Short Story: Jack-in-a-box

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“Cheers bro,” said Manuel as the second round arrived. “We haven’t hadn’t had beers in months.”

Oddie had become the fixer just like Andre said.  Sandoval was so insulted they went ahead and created the position right under his nose. And angry because he didn’t notice it was all going on.  But when he yelled at them he told them they should have told him because he would have said yes.

Everyone knew Sandoval would have said no to the idea.  Because it wasn’t his idea.  And because that is exactly the kind of position he wanted Ricky to have.  That way he could tell his dad if someone was stealing materials or dealing drugs on his jobs sites or the union was coming around.

Being the fixer was very cool.  He bought a pick up truck once he heard what he heard what his salary was going to be.  The site supervisors loved him if they understood this guy was the best solution to their day to day issues.  Or they hated him because they saw him as stepping on their toes.

“How you gonna get home?  Cuz you’re not drivin anywhere bro,” said Manuel.

“I know, I know,” said Oddie with a swig of beer and a look over the patio wooden fence into the summer dusk. He stifled a sigh.

“Are you sighing bro?”

“No.”

“Jes you are. I heard you.  And I saw you go like this.” imitating heaving his chest and for effect glossing over his eyes as if he was a mime.  “Are you sad for Trina?” Manuel teased Oddie.

“Grow up.”

When Oddie drank he pined for Trina; when Manuel drank his English got better.  Oddie was haunted by his ex: Trina. It irritated him – the clarity she and the app (fuck their plans for the app) had given his life before.  

Behind the gaze over the patio fence, in his mind Oddie was replaying the call from Sandoval at 7:30 this morning.  

Sandoval knew that Oddie was the guy who mentored Ricky for the five months he worked on site.  Was that a good thing, Oddie was trying to figure out.  And now Sandoval had him on speed dial.  When he saw the initials JS on the screen of his phone in front of him – he took a deep breath, answered and put it on speaker.  

“This is Oddie,” he said on his way to the Ardale site.

“Oddie, good morning.  This is Juan Sandoval.”

“Good morning Mr. Sandoval.”

“You can call me Juan, remember.’

“Ok Juan.”

“How is my Jack-of-all-trades today?” Sandoval asked all chipper.

Oddie was stunned for a moment as that was the phrase Trina used in their last argument.

“Ready and raring to go,” said Oddie.

“Good to hear. Where you headed today?

“Ardale.”

“Ok. Who is the site super up there:  Oswald?” asked Sandoval even though they both knew it to be true.

Oswald was one of the supers who welcomed Oddie’s help as the fixer position and gave the office great feedback about Oddie.  It had become the Oddie and Ozzie show at Ardale.

“Yes,” said Oddie, sounding formal.  His instinct was poking him in the stomach with a thin twig.

“Ok. Change of plans. I will notify Oswald at Ardale.  I have a specific task that needs your focus.”  Sandoval was skilled and shameless at turning his needs into your responsibility.

Specific task was code for doing Sandovals’ dirty work.  It had come up once before and Oddie had phoned Andre right away.  

“If you don’t want to do it – don’t,” Andre said. “The thing is, and there is nothing I can do about this, he will fire your ass if you don’t.”  Andre was a good boss but he wasn’t afraid to share with Oddie the heat he felt from head office.  This time Oddie didn’t bother calling Andre because the fewer people that knew about this shit the fewer people could rat on him. 

“Earth to Oddie.”

“What?”

“The waitress is asking you to marry her,” said Manuel.

Oddie looked at the waitress and smiled.

“Not in this lifetime honey.  But if you like I can gecha another pint.”

“Sounds good,” said Oddie, finishing his pint and handing the waitress the empty glass.

“Bro you look like shit.  Do you have a terminal disease we don’t know about?” asked Ozzie.

“No bro, I’m just not eating well.  I’m a burger slut,” said Oddie, patting his belly that had definitely rounded out with an extra 15 pounds in less than a year. 

“Are you gonna cat my Stevens?”  asked Ozzie.

“What the fuck does that even mean?” asked Oddie.

“Cat Stevens went all Muslim when midlife came and tickled his soul,” said Ozzie.

“Mid life!  Bro I’m 27.”

“Just sayin you aren’t the you of before and I was wondering if it was work or, are you spending time with your uncle and studying your Arabic or what the hell is rattling around in that brain of yours.”

Instead of saying anything about the task this morning Oddie says, 

“Cat Stevens – that’s a pretty obscure reference.”

“I have an eclectic taste in music.”

“And women.”

“Hey I like women.”

“And they like you,” said Oddie, motioning his pint towards the group of women who just sat down at another table on the patio and had found Ozzie on their radar.  Ozzie responded to the love by raising his pint towards their table, “Cheers ladies.”

“See what I mean,” said Oddie.

“What?”

Ozzie was divorced and had a six year old son who was on summer vacation with his mother so Ozzie was not losing a moment to enjoy life.  He liked hanging out with Oddie because it made him look younger.  Or at least feel younger.  Even though 35 is not old – it is if you don’t want to be in the market for divorcees who could see him coming from a mile away.  But that can also work in his favour.

“The question still stands or at least the principle does,” said Ozzie referring to his Cat Stevens question.

“What was your question?” asked Oddie, not remembering and seeing if Ozzie remembered as his attention had been hijacked by hormones.  

