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Fiction, © Copyright 2000, Jim Loy
"Tell me what you see, Tolgald."
"I see your city, Your Highness. I see a great river, ships, boats, many boats. I see..."
"Do you know what I see, Tolgald?"
"I would never presume to imagine what you see, Your Highness."
Tolgald paused and with his eyes closed said, "Perhaps you see the future, and the past, good and evil, angels and devils..."
The King laughed, "You mock me, Tolgald"
"Never, Your Highness! I think that I have merely proved what I said before, that I cannot guess what Your Highness sees."
"I see that we have no bridges."
"My city is divided into four parts, two sides of the river and two islands. And my subjects must row or sail back and forth, between these four parts. I myself must sail back and forth. Why, in winter I am often stranded on my Royal island. What a flaw in an otherwise beautiful city! Find me the greatest bridge builder in the world."
"As you command, Your Majesty."
"Your Highness, may I introduce Count Folenstang?"
"It is an honor to meet you."
"The honor is completely mine, Your Highness." The count bowed deeply.
"My advisors tell me that you might be the greatest bridge builder in the world. Is that true?"
The count looked uncomfortable. "The world does not build good bridges, Your Highness. I may be the greatest by default."
"Ah! Well, please examine my city, and make your plans for at least three bridges connecting the four parts of the city."
"Certainly, Your Highness."
"Your Highness, may I introduce Max Lotz."
"It is an honor to meet you." The king paused for a response which never arrived. "My advisors tell me that you might be the greatest bridge builder in the world."
"Do they? Well I'm sorry to disappoint you. But they are wrong."
There was an uneasy silence. Then the king asked with a touch of anger, "They are wrong, what?"
Max seemed puzzled, "They are wrong, I'm not the greatest bridge builder in the world."
There was more uneasy silence. "It is traditional to call me 'Your Highness.'"
"Is it?" There was a pause, "Your Highness. I am sure, Your Highness, that you will be very happy, Your Highness, with any bridge, Your Highness, that I do build, Your Highness."
Everyone was shocked. The king addressed a soldier who was standing at attention, "Escort Mr. Lotz to the dungeon."
"Ah, Mr. Lotz. I trust you were comfortable in our dungeon?"
"Absolutely. Best dungeon I have ever been in." There was an uneasy silence, "Your Damned Highness." The soldier did not wait for an order. Max turned and walked with him to the dungeon.
"Your Highness, Mr. Lotz is no longer in the dungeon."
"Not in the dungeon?"
"He seems to have escaped somehow, Your Highness."
"Your Highness, Mr. Lotz is back in his cell."
"He has been recaptured?"
"No, Your Highness. He sneaked back in. We do not know how that was possible."
"Bring him here."
Max strode in, carrying several large rolled-up sheets of paper. "Here are my plans for your bridges." One of the King's advisors stepped in his way. Max pushed him aside and handed the plans to the king. "And I do not know how to say 'Your Highness.' So you may want to visit me in the dungeon from now on, in order to save time." Max turned to go back to the dungeon.
"Come back here, Mr. Lotz." The king and Mr. Lotz spent several hours discussing the plans.
Count Folenstang was furious. "I object, Your Highness. I am told that you have hired this buffoon Max Lotz." He pointed at Mr. Lotz, who smiled and nodded.
"Why do you object? If your designs are superior, I am sure that we will be choosing them instead of Mr. Lotz' designs."
"I know that mine are better, Your Highness. But how will you be able to tell?"
"Do you think that this Max Lotz will make a fool of me?"
"Not a fool, Your Highness."
"Thank you. I like your design for the bridge from the large island to the North shore. I also like Mr. Lotz' design for the bridge from the large island to the South shore."
Count Folenstang was turning red, "But, Your Highness, his bridge will fall down in a year or two."
"A year or two?"
"Maybe fifty or a hundred years." There was a pause, "Maybe five hundred."
"Five hundred years seems a long time. How long will your bridge last?"
"Maybe a thousand years, Your Highness, maybe less. It would last a thousand years if the river did not move."
"The river moves?" Both Folenstang and Lotz nodded yes. "Count Folenstang, please examine Mr. Lotz' plans, and tell me what you think of them."
The Count approached Mr. Lotz with distaste. He studied the plans for many minutes. Eventually, he reported to the king, "His bridge could last forever, Your Highness. But it is an ugly bridge."
The king retorted, "And I say that it is a beautiful bridge. Mr. Lotz, please examine Count Folenstang's plans and tell me how long his bridge will last."
"No need. If he says it will last forever, it will last twice that long. But I am sure that his bridge is even uglier than mine."
The two bridges were built, over a period of many months. They were very different from each other. But people came from distant countries to see the two most beautiful bridges in the world. Construction began on two more bridges. Max Lotz built one between the two islands. Count Folenstang built one from the South side of the river to the smaller Royal island. The city was now famous for possessing the four most beautiful bridges in the world. New bridges were planned as, even with four bridge, traffic occasionally came to a standstill. Eventually there were a dozen bridges, more bridge that the city needed.
Count Folenstang and Max Lotz prepared to move on, for surely there was room for no more bridges in the wonderful city of bridges. That night the city was rocked by two huge explosions. And two bridges fell into the river.
"Your Highness, I demand that Max Lotz be imprisoned for destroying my bridge."
"I request, humbly, Your Highness."
"Humbly?" The king turned his head to raise his eyebrows at Max.
Max smiled, "I request that Count Folenstang be arrested for destroying my bridge... humbly."
The Count was shocked, "Destroy your bridge? Preposterous!"
Max continued smiling, "I know that the two bridges were destroyed so utterly that only an engineering genius could have done it. I also know that I did not do it. Therefore, it must have been the Count here who destroyed both bridges."
"This is an outrage! Obviously, Max Lotz destroyed both bridges."
The king interrupted, "Neither or you know of any other engineering genius who could have destroyed the bridges?"
The Count thought for a second, and then said, "Well there is a Colonel Mayerhatz, who is said to be something of a military genius. He could have done it." Max Lotz nodded his agreement.
The king said, "Gentlemen, may I introduce Colonel Mayerhatz?" A man with an immense mustache, and wearing a gaudy uniform stepped forward, smiling.
It dawned on the Count and Max that the king had destroyed both bridges. Both men quickly began planning better, more beautiful bridges. Together, they also designed and built a new palace for the king. This took many many years to build, and it became one of the true wonders of the world. Both men worked the rest of their lives, producing great beauty, in the City of Bridges.
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