The journey home was a total contrast to that of the outward leg.
For the first time in his life Zem was proud of his son, Im. He hadn’t understood half of what the lad had said to the bewildered council, but by the time it had taken Zem to drink a cool glass of beer TJ had returned to briefly to tell him to ‘carry on the good work, sorry to have dragged you all the way here, no need to be hasty and make any changes now, we’ll be in touch, goodbye’.
Zem didn’t mind. He wasn’t about to argue the point.
Tej, normally the brighter of the two, had been completely out of his depth. He hadn’t followed what was going on at all. He was happy though that everything had turned out OK.
Both Ky and Aby would like to have stayed a little longer. Ky because he was sure he could have gotten over his bashfulness, and he though he had a chance with his fair maiden, who was constantly giving him the eye.
Aby for a similar reason. Only Aby’s reason would have been qualified with the adverb ‘again’. Brother and sister obviously hadn’t grasped the gravity or finality of the situation. Either that, or they didn’t really care. If the outcome had been different, they would probably both have been of a ‘Que sera sera’ view.
Im. on the other hand, was aware of the gravity of the situation, and that his outburst had saved the village. He knew he had deviated slightly at one point but there had been no damage. He was extremely happy, and felt a part of a family once again.
TJ and the council had been perhaps wiser than Zem had realized. They had insisted that Ameny, the scribe/messenger/organizer, accompany them back to the village, and use his talents. He was to report back to TJ weekly. He was also to coerce to village to adopt a greater output with more fiscal prudence.
Zem couldn’t help wondering what had really facilitated the U turn? Had TJ learned of Zem’s need of somebody to actually get things done? Maybe even replace him?
After all, TJ had said, “let him take the wife and house of that poor unfortunate who died on his wedding night. How had the palace found out? Zem hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it to anyone.
On arriving home, the group were led straight to the temple where the whole village gathered again.
The bell was still ringing in the square. The person who decided to announce their return had forgotten to switch it off again.
CB, the village genius, had designed and built the ringing device according to his own ideas of equilibrium and motion. Once the ringing started it had to be physically stopped, or it went on forever.
Not quite as sophisticated as a car alarm, but just as annoying. CB as a little boy had turned up at the village gates 40 years previously. The then head of the village had allowed him to stay. This had proved be a wise decision as he had proved his worth over and over again.
What was hotly disputed though was what his initials actually stood for. The consensus was that they stood for ‘Clever Bugger’.
The packed hall listened as they learned that they had gained their freedom yet again. As Zem spoke of a new beginning for the village he caught the eye of Psammy. The dartboard. He had let him down again.
To the amazement of Zem, Ameny then addressed the gathering, reinforcing the fact that he was there to facilitate Zem’s efforts to make sure that nothing but praise could ever be bestowed on the village. Schedules would be kept to and he personally would supervise this re-structuring.
He could hold an audience too. Pity about when it came to individuals and small groups.
“I love the smell of dawn breaking in the morning,” lyrically waxed Zem
“Oh right, yes, lovely,” agreed Tej.
Turning over a new leaf the old friends had decided to stick rigidly to Ameny’s new schedule and make pharaoh a proud man when he returned. Thus, they found themselves trudging to their workshop at the crack of dawn. How long their new-found enthusiasm would last was anybody’s guess.
“Do you think Ameny’s settling in alright?” inquired Zem as they entered the workshop.
“You wouldn’t think he’d had a night’s sleep to look at him in the morning, he’s settling in alright,” replied Tej. “For a man of his age, I’d advise him to slow down a little.”
“Despite Ameny’s exhaustion, he really has improved the speed of the way things get done around here. Everybody wants things to get better so we are all following his lead at the moment. I can see a time, however, when his methods are going to let him down. In the short term, people will allow an outsider to impose themselves on the village if it’s for the common good. Unless he learns the meaning and correct usage of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ there is going to be trouble,” Zem predicted.
“A bit more consultative and bit less dictatorial you mean?” Tej said.
“Something like that.” Zem lit the candles to give the room enough illumination.
“Get the kettle on Tej, there’s a good lad. I’ll just put my head down until it boils.”
The work set for that day for Zem and Teji was attempted and achieved. As were the tasks assigned to all the artisans in the village. What Ameny lacked in certain social skills he made up with his other attributes.
Everybody’s original polite acceptance of the new boy however was beginning to fade. Ameny wasn’t doing himself any favors either.
It didn’t bode well when Dagi, the most mild-mannered carpenter in the village, was heard to utter, “I swear, I’ll swing for that ignorant bugger, if he tells me again how long my job should take and how it should be done.” Things were coming to a head.
Dagi wasn’t the only one who was beginning to dislike the way Ameny addressed his colleagues. Acceptance had turned to tolerance which had slowly begun to turn to hostility.