In Ashtown there is a road that runs just parallel to the walls of a part of the factory. It is the only place in the whole town where those who are not employed by the steel plant can come closest to it without really getting in. The road, after taking a sharp turn, runs with the visible slice of the factory on its right for some three minutes of a moderately speeded vehicle. What this section offers up to the view is a stretch of conveyor belt. A completely black arrangement of a wide panel running along the side, possibly to conceal some rusty machinery, and a length of dusty, almost mossy belt around it, conveying its load between two intercepting towers. While passing it one can invariably hear it groaning and creaking – an abandoned creature with its weaknesses out there for everyone to see.
However, contrary to the poor show which may lead people to falsely believe in the impotency of the steel factory, the town is actually ruled by the phallic supremacy of the tall chimney that is visible from almost anywhere. Unlike the conveyor belt, one cannot be sure of its exact position. So tall and massive it is that it gives the impression of moving with you wherever you go. You know, like the moon or like those freakish eyes of the painting that you sometimes see in a gallery which claims to follow you everywhere with its gaze. This Pater familias Chimney rules along with a few sons and there are the two court eunuchs, neither tall and straight nor completely curvy but somewhere in the middle, the Cooling Towers.
Taking cue, the families of Ashtown centre around their pater familias – the source of subsistence, existence, gossip and status. Living quarters are assigned according to the position of the microcosmic pater familias in the court of the Ruler. The wives have accepted their fate and regularly fuss to set their schedule to match the five ghoulish hoots that are daily obliged by the factory. 6 o’clock- get up, 8 o’clock- breakfast at the table, 1 o’clock- lunch at the table, 5 o’clock refreshments at the table, 10 o’clock- dinner at the table. Status of the microcosmic pater familias, while makes all the difference elsewhere, hardly ever affects this neat schedule of the wife.
The Lord Chimney smirks at his good fortune. At the end of the day, letting out a puff of smoke, he lets his gaze travel to the ground below him. My sons to carry on my legacy and my conveyors to feed me – perfect.
Meanwhile, the huge round furnace with its bellyful of molten wrath conspires with the wind.