“In alle dingen van de natuur is iets van het wonderbaarlijke.”****“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” See me too on : 500px ~ FlickrStay Close to Nature — Inge David Photography
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
“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?”
“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.
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.’
“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?
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
really good writing
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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“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?”
“He asked about the team, nobody specific.”
“That our work speaks for itself. Well built – on time – no drama.”
“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?”
“Where is Octavo?”
“In the shitter.”
“He just went.”
“You sound like Gerry.”
“Don’t insult me.”
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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
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
Great Dialogue and details.
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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A concise read providing a useful perspective on challenges you may encounter. Read on. Take a sip of rooster coffee.
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…
View original post 324 more words
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
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
“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.
“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
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?”
A little writing that leaves the taste of tequila in your mouth
Sandoval, pointing his tanned index finger from atop the conference room table, told his VP of development Andrea to make sure there was a fresh shitter on site for when the engineer visits. Andrea emailed Andre the project manager to take care of it. So Andre texted Gerry the site supervisor to take care of it. Sitting in his pickup truck in the curving line of the Tim Horton’s drive thru waiting for his large double double coffee Gerry got an idea. He was going to get Ricky to take care of it. Ricky has this inborn arrogance that makes it seem when he asks you for something it is more like a fact than a favour. But Gerry was scared of Sandoval’s son Ricky one on one.
“Hey I need one of you two geniuses to order a new port-a-potty.”
“What the fuck for?” said Oddie.
“Don’t those guys just show up on schedule every like ten days?”
“Ya, well it’s potty time,” said Gerry, making Oddie smirk.
“Fuck that farmer Joe, that’s your job and you know it. You’re trying to pawn that off on us because you don’t have the huevos to do it yourself,” said Oddie. In mid sentence Oddie remembered that it really annoyed Gerry when someone threw in phrases from their mother tongue. Spanish wasn’t his mother tongue but it still slid the job.
“You tell Ricky he has to order the new shitter,” said Oddie, imposing on Gerry the 4 inches taller he was to punctuate his point; then walking off.
Gerry was fuming because he didn’t have what these assholes did. Oddie had an x-factor. He had a way to receive a problem and without doing anything crazy; without yelling and droppind f- bombs all over the job site, he got stuff done. 50% Mike Holmes + 50% Macgyver but with better hair than both of them. Ricky had money.
“We make that dumbass’s life way too easy,” said Oddie, including Ricky. “Dude I’m getting tired of Gerry not givin me any recognition. Does the office even know I exist? What Gerry should do is tell his superiors that Oddie is a man who can think on his feet and is great with managing people on the job site,” said Oddie with Ricky nodding his head and just trying to stay neutral.
Oddie didn’t like complaining to Trina but he needed to vent. Trina was more surprised at the level of pettiness than bothered to have to hear about work drama from her boyfriend. She told him “Just speak your mind on the job site. But do it in a way that highlights your ability and your effort. Especially in front of that Ricky in case he can go over Gerry’s head and say something to his dad.”
“Just look at how I basically transformed Sandoval’s son into a young man who believes in his ability to do shit. He is outgrowing that insecure spoiled brat his dad dropped into Gerry’s lap and Gerry passed off to me,” said Oddie to Trina as he cooked dinner. She looked up from building the app on her laptop and saw his afro grazing the bottom of the stove fan and wondered how a hard hat could actually stay on his head all day without falling off all the time.
“Gerry is such a weasel. The least he should do is throw a few gift certificates my way: $200 for a nice steak dinner,” Oddie talked to himself while seasoning the onions. He liked how the grains of rock salt gave his finger tips a mini massage. He loved the sweet fragrance of frying onions but today he couldn’t smell anything because he was stewing in his own thoughts. “Ya know, Gerry is like a house cat: he is afraid of the outside world,” said Oddie.
The outside world for Gerry is anyone under 30 years old, an assertive woman, anyone whose first language isn’t English, doesn’t approve of his e-cigarette or has creativity and leadership.
When Ricky ordered the new port-a-potty he got the day wrong.
“Where’s the fuckin port-a-potty Ricky!” said Gerry inviting cardiac arrest.
“What’s that Gerry?” said Oddie. “You’re not happy with how someone else did your job for you? Then instead of sucking on your phallic e-cigarette why don’t you dial Justin Time?”
“Ricky!” yelled Gerry.
“Sup Gerry,” said Ricky, taking off his orange hard hat and wiping his forearm across his forehead.
“Where’s my fuckin port-a-potty?”
Oddie took a step back and watched as this moron turned purple in the face thinking that we waste so much of our emotions on such silly things.
“I dunno Gerry, I ordered it so it should be here. Relax, the engineer doesn’t get here till tomorrow, right?” said Ricky with his moneyed coolness.
“Fuck it,” said Gerry as he pulled his cell out of his pocket and called Justin Time for himself.
“What!” Gerry yelled at his cell phone pacing down the suburban street where they were putting up new 5,000 square foot homes in a cul-de-sac. “I need that port-a-potty here today. Now.”