“Can you even stand?  You handsome drunk bastard,” said Ozzie, redirecting. 

“You know what I can’t stand,” said Oddie to the world.

“Here you go guys,” said the waitress putting down pints for Oddie and Ozzie.

“Thank you ma’am,” said Ozzie.  Oddie takes 3 long gulps of his beer and says,

“I can’t stand people who don’t do their own dirty work.”

Manuel could tell there was a story to be heard behind that statement and he was glad Ozzie was there to make light of whatever it was.  He was also glad Oddie was buying because he didn’t want to have that argument again when he got home.

“Man you wouldn’t believe what goes on behind the scenes.  This morning Sandoval calls me all buddy/buddy, first name basis bullshit… “

”Dude, we all have to deal with the bullshit,” said Ozzie.  “You deal with it in a pick up truck, Manny deals with morons al day and I deal with it when the fuckin PM prances around my job site.  And I’ve been dealing with it much longer than you.”

“Whaddya mean, I’m not gonna be anybody’s fuckin lackey.”

“What’s a fuckin lackey,” asked Manuel.

“Someone’s bitch,” said Ozzie.

“And then there is the law.”

“Exactly bro. So in the end you work for a company and the company is responsible.”

“Not exactly bro,” said Oddie.

With that Ozzie could tell Oddie was talking about something beyond the run of the mill regulatory hijinks they were asked to condone but he didn’t want to kill the vibe.

“Shut up and don’t think so much bro,” said Ozzie.  

“Ya bro, it’s Friday, relax.  That pendejo doesn’t own your weekend.”

“Listen to Manny.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself – you should come out tonight.”

“Let’s order some wings,” says Oddie.

It just happened, in the last few minutes and Manuel usually listens to it. 

“I gotta go,” said Manuel.  He drained the remaining half of his pint. 

There’s that threshold between relaxing after work and partying. It starts with a few beers after work with the guys on the patio. Then it eases from dusk into night,  flirting with the women at the other table, eating fried pub food and ordering shots, tequila in honour of Manuel, they yell.  Manuel wasn’t Mexican the last time they ordered tequila which Manuel didn’t drink because he doesn’t like it, and he isn’t Mexican today.  His wife is.

Manuel texted Azucena from the bus saying he would be home in 45 minutes, did she need anything from the supermarket. 

He didn’t bother grabbing a plastic basket so he is piling everything up in his arms: cilantro, the small bag of yellow onions, sour cream and he found the good tortillas.  Azucena reminded him he already had two tins of chipotle at home so he didn’t need to get any. He actually has three at home; two stacked in the kitchen cupboard that she knows about and one hidden in the bottom kitchen drawer.  The beer has released his inner rebel so after passing the salsa section in the Mexican food aisle he stops, walks backwards saying out loud to himself in English,

“You never know,” as he puts a small tin of chipotle on his small pile of groceries. 

Without breaking his stride he leans over and grabs the expensive roasted chicken before taking his palace in the express line.  Since it is now 7:30 pm the roast chickens aren’t the best.  They can be a little dry unless they did a second batch mid afternoon. He can’t complain to the chicken. But he just might ask him if he is the best. 

Manuel is intrinsically logical.  And then there are those other days, like today, he lets beer run his decision making.  Manuel hardly cooks so there is no way he can tell Azucena he hates the smell of boiled chicken.

Hugging the hot plastic chicken container to his chest  he wavers a little as he reads the gossip on the cover of the magazines. He is glad he didn’t have another beer because he has a nice buzz on now.   

Azucena hates the whole beer and wings thing.  She doesn’t mind the beer so much as Manuel doesn’t drink all that often but can’t stand that he would eat eight stupid little chicken wings for $19 when at home he has homemade tinga de pollo.  Already fending off his wife even before he gets home, he justifies bringing home his new best friend, he says out loud, “No estamos en tu pueblo flaca.”

That Always Sounds Funny to Me

really good writing

REVOLUTION JOHN

by JEFFREY HERMANN

The mayor doesn’t live in the mayor’s mansion. I think because it’s too close to the river which is loud and full of waste. Statistically, it always contains a corpse or two, which are not waste. They are people and deserve better. They deserve a clear sky. They deserve a big house and someone to bring them a meal at the ring of a bell. Their loved ones are banging on pots and pans trying to call them home. They will not wake up. They are floating and dreaming of their breakfast. 

Rainwater is becoming river water all day longand I like this new way I have of living. No one is in charge of trash pickup or vehicle stops.There are fewer rules to follow every day. I think the mayor lives uptown but they don’t call it the mayor’s uptown house.

Don’t think about the bodies. Now that the pavement’s as clean…

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Short Story: Jack of All Trades

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

“What did Andre say?” asked Manuel.  Looking sideways at Oddie as he walked he twisted his ankle on an offcut of 2 by 4 and almost fell.  “Fuck,”  he said break dancing into his balance on the wet plywood floor.

“Careful bro,” said Oddie as reached out his hands to catch him. They were out of whack having sat through the two hour rain delay in the trailer.  “I hate this when our day gets shot to shit.” 

“So what’d he say?”

“Andre?  Not much, just shootin the shit.”

“Bullshit, you guys talk all friendly til Gerry came back.”

“Ya, he was asking me how the project was going.”

“Did he ask about Octavo?”

“Why?”

“Did e?”

“He asked about the team, nobody specific.”

“Whadya say?”

