The Man Made of Tin and Copper
by Catfish Russ
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
The dinner was served and everything went smoothly. Patronius returned from a session with the governors. He was distracted, angry. “Idiots. Idiots. These rich men inherited their fathers’ fortunes. They have no idea how to run a trading business. I made my own fortune and I have to beg for a tax break. I have to beg for a shipping slot. I would slaughter them like pigs and serve them to our children.” Servants stood in their tracks, fearing an outbreak of Patronius’ unbridled rage.
Solana, Archeomedes’ sister, screamed and laughed at the same time. Patronius took her head in his hands and kissed her on the face. “Your father speaks in jest, child. I will feed you only lamb. And yogurt and cucumbers.”
She laughed and ran off. Patronius made no eye contact with Archeomedes. He acted as if the child simply wasn’t there.
Archeomedes pulled something from his pouch. “Father, I found a root for you.”
Patronius looked, took the root, sniffed it, and put it in his mouth. “Arky, you are a good boy. Did you have a good day?” He patted the boy on the head. Archeomedes smiled widely. His ploy had worked. His father still knew he was there.
“Yes father I did.” He wanted badly to tell him about the lost man, the man of tin and copper. He wanted to ask if he could borrow his star maps. But his father was in no mood to hear about anything but the idiots who governed Greece.
That night chicken and lamb and fish were served. Berries and yogurt were served in the foyer as wrestlers entertained. The adults cheered and kids were bored, but they had their berries.
Later after dinner, father brought in young girls. Anishia turned away and directed the servants to clean the foyer and she went to bed. His father and friends and the girls retired to the study on couches and closed the door. The boy could hear them squealing and laughing in muffled voices.
Archeomedes sat on the edge of the steps outside the foyer and stared into the sky and wondered about the man of copper and tin. What did he do at night? Where was his home? How could there be other worlds? Were the bright dots in the sky really other suns? Were there people everywhere? If there were other worlds in the skies, how would we get there? Where was the man’s ship?
He scratched his head and cradled it in his hands. How could there be a bigger place than Greece? How did the man know Greek? Where was his voice from?
“Why do you worry, Archeomedes? What troubles a seven-year old?” Anishia was headed to bed and noticed he was not there sleeping as usual.
“Anishia, are there other worlds? Other nations as big as Greece?”
“Why do you ask this, Archeomedes? What happened on the berry hill today?” She hugged him and combed his hair with her fingernails.
“What are those lights in the sky at night?”
“Archeomedes, these are such strange questions. Do you want a tutor to teach you what I don’t know? Aren’t math and history enough for you?”
“Nothing. OK. I’ll go to bed now.”
He lay down and dreamt of the man.
* * *
A week later, when it came time to pick more berries, Anishia was quick to remind Archeomedes not to dally. He promised he would be back quickly, took his carry bag, and ran up the scraggy hill as fast as he could. He looked for the rock behind which the man stood and could see nothing. No tracks, no marks, no bedding. Nothing. He sat for a few minutes in the same position and wondered perhaps if this would draw him out.
“Hello?” Archeomedes yelled. “Are you here?” After a few minutes, he descended to the berry patch and filled his bag. Perhaps the man had found his way home. Or his machine had finally answered him.
That spring Archeomedes turned eight. His father took him on a fishing vessel to Syracuse. There, Patronius said hello to old friends, spent time in a large pavilion going over business deals while a servant did magic tricks for Archeomedes. He made a coin disappear and pulled it out from behind Archeomedes’ ear. He pushed his own nose down and made it sound as if it squeaked. Archeomedes smiled meekly and thanked the magician.
The magician looked over his own shoulder at the businessmen and wondered if Patronius would punish him for not making Archeomedes laugh hard enough. Patronius could be ruthless and had a hot temper. Then again, he paid well.
Later, after business affairs were finished, Patronius drank a toast to the deal, bade farewell and took Archeomedes by the hand. They walked and the boy loved the attention. No other siblings were there to compete.
