The Tower of Koby Moss
The building was of glass and stone, like most in the city, the invisible skeleton composed of steel and concrete. The entrance was a balcony supported by limestone columns. The cornices near the window ledges
were of finely textured Tennessee Granite, rock that had been churned up from the earth eons ago, then cooled and hardened over millions of years, re-shaped by expert hands into straight lines and grey angles. These shapes had become the rooftop of the city.
A man stood in an office on the top floor, his hands in his pockets as he peered downward into the gray. The sun struck his face and the stone with equal force. His face was smooth, without expression. His eyes were wide and stirring, his mouth as straight as they gray lines of stone. As he watched, the city seemed to appear to him in another span of time, a distant one that bore no relation to the things he saw everyday from the window, or the things he thought about in the confines of the tower he spent so much time in. The sun stressed the stone of the buildings, the windows up and down the street, the sunlight reflected in a thousand sheets of glass.
In the streets below, the buildings seemed joined, extended into rectangles, like the stone walls of a castle protecting a village within its perimeter, the window framing the view, capturing the street as it was in that moment in time, guarding it for some time traveler from the past or the future. The streetwalkers moved quickly, unaware of how the man saw them, of where he stood or what he thought. He wanted to warn them, to shout out. They seemed so fragile and unprotected. But he did not know what he wanted to protect them from.
He was an angular man, just under six feet tall, with the appearance of a man who lifted weights, or jogged, though in truth he did not get near enough exercise. People said that he was handsome, though he was unaware. He was said to be quick on his feet, quick with a deal or the right thing to say, but he was motionless now as he eyed the skyscrapers of the city. The clouds were thick and angry, ready for battle.
Across the street stood the library, its Roman arches and colonnade the first thing he saw each morning as he entered his office. A stone sun-dial was built into a garden on a plateau above the steps. Further along the street, the Post Office had been built to resemble the Temple of Artemis, a structure built in Turkey by the Greeks that had stood for 2000 years. He watched, waiting for something to happen with not a small amount of tension, watched as though the city was under siege, or in danger in some way that he couldn't name, and only he knew how to save it. The man was Koby Moss.
There was little to distinguish him from other men, yet those looking at him always held his glance just longer than necessary, and remembered Koby more so than other men. He felt unique in some indecipherable way, alone in the knowledge that each human being is more than just a cell in a larger body, but something irreplaceable, an entity unto himself, giving little thought to those who saw mankind as interchangeable units with destinies laid out for them by some vague creator. He was unaware of himself in his dealings with people, making him appear confident to men and attractive to women. He had the eyes of an engineer or a master builder, purposeful, problem oriented, perfectly centered, his entire face a study in symmetry.
The phone rang and he moved from the window, his thoughts shattered. It was Clayton Olmstead, the owner of a competing company. Koby had met the eccentric billionaire years ago on the golf course without knowing who he was, and when Olmstead began to talk about his passion for ancient history a great friendship was struck. Olmstead controlled enterprises throughout the city, real estate, financial centers, frozen food packaging centers, and others, managing them all with youthful vigor. He was 68 but looked 50, showing no signs of a man ready to retire. He was sharp and fit, spoke quickly and authoritatively. He insisted from their first meeting that Koby call him by his first name.
Olmstead wanted to meet with him regarding an account that he was considering giving to Koby's company. It was urgent and could not wait, though Olmstead assured him he would not tie up his weekend. Koby said OK, and a minute later his phone rang again. This time it was Hogan, telling him to get his bags packed; he needed to go to San Diego at the end of the month to work with a client on a new software package. Koby put the phone down in disgust. He was already in trouble at home for breaking promises; Ruby was fed up and he knew it. She had warned him for the last time that if it happened again she would take the children and leave. And now he had both Olmstead and Hogan to deal with. He went home early, escaping into his shop-garage.
Tomorrow was Wednesday, and he thought of the routine and responsibilities required by that particular day; lunch with a client, a meeting with a school counselor; Thursday meant more meetings and long, tedious lunches, and Friday he had promised to take his son to see a movie. On Saturday, he had promised Ruby to fix the roof and clean up the back yard. As he wiped his brow and rubbed his eyes, he longed for a day that had no name attached to it, a day that bore no relation to things that had to be accomplished, just a simple time when the sun would rise and descend and the minutes in between would tick away without the human construct of a name.
