Many thanks to Hanzík for the Czech translations!

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not geeky  not geeky

Case 52

Buckets

After breakfast, a novice of the Spider Clan noticed a line of six monks leaving the temple with bucket-yokes on their shoulders and grim expressions on their faces. A junior abbot followed close behind. The monks trudged down an overgrown stony path that wound down the hillside, disappearing into a thicket of pines.

This same novice observed the monks clambering back up to the temple after lunch. Their buckets were now packed full of moist earth and stones, yet despite the heavy load every brother was laughing and had a spring in his step.

So it went the following day, and the day after, and the day after that, piquing the curiosity of the novice. All six monks bore the red waist-cloths of the Laughing Monkey Clan, so the novice went to that clan’s hall. The abbot was seated on the floor of the common room, preoccupied with balancing an egg on its point.

“What of the six monks, and the buckets of earth?” asked the novice.

“They are being corrected,” said the abbot, “for their perilous mismanagement of a critical software module.” He reached into a small bag of salt, put a pinch on the floor, set the egg on top, and gently blew the salt away from the egg. The egg toppled. The abbot sighed, took another pinch of salt and began again.

“What flaw did they introduce?” asked the novice.

“Mu,” said the abbot. “They introduced no flaw. Not a line of code has been touched in many months.”

“Then what flaw did they fail to correct?”

“Mu,” repeated the abbot as the egg toppled again. “The module functions perfectly, and doubtless will continue to do so for many months more.”

The novice frowned. “I do not see how something which is flawless and unchanging can be objectionable, or its management called perilous.”

“You, monk!” shouted a voice behind him. The novice turned to find Java master Banzen glaring at him.

“Tomorrow, you join the line,” said Banzen.

- - -

“The punishment is simple,” said the junior abbot as the novice took up the yoke. “I’ll explain when we get to the hollow.”

The novice followed the six brothers down the stony path, with the junior abbot bringing up the rear behind him. They proceeded through the deep forest in silence.

Eventually they came to a broad bright sunlit clearing. In the center a giant spire of rock thrust upward toward the heavens: it rose a full four storeys high, and was so wide that if twenty men stood fingertip to fingertip they could barely encircle it.

“Is it not grand?” said the abbot. “It has stood since the beginning of time.”

Approaching, the novice could see that the clearing had been dug away all around the spire, so that it was surrounded on all sides by a great empty moat. Peeking above the moat’s edge was the top rung of a bamboo ladder. Each monk disappeared down the ladder in turn, re-emerging a long time later drenched in sweat, with a full yoke and a broad smile.

Finally it was the novice’s turn.

The moat was several storeys deep. As the novice climbed rung by rung down into the shadows he could see that the earth had been removed not just from around the spire, but from under its base as well. The entire massive boulder was now balanced precariously on a few yards of packed earth.

“Crawl under the spire,” the abbot shouted down, “until you reach the mound of dirt below the center. Fill your buckets from there. And if I were you, I’d work slowly and try not to sneeze.”

Topics...  code rot