Saghyz Rubber

19 Aug

Nim Trevt was unlike every other young Taraxian man who went to college for professional education in the city of Norka. While others sought a legal or medical career, this immigrant went into the chemistry of the main industry of the urban center. His specialty became havea, buna, and caucho rubber production, and upon graduation he began work as a research assistant for Guayule Rubber, the largest producer of vehicular tires in Norka.

His wife Anua and his father-in-law Alu Cubo were overjoyed as they attended his graduation ceremony at the city’s university. The door to his future seemed to be opened for good. No need for him to continue working as a bartender. That phase of his life was finished for good. Ahead lay unseen prospects for Nim and his family, it would appear.

But he soon discovered that Gauyule Rubber was not all that he had hoped it would be. They did not like taking risks, even in the area of general, uninhibited chemical research. This came to be a hard, difficult truth for Nim to accept and swallow. There was nothing he could do about the limitations that seemed to hamper the imaginations of the more senior scientists in the company laboratory where he remained only a lowly assistant to the others.

The center of life for the Taraxian colony in Norka was the church of St. Orazme and its community center.

Every Friday night occurred the ethnic round dances to melodies from the faraway homeland. Alu Cubo’s orchestra continued to provide live music for these events, and Nim Trevt still found the time to take part playing his part with his clarinet.

Enta’s unmarried sisters had a opportunity to grow acquainted with the potential Taraxian suitors around. Among the most agile and graceful dancers were Marna, Jetra, and Vimge. Their married oldest sister was usually busy in the center’s kitchen, preparing snacks and delicacies such as kyoftina and kadaif.

For Nim, there were rich opportunities to get to know many of the leading merchants and businessmen in the colony. His especial interest was in the oldest and earliest settlers in Norka, to hear about their adventures and experiences among strangers who spoke a strange new language. It was intriguing for the new chemist to learn about what conditions were like only a generation or so before, when circumstances were very rough for immigrants.

The most interesting story-teller Nim found was the white-haired old man whose name was Boru Xem.

“I came to Norka with my brother Satu. We were invited to join in business with our oldest brother, Vasu. He had arrived here a couple of years earlier and opened up a fruit and vegetable stand at the local farmers’ market in downtown Norka.

“Vasu had a genius for drawing customers and satisfying them. He brought his two brothers in as his trustworthy employees in the general produce business he set up in one of the busiest locations in the oldest area of central Norka. His promise to his younger brothers was that in a short time he would elevate them into becoming his equal partners in their joint enterprise.”

Boru drew a long breath, then sighed, before going on with the tale he was relating to Nim, the person whom he trusted the most within the entire Taraxian colony of thousands.

“Vasu was taking Satu and me for the fools that he proved us to be. All he really gave us were empty words and promises. He paid us low wages and treated us like his slaves. There was no true intention of ever making us into his equal partners. Our dear Vasu kept crooked books and cheated us of our earnings and just deserts. I was the one who uncovered the false financial records that he invented and foisted on us.

“A big quarrel resulted, and Satu joined me in quitting the expanding, ever growing produce business that the three of us had been operating in downtown Norka.”

Nim listened with interest to the description that Boru gave him of the beautiful house that Vasu had once owned on fashionable Falls Avenue. “His wife lost most of whatever mind she had in giving him two children, a girl and a boy. But that mansion with its servants, maids, and cook was all lost in Vasu’s personal bankruptcy at the time of the Great Panic that hit the economy only forty-five years ago. He was ruined and lost everything. Satu and I happened to find jobs as waiters and bartenders and managed to marry and raise our small families.”

Boru, in unending talk, revealed many important but generally unknown matters to the young chemist.

“My brother Satu is a person you should listen to. You are a rubber chemist, aren’t you? He knew a lot about how the old Taraxians made toys and playthings out of dandelion plants in the old country. My brother believed that if the Norka corporations like Gauyule Rubber looked at and studied our native saghyz growing wildly in the grasslands, they would find a cheaper, easier to work with raw material for tire latex. He wished he had the science and capital to open a new kind of factory here in Norka, one that made use of the native saghyz dandelions that grow everywhere back in Tarax.”

“I have never met your brother, Boru,” said the chemist. “Does he still reside here in Norka? Does he ever come to the Taraxian Center at all?”

“Satu’s wife died some years ago, and they never had children, so he lives and stays by himself. My brother is an extremely unhappy man and has little to be involved with once he stopped working in restaurants around town.

“He likes to take trips back to Tarax every now and then, just to have something to think about or to do. Would you like to find and meet him? I’m sure the two of you have a lot of things to talk about. I can give you my brother’s address. He rents rooms from an old Taraxian widow who does a lot of things for him.”

Nim wrote down the place where Satu Xem was then living.

The decrepit old brick house was in an area overlooking downtown Norka where the ruins of an old, abandoned brewery dominated what was left of a once elegant neighborhood now in the midst of hard times.

