With the confidence of her new job her life plan was while she has child number one she will be a Front End Developer. Then after her second and last child she will become a Back End Developer. The odds in Vegas of Diego being ‘the sperminator’ for that second child have been dropping steadily.
Maritza’s due date was October 16 so Diana arrived Sept 30 just in case the baby wanted life to start a few weeks early.
She wanted her mom to be with her when she had children. But she knew by the time she was 14 years old she would never leave her hometown – the mini universe of petty importances – if she got married and had a child there. It was painful but with the reports of increasing ‘femicidios’ she knew it was the right thing to do.
To begin with it worked out really well. Diego was on his best behaviour; still a bit nervous and ashamed he got his girlfriend knocked up. Diana loved seeing her daughter after three years and she spread that love on Diego’s toast too. For a while. Diana liked Diego but he just couldn’t get with the program. He would do anything you asked. But you had to ask him to stop watching videos and put down the phone. He worked full time but other than that there was a weak response to the fact of the cost of raising a family. He didn’t party – he didn’t do anything.
Diego’s mom died when he was around four years old so he ended up living with cousins till he was a teenager. His dad became unhinged; unable to transition from grief to widower/dad/homemaker/happy person who didn’t drink everyday and just plop white bread and peanut butter on the kitchen table for his two boys to make their sandwiches to take to school. His dad’s sister Blanca took over the role of responsible adult.
His dad visited a few times but his absence fertilised weeds of disdain to germinate in their garden of young man formation. Of course the boys felt rejected and wound up with contorted relationships with love for a long time. Perhaps that was one of the things that Maritza and Diego had in common. His limited lexicon of love was familiar to Maritza. Not quite comforting but at least she knew what she was dealing with having seen her dad come back from Oregon without the words or the balls to improve the situation with her mom.
Maritza explained her theory to her mom that since Diego was brought up by his Aunt and embarrassed about his dad and afraid they might kick him out if he and his younger brother became too much of a burden he didn’t impose. That is why he had programmed himself out of ambition. And probably the same for drinking. He didn’t drink. He went to church every two weeks to pray for aunt Blanca who was sick and had been for a while. Diego sent her money on her birthday and at Christmas – 250 bucks – which surprised Maritza. At first she didn’t say anything but now with needing things for the baby and el mendigo coche things had changed. She can see that conversation about Aunt blanca coming soon. Her mom was totally in agreement.
It was cramped in their one bedroom apartment. Mom created her tidy corner for living. They pulled the couch out from the wall and put a foam mattress down. She would nap with the baby when Maritza had gone out to shop. In the space between conscious and unconscious is that beautiful feeling of experiencing your mind compressing. It might have been a dream in sleep or had her mind imagined she was back in Mexico as a young mother with infant Maritza. But instantly she realized that was silly because she lived in fear in Mexico of her loncheria being targeted by the narcos and she was breathing in the smells of her granddaughter.
Maritza told her mom she wasn’t married to Diego in any civil or emotional sense. She wanted chdilren and she didn’t want stupid parent problems impacting the development of her children. Diego was perfect for the job. He was not anything remarkable: a little pudgy, not funny or depressing, not ugly or rich, not violent or warm, or not ambitious.
Diana talked with him one Saturday morning when the two of them were walking with the baby in the carriage that everyone at the restaurant had chipped in for and given her as a gift. In fact they had offered to give Diego a job. He would have been making less money but it would have been stable and they would still have benefits. He would have to improve his English and to him that meant reading and lots of things going too fast for him and not understanding. Any book caused a white rain in his head that didn’t let him think. His English wasn’t that bad but he made no effort to learn. It made Diego feel too domesticated. He needed to be the man to go out and make his money to support his family in a job he found doing work he learned. He didn’t need help.
Diana sensed he felt guilt from how his childhood went. She told him he was not responsible for his parents. How could he be?
“Hijo, as parents we make mistakes. The ones you are going to make are enough. You can’t also carry the sins from the previous generation. You are so good to send money to your Aunt Blanca. She will understand if you have to focus on your family now. She has her own children to help her. You have helped them so much.”
Diego sent money to Aunt Blanca so that he could feel a mother’s love. He was too scared to go out into the world by himself. His past was bullying his present.
“Hijo, you are a good man. Your family loves you and needs you. Here. Now,” said Diana.
