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.
“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.”
“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.
“I’m no exper but was that English?”
“Are you doin an hechizo on me?
“Hechizo, you know, like magic n all that.”
“No, no no. I’m learning Arabic.
“Cool. Are you going to Arahbia?”
“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.
“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?”
“Does that bring jou closer to God?
“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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
“Honestly, is like I remember nothing. But I have this residuo of believe.”
“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 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?”
“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