Okay, follow-up question on this little literary tableau: if you encase a living guy’s feet in cement in a moving boat, won’t the wave action act like a cement mixer and prevent the cement from setting, even in 2 hours? If the sea was dead calm, okay, but here Doctorow’s got enough motion so that the wave action is echoed in the tub (not to mention that the victim will probably be attempting as many furtive toe and ankle movements as he can get away with). Would the cement have ever set in this scenario? (Does cement in a cement mixer set eventually if you do not continue to add water?)
I think the author is [del]dreaming[/del] using a bit of poetic license here. Concrete isn’t all that sloshy. Even a fairly wet mix wouldn’t slosh around much at all in a washtub sized container, and anything like a 3” or 4” slump mix would pretty much just sit there once it was mixed.
From the concrete I’ve done, the waves would have to be so bad they’d pitch everybody right off the boat before the did much mixing in a small, shallow container like that.
The victim moving his feet is another question. It would relatively easy to move you feet enough that you’d create enough room to pull your feet out once in the water. However the bad guys would probably notice this and, uh, “calm you down” through one mechanism or another.
And concrete will set in the mixer in an hour or two (depending on various factors) if you don’t wash it out or chemically stop the process. Hang around any concrete batch plant and you’ll see a drum or two waiting to be chipped out or disposed of.
If I may, Doctorow says the cement “slab” shifted to and fro. Presumably the victim’s feet were interred on dry land and only now were they taking the boat out to the dump location. The waves would cause the tub of cement to slide back and forth on the bottom of the boat.
In his article Cecil points out that the person encased in cement (concrete) turned out not to be a mob hit.
Do drug traders count?
The current New Yorker talks about the Mexico drug trade. They mention Amado Carrillo as the one who died in 1997 on an operating table in Mexico City while getting plastic surgery on his face. The article says that his attending physicians also died, found months later encased in…cement.
This is the reason I try to be careful to correctly use the terms concrete and cement.
I’m a computer geek who over the years has done a lot of work around plants where concrete powder is manufactured and batch plants where concrete powder is used to mix concrete. I get teased enough by the workers without adding “the dumb geek doesn’t even know the terminology”.