فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER Three

Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have. For instance, if you wake up to the sound of twittering birds, and find yourself in an enormous canopy bed, with a butler standing next to you holding a breakfast of freshly made muffins and hand-squeezed orange juice on a silver tray, you will know that your day will be a splendid one. If you wake up to the sound of church bells, and find yourself in a fairly big regular bed, with a butler standing next to you holding a breakfast of hot tea and toast on a plate, you will know that your day will be O.K. And if you wake up to the sound of somebody banging two metal pots together, and find yourself in a small bunk bed, with a nasty foreman standing in the doorway holding no breakfast at all, you will know that your day will be horrid.

You and I, of course, cannot be too surprised that the Baudelaire orphans’ first day at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill was a horrid one. And the Baudelaires certainly did not expect twittering birds or a butler, not after their dismaying arrival. But never in their most uneasy dreams did they expect the cacophony—a word which here means “the sound of two metal pots being banged together by a nasty foreman standing in the doorway holding no breakfast at all”—that awoke them.

“Get up, you lazy, smelly things!” cried the foreman in an odd-sounding voice. He spoke as if he were covering his mouth with his hands. “Time for work, everybody! There’s a new shipment of logs just waiting to be made into lumber!”

The children sat up and rubbed their eyes. All around them, the employees of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill were stretching and covering their ears at the sound of the pots. Phil, who was already up and making his bunk neatly, gave the Baudelaires a tired smile.

“Good morning, Baudelaires,” Phil said. “And good morning, Foreman Flacutono. May I introduce you to your three newest employees? Foreman Flacutono, this is Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire.”

“I heard we’d have some new workers,” the foreman said, dropping the pots to the floor with a clatter, “but nobody told me they’d be midgets.”

“We’re not midgets,” Violet explained. “We’re children.”

“Children, midgets, what do I care?” Foreman Flacutono said in his muffled voice, walking over to the orphans’ bunk. “All I care is that you get out of bed this instant and go straight to the mill.”

The Baudelaires hopped out of the bunk bed, not wanting to anger a man who banged pots together instead of saying “Good morning.” But once they got a good look at Foreman Flacutono they wanted to hop back into their bunks and pull the covers over their heads.

I’m sure you have heard it said that appearance does not matter so much, and that it is what’s on the inside that counts. This is, of course, utter nonsense, because if it were true then people who were good on the inside would never have to comb their hair or take a bath, and the whole world would smell even worse than it already does. Appearance matters a great deal, because you can often tell a lot about people by looking at how they present themselves. And it was the way Foreman Flacutono presented himself that made the orphans want to jump back into their bunks. He was wearing stained overalls, which never make a good impression, and his shoes were taped shut instead of being tied up with laces. But it was the foreman’s head that was the most unpleasant. Foreman Flacutono was bald, as bald as an egg, but rather than admit to being bald like sensible people do, he had purchased a curly white wig that made it look like he had a bunch of large dead worms all over his head. Some of the worm hairs stuck straight up, and some of them curled off to one side, and some of them ran down his ears and his forehead, and a few of them stretched straight out ahead as if they wanted to escape from Foreman Flacutono’s scalp. Below his wig was a pair of dark and beady eyes, which blinked at the orphans in a most unpleasant way.

As for the rest of his face, it was impossible to tell what it looked like, because it was covered with a cloth mask, such as doctors wear when they are in hospitals. Foreman Flacutono’s nose was all curled up under the mask, like an alligator hiding in the mud, and when he spoke the Baudelaires could see his mouth opening and closing behind the cloth. It is perfectly proper to wear these masks in hospitals, of course, to stop the spreading of germs, but it makes no sense if you are the foreman of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill. The only reason Foreman Flacutono could have for wearing a surgical mask would be to frighten people, and as he peered down at the Baudelaire orphans they were quite frightened indeed.

“The first thing you can do, Baudeliars,” Foreman Flacutono said, “is pick up my pots. And never make me drop them again.”

“But we didn’t make you drop them,” Klaus said.

“Bram!” Sunny added, which probably meant something like “and our last name is Baudelaire.”

“If you don’t pick up the pots this instant,” Foreman Flacutono said, “you will get no chewing gum for lunch.”

The Baudelaire orphans did not care much for chewing gum, particularly peppermint chewing gum, which they were allergic to, but they ran to the pots. Violet picked one up and Sunny picked up the other, while Klaus hurriedly made the beds.

“Give them to me,” Foreman Flacutono snapped, and grabbed the pots out of the girls’ hands. “Now, workers, we’ve wasted enough time already. To the mills! Logs are waiting for us!”

“I hate log days,” one of the employees grumbled, but everyone followed Foreman Flacutono out of the dormitory and across the dirt-floored courtyard to the lumbermill, which was a dull gray building with many smokestacks sticking out of the top like a porcupine’s quills. The three children looked at one another worriedly. Except for one summer day, back when their parents were still alive, when the Baudelaires had opened a lemonade stand in front of their house, the orphans had never had jobs, and they were nervous.

The Baudelaires followed Foreman Flacutono into the lumbermill and saw that it was all one huge room, filled with enormous machines. Violet looked at a shiny steel machine with a pair of steel pinchers like the arms of a crab, and tried to figure out how this invention worked. Klaus examined a machine that looked like a big cage, with an enormous ball of string trapped inside, and tried to remember what he had read about lumbermills. Sunny stared at a rusty, creaky-looking machine that had a circular sawblade that looked quite jagged and fearsome and wondered if it was sharper than her own teeth. And all three Baudelaires gazed at a machine, covered in tiny smokestacks, that held a huge, flat stone up in the air, and wondered what in the world it was doing there.