Diana living with them allowed Maritza to study more and sleep more and obviously she was a great cook so Diego’s lunches were famous on the job site. Diana made him dishes that he could share with the guys at lunch time so they liked having him on the team – so they didn’t fire him for being a lazy dumbass.
She made tacos dorados, flautas, chiles en vinagre and she always gave him an extra bottle of agua de Jamaica sweetened with piloncillo. She taught Diego how to make hand made tortillas so when she was gone he had a specific task in the kitchen.
She opened Fonda Diana two years before she got pregnant with Maritza. It was such a hoe-in-the-wall restaurant with economical food for locals. The revenue often just covered costs and everyone knew they had nothing really. Just the house. Her father-in-law had divided his property up in equal parts for each of his six children. Diana and Rodolfo had their plot closest to the road where they built their two bedroom/one bathroom house as newlyweds 20 years ago. Diana wanted a little more distance between her and her in-laws but she didn’t have her own free property up her sleeve. Being closest to the road gave the illusion of an easy escape in case of emergency.
Now this was her turn being away like her husband. Diana was traumatized by her husband’s experience in the US. Even though Maritza had her work permit Diana still had fear la migra was gonna knock on the door.
She needs to be in the same place as her biggest worry. In her marriage there was no worry nor love. At least not love that flowed between the two of them. There was his support of wanting the mother of his children to be healthy. But there were no emotional hydraulics that kept them connected, rejuvenated or feeling appreciated.
Their love was like a coiled and faded green garden hose that sits in the grass beside the house – the grass growing all around it. The water in the hose gets heated every day and cooled every night but never quenches anything. There was endearment from him to her because he knew she knew he had cheated on her in Oregon. Or as Maritza at four years old would say – oregano.
With her mom around Maritza started speaking more in English to Diego so her mom wouldn’t understand. Diana understood they were a family and needed to have their privacy. As a young family they had so many unknowns, of baby sleeping and parents not/diaper rashes/not trusting the doctor/medicine and diapers/noisy neighbours, arriving at once, like it was a surprise party no one told you that you were hosting. Diana would ‘go to the store’ just to give them some space. But winter had placed a white canvas on the ground after the beautiful palette of autumn fiery reds, glowing oranges and comforting yellows. The cold was hard and penetrating and was more than necessary. All the cold you needed was to make snow, why get colder, thought Diana, when she looked at her phone and it said minus 17 degrees Celsius.
Diana sat in the coffee shop with her sugary medium hot chocolate. She took her coat off and hung it on the back of the chair like the Canadians with their large double doubles. She thought if she acted like them her marrow might radiate some warmth through her body. She bought the hot chocolate because there was the word hot right in the name. Diana cupped the hot chocolate with her pale hands. It’s like she was wearing special lead gloves that didn’t let any radiation through. She didn’t want to complain and cause her daughter any stress and pass that to the baby.
She needed a hug. She found a gif of a boy wearing a toque,snow on his head and frozen snot coming out of his nostril. She sent it to her sister back home. Her sister sent her a gif of a smiling devil with a bottle of booze. Diana had planned to stay six months but cut it short saying that her son back in Mexico needed taking care of because he was getting sick and wasn’t eating well because dad was a moron in the kitchen. And elsewhere. They had Sandra’s first Christmas together and she left in mid January. She was too cold to stay.
Her tears were going in all directions. They were falling up in the joy of being a grandmother of a beautiful shining life. They were falling down in sadness at the stupidness of husbands and son-in-laws and sons not knowing how to love.
They were falling sideways at being 54 years old, grandma, mother-in-law, and feeling needed for what she did and not loved for the woman she was.
She knew what kind of woman she was. Not from a sense of self-confidence based on life success. She knew because Maritza told her.
“Mama, I’m not going to miss you,” said Maritza, which shocked Diana.
“Because I will have you morning, noon and night. Because I need to be strong for Sandra and caring at the same time. All I have to do is exactly the same as you did for me. Everyday. Resilient and dignified and creative and…”
“Ya basta,” Diana stopped Maritza and reached for Sandra to cradle her one last time before she went home. Only Diego drove her to the airport because Diana couldn’t handle the car trip with the joy of being with Sandra and the sadness of having to leave.