How will this old man take to a curious young stranger? wondered Nim, parking his batterycar a few houses away from his destination.

He climbed up on the large open porch and rang the door buzzer. A small older woman dressed all in black opened the thick pine door and stared in surprise at him. Under the circumstances, he was the one who had to speak first.

“I am looking for Mr. Satu Xem and have been referred to him by his brother, Boru. Could you tell him that a Mr. Trevt wishes to see and talk with him about something of shared interest to both of us.”

The woman in black turned around in silence and slowly moved away. She disappeared into a hallway that ran the length of the house. Nim waited in anticipation. Was this old man willing to see a stranger sent by one of his brothers? What might his attitude to questions be?

“You can come in,” said the one in black when she returned, speaking to Nim in Taraxian. “He has not taken his morning nap yet, but told me that he wants to have a conversation with anyone that his brother thinks that he should meet.”

Nim stepped into the front parlor and was led back into the kitchen where an old man with show-white hair sat on an ice-cream cone chair at a breakfast table.

Smiling with sincere delight, the chemist gave his name and described himself as a Taraxian scientist interested in any latex sources available in the natural environment of their common native land. The old man, gaping with surprise and wonder, asked his visitor to sit down across from him so they could get acquainted.

“You say that you have an interest in sources of natural latex that grow back in Tarax? That coincides with what I might call my own personal hobby, which I have followed and been active in ever since coming to live and work here in Norka. You have probably heard stories about the Xem brothers, and how we once had our own successful produce market downtown. That was many years ago, and many things have changed since that time. But not my interest in our native plant life. In fact, I have always kept a secet garden of the things that I brought with me from the homeland, and have asked old friends to send me seeds and samples of many different kinds.”

“I have heard that you have studied our native wild dandelion, the one called saghyz,” softly said Nim, looking into the dark hazel eyes of the old man.

“You are the first individual who has ever asked me about it, may I tell you. If you will, come with me in back of this house, to where I maintain a small, private garden for myself.
“I have some saghyz plants from old Tarax you may wish to have a look at, my young friend.”

Satu pointed out the transplanted examples of Taraxian hongus, apions, betabels, and jitomates that he grew in his tiny cultivated plot. Each of these vegetables had a unique shape and color to it. When he reached the farthest end of the garden, the white-haired old man gave a sudden, unexpected laugh.

“Here, on the edge of my small plantation from Tarax, you can see the bright yellow flowers of the saghyz I planted this year. Look at the seed heads, so fluffy. Those are what the villagers back in Tarax call blowballs. They are blown by the wind as if they were down, back in the homeland. In the spring, the countryside is covered by the floating seedballs of new saghyz. I remember from my childhood the fields covered with the seeds were. Plant ball hit other plant balls, in what the scientists like you call a chain reaction.

“It was a marvelous miracle to see. Did you have experience of saghyz seed broadcasting when you were there in our native country?”

Nim seemed to look away for a moment. “I was a city boy, and my father was a shoemaker who worked in leather. But in the summer, when it would get so hot, we visited our relatives who were farmers and herders. Yes, I can still remember the endless fields full of dandelions and their fluffy blowballs. I think that I can never forget that sight from my earliest years back at home.”

The two men looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Nim decided to make a proposal to the retired Satu.

“I would dearly love to make a thorough research of the lastic properties and potentialities of the roots of these saghyz plants. In fact, I am willing to pay you a good price for any additional Taraxian dandelions that you might grow in the future. The greater the quantity that you can provide me, the better it will be for the project that I have in the back of my mind.

“Today, the main sources of our industrial goma are the tropical hevea trees and the guayule cacti that grow out on the waterless desert of our outland region. The prices for these raw materials are high.

“Think of the benefit to our native land if her dandelion saghyzs could be made into suppliers of industrial grade rubber latex? Such a breakthrough could revolutionize the making of tires and other latex products, I have no doubt of that. Do you understand what I am saying, Mr. Xem?”

The latter did not reply immediately, but ruminated and took his time in formulating his answer.

At last, Nim received a surprising statement from the man he had come to visit.

“I shall supply you with all the saghyz plants that I now have, plus all the crop that I can grow in the days to come. It is impossible for me to set any prices on what I will provide to you. If you wish, set your own price. Or else accept what I supply as a gift from my heart to a young man who thinks exactly as I have done all these many years.

“You may give me anything you wish and it will be satisfactory in every way. I feel deep honor to be a part of such a promising undertaking, my friend.”

Satu extended his right hand and the two of them shook on it.

At his own expense, Nim set up a private laboratory where he experimented with the saghyz roots furnished him by the old Xem brother. The work was long and laborious, yet positive results became evident in less than a year.

“I have an excellent, useable latex that should stand up to industrial requirements,” he reported to Satu.

“Who is going to accept such an unfamiliar form of rubber?” asked the latter. “It will take a mountain of capital investment to put the new substance into practical production, I am certain of that.”