“That our work speaks for itself.  Well built – on time – no drama.”

“Whade say?”

“I can’t remember,” said Oddie, getting irritated and dropping his hands to his side with the palms out.  “I think he nodded his head.  Said nothing.”

“Whad you say?”

“Bro, it was actually a private conversation. Is there something you want me to say to Andre?”

“No.”

“Where is Octavo?”

“In the shitter.”

“He just went.”

“You sound like Gerry.”

“Don’t insult me.”

“Relax bro.”

“I think there are some shiity nails that need hammering on that far wall.”

Andre had zeroed in on Oddie when he dropped by the job site earlier this morning as the rain ended.

Andre explained Gerry had been with the company around nine years and was a known quantity.  Meaning he was known not to take initiative or develop a strong crew.  Everyone just came to work and did what they were told yesterday.

“Kind of like a government employee,” said Andre.  “But this is actually a business.”

“Ya I have seen him in action,” said Oddie by way of agreement, not wanting to sound negative.  Andre had stopped to ask Oddie questions on his site visits before.  But those had been in the flow of work.  This was a targeted convo.  ‘I’m glad, thought Oddie, ‘he didn’t buy me a coffee.’

“Listen Oddie, you’ve been with us for what a year?”

“Ya, a little longer.”

“What do you think of us, as a company?”

Now it felt like a job interview right here on the spot.  Which was fine because it was so much better than having to take a day off work, wrap a tie around your neck and find a place where you can print off a copy of your resume.

“Lots of work and the pay is always on time.”

“Cool,” Andre nodded, leaving space in the conversation purposely as if he came home from the supermarket carrying empty shopping bags.   It’s amazing people will say really revealing things to fill that awkward space.  

Oddie didn’t take the bait.  Andre liked that.

“I am looking for a fixer,” said Andre, looking Oddie right in the eyes and let that sink in a few seconds.  

“A guy we can rely on.  We have several projects at various stages of development,” Andre continued, now sounding like a politician. “Sandoval lost his shit the other day because we had to push back the delivery date on one project and the company is gonna be fined.  So I had a meeting with the other PMs and we agreed we needed a fixer.  Someone we can dispatch where and when needed.  I brought forward your name.”

“The Fixer.  Sounds like a contract killer who comes out of retirement for one last job kind of movie,” Oddie regretted his attempt at humour as he said it.  Andre winced.

“Joking.”

“You, I have seen, slash heard, provide solutions.  You can think on your feet.  And you know how to work with all kinds of people,” Andre said, tossing Gerry under the shadow of the bus with direct inference to his small mindedness but also Oddie’s ability to work with people who didn’t speak a lot of English.

“So, it’s a new position in the company.  Nobody has done it before.  It will mean a pay raise but I don’t know exactly what the salary is yet.”  What Andre didn’t mention was that the job had not even been proposed to Sandoval, much less approved.   Once he saw the efficiencies it brought to each project he would yell at the PMs less.  Hopefully.

“So it’s salary and not hourly,” Oddie inquired about the money.

Andre tilted his head forward to look over his safety glasses at Oddie.

“Brother,” said Andre with slow words following each other like there were in rush hour traffic bumper to bumper.  “I don’t know, who it was, that put limits, on how you think: parents, teachers?  But, I suggest, you exchange those limits for goals.  You’ve got a damn good opportunity here.”

“Very cool, very cool,” said a nervous Oddie matching Andre’s vocabulary while wanting to sound appreciative. “What’s the next step?”

“Well, take some time to think about it and talk with your family.  Are you married?”

“I live with my girlfriend.”

“Ok.  well you guys talk it over.  Here’s my card.  Text me and I will call you back.”

“Perfect.  I appreciate this.  When do you need to know?”

“ASAP.  You are my choice but there are other candidates.”

“Ok.  and what is the actual job description would you say?”

“You’re the Fixer – so you fix what someone else broke.  You’ll get from job site to job site as needed.  You could stay somewhere for a few hours or weeks, if you see what I mean.  Putting out fires, filling in if some assshole just walks off the job.  You bring a good vibe so the whiners don’t infect the others.”

Oddie wasn’t sure of the meaning of the word caveat; maybe, at street level, it was like bait and switch.  

“And you know, PR – for the company.  The eyes and ears of head office.  Since you are salaried you are paid for driving between job sites and you expense gas and a certain amount of car maintenance. We will cover all that down the road.”

“Ok.”  

On the bus ride home Oddie was doing somersaults –  ‘Trina is gonna flip.  She doesn’t want to invest in a car right now.  Sure when we have kids but she wants to focus on developing the app and finding funding – It’s more money and lots more contacts – she has to see that.  She can focus on the app while you bring in tons of industry knowledge.’

“You’re gonna be a jack of all trades and master of none,” said Trina, closing her laptop as she stood like she didn’t want her screen to witness her arguing.

“So there is no conversation?” asked Oddie.

“Dude.  I thought you understood the trajectory of this project,” said Trina, sounding like Andre. “And our lives.”

“Exactly, that’s the point.  Our lives can use the money and the contacts of my new position,” said Oddie.

“The position!  the point is, where is your focus?”

The focus of the moment was the fury that fired from their eyeballs at each other.

“Your focus is out there,” yelled Trina, her frustration thrusting her arm up at 10 o’clock.  “We need it in here,” Trina now pointed to the closed laptop.  The air was hot with argument but still within a domain of recyclable love. 