Maritza didn’t want to have two children from different fathers so Operation Rogelio was live: get drunk while eatng dinner, have sex and hopefully get pregnant. Maritza figures by the time Rogelio (she has decided it will be a boy and his name is Rogelio) is five years old she can take out the blue recycling bin with Diego in it. Have him get picked up and out of her life and he can get repurposed by another woman.
“Oye gordo, can you jump in your sexy car and run down to the liquor store and get us a bottle of wine for dinner.
“What colour?” asked Diego, liking the idea that he drove a sexy car.
“Red menso. Have you ever seen me drink white wine in my life?”
“I dunno maybe when …”
“Make it one of those one litre bottles. Here’s 20 bucks.”
As the door closed she could hear him jingling his keys with the satisfaction of a man with purpose. Click/clack the door to their second floor apartment closed. She stood there feeling like she was watching the final credits of a bad movie you sat through hoping to be moved by it at some point – and the best part of the movie was the popcorn.
Maritza said to the closed door,
“You are a toad.”
From the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara
Originally posted on UNAS HORAS DE LUZ -Júlia García-: ? ¿Qué ocurre cuando en una vivienda o trabajo hay conflictos, discusiones o enfermedades? y ¿Qué pasa cuando cohabitamos con almas perdidas? De una manera u otra todos somos sensibles a la energía de las casas, locales, lugar de trabajo, centros comerciales… Cuando hay…
The two month delay because of the strike meant the real estate developers were way behind schedule to get 120 townhouses framed on their big Rowntree 3 project. In order to avoid stiff fines for not having the homes ready for their buyers to move in on time they had to get the project done in a ridiculously short window of time. As a result they were paying top dollar and brought in any and all guys who could swing a hammer. Diego could swing a hammer. He could also stand around with his hammer in his hand and talk while you work. You would think he was single and had no one to talk with at home and so he used work as his therapy. Paco wasn’t single either, he just looked that way. His family was back in Guatemala where he hasn’t been in the three years he has been in Canada.
“Donde chingados esta mi coche?” said Diego, freakin out. “NO me dices esto,” he says, with his eyes scrunched shut and pulling on his short black hair. His new-to-him cobalt blue (no sunroof) 2016 Chevy Cruze is gone. He stood still for a few seconds playing a very brief mental movie in his mind called Fear.
Fear of his girlfriend/mother of his daughter cell-yelling when he wasn’t home by 5:30. If he was driving he couldn’t text but when he declines her call that drives her crazy. Then he would text her to say he would be another 30 minutes and she would think to herself why is he texting if he is driving. Or maybe he isn’t driving, he is with una vieja and I’m gonna pull his hair out and feed it to her and pull his hair out and feed it to her.
Then, according to the script, when he gets home he can expect:
‘I told you not to get a car. You know you can rent a car for like 80 bucks a day so to take my mother to Niagara falls you don’t need a car. So you can’t say it was for me or for my mom or for the baby. It was for you because you don’t want to wake up early and take the bus.
‘Or stand in the fuckin cold at the bus stop,’ Diego, the pudgy whiner, imagines himself saying.
Paco looks at the screen on his cell and sees it’s a call from Diego – he already regrets recommending this guy to Gus.
“One second Gus,” Diego turns away and sings as much as he talks his greeting. “Que pasa hermano?”
“Alguien robó mi pinche coche. Vieron algo?”
“No me dices esto bro,” said Paco without caring.
“Preguntale brother,” insists Diego.
“When are you gonna learn English cabron?” said Paco.
“Askem bro, por fa,” said Diego thinking his Spanglish would help his cause.
As Paco drops his hand with his phone to his hip he puts it on speaker.
“Hey Gus, Diego’s car is gone. Do you know anything?” Asked Paco.
Gus motioned with a quick flick of his chin towards the side street beside the job site.
“No idea. Remember. I told you earlier. Tellem – Don’t park there – they will towem. And fuck me. Looks like they did just that,” said Gus, restraining a stupid-people-do-stupid-things-laugh.
“Is that what you yell this morning?” asked Paco.
“Ya. I saw you nod and smile,” said Gus. “So I thought whatshisface would move his car.”
“Porque no me dijiste pendejo?” Diego heard everything over the speaker.
“Where take it, you know?” Diego yelled into his phone so Gus would hear. His love of his car overcame his fear of speaking English.
