A man has the right to expect certain things. He has a right not to have his work put at risk by the equipment he uses. That’s my belief. I take a pride. I’m up with the latest literature. Before each job I check and recheck everything. I do the calculations three times over. I leave nothing to chance. So why is it that now, with the moment so close at hand, the governor proudly shows me the new rope he’s got up for me.

It’s four strands, I says.

Is it, he says.

Aye.

Rope’s rope, he says.

Three strand’s what I need, I says.

One more for luck, he says.

Don’t tell me about luck, I says.

There but for the grace of God, he says, and he orders me to attention, and while I wait, footsteps ringing slow on the galley iron, I do the sums in my head and then I says to the fella as he passes, sorry, which I hoped I’d never have to say. And when he drops I turn away.

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