Gerry got to the job site at 6:15 the next morning just in case their port-a-potty was the first delivery of the day. He leaned on his truck, took a pull off his e-cigarette and a sip of his coffee. The morning in the cul-de-sac was cool and quiet and the sky was clear. For some reason he looked over his shoulder in time to glimpse two deer bound down into the ravine. He thought of just quitting and moving back to Manitoba and taking care of his parents. He felt guilty everytime he e-transfered money but wasn’t there to help out.
“Gerry looks like shit, how do you think he slept?” said Oddie in a mock conversation with Ricky so Gerry could totally overhear it.
“It’s just a toilet,” said Oddie.
“What’s his problem?” said Ricky, putting on his gloves.
“Last year Gerry phoned Justin Time yelling at them, droppin f-bombs that he needed a new port-a-potty right away because Jean was totally hungover and he puked all over the inside of the port-a-potty. It was a stinkin hot August day and the shitter smelled like shit.”
“What happened?” said Ricky adjusting his safety glasses.
“Their boss called someone at our office who emailed Andre who yelled at Gerry. So Gerry is ashamed to talk with them.”
“Did they give you a new port-a-potty?”
“No. Gerry made Jean clean it up. After telling me to do it of course. I told him to go to hell.”
The engineer is scheduled to arrive at 9:30 a.m. and the architect should arrive around then too. Andre the PM was already on site and looking pleased with the progress.
No one thought to reschedule the lumber delivery so Peter from Access Lumber was walking on site with a purchase order in his hand and trivia in his head.
“Where do you want me to put it down? Same place as last time,” said Peter. His last delivery to this site was about two months ago.
“Who are you?” said Andre.
“Access Lumber bro,” said Peter.
Oddie started to hum a song that made Ricky giggle but a glare from Gerry shut them down.
“Why is he here?” asked Andre.
“I need the lumber or my guys are gonna be just sittin around all day playin with themselves,” said Gerry in an attempt to sound like a decision maker.
“What’s your name?” said Andre.
“Pete,” said Peter quickly while taking a step forward.
“Ok Pete,how fast can you get that lumber unloaded?” Andre asked Peter.
“I can be pullin outta here in 90 minutes if nobody gets in my way,” said Peter.
“It’s 8 am. I need you outta here in 60 minutes. These guys can help you,” said Andre motioning to Oddie and Ricky.
“That’s right Peter of Access Lumber. We are at your service. We got 60 minutes together,” said Oddie with a wry smile. Andre could tell there was something going on between these guys but he didn’t care. He wanted the lumber offloaded and this guy off his job site before the engineer arrived.
“Get it done Oddie,” said Andre. With that comment Oddie felt that the people in the office might know that he wasn’t a bobblehead like Gerry.
“Why the fuck is everyone so tense becaue of one fucking engineer?” Ricky whispered to Oddie. Oddie was directing Peter to back up the truck onto the front lawn, chewing it up a bit more.
“Ya I know. It’s complicated,” said Oddie. Ricky had learned the vocabulary of evasion on site when the guys didn’t want to talk with him about shit the company did or rumours about his dad. Ricky stood between Oddie and the space to get out from the back of the truck with a stance that declared that he was not his dad. “Dude. Now’s not the time,” said Oddie.
“Is this guy a real fuckin hard ass or what,” said Ricky walking with Oddie.
“No. Not really. She’s pretty fair from what I understand. Not being an engineer myself. She just doesn’t take bullshit – and therein lies the issue,” said Oddie.
“Right,” said Ricky as they walked around the truck.
“Now level out that area where the plywood goes. And I want the 2 by 4’s over there,” Gerry gave redundant instructions to Oddie and Ricky who already knew what the drill was.
They got the lumber offloaded and Peter pulled onto the street at 9:15 and he sat in his truck doing paperwork or on his phone.
“I just got a message from the engineer. She can’t make it today” said Andre.
“Fuck me,” said Gerry.
“Not today,” said Oddie.
“So when?” asked Gerry.
“We’ll let you know. Just keep on schedule and don’t fuck up or we’ll have to tear everything down,” said Andre.
Gerry was exhausted. “I’m goin for coffee,” but then he saw he was already holding a large coffee in his hand.
Peter jumped down from the cab of his truck and walked across the street to the job site.
“Hey guys,” Peter said.
“Is that you Peter?” said Oddie.
Peter loved his job because he would visit different job sites all the time and could use the same trivia on all of them but get a new reaction each time. He ached to overcome his sense of lack of accomplishment as a man by bringing his own Jeopardy show where he is the host and the contestant. He just kept talking when the guys rolled their eyes or he heard others laugh at him. He was like a comedian who came to practise his routine on the guys before going on stage.
“Brother, I think you’ll like this one,” started Peter. “The original Zeppelin, the LZ 127 Graf…”
Oddie got a kick out of giving Peter a hard time but also admired his spirit to do his thing regardless of what others think. And he occasionally had a good story to tell. He was pretty sure the trivia Peter came up with was determined by his children’s homework assignments. Ricky now used wrist braces because his wrists weren’t used to the framing. He pretended he was adjusting his braces so he could listen to Peter.
“Knock it off guys. Get to work?” said Gerry, breaking up Peter’s seminar on airships.
Oddie laughed to himself and started singing so Peter could hear as he walked to his truck:
“There’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off. There’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off – there’s a dozen on my cousin I can hear the fuckers buzzin, there’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off.”
From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin McNamara