We Will Measure the Sludge
I show him to cut the top off and cut a round hole in the bottom of the first jerry can. We fit the large diesel filter into the hole and put sealant around it so that the fuel could not pass except through the filter. We cut a round hole in the top of the second jerry can so that the filter sealed to the bottom of the first jerry can inserted securely into the top of the second one.
‘Pour it here,’ I say.
The diesel filled the first jerry can and, slowly passing through the filter at the bottom, it trickles into the second jerry can.
‘This is clear?’ I ask.
The Office Assistant clicks with his mouth.
‘Now you will instruct the guards to do this and you will supervise them so that they do it right. They will wash the dirty drums place them upside down to dry completely. They will filter the fuel and pour the clean fuel into the drums. They will do this for one drum at a time and not stop until all the fuel is filtered and in clean drums.’
‘Yes. We will do this,’ the Office Assistant says.
I look him over a moment wondering if I should repeat the instructions or ask him to repeat them to me. I leave him be and return to my work. When I come back a few hours later the drums are as they were and there is no work going. I call the Office Assistant over.
‘We emptied this drum and put the fuel into this clean one here,’ he explains.
‘And this one and this one and all the rest?’
‘In these the fuel is dirty so we did not want to put it in the clean drums.’
I look him over to determine if we are sharing a joke.
He clicks with him mouth and I have long learned not to trust the clicking.
‘That which is sludge and does not pass through the filter you will put aside there.’
I point at an open bucket.
‘After all the fuel is filtered and put into clean drums, we will measure the sludge and deduct it from the fuel log. This is clear?’
He clicks again and I decide not to challenge his understanding. This will be a process, I think, as all things here are a process always. I must be patient and I mustn’t be insulting.
I return to my work and I come back in the late afternoon. I call the Office Assistant and he knows by my tone to drop whatever else he might be doing.
‘Yes, you explained the process and it was clear,’ he says. ‘The guards they wanted to stop because they suffered to work under the sun.’
‘I see. And now with the sun low and on the other side of the building so that all this work area is in shade - where are they now?’
‘Yes, I see. I will tell them this. And shall they resume the work now?’
‘Yes. Right now.’