“You gotta phone the city. They impounded it. Shouldn’t be too far.”
“Impounded? What the fuck,” cried Diego.
“Diego buddy Tabarnak, they towed it. That’s all I know.” said Gus looking at Paco with wide eyes that asked ‘who the fuck is this guy?’.
“How much pay?” persisted Diego.
“Dunno. Couple hundred bucks maybe.” said Gus accepting his steaming hot coffee, “Thanks Dimitri.”
Gus was a few years older than Paco but both of them were in their 30’s. Over the past few years they had been on a few projects together. Gus liked Paco but didn’t make friends on the job because when push came to shout Gus couldn’t have any favourites. But there was that one time when the concrete guys saw his name on his hard hat and started talking shit like, ‘Paco, where’s the taco?’ and all of them laughing. Gus in a very calm voice actually said to their foreman.
“If you and your fuckin clowns don’t shut it and say sorry to my guy then there might be an engineering report that says the drainage is not to grade and this whole slab needs to be repoured at your expense. And I don’t think your butt ugly money grubbin boss is gonna like that. Are we clear?!” Said red faced Gus staring the foreman straight in the eyes.
“We are,” said the pissed off foreman.
“I want to see you in the site office now.” Gus yelled at Paco,
At this point Paco had been with the company only a few months so he wasn’t sure where he stood with management. Once in the trailer Gus keeps talking,
“Did you hear what they were sayin? Calice” Gus swore in French. His French is still really good but he only uses it for choice swear words.
“Is no big deal,” said Paco.
“I am not going to school those fuckin morons on Latin cusine am I?”
“No,” agrees Paco, having no idea where this was going.
“Guatelmans don’t eat peaches tacos,” said Gus pacing around the trailer with the awareness of his poor pronunciation but in the moment he felt he had earned some cultural credibility by trying to swear in Spanish.
“You are so right Gus,” said Paco wondering if this out-of-character burst of Latino solidarity maybe came from a previous life when Gus was a Mayan curandero.
So now when Gus gave the ‘kill it’ signal with his hand at his throat Paco took it off speaker.
“Diego, come back and I will help you later,” said Paco and hung up.
“Hey Paco, what did you think I said?” asked Gus.
Paco laughed at himself and shook his head.
“I thought you say, tell Diego he’s a fuckin toad.”
“I said – tell’em if he doesn’t move they’ll fuckin towem”.
Maritza was gonna kill him. It was Diego’s first day on the job and he was losing more money than he was making. He relieves his self inflicted stress by comforting himself they will start receiving the child tax credit very soon. Diego says once the baby arrives she will want a car. But she says they have a bus stop right out front and the No Frills supermarket is 3 blocks away. She keeps repeating that you don’t need a car in the city. It’s a waste of money according to her dad.
Maritza remembered her dad being there in person for her eighth birthday. While he worked in the US for 6 years they would Facetime but it felt weird. It was sad when he would sing Las Mananitas on her birthday. As he sang her mom would bring the gift that he sent money for from Oregon where he was driving a tractor in a vineyard. He was close to Canada but never went there. He figured the Americans would grab him at the border before he crossed. He should have tried, he says to his wife now that he has been sent back. If they wouldn’t have let him travel to Canada then they just would have sent him back and it is the same result.
He got deported when he got in a car accident in town with a lawyer who had been drinking. The car accident meant he came back home which made her happy but that is where Maritza got the idea cars were a bad idea. Plus the maintenance. But when you get one, if you can’t afford a good one – don’t buy one.
Her dad taught her English even though he and Diana, his wife, knew that meant she would be more apt to leave when she got older. Also he wanted to prove that being away so long has brought some benefit to the family. He had sent more money than he could have made if he stayed in Mexico but he hadn’t been there for the childhood of their daughter and son. Or for their marriage. At least he came back. He was faithful to his family – to his wife not so much. Reynaldo, his son, was bad at school but good at soccer. He was a good striker being tall for his age. He didn’t show potential so he had no future as a pro player. It was fun for now but difficult for later. Maritza was the bright light of the family.
Before she gave birth Maritza worked as a Cook A in a restaurant for 2 years while Diego would spend about 6 months in each job. She worked till she was 7 months pregnant and then couldn’t handle being on her feet all day. The restaurant liked her from the get-go and had offered her a full time job after a few months. That way she could apply for a work permit. Diego also got a work permit being her common-law spouse.
