Scolo’s Super Short Story Time: Zero-Sum Game

by Scolopendra on July 8, 2010

“The hoard of more than 52,000 coins dating from the 3rd Century AD was found buried in a field near Frome in Somerset.”

1,700 YEARS AGO…

Lucius looked over his field, frowning heartily as he leaned on the handle of his spade in the Brittanic sun. Somewhere between the beans and the rye he’d buried his life’s savings just in case the raiders came around again. He’d lucked out the first time they came; since then, he’d lived as a simple farmer. A simple farmer with a comfortable fortune to retire on. A comfortable fortune buried between two trees, one in the middle of his field, one on the edge of his neighbor. The same neighbor who, with Lucius’ friends, dug up Lucius’ ugly old tree as a random act of kindness.

“Damno,” Lucius muttered to himself.

He didn’t blame his friends, at least, he didn’t mean to.  Still, being human, it came naturally to him as a wholly predictable result of his frustration.  The tree did do nothing but make a circle of shade that no crops would grow in and it did suck up water that his other plants could have used.  His friends, also, knew that Lucius was a particularly efficient person who griped about these things about the tree but reasonably decided that the money lost at market over the crops he never grew because of the tree weren’t valuable enough to pay the cost of hiring people to help him bring the tree down.  So they did it for him as a friendly favor and even refilled and tilled the ground over when they were done.  It was like the tree was never there.

Lucius walked over to where he thought the tree used to be and threw the iron blade of his spade into the soft soil of Britannia.  Taking a few steps away, he looked experimentally between the spade’s long handle pointing into the sky and his neighbor’s tree.  His neighbor’s tree, under which his neighbor was taking a nap.  Lucius liked taking naps in his tree, since if he slept under it everyone would’ve seen his sloth.  Thinking, the Roman freeman farmer notes how his neighbor’s tree looks different from this angle… but of course it would.  Trees look different every year.

This would never work, Lucius concluded.

“Colei de Jovis,” he muttered.

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