“The app needs someone who is all in and I can’t go all in if I am working construction.  And we both know we can’t afford to not have an income.  Unless you have a rich uncle I don’t know about.”

“Speaking of uncles, does this have anything to do with your uncle Mo.”

“What the fuck.  Why do you ..?”

“Well?”  said Trina.

“Listen.  This is not a problem.  This is a good thing.  We need to decide about growing.  So can we please not, not dramatize the whole thing with other issues?  That would be an unfair disaster,” said Oddie wondering what a fair disaster might be, as his brain looked for an outlet to the pressure.

“You’re right.  It is definitely not a problem.  You want that job – you take it,” said Trina with fatality on her lips and both hands on her hips.

“Why in God’s name are you shining some bad light on me because the company wants to give me a promotion?”

“Listen young man,” said Trina, causing Oddie to stand up straighter than a scarecrow.  “I think you’re better off not subcontracting God to do your dirty work.”

“Trina babe.”

In the pit of her stomach Trina felt one of her inner lives jump overboard without a life jacket. 

“You’re making yourself out to be a mistake maker,”

Regardless of the love that travelled between them on their many threads of endearment – something was broken.  The first thing the job offer as the Fixer had done was to break their relationship.

Their fights had been stupid misunderstandings from where they would ease back into loving and being loved.  This fight started out implicating Oddie for not focusing on their app project but somehow got hijacked to be about them.   If the silence earlier today between Oddie and Andre was engineered to be awkward then this silence was free radical, spontaneous.  And veering towards disastrous.

For the first year Trina will insist, in the boudoir of her life vision, it is unfair.  But after the initial disillusion and hurt she will repurpose all that energy to be a catalyst for greater self reliance and success.  Oddie will settle into convincing himself it was a fair disaster.  Only a matter of time before their ideas usurped their need for each other’s kind of love – till their differences took them in different directions that couldn’t co-exist in the same relationship.

_____

From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin Mcnamara

Alan: Short Story

Ron Lach on Pixels.com


The rain was neither here nor there.  The thing was, which was becoming irritating, Gerry.  How is he going to react?

“D’you check how long the rain is supposed to last?” asked Oddie

“All fuckin morning,” said Gerry.

“Gerry, we’ll be in there,” said Oddie over his shoulder as he ran to the trailer.  “Let us know if you go on a coffee run,” said Oddie from the top step. 

“I’m gonna leave the door open cuz otherwise it gets too steamy,” said Oddie.

“Bro, that guy sucks the energy right outta the room,” said Manuel.

“What room?”

“Jou know what I mean, moron.”

“How do you say moron in Spanish?”

“Imbecil,” said Manuel motioning to Octavo to take a seat in the trailer, “Sientate guey.”

“Imbecil.  I was expecting something with more, you know, meat, less English.  More insulting.”

“Sorry pendejo.”

“That’s more like it,” said Oddie smiling.

They took off their wet hard hats and shook off their jackets putting them over the back of the plastic chair.

“Si nos pagan por estas horas verdad?” asked Octavo.

“He’s asking if they pay us to sit on our asses?”

“For an hour.  Any longer than that and Gerry will panic and send us home.”

“Que tiene en contra del Herry?” asked Octavo.

“He’s asking what you have against Gerry.”

“Nothing really.  It’s just ya know.  Nothing wrong with therapy but the construction site isn’t the place.  He panics, usually for no reason and we always deliver results regardless of what he fears or thinks.”

They broke out their lunches even though it was only 9:30 am and ate to the sound of crinkling aluminum foil and slurping coffee.  

Oddie’s phone pinged on the dirty, white folding table so he picked it up and disappeared into the screen. 

To Manuel rain meant mud which smelled of the minerals of home which transported him fast and far.  He leaned forward in his chair as he picked at the dry skin around his fingernails.

Octavo leaned back in his plastic chair, joined his hands on his belly and closed his eyes, soaking up the peace he got from being on a good team and the satisfaction of working with his hands.  

Octavo was sliding into snooze mode and Manuel was staring out the open door when he heard Oddie talking to himself.

“Yashmal kula shay,” said Oddie.

“What’s that bro,” said Manuel.

“Nothing bro.”

“I’m no exper but was that English?”

“No.”

“So?”

“Arabic, bro.”

“Are you doin an hechizo on me?

“What?”

“Hechizo, you know, like magic n all that.”

“No, no no.  I’m learning Arabic.

“Cool. Are you going to Arahbia?”

“No, bro.”

“Is Arahbia coming here?”

“No, Arabia! Is not coming here. Stop being stupid.”

“But is so easy for me.”

“I’m…  Listen,” said Oddie and he paused as he breathed in deeply.

“Listening …”

“My uncle got me into studying the Quran.”

“What’s that like?”

“Cool.  But ….  I am lost.  It’s so .. big and ..”

“What jou say?  A minute ago in Arabic”

“Oh.  Yashmal kula shay. It means ‘encompasses all things’.”

“What does encompass means?”

“Like include.”

“Does that bring jou closer to God?

“Allah?”

“Less call him,” said Manuel, spreading his hands apart above his shoulders like it was a banner, “‘The big guy, in the sky.”

“Well I want something more than this shit,” Oddie kicked some mud off his boots.  

“I’m with you bro.”