He shook it off, tried to concentrate. Now was not a time for indifference. Now was the time of decision, a decision that would most likely alter the course of his life. Either make the trip to San Diego and lose his family or stand up to Hogan and lose his job. In his childhood he had learned to take responsibility for his life, had learned the lesson well from his parents and had practiced it....but he wished for once to be free, to sit back and wait, to do nothing, wished he could take no action and let things fall where they would. But he knew this would be worse; fortune favors the bold, not the indecisive.
He sat at his workbench and thumbed through some magazines, saw the postcard-like shots of the Pantheon, the Arch of Severus, then flipped on the television hung from the ceiling over his workbench. He did not need to adjust the selector; it was always set to the history channel. He liked history, he understood history. Events occurred and someone wrote them down, wrote down the events as they occurred so the world would know. History made sense to him.
On the TV, a man spoke to him with descriptions of medieval battle tactics, a man dressed in a loose shirt standing outside along some rocky barrier. It was windy, and the man's hair was blowing back, and his shirt was flapping. The man spoke with a British accent. He was standing alongside Hadrian's Wall, a 73 mile barrier built in the 9th century AD to protect England from the marauders of the Scottish hillsides. The wall was ten foot thick stone, and had withstood attacks until it was abandoned 350 years later. Along where the man walked, parts of the wall still stood, the man continuing his walk along the stony barrier, at one point picking up a loose stone to hold up to the camera, and Koby glared at it as though it was a bar of solid gold. It was just a rock, he thought, but what had it been through, what had it seen? It was old, as old as castles and Kings, as old as the horses and swordsmen who had battled on those green hillsides. He wished he could reach out and touch it.
His eyes returned to the magazine, looking at the weapons the marauders of history utilized in their attacks; battering rams on wheels, catapults and trebuchets. He read that a 12th century trebuchet could launch a 250 pound rock several hundred yards at speeds up to one hundred miles per hour. If close enough, a column of them could shatter a castle wall in minutes. Another section of the magazine described a group of history students at Ann Arbor working on a project to build a belfry, a wooden tower on wheels with a drawbridge, used to assail a castle when ladders or rams failed. Another column described a man from Oregon who had built a full size catapult on his property and used it to launch rock missiles into an empty field.
He read about a Celtic festival in Joplin Missouri where enthusiasts gathered to show and trade ancient war relics, and where they displayed copies of artifacts they had build; ancient chess sets, Trebuchets, battle shields and drawings of castles and catapults. Other groups had built working catapults and battering rams, had even tried them out against hastily built 'castles'.
He turned the page and stopped, seeing his daughter Ella standing in he doorway to the kitchen, chewing on a pretzel, waiting for his attention. "Dad, Mom wants you to come out of your man-cave and come to dinner." His daughter's voice seemed distant; he had to shake his head to clear away the webs.
Dinnertime brought the family together only briefly. The children ate quickly and disappeared, or took their dishes to their rooms. Koby was aware of the isolation in their home, of a silent stirring that held some kind of power that he did not, as though some force was draining it from him. More than anything, he was troubled by his own quiet neutrality. If Ruby noticed she kept silent. But secretly they could not understand it, could not see where it had started or where it was going. The family was in disarray, and Koby saw his role as a father diminishing, felt the silent unraveling that seemed to have no beginning and no end. He felt lost and alone. He couldn't remember the last time they had had a family outing, and to make matters worse, he blamed himself. The demands of his job had forced him to put his family in the background, igniting fights and bad feelings among the children about his broken promises, and a kind of enduring silence with Ruby that was worse than the arguing. It had all led to the decision he now faced.
Alworth was his oldest, a bright fifteen year old boy, a math prodigy, so far ahead of the others that he helped Mr. Cameron teach the class. Alworth was quick to learn, a builder of gadgets so intricate and complex that no one could decipher the essence of the contraption until it had been completed, and sometimes not even then. But he was distant, and didn't seem to enjoy his father's company. Ella was his twelve year old, a precocious girl with brown hair and sharp eyes. She loved to draw intricate designs with colored pencils on construction paper of all sizes and colors, sometimes for hours without a break.
His wife, Ruby, rounded out the gallery, a pony-tail brunette who loved Vivaldi and the Beatles with equal passion. She combined rationality with a sense of whimsy, a good match for the brooding Koby. She was athletic and strong, and liked to use her hands to build small pieces of furniture, or perform repairs around the house. She could be spontaneous and unpredictable, rejecting fashion norms and standards; she wore silver earrings with denims, and Koby's T-shirts with dress pumps. She played Scrabble with Ella and deliberated over puzzles with Alworth.
