Sick note

I hereby offer my sincere apologies to Mr. Pat Cooksey and Gerhard


Garth paused in his work, and lowered his axe. Glom the Orc came
walking into the clearing at slightly less than his usual springy
step. Garth grinned.

“Glom ye green bastard! I haven’t seen you for a week. Almost
thought they got you. Where have ye been?”

Glom scowled. “Off sick,” he said.

“Off sick? I thought that carried the penalty of death in the

“Believe me, there were times I’d have asked for it.”

“What happened?”

Glom sighed. “Work related accident.”

“Oh. Sleeping on the job, were you?”

“Not really, no.”

“Oh come on. I’m curious now. Out with it!”

Glom reached in his pocket and pulled out his tobacco pouch.
Further rummaging resulted in some paper. He rolled one of his foul
cigarettes and lit it with a match.


“Well, I was working on one of those high cannon towers that they
put at the entrance to camp to blow you bloody Humans to smithereens
if you have the gall to come too near.”

“Yeah? Something explode in your face?”

“Nope. Turned out some stupid krypdyr had carried up way too
many stones, so there was a big pile of them in the top of the tower.
So they ask yours truly to get rid of them.”

Glom took a drag on his roll-up, blew out a cloud of amoke, and

“You know the type. Big sodding granite blocks. So I start working,
right? Up is hard work, but down is easy. Then suddenly up comes the
foreman, pale as a sheet, asking me what the hell I’m doing.
Apparently, I just missed him.”

“Oh. Damn.”

“Yeah. I told him I was sorry I’d nearly hit him. So he tells me to
carry the damn things down up the stairs, down the stairs and so on.
So I think, bugger that for a game of soldiers, and I get an idea.
They were carrying stuff up and down the tower in one of those barrels
that they use. And it’s still there. So I hoist it up, tie it off
below, go upstairs, fill it with stones.”

Garth nodded. “Yeah. I see. If it’s there, use it.”

“Right. So I walk down the stairs, and untie the knot. Now do you
want to know something interesting about a barrel full of granite?”

“Oh go on.”

“It’s heavier than an Orc Peon.”

Garth stared, then slowly, he started to grin. Glom scowled.

“Yep. So down it comes, and up I go. By the time I saw what was
happening, I wasn’t going to let go. Better to climb off at the top.
Big mistake. Wanna know what happened half way up?”

Garth grinned, looked at Glom’s face and started laughing.

“Yep. The barrel hit me shoulder, but somehow I managed to hang on,
still thinking it’s better than not hanging on.”

“Yeah. I can see why you might. So you reach the top. Then what?”

“Banged me head on the pulley, that’s what. So I hang on for dear
life, and way below, the barrel tips over and half the stones fall
out.” Glom’s brow knotted, and he spat out a few words that would have
made an Ogre blush. “Want to know something interesting about a barrel
half full of granite?”

“Oh ye gods,” said Garth, “Don’t tell me…”

“Yep. It isn’t heavier than an Orc Peon. So down I go again,
faster and faster, just manage to miss the bloody barrel on the way
down, and I land with me head right on one of those stones. Meanwhile,
way up top, the barrel spills over, knocks into the wall and the
bottom bursts. So I get a shower of bloody granite blocks.”

“Oh my. Any of them hit anything vital?”

“Just me head. I tell you, if I meet the guy who designed me work
helmet he’s going to get a few pints outta me, believe it.”

Glom looked at the dog-end in his green fingers, and flicked it
away, as though forest fires were things that happened somewhere else.

“So I’m lying there on the ground, groaning with pain, hardly
conscious but alive. Guess what I did then. Go on.”


“Go on. Guess.”

Garth stared at Glom’s ugly face.

“Oh gods, no.”

“Oh yes. I let the rope slip from my fingers. So the bloody barrel
comes down again, and lands on me. Broke three ribs and my left arm.”

“So they let you have a whole week off?”

“Yeah. And I’m never allowed up in one of those bloody towers
again.” Glom picked up his axe and walked to a tree.

“Which suits me fine.”

He started chopping away at a tree.

This story, I first heard sung by the Dubliners, and it turned out
that there was some debate on places as to who came up with it. Some
people said it was “The Bricklayers’ Lament” by Gerhard Hoffnung,
others said Pat Cooksey was first with his song entitled “The Sick
Note”. I was absolutely delighted to see a Mythbusters episode where
they tried to replicate this, and they actually got it to work!

Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.


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