His father took him to an amphitheatre overlooking the ocean. In the play, a god descended into the scene, Deus Ex Machina, his father whispered. “Sometimes a god comes to fix our messes,” he added.
Archeomedes wondered where the gods lived and his thoughts floated back to the man of copper and tin. Perhaps he was a god or a minor deity. Can a god be lost? Maybe people on other worlds had their own gods and this was one of them.
During the play, Archeomedes fell asleep and he barely remembered his father’s servants carrying him to a residence where he slept soundly.
Days later, Archeomedes watched as a shark was pulled out of the waters in fishing nets and bit a man. From the pavilion Archeomedes could hear his screams. Oddly, he felt some empathy for the shark, pulled from the waters, away from home, that only by happenstance had landed in a net.
In shops lining the fishing village was an art vendor who had some oil and wash paintings on the wall. Most all the other art was folded in canvas and placed in bins. There were paintings of the ships, of famous battles, of the Emperor, of the Emperor’s sons.
Archeomedes noticed on one wall was a huge graphic map of the constellations. Archeomedes stared at it for quite a while. A gruff old merchant, folded into his robe, sat asleep at his station and snored so loudly he woke himself up.
“What...” the old man pushed himself from his seat. “What are you stealing there? You young lout.”
“I’m no lout,” protested Archeomedes. “I am son of Patronius, the great merchant and builder.”
“Yes... yes you are, and I am Philip II’s brother. Now put that down.”
“I am holding nothing.”
“What is this noise about? There you are.” Behind them, Patronius and two servants entered the shop. Patronius was tall and handsome and had a deep voice. He sounded angry, and it was enough to send the shopkeeper back behind his desk.
Archeomedes pointed to the map of the stars. “Look father, the heavens. You have one like this.”
“I will offer you a deal, my good man,” said the shopkeeper, contritely. He bowed his head and made no eye contact with Patronius. Patronius stared and consulted one of his servants, an educator.
“What do you think Atrios? Does this belong in my library?”
The servant stared for a moment. “Sir, this is a replica of the old Roman constellation map in the library. It is not as accurate as the ones you have from Polony at the university.”
“Very well then,” Patronius said. “Good day sir,” he nodded to the shopkeeper, “and good luck with your snoring.” He tossed a coin onto the old man’s work station.
Archeomedes laughed. Good. His father had smacked the old man figuratively.
In early summer Archeomedes was heading up the hill for glabra roots and berries. He quietly filled the bag, and headed up to the little plateau where he had seen the stranger. Again, he napped, and upon hearing the whirring sound again, he sat up quickly. Standing quietly behind him was the man of copper and tin.
“You are still here.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Are you still lost?”
“Yes,” said the man. “Did you find any other maps of the heavens?”
“I saw one in Syracuse but my teacher said it was not as accurate as the maps from my father’s study. I wish I could help you,” Archeomedes said.
“I concur,” said the man.
“I can show you where his maps are,” Archeomedes offered. He noticed that the armor on the man was worn. Tarnished streaked down both his arms and one of his eyes moved more slowly than the other.
“I know where the maps are,” said the metal man.
“Then why don’t you take them?”
“Conflict is wrong, Archeomedes. I need permission to do that and I have none of his clearances.”
“I am his son. I am one of his heirs. I can give you permission.” Of course this was a lie, a child bragging to impress his friend. “What do you eat?” he asked out of curiosity.
“Sunlight,” said the man.
“Are you a god?”
“No. But there is God in me.”
“Show me. Which part.”
“There is no part to display.”
“Is there a god in me?”
“Yes, Archeomedes. There is.”
The silence grew between them. After a few moments, Archeomedes bade him farewell. “I have to get roots and berries.”
“I will come to your home when your father is home. I will ask to look at his maps.”
Archeomedes felt a bit of panic. He couldn’t really approve anyone walking into his house. He was also a son of a servant.
“I think it would be better if you waited until after my father fell asleep. Tonight we are having a party and father will drink wine until he sleeps. Come then. And don’t wake anyone up.”
“I will comply,” the man said.