Nim smiled with confidence. “I know that the existing companies here in Norka would be unwilling to take the risk involved with something so innovative. But there is another way that saghyz could be financed.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of Taraxian small businessmen in the city. If I could assemble them together in one place, it would be possible to appeal to them for individual investments in one big project, the setting up of a safhyz rubber factory by a new company owned by all of them. There could be an enormous amount of capital for construction of a manufacturing facility with the newest, most advanced equipment that exists.

“Yes, it will be a risky venture, but the potential profits are incredible and incalculable. I am certain that a majority of our owners of restaurants, taverns, and small shops could be convinced to put a small amount of money in our saghyz enterprise. Simple ethnic pride would be a large and powerful motive for participation in the venture. Think of how future Taraxian generations might look back on the pioneers of an entirely new and different rubber industry located in Norka!”

Satu helped Nim draw up a list of the businessmen who were to be invited to an introductory meeting where the plan for a new factory was to be announced and described by the young chemist who had conceived the revolutionary idea.

The Taraxian Center was packed with potential partners in the projected general program. Nim stood at a small table facing the row upon row of invited men summoned to a meeting that had no clearly defined purpose or reason.

Why in the world have we all been called here tonight? asked many a puzzled mind who was there out of curiosity.

At the time appointed for beginning, Nim rose to his feet and addressed the assembled crowd of Taraxian businessmen.

“We are here tonight because of a startingly new opportunity that now presents itself to us. This marvelous dream will only come to fruition, though, if all of us in this hall unite ourselves and our potential resources into one, solid business movement that can take over most of Norka’s production of rubber and caucho. It is a gigantic venture, but we can accomplish it if we form a unified force of capital. Let me explain how this can be done.”

He proceeded to give a brief description of how saghyz latex could be made the central ingredient in a changed, modernized rubber industry based in Norka and managed by Taraxian entrepreneurs. “I myself am not a businessman, but only a chemist. My contribution will be the science and technology that shall be needed.The new company that is set up will have to depend on your practical knowledge and intelligence for its victorious success in the days to come.”
Nim took a short pause, then asked for questions and comments from the awe-struck audience.

He had had foreseen what happened next. A virtual explosion of anger and cynicism occurred in the Taraxian Center.

The first irate speaker to rise to his feet was a wealthy merchant who was a well-known money-lender to fellow Taraxians going into new business enterprises. His words of scorn and rejection rang throughout the hall.

“I have never listened to anything so ridiculous in my life. We have not reached the position that we hold today in Norka by chasing whimsical dreams of dandelion roots and saghyz seedballs. Our people are hard workers who are patient and persistent, who never give up in their daily grind. We are men if business, not makers of fantasies that anybody can dream up in their spare time. Our lives consist of unending, uninterrupted business attention, and we do not allow our minds to be distracted by idle notions of quick windfalls or sudden discoveries of invisible treasures.

“In other words, I recommend that all of us ignore this imaginary get-rich-quick scheme presented to us tonight by an educated intellectual. Let us all stick to our real business: the running of our day-to-day businesses that puts the bread that feeds our families on our tables.

“Let’s all say no to this young man’s foolishness right now,” shouted the money-lender, carrying the crowd of businessmen with his emotion.

Most of those present now grew suspicious of Nim Trevt as probably a disguised swindler attempting to carry out some underhanded confidence scheme he had dreamed up.

When the chemist tried to rebut what had been said against his plan, he was booed and hissed. It was impossible for Nim to proceed with any sort of rational exposition of his ideas about saghyz rubber. Raw feelings of personal interest had been aroused against him and what he was proposing.

He had no opportunity to adjourn the meeting that he himself had called. Businessmen who felt insult or outrage exited as fast as they could. A loud hubbub drifted back and forth through the hall. It became clear that no decision in favor of the saghyz rubber idea could be approved. The Taraxian businessmen were completely against it. Not a single person rose to support the scheme for a new latex industry run by their own ethnic group.

Nim waited until only a few officers of the Taraxian Center were left present. Then he went over to where Satu Xem sat alone in silence and sadness. He forced himself to make what he thought was a pleasant smile and spoke to the old man in what he hoped was a jocular manner.

“Well, we lost tonight, my friend. But our people are stone-headed and never give up when they believe in something. That’s what you and I have to do. You have been at it longer than I have, and you have known about and believed in the saghyz dandelion before anyone else did.

“What do you say if we go back to the beginning and start all over again? I can’t think of anything better to do right now. Let’s take a deserved rest tonight. But what do you say if I come over your place early tomorrow morning. I bet the both of us can think of some new angle or approach to what we tried to accomplish here tonight.

“There has to be a right road to what we want to do, and I am certain we can find it if we try hard enough.”

Satu looked up at him with a sorrowful grimace that resembled a smile. “I’ll see you then, my young friend.”

The two left the Taraxian Center, leaning on each other.

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