“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.”