Archeomedes started back down the hill to harvest berries and root. He looked over his left shoulder and the man was gone.
That evening there were dancers and jugglers and singers. Patronius was in an expansive mood because of his deal. He had friends and business partners join them all at the house after dinner. There were candies and wine and Lonianis’ son drank too much and got sick and vomited outside the patio. Servants cleaned him up, all the time apologizing.
Archeomedes was quiet and Anishia noticed. “What’s bothering you boy? Aren’t you having fun?”
“Yes, I am happy,” he reassured her. “I had a great trip with father.”
The evening wore on and the music faded. Most of the other children had fallen asleep on sofas and couches upstairs on the flat roof, and were picked up and put into the family bed by servants.
Archeomedes pretended to sleep. His father, as expected, drank himself into a stupor and fell asleep curled up on a couch outside of his study.
A few guests drunkenly staggered past Patronius, giggling loudly. In a short time all was quiet.
Finally sleep came. In his dreams Archeomedes saw ships heading out of the Mediterranean north of Carthage. In his dream, he was the captain, standing at the bow, heading out beyond the coast of North Africa, perhaps off to the end of the world. The waters swelled and his ship was thrown about and they came to the edge of the world. All he could see was blackness and stars. His crewmen yelled for him to turn around. But he did not. He went over the edge and awoke with a start.
Everyone was asleep. He slipped off the bed, climbing over his sister, and walked downstairs in the middle of the night.
The guards were also asleep. Often at parties where servants were invited they drank. Sometimes even the children drank.
Downstairs his father snored loudly in his chair. He crept around and saw the man of tin and copper inside the study looking at a map. He walked over.
The man turned and whispered, “Go back to bed, Archeomedes.”
“You found the map?”
“Do you know where you are?”
“Approximately. Thank you, Archeomedes.”
A thump across the back of his head knocked Archeomedes down. He was hit so hard that he saw light streaks. His father staggered towards him and grabbed Archeomedes by the scruff of his neck and threw him against the wall.
“What are you doing up? Go back to bed. And who were you talking to?”
The man of tin and copper was gone.
Patronius went to the wall where Archeomedes was crouched and he raised his fist. As the fist descended, the man appeared again just in time to catch Patronius’s hand. He held it solidily. The boy’s father’s eyes opened widely, in utter disbelief. He opened his mouth, about to scream for the guards.
“Conflict is wrong. Do not hit the child.”
Patronius tried to struggled free and but could not. With his other hand, the man touched Patronius’s forehead and Patronius calmed, walked back to his chair and fell back asleep.
The man picked up Archeomedes and examined him carefully. His arms were stiff as rock, a slight vibration came from the man. A light from the top of the man’s head scanned down Archeomedes’ body.
“You have an abrasion on your left occipital plate. It will heal in a few weeks. Go to sleep.”
“Did you hurt my father?”
“No. He will sleep until the morning and he will have no memory of this incident.” The man of metal stood.
“Did you see the map? Do you know how to get home?”
Another long silence passed.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Yes. In your memories. And I will see you in my own.”
“Where is your ship?” Archeomedes asked.
“It is inside of me.” He put the boy down, held his hand.
“Goodbye,” said Archeomedes.
“Do you want to go with me? It is a different place. There are many like you there. But the adjustment will be significant. However, no one will ever strike you.”
Archeomedes looked at his sleeping father. He looked out into the night and the sea. “No. I am a Greek. I am my father’s son. He took me to Syracuse. One day he said I will run this estate.”
“You are very wise, Archeomedes. I wish to thank you for your assistance.” With that, the man of copper and tin patted Archeomedes on the head and disappeared.
Archeomedes took over the estate. But the next Emperor, Alexander, led Archeomedes into battle and he died at Gaugamela. As he lay by the riverside, he looked into the night sky and wondered about the man he had met as a child. He wondered whether it was all a dream, or whether all of life is a sort of dream. He wondered where the man came from, and closed his eyes, and dreamed his last dream.
Copyright © 2010 by Catfish Russ