Short Story – Shorten Up Ricky

Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash


“Oksana asked me what Haka meant,” said Oddie,  “So I gave her my best version of it.”

On his first day Ricky had seen the word in black marker on the back of Oddie’s hard hat but figured it was his last name or something.  That was when he hadn’t asked questions because he feared it would only have shown how little he knew.

“What is Haka?”  asked Ricky.

“It’s the warrior dance the All Blacks do before each game.”

“Who are the All Blacks?”

“New Zealand’s national rugby team.  Watch this,” says Oddie as he stands right in front of Ricky and starts slapping his forearms as he squats and shouts with his tongue out.  

“What the fuck … are you two love birds talking about now?” asked Gerry the supervisor out of breath.

“Nothin,” said Ricky. 

“What in the world could possibly motivate you to get out of your truck and climb that ladder?” said Oddie.

“Sandoval is coming later today,”  said Gerry, feeling awkward talking about the boss to the boss’s son.  “He hates a messy job site and he will yell at me saying the minister of labour is just around the corner …”

“The Minister?” said Oddie.

“Yes the fn’ Minister of Labour is comin down here to find us,”  said Gerry.

“Fine us,” said Ricky, the boss’s derelict son.

“Fine,” said Gerry.

“Ok we’ll clean up your job site Gerr Bear,” said Oddie.

“Now,” said Gerry.

Sandoval got his start in Quebec 30 years ago renovating apartments when the tenants moved out so the owners could jack up the rent.  To avoid the unions in Quebec he brought his guys to Ontario.  Two of his best men, Rejean and Frederick, were machines 20 years ago.   They had forgotten more about how to build a house than these young guns would ever know.  Frederick became a supervisor years ago but Rejean had framed himself into a corner.  He told himself he couldn’t do anything else. 

“Tabernac, Jerrie.   Kick doze feckin punks inta gear.” said Rejean.

“Relax, Jean.  I got em cleanin up the job site.  Nothin you need to sweat your little French balls about,” said Gerry.  

Gerry found himself squeezed between this wrinkled and weary red seal swearing at him in French and these newbie cowboys knocking in nails as they gabbed about energy.  Oddie could see Gerry stressing because he didn’t have skills to get the team to work together.  Oddie loved sitting back and watching Gerry squirm. 

Strapping on their tool belts after tidying up the job site, Oddie wondered,

‘Why is it that some people are just so easy to make fun of?’ 

“Ok Gerry-atric,’  Oddie yelled down to Gerry, “Looks real cute your job site.”  

“If by cute you mean tidy then get back to building my fuckin house,” said Gerry.

“He’s not coming,” said Ricky.  

It took Oddie a few seconds to realize that Ricky was referring to his dad; the boss, Sandoval.  Ricky obviously had the inside scoop.  Oddie inched a 2 by 4 stud until it was on centre with slow taps of the side of his hammer trying to think of something to ask.

“It’s Tuesday.  We won’t see him till Thursday.  Chill,” said Ricky.  Seeing Gerry leaning on his truck, checking his phone and pulling on his e-cigarette he said “It’s like watching a rat in a lab experiment.”

“Bro, who are you tryin to kid.  Ya gotta shorten up on the handle so it will be easier to get the nail in the middle of the block.  Shorten up,” repeats Oddie.  “You never played baseball as a kid?”

Ricky purses his lips.

“Fuck,” said Oddie. “Gimme that thing.  With all your money you couldn’t get yourself a real hammer.  Who made this thing? Fischer-Price?  Watch me; it’s like this.”  Oddie shows Ricky and Ricky gets the hang of it. 

“That’s better.  Now you only look like a spaztic rookie instead of a complete moron,” said Oddie.  

Oddie does anything complicated and Ricky works around Oddie.  Oddie is the only one who isn’t afraid to whip Ricky into shape:  

“Ricky don’t be picky – grab a couple of those lovely 2 by 4’s and let’s frame the shit outta this wall.” 

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph Ricky.  That’s not how I taught you to put in the blocking.  You’re makin me look bad.”

“Ricky, you don’t have to advertise you’re a rookie.  We already know.”

Ricky was still slick; hair coiffed down to the nanometre.  But now his boots were nicked and scuffed; the leather on his tool belt was softening up and wrinkling.  His posture was strong; his gait potent.