They had met in college. She had noticed Koby shyly watching her, waiting in vain for him to approach, and finally had to take matters into her own hands, seeking him out to tell him that she was going up to Kinnsy's farm to pick apples and she didn't think it was safe for a girl to go alone. They spent the day together, and many days after that. She liked Koby's confident manner, his aloofness, his detached and obsessive interests in obscure periods of history. Koby liked her openness, her optimism, her defiance of authority and codes of behavior. When the time came, and they both knew when that was, Koby was afraid to propose to her, so Ruby hugged him and said: "So, when is the big day?" They had both laughed, then started making plans.
Presently, they ate their dinner in silence, the children upstairs. Koby commented about the loss of the family dinner-time, but Ruby didn't seem interested. Koby wrestled with his thoughts that night, and in the morning went upstairs to see Hogan but was stopped by his secretary. He told her that he needed to see Hogan. "Mr. Hogan is busy today, but I think I can pencil you in for sometime next week." Without looking up, she had opened an appointment pad and was tapping on it with her pencil. Koby said that he would like to see him sooner, if it was at all possible. Now she looked at him, not raising her head, but lifting her eyes upward through eyeglass rims.
"It's urgent," Koby added. She sighed heavily and said that she would see what she could do, but the day passed without hearing from her.
The family got into another argument at dinner that night. Ella had flunked a math exam and Ruby had ordered Alworth to sit with her, an order which did not go over well with either of the children. "...I don't need his help," Ella was screeching. "Do you know you're an idiot?" she said, switching the attack to Alworth. "Big math genius! Do you know there's no one else in school named 'Alworth'?" She pronounced his name with great disdain.
Alworth beamed at her. "Well, what kind of a name is Ella? Do you know if you married Darth Vader your name would be Ella-Vader?"
"You shut up!" They grabbed their dinner plates and ran to their rooms, leaving Koby and Ruby glaring hopelessly at each other.
"I can't believe she flunked a class," Ruby said into the silence. "Kilpatrick called today, about Ella."
"Yes. Ella was caught with a pipe. You know the kind of pipe I mean."
"We're losing them, Koby." Ruby stood up and gathered her hair, arranging it into a ponytail then securing it with a rubber band. Her denims were snug around a slender waist, her hands on her hips. She was flustered and thinking. "Something has to change, Koby." She was the oldest of three sisters, and was well accustomed to minding for kids long before marrying Koby. But she felt helpless now and she didn't like it. Koby nodded. Trouble in school during his youth had meant skipping a class, forgetting a book, or speaking out of place during a lesson. "We need to become a family again. You need to spend more time here, with us, and we need to become parents again."
"I know. I'm just not sure I know how."
"You said it the other night."
"I didn't think you were listening."
"I was...I just didn't know what to say. But I've been thinking about it. Things rarely change by themselves. At least, not for the better. We're off course, Koby. I don't know if it's too late to change things, but we've got to try."
"So what do we do?"
"You were starting in that direction last week." She was a think-walker, moving about the kitchen as she devised a plan, changing her direction with each idea she offered up. "I've been thinking about this....we start with the basics.....having dinner together as a family...demanding respect from them....we take the TV's and video games from their rooms and lock them up in the garage until they know we mean business." She stopped pacing as she said this, turning to look at Koby.
"Good God! They'll get a lawyer and sue us!"
"I don't care! I don't care what they do! I don't know what will come after that...but it's a start." It was discussed late into the night. They hadn't spoken to each other this way in a long time, and both found themselves remembering how they had met, at that first day they had spend in the apple orchards. But in the morning they knew what to do. They rose early, had an anxious cup of coffee and saw the kids off to school. Then, like thieves in the night, they went upstairs to the children's rooms and began to pack. They packed up the video games, the paddles and flippers, the CD's and DVD'S, Ruby stopping once to tell Koby that she felt like the Grinch, to which Koby replied by humming the tune. Ruby giggled nervously. They boxed up the wires and the computer, then carried it all to the garage and placed everything up on the shelves. They looked at each other and smiled, smiles that quickly faded.
