“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