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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)

TITLE: Inspected by Number 32
By Tim George
01/03/08


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“The military has unveiled a device that promises to circumvent many future wars. Details are top-secret, but a government spokesman says the device can accurately predict the ultimate outcome of seemingly minor decisions. ‘The bottom line,’ he says, ‘is, we can prevent major conflicts by identifying the decisions that caused them before they even happen.’ ….”

“Huh,” Nathan muttered to himself as he flicked off the television, “How about that?”

As he rode to work that morning Nathan considered the ramifications of a machine that could identify mistakes before they happened. The applications were endless. It wasn’t just wars that could be prevented. People could know how a president would turn out before they voted for him. Maybe his high-school sweetheart would have said yes to his marriage proposal if he had worded it a little differently. And … he might not have taken the boring, dead-end job he was headed to for the 10,322 time. The very fact that he knew how many days he had worked at Bennington Die and Press was testament to how meaningless he considered his place in life to be.

After clocking in, Nathan headed for the same bench he had occupied for three decades. 30 years of dutifully stamping Inspected by Number 32 on pieces of metal. He was neither inventor nor even builder. All he did was stamp Inspected by Number 32. Boring, dead-end job. But, it paid the rent, as his father always used to say.

At 10 AM, something happened that had never happened in the 10,322 times Nathan had sat at his station. The CEO of Bennington Die and Press showed up. “Nathan,” blustered the smartly dressed executive, “I wanted to congratulate you personally on the part you played in a turning point for this company.”

Nathan frowned. He hadn’t been part of anything meaningful in his entire life. “Th … Thank you sir. But … what did I do?”

“You were part of a project we were doing as a sub-contractor to a company I can’t name. Your faithful work to ensure the quality of a short-run a few months ago ensured the stability of this company for years to come.”

“I … I … don’t understand,” Nathan stammered.

The CEO shook his head. “No, you couldn’t possibly. Did you see the news this morning about the military’s new prediction machine?”

Nathan nodded.

“Well sir, a main component of that machine was made on this very floor. The parts we pressed were chosen at random and the ones chosen were the three your inspected.” With great flourish, the CEO pulled out a picture of the part he was speaking of. “The military used that machine to defuse a potential conflict with China. Because of our, I mean the government’s machine, our ambassador to China just issued them an ultimatum. The machine guaranteed they’re acceptance of that ultimatum.”

A knot the size of pea formed in the pit of Nathan’s stomach and then grew until he thought he would explode. He recognized the part in the picture. On day 10,128 of his tenure at Bennington Die and Press he had come in with a headache and an empty heart. For some reason, only three parts were passed down to him that day to inspect. He had discovered an identical, tiny, microscopic flaw on each. Probably a speck of sand or dust on the press. The tolerance levels were close enough. Not right but close enough for this day. Besides it was just a blank back-plate of some kind. Nothing that mattered. Nothing he did in this boring, dead end job mattered.

The CEO frowned, “What’s a matter Nathan? You look like you just met the grim reaper in person.”

Nathan couldn’t answer. His eyes were focused on the words scrolling across a news broadcast on the small television that sat on his workstation.

… FLAW IN MILITARY’S PREDICTION MACHINE…

His CEO followed his eyes and gasped. The signature image of a mushroom cloud filled the screen. A small graphic of the new prediction machine appeared in one corner as the scroll at the bottom of the screen continued.

… SET INTO MOTION A SERIES OF CATASTROPHIC EVENTS …

Nathan started to apologize for his lack of attention on day 10,128 but was interrupted by the distant rumble of an approaching shock wave. He wouldn’t have to worry about another boring, dead-end day at Bennington Die and Press.


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This article has been read 711 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharon Henderson01/10/08
Wow! One bad day out of 10,322. Glad that most of us can't have that kind of impact because of some careless oversights on one day. Great story. Had me to the very end.
Sheri Gordon01/10/08
I'd say you nailed the meaning of this saying to the nth degree. This is a great illustration of the consequences of not taking the time to do it right to first time. This was easy and enjoyable to read. Good job with the topic.
Dee Yoder 01/10/08
Wow, what an apocalyptic error! Love the last line...I can't think of a more extreme or modernistic example of this old adage. Even though I kinda knew what was going to happen, I just had to keep on reading to the very...um...end.
James Clem 01/10/08
Very entertaining from start to END. Nathan also missed "they're acceptance" when he edited this piece. (Sorry - had to do it)
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/10/08
Fascinating story--start to finish, that illustrates perfectly the proverb.
Lynda Schultz 01/10/08
Great story. It had me on the edge of my seat all the way through.

A few minor things to correct (someone else has already caught one of them):

Numbers at the beginning of a sentence should be written out, ie. Thirty rather and 30.

And there's an extra letter on the end of "you" in "the three you inspected."

Little things, sorry to nitpick, must be the pressure of impending doom after this excellent story.
Temple Miller01/10/08
Great story. You packed a lot of intensity into 750 words!
Karen Wilber 01/10/08
Talk about a bad day.... Hey, considering how things turned out for Nathan (and a few million others) did you mean for "Die and Press" to be a play on words as well as the company's name? Surely you meant "dead-end job" to be a play. And "met the grim reaper". Foreshadowing? A prediction, maybe? ;-)
LaNaye Perkins01/10/08
I used to be an inspector in a factory so your title got my attention. But, your writing kept me from the first to the last sentence. Well done.
Joanne Sher 01/11/08
This definitely kept me engaged. Very creative.
Sara Harricharan 01/11/08
WOW. Talk about consequences. Really makes you think a little more about the impact you have on every little thing you do.
This was pretty good, just one typo I think "three your inspected" Your=you?
Otherwise, great job!
Betty Castleberry01/11/08
Oh yes, no job is too small or too unimportant. This held my attention. I couldn't
wait to read the ending. Thumbs up.
Yvonne Blake 01/11/08
Scary! I hope nothing I do has such a BIG impact...but you never know!
Great writing.
Kristen Hester01/12/08
Great story! This was very well written and engaging.
Emily Gibson01/12/08
Yikes! A moment's thought of "it really doesn't matter" ends up being the reason all is lost.
Quite well crafted.
Catrina Bradley 01/12/08
The ultimate bad result - wow. You nailed the topic for sure.
Sally Hanan01/12/08
Very good writing, great idea and very interesting.
Hanne Moon 01/14/08
Wow...great thinking outside the box! I liked this! Others have mentioned the typos, so I won't! :D