The morning clouds gave way to a cool, blue sky, and fresh, September air that rolled in from the west as Koby drove to work. In the early afternoon, he walked into Hogan's office without an appointment. "I want to see Hogan," he said.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Hogan is in the middle of something.....perhaps...." Koby didn't wait for her to finish but walked past the astonished secretary, who followed him into the plush office. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hogan, he just...."
"It's all right, Juanita....I need to see him anyway." He brushed away some papers and cleared his throat, motioning towards a chair.
"No thank you," Koby said flatly. "I came here to tell you that I'm not going to San Diego. My family and I...."
"Yes, I know, I know," Hogan interrupted, talking quickly. "I just got off the phone with that madman Olmstead." Hogan was afraid of Olmstead, who had once threatened to buy his company and make Koby the CEO. This friendship gave Koby some freedom of operation within the company, Hogan not happy with the arrangement, but understanding the fact that in the business world of this town no one argued with Clayton Olmstead.
"That man thinks he runs this company, damn him! So go ahead, meet with him, do what you have to do. Just grab that account he's been dangling over everyone's head....don't lose his business, Koby. I'll send someone else to the coast." Koby nodded, shielding his eyes, moving rapidly to the door, feeling as though he had committed the perfect crime.
The autumn air was cool and welcome, and Koby felt empowered as he drove home. Once home, he and Ruby waited in silence for the children. There was a tense beating of hearts when the door opened, and more waiting as the kids ran upstairs after muttering a quick hello. Then there were the sounds; doors opening and closing, surprised vices, drawers slammed, then footsteps hurrying down the stairs.
"Mom, Dad, call the police, all our stuff is gone!" More exclamations followed, and outraged, young voices. Koby waited silently, Ruby sitting beside him; they were united. The children continued to fluster around the kitchen for two full minutes until a voice stopped them.
"Are you through?" Koby asked. There was silence. "Good. Because we have some things to talk about. You haven't been robbed. Sit down." The children sat. "Your mother and I aren't happy at the way things have been going around here." He mentioned the trouble at school, the fights around the house, the failure to keep their rooms clean and the lack of civility with other family members.
"So there are going to be some changes," Ruby said. "Here's the way things are going to work from now on. First, we have dinner together at 6:00 every night. Don't be late. If you're late you skip dinner and you'll be grounded that weekend and we'll take your phones away. At dinner there will be no TV or music, no cell phones or games. We talk. Or not; that's up to you. When you want to watch something on television, that is after your homework is done and your rooms are clean, we watch it in the living room...together." There was silence a first, then hesitating glances as Alworth and Ella looked at each other in disbelief.
"But where's all our stuff?"
"We've taken it and put it away."
"What is this?" Alworth asked. "What's going on here?"
"We're telling you what's going on. And you need to listen. Next, if you want to go online you use the computer in the living room, where we can watch you. We'll take turns. If there are conflicts, we talk about it. If you don't want to watch what we're watching on TV, we talk about it."
"We also searched your room," Koby continued. "And removed certain....items. Any more of that in this house you don't even want to know what the consequences will be."
"It isn't fair," Alworth objected." Don't we have the right to privacy?"
"In your own home, no in ours. And on one has the right to bring illegal substances into this house. You endanger the entire family when you do. Any more questions?"
"What about our stuff?"
"It's not your stuff, it's our stuff. You may get it back...you may not. It's up to you." The words 'not fair' were repeated many times. They were sent upstairs to do their homework and clean their rooms.
It didn't take long to learn that it didn't go over well. The children showed up for dinner on time but refused to speak. They ate in silence, their faces sullen. They helped clean up after dinner and got out their books for homework. It was tense and uncomfortable. Days passed with little change. Koby alternated his time between Olmstead, his family, and penciling sketches of a wooden tower. Olmstead was pleasant to work with, Koby enjoying the pressure-free environment. He spent a lot of time in his garage studying magazines. He did not go into the office.
Later in the week, Koby suggested that they give one of their electronic devices back. "Let's offer them something," he said. "There have been no problems for a while. Let's give them something....maybe just one or two of their games." Ruby liked the idea.
Leaves were falling all over the lawn. When the children came home, Koby coaxed them to help with the raking. He told them about their idea for the games and their mood changed, just a bit. They were suspicious. Koby let it go, and made a large pile of leaves in the center of the lawn, then dropped his rake and let himself fall backwards into the stack, the leaves scattering.
"Hey, I want to try that." Ella turned backwards and let herself fall, laughing as she went down. Koby stuffed leaves into her shirt and she giggled and squirmed away. Alworth grinned but would not join in.