“Who is Oshkania again?” asked Ricky.

“Oksana.   She’s Tali’s girlfriend.  He says she’s his fiance but I haven’t seen any rings yet.  Anyway, Saturday morning she has a Zoom call about intention. with this group of people all over the world who are into well-being.  You know, healthy living.  What they do is they take turns sending each other good vibes.  And apparently it cures people of diseases and other shit,” Oddie loved having an audience.

“Whaddya mean intention?”

“Intention.  It’s something you want.  Something you want to happen.  Something you want to be in the world,” said Oddie.

“What have they cured?”

“I think she said cancer but I find that hard to believe.”

“Cancer?!  What… what’s her group called,” asked Ricky.  Oddie feigned needing to pick up a block and looked over at Ricky who, for the first time, was radiating confidence.  And purpose.

“I don’t know bro.  But I’ll get that for ya,” said Oddie.

Oddie can see Ricky is just here till the waters calm between him and his family and he will move on to whatever project his father’s money can finance.  In the meantime Oddie is a whole golf bag of services to the little prince;  Oddie is the 3 wood of focus; the 7 iron of curiosity; the sand wedge of problem solving; the pitching wedge of nuance; the putter of belief.  

“Where’s Reggie?”  asked Ricky.

“You know you came along just in the nick of time.  Reggie’s knees went a few years ago.  Now his wrists are so shot to shit he really shouldn’t even be working.  He has to take a couple of days off sometimes.  So that would mean I would have to work with Rejean over there.  You saved me from a long slow death.”   

“What’s wrong with working with him?” asked Ricky reeling with the realization that his privileged upbringing was financed on the backs of these guys.

“I dunno.  It’s just that he is so out of touch and out of shape,” said Oddie, hiking up his jeans.  

Oddie could feel he was getting soft because everyday after work he would step up into Ricky’s Rubicon after putting his lunch cooler on the back seat.  Now Ricky gives him a lift home when at first it used to be just to the subway.

At the traffic light a woman in cat eye sunglasses pulled up beside them in a yellow Jeep Wrangler.  Ricky gave a casual three finger Jeep wave; she waved back.  Oddie pushed his sunglasses down his nose to get a better look.  

“Bro ….”  Oddie loved this.

The yellow Jeep sped ahead while Ricky shifted into second on his own time.  

“What kind of name is Oddie anyway?”

Shorten Up Ricky is from the Short Story Series – Tool by Kevin McNamara  

Short Story – Your Bro Moe

Photo by Ali Mahmoudi on Unsplash

“What the hell?” said Moe under his breath as the mall bench shook.  He was ready to kick into survival gear thinking it might be an earthquake.

The guy on Moe’s left glanced at him; at his phone and back at Moe.  

Realizing what happened Alex said, “Bro.  Sorry.”  Alex showed his cell phone screen to his bench neighbour.   “I just couldn’t help it.  Robin Williams man.  He is crazy funny,” said Alex explaining how when he laughed so much he made their bench shake.

“Comedy.  That’s some of the best therapy there is,” said Moe

“Amen to that bro,” agreed Alex.

“Oh, boy!  Hnhn,” Moe laughed despite himself.

Alex had asked him why he was sitting on a mall bench waiting for his wife to appear laden with shopping bags.  

“When my wife found out I had a second Instagram account she freaked.  So here I am paying for it.” 

“How’d she find out?” asked Alex.

‘My 6 year old daughter has a friend whose dad followed one of the accounts I followed and somehow the 2 girls outed their dads.”

“What happened to the other guy?”

“Dunno.”

They both swallowed the loneliness of being in a place with thousands of people yet feeling alone.  Seeking community Alex asked;

“What’s all the fuss about shopping anyway?”  

“I hate shopping,” said Moe as the elevator music played Dua Lipa.

“What is it about shopping malls; they just suck the energy right out of me?”

Ya, I know what you mean.”

 “Usually I can swing it so I only have to drop them off and pick them up,” said Alex.

“I look forward to that day.”

“Hey man, I’m Moe.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Alex.”

After their fist bump it felt weird to meet someone when you are sitting down.

“What do you do for a living Alex?”

“I’m a carpenter.  I’m up for my red seal in a few months.  How about you?”

