed over the years, having learned that if you listened hard and long enough people would tell you more than they thought they knew. Soto is a good field operative, he said at last. Weird but good.

  The fall even showed up on the Mandala, said Rinpo. The boy knew none of the appropriate actions. Soto said hed done it reflexively. He said he thought the boy was as close to null as he has ever witnessed. He had him put on a cart for the mountains within the hour. He then spent three whole days performing the Closing of the Flower at the Guild of Thieves, where the boy had apparently been left as a baby.

  The closure was successful?

  We authorized the run time of two Procrastinators. Perhaps a few people will have faint memories, but the Guild is a large and busy place.

  No brothers, no sisters. No love of parents. Just the brotherhood of thieves, said Lu-Tze sadly. He was, however, a good thief.

  Ill bet. How old is he?

  Sixteen or seventeen, it appears.

  Too old to teach, then. The senior monks exchanged glances. We cannot teach him anything, said the Master of Novices. He- Lu-Tze held up a skinny hand. Let me guess. He knows it already?

  Its as though hes being told something that had momentarily slipped his memory, said Rinpo. And then he gets bored and angry. Hes not all there, in my opinion.

  Lu-Tze scratched in his stained beard. Mystery boy, he said thoughtfully. Naturally talented.

  And we ask ourselves wanna potty wanna potty poo why now, why at this time? said the abbot, chewing the foot of a toy yak. Ah, but is it not said, “There is a Time and a Place for Everything”? said Lu-Tze. Anyway, reverend sirs, you have taught pupils for hundreds of years. I am but a sweeper. Absentmindedly, he stuck out his hand just as the yak left the fumbling fingers of the abbot, and caught it in mid-air. Lu-Tze, said the Master of Novices, to be brief, we were unable to teach you. Remember?

  But then I found my Way, said Lu-Tze. Will you teach him? said the abbot. The boy needs to mmm brmmm find himself.

  Is it not written, “I have only one pair of hands”? said Lu-Tze. Rinpo looked at the Master of Novices. I dont know, he said. None of us ever sees this stuff you quote. Still looking thoughtful, as if his mind were busy elsewhere, Lu-Tze said, It could only be here and now. For it is written: “It never rains but it pours. ” Rinpo looked puzzled, and then enlightenment dawned. A jug, he said, looking pleased. A jug never rains, but it pours! Lu-Tze shook his head sadly. And the sound of one hand clapping is a “cl”, he said. Very well, your reverence. I will help him to find a Way. Will there be anything else, reverend sirs? Tick Lobsang stood up when Lu-Tze returned to the anteroom, but he did it hesitantly, embarrassed at appearing to show respect. Okay, here are the rules, said Lu-Tze, walking straight past. Word one is, you dont call me “master” and I dont name you after some damn insect. Its not my job to discipline you, its yours. For it is written, “I cant be having with that kind of thing. ” Do what I tell you and well get along fine. All right?

  What? You want me as an apprentice? said Lobsang, running to keep up. No, I dont want you as an apprentice, not at my age, but youre going to be so wed both better make the best of it, okay?

  And you will teach me everything?

  I dont know about “everything”. I mean, I dont know much forensic mineralogy. But I will teach you all that I know that is useful for you to know, yes.

  When?

  Its getting late-

  At dawn tomorrow?

