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

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