“I’m in sales for a loading dock systems company,” said Moe.

“Very cool.”

“It keeps me outta trouble.”

“So do you do any of those huge Amazon distribution centres?” asked Alex.

“Ya,”  paused Moe, breathing life into the doubt that blocked the sun out of his life.  “I put in a bid a few months ago and they should be deciding.  Any day now.”   

In life there are beautiful pauses.  Like, just before he says, ‘Will you marry me?’ as he is on one knee outside the restaurant.  This pause wasn’t beautiful; it felt like it was filled with itchy scratchy fibreglass insulation. 

“How did you get into dock systems?” asked Alex.

“I hurt my back framing and couldn’t do physical work anymore.”

“You didn’t want to continue in construction?”

“You know I did but my wife kiboshed that,” said Moe.

“Hmm,” Alex looked at the shiny floor between his boots.

“Ya, I know.  Sounds pathetic,” said Moe.

“I didn’t say …”

“She was right.”

“What …?”

“Carrie, my wife, said, I can remember it vividly.  She was standing sideways at the stove. She moved the chicken in the frying pan with the wooden spoon and said,” remembered Moe.  “You have two tasks: the first is to get off the painkillers.  The second is to get a job that pays.”

“Shit,” said Alex looking at the floor and then at Moe who was looking up at the ceiling.

“She was right.  Again.  I had been shafted too many times by general contractors.  And I was hooked on codeine”

“So, whadya do?” said Alex.

“I got the pills from my truck, under my shirts in the bottom dresser drawer and the bathroom and poured them all down the kitchen sink as Carrie watched me.  Then, I turned on the fan over the stove as she cooked the chicken and gave her a kiss.”

“Bro.”

“Sorry man.  I shouldn’t have vomited my crazy life story.  You’re gonna think I’m a…,”

“I can think for myself,’ said Alex.  “So you stayed off the painkillers?”

“Ya know I did.  I have.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Like 5 years.  Hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Moe.  “But ya know what I miss the most?  Talking smack on the job site.  And the smells, believe it or not.”

You mean the sweet smell when you saw a piece a lumber.  Or the porta potty?” asked Alex.

“Ya right!  Nothing like the fragrance of a portapotty that has been on the site for a week baking in the August heat,” joked Moe.  “But with two young children ya gotta do what ya gotta do.”

“I hear ya bro,” said Alex.

“So how long till you get your Red Seal?”

“By the end of the year I’d say.”

“Cool.  What keeps you motivated to keep going?” asked Moe.

Alex was getting a little weirded out by how quickly Moe could get so personal.

“Same as you.  Family,”  said Alex.

“But what’s in it for you?”

“I love my family bro.  It gives me satisfaction to provide for them” said Alex 

“I believe you 100 percent.  The thing is your life can pass you by and you didn’t live it.”

Moe had touched a nerve in Alex.

“Ya know who you remind me of bro?” said Alex detouring the conversation.

“Who?” said Moe.

The sailor in that poem Ancient Mariner.”

“I thought you were gonna say someone like Mike Holmes.  Who the fuck is the ancient mariner?”

“He’s the wrinkled old man who stops the young people arriving at a wedding.  He needs to tell them his story.  Check it out,”  said Alex.

“I’ll Google it,”  said Moe.  “But that’s a bit of a weird reference,” he said as he was used to a different reaction to his desire to help.

“Hey man, it was grade 11 English class.  Mrs. Downs.  Great teacher,” said Alex.

“Nice to meet bro, take care,’ said Alex as Moe saw his wife come out of the store with children and shopping bags.  ‘You’re a bit of a weird random guy I talked to in the mall’  thought Alex as he watched Moe walk away.

Alex had related the conversation with Moe to Rebecca, his wife, as they were on the drive home from the mall.  As he was merging onto the highway Rebecca asked him,

“So. Is your life passing you by?”  

Short Story – Jerry Rig

Photo by Sandro Cenni on Unsplash


“Ok guys, another session of Hot or Trot.  You first Andy,” said Matt.

“OK, give me a second  …Gigi Hadid or Scarlet Johansen?”

“All blondes!  I like it bro.  Gigi obviously.  She’s a sultry minx,” said Matt.