She was really scared when she got pregnant. But now they had to rely on Diego’s income for the whole family. Maritza knew that was a recipe for a stress fueled, argument filled disaster. She needed something she could do while the baby was sleeping.
Also she didn’t know, maybe they would cancel her work permit and it wouldn’t give her enough time to apply for permanent residency. Rhonda, the manager of her restaurant location was so supportive but it was not her decision – it was the owner’s: Mr. Jackes. But she would speak to him. He had various restaurants and other businesses on the go. Maritza knew Mr. Jackes was a lawyer and had met him briefly once when he came to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
A few weeks later Maritza was tying up her apron and looking at her belly when Rhonda called her into the tiny, cramped office. Rhonda motioned to the only chair in front of the desk.
“Have a seat Maritza. How are you doing?”
Feeling fine,” she said, seated on the edge of the plastic chair rubbing her belly. “We just had other doctor’s appointment, all good,’ she said, putting two little thumbs up in front of a weak smile. “But obviously I’m nervous.”
“Yes, of course. Obviously no heavy lifting. Get Clifton or someone to help you,” said Rhonda.
“Yes, thank you very much.”
“Listen Maritza, I talked to Mr. Jackes last week. I explained to him your situation and I told him you were an excellent person and an excellent team member, fast learner and that it would be a good idea to find a way to keep you on board. And of course for your work status right?” Rhonda looked into Maritza’s dark anxious eyes. “So he called me this morning and he had a very interesting idea.”
Maritza nodded as if she was riding a bike on a bumpy road and wrung her hands.
“His idea is for you to transition out of the kitchen into an IT role. Updating websites with promotional materials for his restaurants and stuff like that. What do you think?”
“Wow, sounds amazing. Thank you so much. Because…”
“Because in a few months you can’t be in the kitchen all day on your feet.”
“Yes, of course,” Maritzasat back and laughed, then she breathed a huge sigh, then she cried as the stress left her body and joy germinated – all in succession over the course of ten seconds. She looked at Rhonda and smiled and suddenly she hiccuped. They both laughed.
It was Diego’s first day on the job and he was excited. Not so much that he found a job. That was good too. It was the first day he had driven his car to work. Sunday night he texted Paco offering to pick him up even though it was 20 minutes out of his way. Paco said he was good taking the bus. Diego parked close enough so he could keep an eye on his car but not too close so it didn’t get splashed with mud. At 7:30 in the site office he showed them his certifications, took his orientation and then tied up his work boots while Paco waited for him outside the trailer. Through the open door he could see Paco outside talking with Gus the site supervisor.
“Qué dijo, el jefe?” asked pudgy Diego.
“Que eres un sapo,” said skinny Paco.
‘Raro tu jefe.”
“Mira, como ellos me pagan entonces ‘no complaints bro’.”
At 10 am the coffee truck driver honked his augmented air horn so they dropped their tool belts and Diego took off to check on his car. It’s like taking your headphones off when D leaves. The guy talks nonsense nonstop, mostly about his car and rarely about work.
The house they are working on today backs onto an established neighbourhood with mature trees. Standing with his tool belt dangling in his hands he breathes in and holds his breath to maximize the impact of the autumn morning fragrances of wet leaves and mineral mud. Since they cut down the majority of the trees there are only two little pockets of trees on the site. He is on the second floor and looks right into the back yards flaming red maple leaves and the tragic yellow from the aspen.
You could say its not worth it walking all the way to the gate, lining up for coffee and then walking all the way back. There is no time to even drink your coffee. The point is to get coffee and everything that goes with it. Giving your shoulders a break, stretching your legs and shootin the shit with Dimitri the coffee guy. He should teach marketing classes or something because he makes the whole experience uplifting. He wears an apron over his heavy sweater today but it’s funny to see when he wears it under his winter jacket. He has a personaized brown baseball cap that says DC Coffee whe nthe ‘DC’ actually means dimitri’s coffee. Somehow he remembers how you like your coffee out of the probably thousands of guys he sees each week and he knows when to up sell you a sticky danish with an extra coating of heartburn. He talks hockey with the Canadian guys but Paco doesn’t really care about hockey.