The Baudelaires had only a few seconds to be curious about these machines, however, before Foreman Flacutono began clanging his two pots together and barking out orders. “The logs!” he shouted. “Turn on the pincher machine and get started with the logs!”

Phil ran to the pincher machine and pressed an orange button on it. With a rough whistling noise, the pinchers opened, and stretched toward the far wall of the lumbermill. The orphans had been so curious about the machines that they hadn’t noticed the huge pile of trees that were stacked, leaves and roots and all, along one wall of the lumbermill as if a giant had simply torn a small forest out of the ground and dropped it into the room. The pinchers picked up the tree on top of the stack and began lowering it to the ground, while Foreman Flacutono banged his pots together and shouted, “The debarkers! The debarkers!”

Another employee walked to the back corner of the room, where there were a stack of tiny green boxes and a pile of flat metal rectangles, as long and as thin as an adult eel. Without a word she picked up the pile of rectangles and began distributing them to the workers. “Take a debarker,” she whispered to the children. “One each.”

The children each took a rectangle and stood there, confused and hungry, just as the tree touched the ground. Foreman Flacutono clanged his pots together again, and the employees crowded around the tree and began scraping against it with their debarkers, filing the bark off each tree as you or I might file our nails. “You, too, midgets!” the foreman shouted, and the children found room among the adults to scrape away at the tree.

Phil had described the rigors of working in a lumbermill, and it had certainly sounded difficult. But as you remember, Phil was an optimist, so the actual work turned out to be much, much worse. For one thing, the debarkers were adult-sized, and it was difficult for the children to use them. Sunny could scarcely lift her debarker at all, and so used her teeth instead, but Violet and Klaus had teeth of only an average sharpness and so had to struggle with the debarkers. The three children scraped and scraped, but only tiny pieces of bark fell from the tree. For another thing, the children had not eaten any breakfast, and as the morning wore on they were so hungry that it was difficult to even lift the debarker, let alone scrape it against the tree. And for one more thing, once a tree was finally cleared of bark, the pinchers would drop another one onto the ground, and they would have to start all over again, which was extremely boring. But for the worst thing of all, the noise at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill was simply deafening. The debarkers made their displeasing scraping sound as they dragged across the trees. The pinchers made their rough whistling noise as they picked up logs. And Foreman Flacutono made his horrendous clanging noise as he banged his pots together. The orphans grew exhausted and frustrated. Their stomachs hurt and their ears rang. And they were unbelievably bored.

Finally, as the employees finished their fourteenth log, Foreman Flacutono banged his pots together and shouted, “Lunch break!” The workers stopped scraping, and the pinchers stopped whistling, and everyone sat down, exhausted, on the ground. Foreman Flacutono threw his pots on the floor, walked over to the tiny green boxes, and grabbed one. Opening it with a rip, he began to toss small pink squares at the workers, one to each. “You have five minutes for lunch!” he shouted, throwing three pink squares at the children. The Baudelaires could see that a damp patch had appeared on his surgical mask, from spit flying out of his mouth as he gave orders. “Just five minutes!”

Violet looked from the damp patch on the mask to the pink square in her hand, and for a second she didn’t believe what she was looking at. “It’s gum!” she said. “This is gum!”

Klaus looked from his sister’s square to his own. “Gum isn’t lunch!” he cried. “Gum isn’t even a snack!”

“Tanco!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something along the lines of “And babies shouldn’t even have gum, because they could choke on it!”

“You’d better eat your gum,” Phil said, moving over to sit next to the children. “It’s not very filling, but it’s the only thing they’ll let you eat until dinnertime.”

“Well, maybe we can get up a little earlier tomorrow,” Violet said, “and make some sandwiches.”

“We don’t have any sandwich-making ingredients,” Phil said. “We just get one meal, usually a casserole, every evening.”

“Well, maybe we can go into town and buy some ingredients,” Klaus said.

“I wish we could,” Phil said, “but we don’t have any money.”

“What about your wages?” Violet asked. “Surely you can spend some of the money you earn on sandwich ingredients.”

Phil gave the children a sad smile, and reached into his pocket. “At the Lucky Smells Lumbermill,” he said, bringing out a bunch of tiny scraps of paper, “they don’t pay us in money. They pay us in coupons. See, here’s what we all earned yesterday: twenty percent off a shampoo at Sam’s Haircutting Palace. The day before that we earned this coupon for a free refill of iced tea, and last week we earned this one: ‘Buy Two Banjos and Get One Free.’ The trouble is, we can’t buy two banjos, because we don’t have anything but these coupons.”

“Nelnu!” Sunny shrieked, but Foreman Flacutono began banging his pots together before anyone could realize what she meant.

“Lunch is over!” he shouted. “Back to work, everyone! Everyone except you, Baudelamps! The boss wants to see you three in his office right away!”

The three siblings put down their debarkers and looked at one another. They had been working so hard that they had almost forgotten about meeting their guardian, whatever his name was. What sort of man would force small children to work in a lumbermill? What sort of man would hire a monster like Foreman Flacutono? What sort of man would pay his employees in coupons, or feed them only gum?

Foreman Flacutono banged his pots together again and pointed at the door, and the children stepped out of the noisy room into the quiet of the courtyard. Klaus took the map out of his pocket and pointed the way to the office. With each step, the orphans raised small clouds of dirt that matched the clouds of dread hovering over them. Their bodies ached from the morning’s work, and they had an uneasy feeling in their empty stomachs. As they had guessed from the way their day began, the three children were having a bad day. But as they got closer and closer to the office, they wondered if their day was about to get even worse.

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