Octavo yawned and stood up, stretched as he put on his jacket and went out to the port a potty.  The rain had let up a bit.

“So, tell me abou the Quran.”

“I don’t know.  Its ancient, is huge it’s mystical and its confusing.”

“Sounds like Gerry,” said Manuel laughing.

“Ya! Minus the mystical,” said Oddie smiling.

“No really.”

“I listen to a couple of these guys talk about their experience and they reference the Quran.  It helps to guide them in some kind of higher purpose they say.  I don’t know if those are my kind of words.  But, anyway, I can feel something.”

“Un impulso…?”

“Impulse. Ya, I guess.  It’s an urge but it’s not mine.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know – who else could it be?”

“Is annoying no bro?”

“It’s annoying but, annoying like when you’re in high school there is a cute girl but she is really stuck up, but you still are attracted to her, you want her. Why do that?”

“What is stuck up?”

“Arrogant.”

“Your God is arrogant?”

“No bro, not at all.  It’s the feeling I have that annoys me.  Like I need to do something that takes me beyond. But what?”

“Beyond, that sounds far out.”

“Ya .  Beyond the daily grind.”

“Was daily grime?”

“Trabajo bro,” said Oddie.  “That’s why Gerry is so annoying.  Not him. But the feel of the cloud that is always over his head. That there is nothing more to life than a shitty job bro.”

“Bro you need a anger management session at the pub.”

“That’s the thing.  It’s not anger at anyone.  It’s, it’s frustration that I, there isn’t a person I can talk to, you know, someone to…”

“The church has priests.”

“The church also has lawsuits because those priests can’t keep their hands off little boys.”

“True.”

Octavo stomped back into the trailer, shook the rain off his jacket and took his seat.  His entrance broke the flow of the conversation so they just sat there in the musty yet gritty trailer air.  After scrolling for a bit Manuel spoke,

“I read the bible.”

“You read the bible now or you used to,” Oddie sought clarification.

“When I was jung.”

“What did you get out of it?”

“Well it was the bes way to talk with girls because the mamas approved of bible class.”

“Smart.” 

“Honestly, is like I remember nothing.  But I have this residuo of believe.”

“Resi what?”

“Residuo.”

“Like residue?”

“I guess.”

“Residue of belief.  I like that.  And how does that impact you?  My point is do you have, do you feel an impulse, impulso?”

“For …?”

“For answering the call.  It’s like I can hear my cell phone ringing,” said Oddie, putting his hands in and out of all of his pants and jacket pockets.  “But I don’t know which pocket it’s in,” said Oddie, hunching his shoulders.

Octavo understood very little but the conversation caught him.   He listened to them with his eyes closed as if it was the World Cup finals on the radio.  Manuel pulled on the various hairs in what passed as a beard and sat up straight. He hadn’t thought about this stuff in a long time so it was really clearing away cobwebs in his mind. 

“Bro, is like the daily grime is analog and belief is dihital,” said Manuel. 

Oddie sat there a while with his elbow on the table and his chin on his fist digesting Manuel’s pronunciation and then the concept.

“No.  Is like Defi.” continued Manuel with his next analogy.

“You mean like crypto?”

“Ya bro.”

“What does Defi mean again?”

“Decentralize finance.  And that iss what I think you are talkin about.  Taking control of your shit, your destiny.  That way bro, jou discover what has value for jou, here,” said Manuel as he sent his right hand into the air imitating lift off.  “ And for jour beyon.” 

 Autumn rain fell on the trailer roof as the soundtrack to this episode of connection.  Their phones forgotten, they could hear their own breath as they picked at dirt on their boots for a while, sipped coffee.  

Oddie walked to the trailer door and looked at the lumber skeleton of the house they were framing.   He associated with the wood and the precision and instinct it called him to use.  He hadn’t realized that before.  That was why he liked his job.  Not so much his job but the work: the feeling of building something – and working on a team – and needing vision to complete a project.  

Octavo looked at Manuel.  From behind Manuel looking at Oddie framed in the doorway.  Manuel could tell Oddie was engaged by something. 

The rain had let up.  The air was clean as Andre the project manager pulled his SUV up to the curb.  Gerry jumped out of his pick up where he had been this whole time and said,

“Quit playin with yourselves and get to work,” as he walked to greet Andre.  Nobody in the trailer moved.  Gerry shook hands with Andre.

“Now,” Gerry yelled at the trailer.

“Alan,” said Oddie standing in the doorway as his mind landed back in his reality.

“Who is Alan?” asked Manuel.

“Alan?  I dunno.”

“But jou just said his name.”

“Oh, Alan.  Wow.  I said that outloud?  Alan means now in Arabic.”  

____

Alan – From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin McNamara

Silly Superstitions (A Short Story)

Great Dialogue and details.

A Virginia Writer's Diary

Addie had never put much stock in silly superstitions. They existed all around her, from her mother’s belief that you should enter and leave by the same door, to her father’s insistence that you must always leave one apple in the orchard at the end of a harvest. Even the local preacher, who steadfastly believed that hearing an unattended church bell meant a parishioner would die. He’d had the bells taken down last year. Don’t do this, always do that. Lest you invite bad luck, lest you tempt the devil, lest this and that and the other thing that never, ever happened.

“Stupidity and fantasy,” Addie told her mother, as they swept the front porch one cool day in the early spring. “Y’all will worry yourselves sick over nothing and then celebrate when nothing happens.”