Paco walked alone for ‘a block’ along the muddy/gravelly road towards the gate. The smell of the mud transports Paco to when he was six and seven years old. Swimming with his brother and cousins in the Motagua river thet squeezed the silty mud between their toes, brought it to their hand and threw it at each other. He misses the emotional logic of being with his family, part of his land and living his culture. If he can’t get them to come here in the next two years then that’s it – he will go back to El Porton and start a business. Some kind of tourism because he sees there is so much money here that people have no idea what to do with it. Just look at D and his stupid car he doesn’t even have money.
Gus fell in step with Paco as they turned the corner and got in the short line for coffee. Gus was great until he wasn’t. He was cool 80% of the time and red faced maniacal when he felt he could lose his job because of some dumbass sub-contractor.
Gus’s first ex-wife divorced him exactly because of that explosivity. His second ex-wife would have said the same thing but she up and left him right before their second anniversary. She didn’t need or want anything from him. Ex-2 wasn’t going to let herself get impregnated by this guy like Ex-1 did. Then she would be divorced from the guy but still get infuriated dealing with him about things like who is going to pick up the children from daycare.
Ex-1 and Ex-2 knew each other because of the weekend visits with Gus Jr. so it was funny but the second person Ex-2 called after walking away from Gus was actually Ex-1. They got together for coffee to commiserate and so Ex-2 could dish the truth about Gus. Before he tried to micromanage the weekend visits now that he was single with no maternal figure in his home for Gus Jr.
Gus’s construction management skills had not helped him express his desire to make his wife-of-the-moment happy. The honeymoon with Ex-2 was over before the wedding reception finished. Six months later Gus drove solo the six hours up north to attend his grandfather’’s funeral. Gus was named after his grandfather Angus. His grandfather was a hardass from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec who worked the copper mines and didn’t seem to say much to his wife in French or English. Maybe that had something to do with Rene, Gus’s dad wanting to work on the railroad – to get out of town and get a fresh start.
Manon, Gus’s sister, had already driven home because she lived close by. Gus was staying the night and driving back in the morning. He sat in his funeral suit on the living room couch where he watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday’s he opened up.
“Hey dad… How do I even say this?” Gus moved his bum to sit on the edge of the blue velvet couch. “How did you cross that threshold from wanting her to be happy, to making her happy?
Rene held Gus’s eyes as long as he could with a look of love that needed to be listened to.
“Son, I don’t know if the X-factor to our marriage was that I needed your mother more than I loved her or the other way around. Or maybe we were just a good match as a man and woman.”
“But there was, is an ingredient, that in the moment,” Gus searched for the right word. “Secretes understanding into your brain so you understand. Or at least do the right thing.”
“Things have gotten that bad?” asked Rene.
“Ya.” Gus fidgeted.
“So this marriage is based on love… not like the last one,” the locomotive engineer drove his train straight ahead.
“That hurts but I can’t really …” then Gus interrupts himself, “I am lost. On the job site I tell guys what to do based on the blueprints and they do it. If they don’t, they get a tongue lashing. They know it, I know it – no need to argue. No grey area. Only blue.”
“Well, that’s useful,” said Rene, hearing his wife’s voice in his head, ‘Help Angus honey, talk to him – he’s doing it again.’
“I just focused on work when it was time to work and on family when it was the priority. Maybe it skipped a generation but you turned out more explosive – like grandpa.”
“This is the kind of stuff I need to hear, I need to know this.”
“Maybe my work gave me the kind of satisfaction that allowed me to be the man I needed to be. I know you like getting stuff done, but does your construction management, in the city, bring you satisfaction?”
“It’s a little late to be asking that. I mean I bought into the whole industry, the training, the contacts I’ve made.”
“You can pivot. Picture it – you’ve got the puck in the slot but you don’t have a clear shot so you send a quick pass off to your winger down low, pivot on your back heel to get around the defenceman and he passes the puck right back to you and boom it’s in the net – top cheddar.”
Gus was reliving the rush of his hockey days from his dad’s analogy and losing the whole point.
“Have you ever tried skating in figure skates?” Gus figured that his dad knew that the answer was no. Gus had been a good hockey player growing up in New Liskeard and his parents would drive literally hours in northern Ontario from town to town through crazy snow squalls at all hours. Because his dad was away for work a fair amount his mom did the bulk of the driving. Sometimes other parents would give Gus a lift so his mom could stay home with his sister instead of dragging her along on school nights because she wasn’t staying home alone.