There was conversation at the dinner table that night for the first time in many days. They ate stew, and biscuits with lots of butter. They drank a pitcher of milk. The children asked permission to use the computer afterwards and Koby sat to watch the history channel, drawing an odd-shaped figure on a yellow pad. Alworth saw what he was doing and sat beside him. "What's it about, Dad?'
"Hannibal's attack on Rome," Koby replied.
"How did he attack Rome?" Koby answered, explained the unusual land maneuvering, the crossing of the Alps, the brilliant tactics used to defeat the vaunted Roman Legions, which outnumbered him by tens of thousands. Alworth listened but seemed more interested in what his father was drawing on the pad.
"That's a strange looking thing."
"It's a siege tower."
"How does it work." Koby explained, showing him pictures from the magazine.
"What are you going to siege?" Alworth asked when he was done. Koby stopped drawing and looked up. He had never thought of it. "I think," he said, more to himself than his son, "that we're going to attack the garage." Alworth shook his head and walked away.
At dusk, Ruby and Koby went outside to look at the back of his house; it needed painting. The gutters were shot, and some of the shingles had to be replaced. But Koby was lost in thought; he stood looking down at the ground, mindlessly calculating the size and height a siege tower would need to be to assault the garage, and what kind of base would be needed to support it. The garage was a two-story affair, with a flat top; the kids used it in the summer for picnics and sunbathing. For the drawbridge to segue onto the garage rooftop, the tower would have to be just a bit taller, which would mean two platform levels plus the level on top. The drawbridge might be difficult; it would require a spinning rod and some kind of pulley system, but he was sure with the new resources he had found on-line and Alworth's help with the math that they would be able to make it function. "Koby, are you there?" He realized for the first time that he was actually thinking of building it.
He started making calculations on a pad as he sat in the living room, at the dinner table. Ruby watched him, silently as first, aware of the obsession that had gripped him. But she also appreciated that he was spending more time with them. Even the kids seemed to be coming around. Unaware, Koby scrolled in his pad; the thought of his neighborhood being suddenly attacked by Celtic marauders did not enter his mind; he was thinking only of the tower. Ruby finally asked him about it. "What's going on with you, Koby? When are you going back to work?"
"It's all right," he said. "Hogan thinks I'm working on a deal with Olmstead...well, actually, I am. So I have some freedom right now."
"But what is it your doing? What is it with this crazy tower?" He stood up and wiped his brow. "I don't know," he answered. He looked straight at her. "But it's important to me. I'm not sure why....and it's more than a tower."
"How do you mean?"
"I don't know. All I know is that I feel something happening...I don't know. I'm sorry, I'm not usually so vague about things...but I can see the tower in my mind as a symbol, a calling...like it's just something I have to do...not sure I understand except that I know that I'm going to build it." She didn't fully understand, but it didn't matter. Alworth and Ella seemed interested also, and it was pulling them closer together. She would support him when he spoke as he did, she always had. She reached for his arm and leaned her head against him.
He went into the garage later to continue his calculations, Alworth following him, eyeing the pad his father was scribbling on, taking it out of his hand at one point, his eyes scrunched up. "That's not going to work, Dad," he said. "This panel is too long...and that stretch of wall won't work...the floor won't support it. It'll fall apart. Here, let me show you." Alworth grabbed the pencil from his hand and began to fill the page with angles and formulas, slashing out his father's drawings and making a new one based on his own calculations. It took him just a few minutes, Koby understanding the plan before his son had finished.
"There," Alworth said. "If you want the thing to stand, that's how it has to be built." It was just the skeleton, precise yet bare, Koby studying it in silence. Ella saw them conspiring together and forced herself upon them. She told Alworth that he was good with numbers but that he was a terrible artist. "Let me do the drawing," she said. Crayons and pencils in hand, she took Koby's magazine and Alworth's pad and began to draw the semblance of the tower over the skeleton that Alworth had created. Piece by piece, the tower began to come alive.
"It has to have two levels," Alworth insisted. "To support the weight and add strength to the walls." Ella kept drawing. "And a stairway....we have to be able to get to the top from the inside."
"What about the drawbridge? Hey Dad, we need help."