“I taught you better than that, Addie May,” her mother said.

“You taught me to…

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Rooster Today, Feather-duster Tomorrow

A concise read providing a useful perspective on challenges you may encounter. Read on. Take a sip of rooster coffee.

strategic teams

I thought I would share a saying with you from my time as a CEO in local government.

“Rooster today, feather-duster tomorrow” recognises how your effectiveness is seen in different places. You are you, but somehow, as you move from job to job, or situation to situation, it either goes well or it goes horribly wrong. Sometimes too, you are indifferent and become just one of the crowd.

We all know about roosters: they generally stand out because of their plumage, are different from the crowd and strut their stuff (whatever that really means). A rooster’s tail feathers can make a wonderful looking feather-duster, though. This scenario applies regardless of your gender.

So, as the CEO at one local government, you are the rooster that can do no wrong. The Council think you are great, staff admire your leadership and the community can’t get enough of you.

Then, when you…

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Burn after seeding and other Black Spruce stuff — bridgesburning

I spent a couple of delicious hours yesterday at my library, soaking up the ambiance as well as a cranberry scone and black coffee, perusing the newspaper and a copy of Canadian Geographic, and came across this article:From Canadian Geographic I did not succeed in taking a ‘readable photo, but the article says that the […]

Burn after seeding and other Black Spruce stuff — bridgesburning

Making Sense at the Lake — 12 Ideas that Rocked My World

This story takes place in September of 2015 at a place that I call “Discovery Lake”. There are no trails to Discovery Lake, but I had bushwacked there twice before (so I thought I knew how to get there). It took me 2 full days to get to the lake. Day One was a bit […]

Making Sense at the Lake — 12 Ideas that Rocked My World

Manuel Labour: Short Story from the Series : Tool

photo on pexels by Tiracahuad K




“Where’s that illegitimate son of yours?”  Gerry asked Oddie proving that even though he was the site supervisor – no one at head office even thought of sending Gerry an email.

“Ricky’s time in the trenches of physical labour came to an end on Friday,” said Oddie. “It was stupid that he couldn’t wait until we at least finished the project.”  

“Fuck.  Where we gonna get another guy to replace Ricky?  Not that he was any good,” said Gerry.  Oddie ignored the fact that Gerry was ignorant of the skill level of his own team. 

“What he tell you, eh?” Gerry fished for intel.

“Never said nothing about his next job,” Oddie lied in Gerry’s dialect.  “Thought maybe you would know.  He go to head office?”  

No one was surprised Ricky sped off in his shiny blue Rubicon Jeep to see if his genes resonated with being the heir apparent to Sandoval Developments.  Oddie would stay in his little framing world and go back to taking the bus home after work.

“Who the fuck hires these people? Why can’t HR just bring em onsite for an hour and I can see what they can do.  No resume, no cover letter no fake interview with some fuckin HR pencil pusher who can’t hammer of fuckin nail.  Just skills on display,” said Gerry.  The angry version of Gerry was preferable to the non angry one.  In his non angry mode he would walk around looking for something to be wrong.  It was annoying and got in the way of getting work done.  Angry Gerry would stomp over, yell, lose his train of thought which flustered him so he would kick or throw something and then sign of with his signature insult,

“Quit playin with yourselves and get to work.”

Gerry had trouble distinguishing between getting to work and delivering results.  As long as he heard hammering hammers, sawing saws and guys swearing at each other he felt his job site was a well oiled machine.  

Gerry’s therapy was driving to the lake as it woke to the grind of the city. His coffee would sit slightly tilted on the hood of his pick up and his purple e-cigarette in his hand.  This morning Gerry saw a dead raccoon washing up on the beach this morning – half out of the water on its back.  Probably been rolling in the wee waves dead 2 days.  Gerry thought raccoons had a bad reputation.  Though their urban interface (shitting on people’s roofs, raiding their garbage) made them deserve it.  

But they were fabulous animals he would tell anyone if they would listen.    He heard some people had them as pets.  He admired the dexterity of their nimble black paws. He thinks they would be great on the job site.  If you could train a raccoon, or a pair of them, to bring you materials and tools and hardware they could scale the skeleton of the house so quickly and not drop anything from those clawed mitts.  The crew would laugh at him if he mentioned it.  If Tim would say it, it would be a hilarious lunch time idea. But if Gerry said it, it would be sick, cruel and pathetic.  

Gerry didn’t like the version of Gerry they associated him with.  He wanted a different Gerry.  His wife wanted a different Gerry too.  And that is why she up-and-left-him.  He knew her affair started before the divorce.  But their marriage was dead way before that.  Good thing they didn’t have kids forcing the kid to bounce between parents on weekends.  But Gerry would have loved taking a son or a daughter to Manitoba in the summer to visit grandma and grandpa and to fish.

“You see that guy over there in the orange hard hat – that’s the new guy,” said Oddie.  “He has three years experience in wood and metal framing, he’s done roofing.”  Oddie knew he would have to sell Gerry the idea of Octavo so he just kept talking.  “Just fuckin look at his pouch.  He showed up on time.  It’s all good.”

“Did HR send him over?  Why didn’t I hear about this?” asked Gerry. “What’s his name?  Where’s he from?  Does he speak fuckin English?”  

”He comes recommended,” said Oddie, deflecting Gerry’s undercurrents of racism and pettiness.  

