What Pegman Saw – The Perfectionist

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is the Great Wall of China.

WPS - The Perfectionist great-wall-of-china 180428

Great Wall of China, © Sébastien Laading, Google Maps

The Perfectionist

Meng Li slipped a slice of bark between the stones of the wall and scowled at the craftsmen who had laid them.

“Look here!” he hissed. “Gaps! There must be no gaps. Put it right, or I shall have you flogged.”

Wang Chao and Chen Susu bowed repeatedly. They knew that the wall was built on the bones of its builders.

Meng Li rolled a pottery ball along each drainage channel to check the gradient. He measured the pitch of each of the many steps with his graduated rod. Where mortar had been used, he probed its strength with a dagger point.

Everywhere he left men pale-faced, struggling to correct tiny errors.

That night, the Emperor sent for him.

“You are too demanding,” said the Emperor. “You are delaying completion of my wall.”

“But, my Lord…”

Quality, in the person of Meng Li, became a part of the wall’s foundations.

27 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw – The Perfectionist

    • Dear Francine
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m very glad that you were able to imagine yourself there meeting Meng Li. He would have been rather a scary person to meet if you were a wall builder!
      I’m sure you’re right that the way the wall has lasted shows that it was built to a high standard.
      With best wishes
      Penny

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    • Dear Josh
      Thank you for reading and commenting. A morality tale about perfectionism was one of the threads that was in my mind. I’ve known a few quality managers like Meng Li! But even more I was thinking about the metaphorical walls that we build around ourselves. If they’re too perfect, we die spiritually.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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  1. Oh what a cool take on the prompt… For this thing to be standing still, there had to be some very careful calculations. Crikey… we have a bloody bridge that didn’t even last 50 years in Montreal…
    Too much perfection could be costly, not enough could be costlier…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dale
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you thought it was a cool take on the prompt. All sorts of strands came together in my mind; historical, technical, character, psychological, the nature of power; so it was an excellent prompt for me!
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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    • Dear Shivam
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree that it is necessary to aspire to perfection when building such a structure. Meng Li took it a little too far though – and, far more fatal – he contradicted the emperor!
      With best wishes
      Penny

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  2. The search for perfectionism is a fruitless one. Love how you remind us of this, Penny. Better to care for one another and show kindness. Did you know the secret ingredient to the bricks why they are so big strong and have lasted so long was rice starch??
    Best of best wishes
    Kelvin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Kelvin
    Thank you for reading and commenting.
    You’ve read with subtle insight, and seen the deeper meaning of my story which is that walls are built to keep things out and if we make the walls of our personality too perfect then we die spiritually. So yes, care for one another and show kindness – indeed, just be open and communicate honestly; it’s a start, right?
    However, when we’re thinking of actual physical walls, like the Great Wall, a bit of perfectionism is essential! Meng Li took it a bit far, though!
    With very best wishes
    Penny

    Like

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