They began to work on it every day that week after school, first in the garage, then in the backyard when it became too large, working together to clear away the sod and lay out the base. Alworth was needed for the calculations, which had to be precise before the building began if it was to open up on the garage roof. They began the actual construction at the end of the week. All of the lumber and metal works had been prepared, the ground marked out. Tools lay everywhere. The entire family was present. Clayton Olmstead even showed up, his grand-kids in tow, and a leather tool-belt around his waist. Leaves fell in the sunlight, an October breeze stirring up the air. Ruby brought out fried chicken and a pot of coffee, and no one had time to notice how quickly the day had passed.
On one of these afternoons, Alworth asked his father a question he had not thought of earlier; "Dad, why are we building it?"
Koby was silent just for a moment, than answered; "For the glory of Rome, Son....for the glory of Rome!" The sky opened with a gust of cool air, kicking up a swirl of leaves, Alworth eyeing his father curiously; he had never before considered his father as someone with a psychological problem.
Koby's office began to call, this time Ruby handing him the phone. It was Juanita, telling him that Hogan wanted to see him. Koby was distracted with the building, with something in Alworth's construction. He replied without thinking: "Well, let's see...I think I can pencil him in for sometime next week." He handed the phone to Olmstead, who started barking over the line that they were busy and not to bother them again.
Three days later the structure was complete. It was etched against the sky, motionless under glowing bands of sun and clouds, framed in green branches. It was an unlikely and preposterous sight in the backyard of the middle class home, and curious faces began to peak over the hedges that bordered the property.
Ruby approached the tower, looking at it critically. Her gaunt frame was twisted as she looked up and down at the bare wood. "What is it, hon?" Koby asked.
"Well, it's wonderful...it really is....but it needs something...it's kind of bare. Don't you think? Let me see that magazine..." She studied the pictures then moved away, and began to trim the Austrian pines that lined the yards between the homes, cutting one and two foot strips in neat sections and gathering them in a wheel barrel. She wheeled the trimmings to the tower and found a ladder, and with a stapler and twine, and help from the kids and several of the neighbors, proceeded to garnish the walls of the tower with the thorny branches, the thatches providing an authentic, rustic look.
At sunset, neighbors were heard asking questions from across the hedges; "Are you building a deck, Koby? Damn strange looking contraption that is. Just what are you building?" When Koby responded, no one believed him. t.
"So what are you going to siege?" someone laughed.
"The garage," someone else answered. "You're going to attack the garage." Koby shrugged, lost in thought.
"The garage needs some defenders, doesn't it Koby?" Don McAlister said as he peered over another stretch of the fence. Koby's head twisted in thought. He had never thought of it. "Well, doesn't it? Come on Koby, let's do this right!"
Plans were made. Neighbors huddled up at home that week to assign rank and assignments, to craft weapons and discuss strategy. The battle would commence on Saturday, providing Koby and Alworth finished the drawbridge section on time. Dozens from the neighborhood were on hand to make certain that it was.
There were quick lunches that week, dinners over pads filled with calculations, and hands calloused from the wood and tools. The kids rushed home from school every day and, not thinking of dinner, ran off into the back yard to help their parents. Olmstead had been there every day until it the tower was built. 'What a great idea, Koby', he had said. 'Thanks for letting me be a part of it'.
On Saturday morning, a narrow wedge of clouds blew in from the west, the tree-tops creaking in the wind. The clouds were dark, and blew quickly away, leaving fractured sunlight. Up and down the street the homes lined up like Roman columns. Those who had not joined the battled watched from windows, backyards and rooftops. Cars lined the street.
The defenders gathered on the rooftop of the garage, joyful, confident, dressed up in home made costumes, brandishing cardboard and foil weapons, sporting snap-on beards, swords and helmets. There were Vikings with toy battle-axes and plastic shields, assorted marauders in Celtic garb. Don McAlister had a large bow, and wooden arrows with rubber suction cups. It was a sight never before seen in the quiet of the middle class sub-division.
The Tower itself was a page out of history. The vertical lines rose from the earth to the upper, thatched walls and domed rooftop. It smelled of wood and leaves. It was silent and frightening, like a living thing during the stillness before it struck.
Unable to see anyone inside, the defenders atop the garage began to laugh, mocking the 'wooly thing' and throwing Nerf balls at it, raising their tin swords into the air and daring them to attack. Some crows had gathered on the domed roof, which constrained even more derision from the marauders, and they began to throw whiffle balls, Frisbees and spongy Nerf balls which rained down against the wooden walls, making great noise but having little effect on the tower, except to scatter the birds. But the makeshift army became suddenly still when the tower began to inch forward, creaking like the tree-tops, a faint grinding of wood ringing out. From inside, there were no sounds of human activity.