“I agree,” said Hector.  Matt didn’t trust Hector.  Matt didn’t know why yet.  Hector knew why he didn’t like Matt.

“Ok Sally,” said Matt using the nickname for Hector he takes from the fact he Hector was born in El Salvador.  Nobody else uses it.  “Your turn.”

“Selma Hayek or Eiza Gonzalez?”  

“Hector and his smokin hot Latinas.  Cheers,” said Andy.

“Who the hell is Aisha Gonzalvez?” asked Matt.

“It’s Eiza Gonzalez, you uncultured hack.”

Without hesitating Matt launches an immature missile back at Hector, “You know what the problem with …”

“Hey, Isn’t that the new guy right there,” squints Andy.

“Who?”

“Across the street.  The guy who just came out of the fast cash place.”

The three of them look across the street and drink from their pint glass.

“Yup,” said Matt.  “That’s him.  He’s the guy prancing around in those Carhart overalls he doesn’t need.  There he goes into that coin laundry place.  Bubbles.”

“Cute name,” says Hector.

“Hector.  Since when the fuck did you say something was cute?” asked Andy.

Matt, Andy and Hector were enjoying Friday afternoon beers on a patio picnic table. Monday to Thursday they worked hardscaping projects 12-14 hour days so Friday Fields, the boss, could leave the city early to beat traffic getting to his cottage north of the city. 

Though they make decent coin, they do not have cottage bound incomes so they find a friendly patio and flirt like idiots with the waitress:  Andy loves her perfume, Hector her eyes and Matt her boobs; all of them mentally promising a huge tip so they earn her wink as they leave. Today they were happy bread to the toaster of 4:30 pm June sun.  That Tom Cochrane tune was finishing. 

“Jerry,” blurts Andy.

“Bless you.”

“Jerry?  Quien chingados es Jerry?” asked Hector.

“That’s the name of the new guy.”

“My man Jerry.  He’s alright,” says Matt, wanting to be drunk.

“Listen guys …”  Andy grabs his phone and puts a twenty on the table.

“No bro, not again.”

“Gotta go guys,” said Andy. 

“But we just ordered our second pitcher.” 

“I’d love to, but duty calls”

“Ya I know. I get that call all the time and I just send it to voicemail. Deal with it when I get home.” 

“Not this time …,” hesitates Andy in a way that disarms all their ridicule. 

“Whatever bro,” said Matt. “See ya Monday.” 

Fridays are for grabbing a beer on a patio so, instead of driving to work,  Andy rides the bus in the morning.  Post patio Andy loves looking out the window at the scenery from the back of the Uber and disconnecting. 

As the Uber waits at the light, Andy sees Jerry, the new guy coming out of the coin laundry, walking past the fast Cash place and going into the 2 for 1 pizza place. It’s pretty good pizza. But all they do is cut a regular piece into two pieces. Voilà: 2 for the price of 1!

Monday morning they couldn’t find the key to the Bobcat.

“Who the fuck has the key to the fuckin Bobcat?” 

“Try Fab fuckin Fields.”  

“He probably took the key Friday because he feared in a neighbourhood of homes averaging $4 million someone would steal his heavy machinery over the weekend just for kicks.”  

“If he arrives and we haven’t done jack shit he’s gonna fuckin lose it.” 

“Mother fucker.  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  Fields was on his way.  Driving south from cottage country he saw the calls on his Bluetooth but didn’t answer on purpose.  

Using the wheelbarrow they were getting it done as if they had all just converted to being Amish.  Having pulled back a bit the chiffon floor to ceiling curtains in the living room, Mrs Moosavi was observing the chaos outside her home. 

“Mother fucker!  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  

“Fuckin fields does this on purpose to reduce us to fuckin manual labour so he can justify not paying us more.  He is the master of ‘an accident – on purpose’.”

“It’s brilliant and sociopathic.”

“You think that is an exaggeration but you have to see that he sets himself up to be the hero.”

“Relax.  All I know is my paycheck arrives on time every two weeks.  Baboom.” 

Seeing that the two summer hires were setting the lines and had a handle on the task at hand Hector leaned on his rake.

“Andy, hermano, how’s your wife?”  Hector loves strategically dropping Spanish into his conversation.  

“What? Oh Ya she’s doin alright. Thanks for asking.” 