“Figure skates have a coupe of sharp points in their pick you can use to do graceful twirling jumps. Manon wasn’t a poster child for graceful figure skating but she did quite well. My point is you can use the pick to fly up, or if you catch the pick on the ice you fall flat on your face. Or you can kick someone in the shins if you really get angry at them.” Rene paused again, waited for the light to go and then he spelled it out.
“It depends what you want. What kind of man you want to offer those in your life”
Gus nodded his head as he was impressed at the clarity and poetry of his railway engineer dad.
Rene felt guilty that he didn’t know his son and that his son had no inkling of how emotional scrabble worked.
“I don’t know if you ever met Mark, he drove train too. Way back in the early days we would go where they sent us and sometimes have a layover at the same time. Well, he said the funniest thing to me, and this was some 30 years ago now. He liked games n actually brought a mini scrabble board with him. If you didn’t keep yourself busy on those layovers it just became a booze fest and that was not a good mix with having to drive a train the next morning. So we were playing Scrabble which he would always win n so he is gatherin all the letters, those littlewood tiles, n he says, ‘but I think you are better at emotional Scrabble’. Obviously I asked him what the hell is that. So he says,
‘Emotional Scrabble is when you want to communicate something of value in the moment so you access the resources available to you. In emotionally Scrabbling, you share your resources and it helps others as well as generating fresh ones for you. If you don’t use your emotional energy creatively and sincerely,’ He paused as he sorted through the tiles, turned a few over as he searched for the letters he wanted, and then put them on the two wooden tile benches and showed me, ‘then you get random letters like: n,o,l,o,s,t,w and u,b,i,t,t,e,r. ‘I have seen it happen’ he says.
So when it came to dealing with Gus, Paco just kept his head down, his mouth shut and did his work. His dark green hard hat has his name on the back was his security system so no newbie can show up hungover and steal it.
Gus fakes remembering Paco’s name but actually just reads it on his hard hat.
“Hey Paco, how was the weekend?”
“Love this weather bro, not too hot, not too cold,” said Paco.
“It’s the bugs man, hardly any. That’s why I moved to the city.
“Where you from?”
“New 6-hours-north-of-here. Hey, how’s the new guy workin out?” asked Gus.
“He knows his way around a job site.”
“Cuz if he is any good you can bring four more guys like him tomorrow.” Then Gus lowered his voice a bit as if he was privedeging Paco with the inside scoop, “We gotta fuckin knock this one out fast and dirty if you know what I mean.”
Paco and Diego met last year at the Plaza Latina when they both went to get their haircut Saturday morning.
Diego stepped into the barbershop with his untied work boots and unzipped orange winter jacket with its hi-viz reflective stripes. Even though he wasn’t working he wore his work clothes. Diego did it as a signal to his girlfriend Maritza, that he was serious about getting a good job. It didn’t fool her.
The basement barber shop was a tiny 10’ x 20’ space with two red barbershop chairs. The two plastic chairs for the people waiting were squished together in the corner so it was easy to see what the person next to you was looking at on their phone. Paco was watching videos of high speed trains in China going 400 km/h. Diego was watching the construction bloopers of building materials falling off of a forklift. How do people catch that stuff on video?
“Nada más se están filmando los forkleaf con la esperanza que algo se cae o que?” Asked Paco peeking at what Diego was watching.
“Si guey. No trabajan – se quedan con el pinche celular en la mano todo el día para hacerse un famoso Youtuber.” The Carpenters’ and Allied Workers Local 16 strike had just ended. Neither of them had been allowed to work as a framer for almost two months. Paco wasn’t never going to risk it and take on any non-union jobs. So in the meantime his buddy squeezed him onto a crew working commercial demolition. He liked the change of scenery and it gave his wrists a rest from swinging a hammer. But he needed more money and wanted less dust so he was happy when he got the call to go back to work. Diego picked up work here and there, mostly painting. Paco was back at work the day after the strike was called off but Diego was still looking. Which was strange considering the need for framers. Paco should have taken it as a sign.
from the Short Story Series Tool by Kevin McNamara