On the garage rooftop, Phil Bosco raised a tin-foil sword and exhorted his troops. His wife was nearby, protecting herself with a shield made of cardboard and aluminum foil. Scott Binkman, a postal worker with a round face and an even rounder belly, seemed to be in charge, directing the others to various points along the terrain. Silence came again when the tower reached the edge of the overhang and stopped moving. And in the pause that followed, some saw images of ancient battles, a visual stream of consciousness that gathered up age-old school lessons, evoking images of stone walls and their battlements, the charge of barbarians over green hillsides, the clash of metal against metal.
And then, with a thud, the mechanical drawbridge shuddered and fell to the roof. The defenders gasped, terrified. Someone called out for reinforcements, bringing laughter. A crowd had gathered in the streets below, looking on. A news truck from the local station had parked, the event being filmed for the evening news.
First to appear from the arched opening were the dogs, Vartgas and Hannibal, emerging rapidly, barking wildly as they charged, throwing the defenders into disarray, striking light and fast at numerous points along the enemy line, stirring up great confusion in the ranks. Koby emerged next, ordering Alworth to cover the left flank and Ruby to cover the right. Koby wore a red tunic and steel helmet he had found at some pawn shop, and carried a staff of rough wood. Ruby was particularly frightening as she leaped from the platform onto the roof, dressed up like a Roman Centurion, and attacked Binkman, who backed away in surprise at the fury of her attack, his Styrofoam bat lifted in a horizontal position to deflect her blows....but Ruby was smart and quick....she turned her sponge bat sideways and rammed the butt into Binkman's nose, knocking off his glasses, the shock and surprise of it knocking him off his feet to the sound of his own laughter. She approach and placed her foot on his chest, raising her sponge bat in conquest, the neighbors cheering, Alworth and Koby crying out "Ruby the Conqueror, Ruby the Conqueror."
Ella poked her head out next, not from the drawbridge opening, but from an unseen hatchway on the roof, bombarding the rooftop with water balloons and wet sponge balls at, the balloons exploding like artillery, water spilling across the shingles, the sponge balls bouncing into the confusion, some of the defenders slipping on the water. Then Koby and Alworth joined forces and finished off the left flank, just as a Frisbee weapon tossed by Ella hit Mrs. Hunsacker in the abdomen and cut her in half. The sound of laughter filled the air.
Neighbors watched from the streets and their yards, many cameras snapping pictures and recording video. Someone was playing a CD of classical music, a strident tune with trumpets and banging drums just as Koby and Phil Bosco faced off for the final duel, Bosco thrusting with his plastic sword, Koby expertly using his staff in defense, then turning to the attack and swiping the sword from Bosco's hand. Koby picked up the sword and held it to Bosco's head, looking at the crowd below for approval. The crowd signaled 'thumbs down', and with that Koby performed a mock execution, Bosco collapsing flat on the rooftop. There were cheers from below and cheers from the attackers.
It ended at twilight, just as they sky began to shimmer in the horizon, signaling the last minutes of daylight. The marauders admitted defeat and paid homage to Koby and his tower. They climbed down from the rooftop, taking time to admire the inner workings of the tower, crawling through it and commenting on the ingenuity of its design, at the intricate workings of the drawbridge and the overall authentic appearance. Alworth took time to explain to them the secrets of its design, doing so with more than a little pride.
The battlers and their families gathered on the grass, unloading themselves of their equipment and weaponry. Someone cut wood and made a fire, and soon hotdogs and marshmallows were being roasted on long, thin sticks. Someone uncorked a bottle of champagne. Ruby sat in a lounge chair, chatting with Olmstead on one side and a neighbor on the other. Her eyes were bright and she spoke rapidly, laughing at something Olmstead was saying. For the children it was only the best, mountain dew and cheeseburgers.
"Dad, what are we going to make next?" Alworth was heard asking. Ella also displayed interest in their next project.
The sun was setting over the tower, the sky growing foils of darkness being pulled over the landscape. Plumes of wood-smoke rose from the grill, the aroma filling the air, mingling with the branches of maple and pine. The victors and the conquered sat as equals, looking up at the Tower and wondering what it would have been like eons ago. The wood burned, the flames stretching upward. And for a long time into the night, no one thought of leaving.