Oddie didn’t tell Gerry that Ricky had told him last Monday that it was his last week.  In case Oddie had a friend he wanted to give a job.  So Oddie asked Manuel if he knew anyone looking for work.  Oddie, Manuel and his buddy Octavo met for beers last Friday.

“I was eight of eight chilren,” said Otcavo. “My mama tol me something was differen when I was born.  The worl after I was 7 years old se transformo,” Octavo looked to Manuel for translation.

“Transformed, I get it” Oddie translated.

“I was a really organize chil, really really. I organize my toys. Then. I don’t play … ya no.

“Anymore,” said Manuel.

 I no play, only organize. Then all eyes turn to grandmama. Grandmama is huesera.”

“What’s a wasibera?” asked Oddie.

“Huesera menso. It’s a healer; of bones.” 

“She tell my mom I need to wash my brain so I drink garlic crudo and fuckin rábano.’

“It’s a small red raice,” said Manuel 

“Radish?” says Oddie.

“Horible, they mix with olive oil. Sometime with miel, honey. “

“Did it help?” asked Oddie.

“HA. I try.  I hide my simptomas so they think it improve so I drink less garlic and rabano,” said Octavo.  “My grandmama say I have sindroma de Tourette.  Everyone now more raro than me.”
“Weirder than me,” clarified Manuel.

”Shit,” said Oddie leaning back, nodding his head.  They all take a drink from their pint of beer.  Manuel’s anxious brown eyes meet Oddie’s pensive brown eyes.

“So what was your thing?” Oddie asks, then simplifies his question. “Your routine?” 

Octavo nodded at the table and gestured like a flight attendant to give Oddie an example.  Octavo’s beer was exactly in the centre of the coaster, the coaster was exactly in the middle of the plank of wood on the picnic table and the coaster was exactly halfway between the umbrella post in the middle and the edge of the picnic table.

“It feel good, you know, to get tal cual.”

“Just right,” said Manuel.

“But then it molest me that your beer,”  Octavo points to Oddie. “And his beer not in the place correct,” Octavo smiles and drinks.

“Physical labour lets him express all the things it makes him need,” said Manuel.  “You know what I mean?”  

“He needs to keep his hands moving so he can hide the … ,” Oddie said, beginning to grasp Octavo’s struggle.

“Tourettes,” helped Manuel.

“Tourettes,” repeated Oddie.

“Quieres más?” asked Octavo, finding Oddie’s comprehension therapeutic. 

“Mas,” said Oddie.

“Como nino I organize todo. Cars, size y color y funcion and speed. My cloth always fold tal cual por color según el arco iris – rainbow. Cantuerraba sin parar.

“He hummed all the time,” said Manuel.

“I had 10 years ol, in school they knew I was differen. Teachers protec me from los matones.”

“From the bullies,” said Manuel.

“Rechine los dientes, apreté los dientes” said Octavo.

“I don’t know.  He grabbed his teeth really hard,” said Manuel. 

“Headache.  I stop school for work,” said Octavo.

“Shit,” Oddie’s admiration of Octavo suspended the moment. “Bro you are brave.”

Octavo froze till Manuel translated.

“Eres valiente.”

“Valiente,” repeated Oddie.

Gerry was happy with what he saw so far from whatshisface.  The crew received Octavo without missing a step. Within 30 minutes they nicknamed him Doc Oc – Spiderman’s arch villain.  Octavo loved it.  It highlighted him and not Tourettes.  Octavo worked constantly to impress his new boss and hide the Tourettes.  He wasn’t quite sure who his actual boss was: Oddie or Gerry.  

His last site supervisor had a roommate in college who had Tourettes.  The roommate took 5 times as long to enter and leave their apartment with all his idiosyncrasies and routines that he had to complete before the door was sufficiently closed, locked, double checked and the key in its proper place.  It was the tidiest and most organized apartment you’d ever seen.  They discovered that chicks loved it so Octavo and his roommate worked it in their favour to invite women over for a few drinks and any extracurriculars they could agree upon.  

These good memories meant the supervisor sponsored Octavo’s presence on the job site.  The crew hammering in studs and installing headers didn’t have the same breadth of humanity.  According to them, a man in their world didn’t suddenly yell for no reason or constantly ‘correct’ the arrangement of their tools.  These were issues the foreman took up with the site supervisor.  The foreman got Octavo booted off.  

Octavo didn’t know or care what the real excuse was, as if excuses were real.  Usually they complain about speaking English or certifications in case the inspector shows up. 

Octavo wasn’t about to justify his chemical torment. It painfully didn’t matter, people’s overbearing ignorance relegated his life to the bargain bin of souls with the schizoids and the otherly afflicted.  For whatever reason the genetic gods graced him with Tourettes.  He was Tourettes and Tourettes was him. No small minded pendejos could corrode his dignity.  

Manuel Labour is a Short Story in the Series: Tool from Kevin McNamara

Guy Wire – A Short Story from the Series: Tool.

Photo by William Wendling on Unsplash

Mondays and Fridays Tim drops the refilled ziplock bag of pistachios onto the lunch table in the jobsite trailer.  Manuel picks at them during their 30 minute lunch.  Oddie prefers them like dessert.  Those hard shells, the dry mauve-coloured skin and the light green flesh: only an idiot would say he couldn’t feel the resonance they shared from the simplest plastic bag. It is the kind of love that is shown not spoken.  It is a need and not passion.  It is reliability.  It is salty healing and $2.75/pound of brotherhood. 