Hector was fishing for gossip because Andy didn’t usually offer up to much info about his family like the other guys did. 

It worked. 

Andy hesitated “My wife has serious menstrual cramps. They just knock her right out. So I can’t just sit there Friday afternoon at a bar drinkin beer while she has to get up and feed the kids dinner and keep them from destroying the place.” 

“Wow. That’s brutal.” 

“For her, ya. But Xochi must have to deal with that too,” said Andy. 

“Ya. She and her sister, apparently their cycles are synched or something so they just talk on the phone. I bring home chocolate and ice cream and she seems to get through it.”

“Hey guys, did you need anything?” asked Jerry encroaching on the supervisor bubble.

“Ya.  A medium double double and a French cruller,” said Hector.

“Ignore that ridiculous, brown gnome,” said Andy. 

“Thank you brother Andy.  Now. Jerry, when the Guiness Book of World Records comes searching for the smallest Canadian penis in the history of Canadian penises – you just point them in Andy’s direction, will ya?”  said Hector.

“Jerry-rig it for the moment brother.”

Not a chance!  Get the fuckin come-along,” said Matt.

They needed to hold the 40 foot white pine back at the side of the house to get the Bobcat into the backyard so they could resurface the pool area.  Since the client couldn’t peek out from the window to see what they were doing two of the crew said fuck it just yank on the tree and if it returns to its original position great; if not then Fields and his insurance can deal with it and yell at him later.

The three including Matt said no.  Either they said no because it was a lazy solution to a small problem.  Or they simply feared Fields’ rath once the customer complains.

“What he meant was to get Jerry to hold it.  He’s standing right behind you.”

“Ok Jerry.  If you’re the arborist in the family, what do you think?”

“I can make it happen.  We just need a couple boards and the hand saw and we will wedge the space open.  Also the ten foot ladder,” said Jerry. 

“Ok, Jerry.  Make it happen.  We’re gonna take lunch and need this ready when we come back.  Capiche?” said Matt who today was driving the Bobcat.

Driving to Tim Horton’s with nouveau riche mansions on either side there was a Filipino nanny wheeling a stroller and walking a schnauzer.  In this neighbourhood because nobody who actually owned a house walked on the street there were no sidewalks.  So the babies and their nanny’s walk in traffic.

“You know my neighbour got a ticket for not pickin up his dog’s shit”

“My neighbour was telling me he got a fine for not putting his dog on a leash.  Then he went on this rant saying that he was going to submit a proposal to Elon Musk.”  Matt told the story:

“You know what Elon Musk should do.  He should program his Nueralink chip to…

What is the fuck is a Neurolink chip my other neighboour asks.

Neuralink.  I corrected the guy.  You haven’t heard of this?  It’s another one of his big ideas to insert silicon chips into people’s heads to monitor their thoughts and help people with diseases like MS to be able to move because they think it, the first neighbours says.

So it can listen to your thoughts and do what you want. That sounds cool I said

Ya but the government is gonna want to listen to those thoughts too.  You know it’s only a matter of time said another neighbour as we stood there watching our dogs play in the dog park.  Anyway, back to my idea.  Have the chip geo identify with your home and then have posts, kinda like charging stations, at various points, like in parks around your municipality that you have to get within say 3 metres of every so many days.  Basically making you exercise – he says.” said Matt.

What if you have a broken leg – does the chip know that?  And you can’t make it.

“No you have to go,” Matt whips out his sarcasm.

“Ya, even when the snow is 2 feet deep.”

“What’s the point?”

“He is saying, my neighbour, that why penalise the people who actually are out there with their dogs getting fresh air and exercise.  Make the lazy twinkies get off their couches and take their beer belly for a walk to the park at least once a week.”  

“And if they don’t?”

“And if they don’t then he says there is an automatic fine of like $15- 20 bucks,” said Matt.

“Holy shit!” and they all laugh like the time Hector told them he was thinking of importing exotic birds from El Salvador.

“Big Brother doesn’t need our help.”  

“We need to shut your neighbour up!” said Hector.

“Shut im up or shut im down!”

“Ya he is a bit of a nut job,” said Matt 

“Ya think?!”

___

Jerry Rig is from the Short Story Series Tool by Kevin Mcnamara