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"The Tech Rep" By James Michener; Continued

"Holt got good pay. When you were a tech rep you could pick up extra money if you volunteered for what they called hazardous duty. Holt always did, for although he was instinctively afraid of the towers on which communications were based, he had schooled himself to climb them.

I WAS STATIONED AT GAGO COUTINHO...

YOU LOST ME.

MOCAMBIQUE, he said impatiently, COUTINHO FLEW THE ATLANTIC YEARS AHEAD OF LINDBERGH. WE HAD FINISHED PUTTING IN A BIG RALLY II AND THE OTHERS HAD GONE BACK HOME. THIS TYPHOON WAS BLOWING ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN-HEADING AWAY FROM US BUT STILL WITH A POWERFULL STING IN ITS TAIL. SNAPPED OFF THE TOP OF OUR TOWER FOUR MILES OUTSIDE OF GAGO COUTINHO-BUT NOT ALL THE WAY OFF. ONE GIRDER REFUSED TO BREAK LOOSE...KEPT THE STEEL MASS HANGING THERE...THRASHING HELL OUT OF WHAT WAS LEFT. SO SOMEBODY HAD CLIMB UP THERE AND CUT IT AWAY. TOU FACE THESE THINGS. IT'S LIKE HUMPHREY BOGART DRIVING THAT TRUCK WHEN HE LEFT ANN SHERIDAN'S RESTURANT.

Later when I was surveying Mocambique for an industrial project we had in mind, the Portuguese weatherman at Gago Coutinho told me what had happened that night. SUCH WINDS. MAYBE NINTY MILES AN HOUR. ONE STUBBORN GIRDER REFUSED TO LET LOOSE. WE COULD SEE IT WITH BINOCULARS. THE MANAGER OF THE STATIONED YELLED, SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO GO UP THERE AND CUT THAT JUNK LOOSE. YOU COULD HEAR IT CRASHING AGAINST THE TOWER. IF IT HIT A MAN IT WOULD CRUSH HIM IN AN INSTANT, SO THE MANAGER KEPT YELLING FOR VOLUNTEERS, BUT HE CERTAINLY MADE NO MOVE ON HIS OWN AND NONE OF THE PORTUGUESE OR THE NATIVES WANTED ANY OF IT. HE LOOKED AT ME AND SAID, YOU'RE THE WEATHERMAN. IT'S AS MUCH YOUR TOWER AS ANYBODY ELSES. BUT I WALKED AWAY. THEN HARVEY HOLT DROVE UP, AND WHEN THE MANAGER BEGAN YELLING AT HIM, HE SAID, GET ME A TORCH, AND THE MANAGER, WHO HAD WORKED IN ENGLAND, STARTED YELLING TO ALL OF US TO FIND A FLASHLIGHT, BUT HOLT SAID, ACETYLENE. AND BELEIVE IT OR NOT, HE CLIMBED YHE TOWER IN THE STORM WITH THE MASS OF STEEL SLAMING AGAINST THE STRUTS. WE COULD SEE HIM FROM DOWN HERE...THE WHITE, FLICKERING LIGHT AT A GREAT HEIGHT...A GHOST...A GHOST.

To be continued:



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