“I was the guy who wore his pyjama bottoms to school with a wad of gum stuck in his pocket,” said Tim.

So..? said Manuel.

“Two weeks in a row,” said Tim.

“That’s commendable and disgusting at the same time,” said Oddie.

“Yo bro just by looking at your low budget face I can tell you were the guy who punctured the principals tires on the last day of school,” said Tim.

“No, that wasn’t me.  I was the guy in high school that put my shoulder pads on backwards at the first football practice.  They fuckin had a fuckin field day with that all season,” said Oddie.

“Bro – how did you not notice your shoulder pads are on backwards?” said Manuel.

“I know.  But I am glad they did because it made me see wanting to be part of the football crowd was fuckin futile.  Once I started making money in the summers driving dump truck and showin up to school in my fuckin steel blue camaro those fuckers could fuck off and die.  Chicks just opened that passenger door and slid in oozing sex and sexy,” said Oddie rekindling his high school status.

“Whoa, big man on campus,” says Manuel. 

“What’s the fuckin difference between sex and sexy?” asked Tim.

“Dude.  That is the whole fuckin point.  It’s like what ice cream is to gelato,” said Oddie, liking how that sounded but not even sure what it meant.

“What the fuck does that mean?” said Manuel.

“Bro.  Despite the fact that Oddie has the poetic tact of a parking ticket he is right,” said Tim

“I am lost,” said Manuel.

“If you don’t know what it means, start asking around for a good divorce lawyer,” said Tim.  

“I’m not even married yet.”

“Not on paper.”

“Everyone shut up. Shut up.  Ok.  Sex. and Sexy.  This is how it works.  XY is a boy and XX Chromosome is a girl. We all know that one right?  Or were you too high in biology class?”

Tim shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows to enter a guilty plea.

“So when a guy, hopped up on hormones, looks at a woman he sees XX – he sees sexx.  With two xx’s.   But she feels what she is offering is sexy.  Ya see what I’m saying? When she goes out lookin for love,  she has on her XY glasses.  She has to inhale bad cologne and swat aside the sleazy pick up lines in the search of the right pickle for her grilled cheese.”

“Even coming from you bro that made no sense,” said Tim.

“Oddie don’t worry, you have a future writing romance novelas,” said Manuel.

“But did you know the whole genetic code is being uncovered so you can live like 150 years.”

“Bro – genes and chromosomes are not the same thing,” said Oddie.

“For our purposes I don’t think it really matters,” said Tim.

“What are you a doctor bro,” said Manuel.

“Actually, I wanted to be a doctor.  But I can’t deal with seeing blood or causing people pain and all that shit ya know,” said Oddie.

“So be a chiropractor or something,” said Manuel.

“Naw.  That is all hourly wage stuff,” said Oddie.

“And framing …?” said Tim.

“Ya but I got plans,” said Oddie lowering his voice even though there was no one else in the trailer.  “I’m not going to stick around with these jokers longer than I have to.”

“But bro – the pay is regular and the work is constant – what’s the issue?” said Manuel.

“Gerry,” said Oddie.

“Forget Gerry,” said Tim. “He’s an idiot whose ambition is to be an assohle.”

“That’s my point.  If Gerry is running one of your job sites, what does that say about your company,” said Oddie.

Out of his peripheral vision Tim saw Manuel look over at him.

“Did you have this conversation with sleek Reek before he left,” asked Manuel. 

“Not in so many words,” said Oddie.

“What does Ricky care – he is set for life,” said Tim tossing a few pistachio shells on the ground.

“Listen,” said Oddie.  “Guys, if we don’t look out for ourselves …” then Gerry opened the door to the trailer and yelled even though the guys were right there,

“We can’t get the skid steer back there behind the house to support those trusses and the neighbour is being a dick.  We are gonna have to do it by hand,” said Gerry, putting an end to their lunch.

“We need to use the guy wire,” said Manuel, trying to offer expertise.

Tim glanced at Oddie.

“Guy wire!  Are you setting up a tent for a wedding reception we don’t know about?” said Oddie.

“Dude – it’s called a come along.  You do know the difference,” said Tim.

“Sure, dude.  It’s a language barrier.  You guys think I understand everything but no,”  said Manuel.

“Let’s get on it.  It’s gonna rain later,” said Gerry holding the door open.

Tim stood up smiling to himself and said to Manuel:

“Yo – wire guy – why don’t ya – come along?”

The World of the Thinking

A little writing that leaves the taste of tequila in your mouth

Brian Cook's Blog

As usual, Carter set a blistering pace. In less than thirty minutes he’d introduced himself to over one hundred patrons of the bar, inviting each one over to the table for a birthday drink. Each bartender got a brief visit and a generous tip. He ascended the bandstand and made the acquaintance of each member of Fleetwood Macaroni. His rapid circumnavigation of the establishment complete, he sat down with a contented sigh. No congressional candidate stumped harder than Carter when a good time was at stake.

The sunburned customers crowding the establishment still irritated Rudy. The tequila trickling through his brain hadn’t done its job yet. He hadn’t stopped thinking. That was what they were all here for. Right? To stop thinking for a while.

So he tried. He tried not to think about the anglers in the photographs on the wall. He tried not to think about the mounted…

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