Short Story – Odd Man Out

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

“I’m gonna start my own home services company,” declares Oddie as he and Reggie load the morning batch of 2×4’s onto the forks of the loader to lift them up to the second floor to start framing up there. 

8 am on a chilly September morning, the summer heat has peaked and subsided.

Oddie imagines he is an angelic combination between Chris Rock and Lenny Kravtiz; funny and suave.  If you saw him you would probably think he looked more like a cross of Kevin Hart and Danny Devito; short and obtuse. 

Reggie, the ragged yet loyal employee, smirks out loud and pauses to straighten his back for a moment, 

“Right you are.”  The clean Spruce fragrance was a weird source of Reggie’s optimism over the years.  

Oddie stands for Odd Man Out which is the lengthy nickname the forming crew gave him in his first week.  They just had to look at him: his boots were too skinny, his hard hat was on crooked, his face was puzzled.  He just looked odd.  But he was quick on the job site.  

“That’s right.” 

“What’s your company called?

“I don’t know yet.  It’s a service that connects the trusty handyman with homeowners needing odd jobs.” said Oddie as if it already existed.

“Right,”  repeats a smug Reggie and turns to grab an armful of lumber. 

“What now?!” 

Reggie loved yankin this guy’s chain.  He gets so hot under the collar at the blink of an eye.  With his grey gloves he touched his left index finger to his right baby finger and started counting,

“First of all, you do know there are like at least 5 of those apps out there that provide those services and seconofall they have like, just a little bit of a head start on you.  Third they have millions in financial backing and…”

“And what?” 

And .. they aren’t you.”

“Meaning what?”

Reggie straightens up again and looks Oddie directly in the eyes and says nothing.

“Fuck you!” says Oddie.

“Right.” 

“I don’t care what you think.” Declares Oddie.

“You don’t want to care but you do,”  Reggie exhibits his clarity of mind as he straps on his tool belt..

“Fuck you, get to work,” Oddie orders Reggie

“Get to work, Fuck you”

Be original

“Hey Reggie, Gerry the site supervisor yelled from ground level, “Ya gotta sec?”  

Reggie undid his tool belt saying under his breath “What the hell does this dipshit want now?”

Gerry was squinting up at Oddie framing in a door as Reggie got down there.  Gerry starts speaking to Reggie while still looking up at the second floor. 

“You have to be weird and know it to get a nickname like Odd Man Out and live with it.

And that the shoe fits says everything.”

“He loves it.” said Reggie staring at the side of Gerry’s ugly head.  “We gave him a back door to being part of a team of foul mouthed framers and he took it,” 

“Are you a fucking psychologist?”

“The guy needs what you need.  He is shit at how to get it.  About the same as you are at dropping in a plumb door header.  That’s why they made you supervisor,” said Reggie.

As soon as Reggie heard Gerry say  “Listen Reg.”  His bullshit detector went off.

“I gotta bit of a situation.  Sandoval’s son needs a job and the office threw it in my lap.  You worked with him before, right?”

“That pip squeak would carry the same 2×4 from one end of the job site and hide on his phone for 30 minutes.  Then carry the same 2×4 to the other side and do the same thing all over again.”

“Ya well he got in some kind of trouble.  It’s either cars or drugs.  Maybe both.  Anyway the message from Sandoval is to keep him busy so they know someone is keeping an eye on him,”  then Gerry laughs as he reads the text message he received from the office this morning.  “So he learns the value of work.”  Gerry looked to his right for confirmation from Reggie but didn’t get it.

A wave of humility and appreciation ran through Reggie.  He realised what he already knew: that Rhonda, his wife, was his hero.  She had been super strict with their son and daughter and that is why Cherise their daughter was on academic scholarship at McMaster University and their son Malcolm was in grade 10 following in her footsteps. 

“He’s not the only one …”

“What’s that supposed to mean”

“Nothin”

“What can that miserable little shit do here without fucking up my job site.”

“Nothin.”

“Ya I know,” agreed Gerry. “Wait.  Let’s put em with good ol Oddie.”

“Let’s not.”

Gerry pulled a purple e-cigarette from his inside jacket pocket and hauled on it.

“Oddie and I have a decent rhythm if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Listen Reg …” Hearing that phrase again Reggie just turned to walk away.  “He starts tomorrow,”  Gerry yelled at Reggie’s back.

Ricky parked his 2022 metallic blue Jeep Rubicon beside the portapotty at 7:45 because he was afraid that his dad would take away the Jeep if he was late.  His dad was the owner of Sandoval Developments.  If the forming crew thought that Oddie looked out of place, Ricky looked like he was modelling for the Home Depot website.  Everything he wore was functional, just like Oddie and Reggie.

But the function for Ricky was to look good. New construction boots, tight hi-viz black sweatshirt with silver and yellow reflectors, shiny black hard hat with a Sandoval decal on the front, fresh yellow leather gloves and tinted safety glasses.  He never took his ear buds out.  He was instantly labelled Slick Rick.  Reggie loved how this clown brought comic relief to his day.

Oddie hated working for $24 per hour for some rich fuck.  He hated that the same rich fuck didn’t give a fuck for his own son.  He didn’t hold it against Slick Rick.  Oddie adopted him like a younger brother even though they were the exact same age.

“Bro, you’re holdin the hammer all wrong,” said Oddie.

“Ricky.  What did I tell you about holding the nail between your fingers?”

“Dude, did you even put your level on this stud.  From here I can see that the thing isn’t plumb.”

Wow.  Nice.  Look at that.  Fits perfect.  Reggie did you see?  Our man Slick Rick is good on the saw.” 

“Dude.  Look at me.”  Oddie schooled limp Rick on the reality of belief in yourself.  “Haven’t you realised that they think I am a freak.  They have more in common with you than they do with me,” said Oddie even though it wasn’t true.  As a young man lost at sea Ricky instinctively grabbed his phone to ground himself cyberspace.  

People didn’t understand Oddie’s sense of tribal inclusion.  In truth, neither did he.  He simply felt like we are all in this together.    Oddie had no reason to question because that was who he was. He also knew he needed to accomplish something everyday so he got some satisfaction.  He wanted to share this.  

Slick Rick was a textbook spoiled brat.  A tragic teenager.  His parents weren’t on the same page about children, marriage or money.  His mom’s love wasn’t going to magically make him into a man.  His absentee dad supplied everything but the intangibles.

Sandoval pulled up in a white Mercedes SUV to see how his son was being made into a man.  To get out of the vehicle would have been to break the macho archetype he loved more than his son.  The back seat tinted window came halfway down.  Ricky looked at Oddie, looked at his phone, undid his toolbelt and climbed down to talk to the tinted window.

Reggie and Oddie unabashedly stood at the edge of the second floor watching the father/son debacle.    

“For the last 15 or so years Sandoval has shown he doesn’t give a fuck about the well fare of his own son,” said Reggie. 

“Dude, we are providing a babysitting service to Richie Rich,” Oddie said to Reggie. “The fuckin father needs to know that.”  Reggie looked sideways at Oddie and said,

“You are not going to pity Richie Rich.  That’s not gonna pay your bills much less fulfil your  crazy dream of your Odd Man app.”

Oddie nodded at Reggie’s name for his odd jobs by a handyman app.

“Ya bro. Or do you want to be in the business of handy jobs?” Reggie laughed at his own joke.

Odd Man Out is from the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara

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