Neal broke in. “Rob was teasing him about going so slowly. He didn’t mean anything by it, he never does, but Alan took it too seriously and blew up at him. I just told Alan to cool down and then I took Rob aside and told him not to bug Alan anymore. He doesn’t understand that Alan’s really not getting it.”
I sighed. “Okay, well, we’re stuck with this situation for a couple more weeks. Nothing we can do about it. For this year,” I finished significantly. “As for Alan’s work, well, if his notes are okay, and he’s not throwing away any significant features, we’ll just keep him where he is and keep an eye on him. Otherwise, if it looks like he’s going to miss the very early stuff, we’ll…make other arrangements.”
Translation: If Alan didn’t show more care as he came down on the fragile seventeenth-century material, we’d move him to a less sensitive area. Which, to an archaeology student, was about the most humiliating thing that could happen. But better he learn on something that wasn’t as delicate than destroy valuable data. Especially my valuable data, I thought provocatively. And this on top of his moods and drinking.
I decided I needed to change the subject. “How’s Rob doing over by the pine trees?”
Neal was silent for a moment, which was nothing unusual. He was a thoughtful guy, not a real chatterbox by nature. I’d learned to interpret his silences very well, I thought.
“Good,” he finally said. He closed the lid of his washing machine and threw out his soap boxes. “Rob wasn’t thrilled about moving from the old unit to the new one—I think he’s, er, been enjoying working next to Dian—but he settled down to it and made good progress after lunch.”
I nodded. “Did you tell him that I wanted to put Meg by Dian so that she could watch Dian’s stratigraphy?”