  Oh, before dawn. Ill wake you. Tick Some distance away from Madam Frouts Academy, in Esoteric Street, were a number of gentlemens clubs. It would be far too cynical to say that here the term gentleman was simply defined as someone who can afford five hundred dollars a year; they also had to be approved of by a great many other gentlemen who could afford the same fee. And they didnt much like the company of ladies. This was not to say that they were that kind of gentlemen, who had their own, rather better-decorated clubs in another part of town, where there was generally a lot more going on. These gentlemen were gentlemen of a class who were, on the whole, bullied by ladies from an early age. Their lives were steered by nurses, governesses, matrons, mothers and wives, and after four or five decades of that the average mild-mannered gentleman gave up and escaped as politely as possible to one of these clubs, where he could snooze the afternoon away in a leather armchair with the top button of his trousers undone. [7] The most select of these clubs was Fidgetts, and it operated like this: Susan didnt need to make herself invisible, because she knew that the members of Fidgetts would simply not see her, or believe that she really existed even if they did. Women werent allowed in the club at all except under Rule 34b, which grudgingly allowed for female members of the family or respectable married ladies over thirty to be entertained to tea in the Green Drawing Room between 3. 15 and 4. 30p. m. , provided at least one member of staff was present at all times. This had been the case for so long that many members now interpreted it as being the only seventy-five minutes in the day when women were actually allowed to exist and, therefore, any women seen in the club at any other time were a figment of their imagination. In the case of Susan, in her rather strict black schoolteaching outfit and button boots that somehow appeared to have higher heels when she was being Deaths granddaughter, this might well have been true. The boots echoed on the marble floor as she made her way to the library. It was a mystery to her why Death had started using the place. Of course, he did have many of the qualities of a gentleman: he had a place in the country - a far, dark country - was unfailingly punctual, was courteous to all those he met - and sooner or later he met everyon
e - was well if soberly dressed, at home in any company and, proverbially, a good horseman. The fact that he was the Grim Reaper was the only bit that didnt quite fit.

  Most of the overstuffed chairs in the library were occupied by contented lunchers dozing happily under tented copies of the Ankh-Morpork Times. Susan looked around until she found the copy from which projected the bottom half of a black robe and two bony feet. There was also a scythe leaning against the back of the armchair. She raised the paper. GOOD AFTERNOON, said Death. HAVE YOU HAD LUNCH? IT WAS JAM ROLY- POLY. Why do you do this, Grandfather? You know you dont sleep. I FIND IT RESTFUL. ARE YOU WELL? I was until the rat arrived. YOUR CAREER PROGRESSES? YOU KNOW I CARE FOR YOU. Thank you, said Susan shortly. Now, why did- WOULD A LITTLE SMALL TALK HURT? Susan sighed. She knew what was behind that, and it wasnt a happy thought. It was a small, sad and wobbly little thought, and it ran: each of them had no one else but the other. There. It was a thought that sobbed into its own handkerchief, but it was true. Oh, Death had his manservant, Albert, and of course there was the Death of Rats, if you could call that company. And as far as Susan was concerned. . . Well, she was partly immortal, and that was all there was to it. She could see things that were really there,[8] she could put time on and off like an overcoat. Rules that applied to everyone else, like gravity, applied to her only when she let them. And, however hard you tried, this sort of thing did tend to get in the way of relationships. It was hard to deal with people when a tiny part of you saw them as a temporary collection of atoms that would not be around in another few decades. And there she met the tiny part of Death that found it hard to deal with people when it thought of them as real. Not a day went past but she regretted her curious ancestry. And then shed wonder what it could possibly be like to walk the world unaware at every step of the rocks beneath your feet and the stars overhead, to have a mere five senses, to be almost blind and nearly deaf. . . THE CHILDREN ARE WELL? I LIKED THEIR PAINTINGS OF ME. Yes. How is Albert? HE IS WELL.

  . . . and not really have any small talk, Susan added to herself. There wasnt room for small talk in a big universe. THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. Well, that was big talk. When? NEXT WEDNESDAY. Why? THE AUDITORS ARE BACK, said Death. Those evil little things? YES. I hate them. I, OF COURSE, DO NOT HAVE ANY EMOTIONS, said Death, poker-faced as only a skull can be. What are they up to this time? I CANNOT SAY. I thought you could remember the future! YES. BUT SOMETHING HAS CHANGED. AFTER WEDNESDAY, THERE IS NO FUTURE. There must be something, even if its only debris! NO. AFTER ONE OCLOCK NEXT WEDNESDAY THERE IS NOTHING. JUST ONE OCLOCK NEXT WEDNESDAY, FOR EVER AND EVER. NO ONE WILL LIVE. NO ONE WILL DIE. THAT IS WHAT I NOW SEE. THE FUTURE HAS CHANGED. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? And what has this got to do with me? Susan knew this would sound stupid to anyone else. I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THE END OF THE WORLD IS EVERYONES RESPONSIBILITY, WOULDNT YOU? You know what I mean! I BELIEVE THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE NATURE OF TIME, WHICH IS BOTH IMMORTAL AND HUMAN. THERE HAVE BEEN CERTAIN . . . RIPPLES. Theyre going to do something to Time? I thought they werent allowed to do things like that.

 
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