Benito, the owner, had given me an address and told me to work with Bryce for the day. I found the house and pulled to a stop in front.
Bryce was standing in the front yard, scratching his shaved head. A gargantuan wad of chew bulged from his bottom lip, packed like gauze into an open wound.
I grabbed a shovel from the back of my truck and approached him. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“Got a busted pipe underground,” he said, spitting a chunk of tobacco at the saturated soil. A stream of juice dribbled down his chin. Brown beads glistened from the stubble.
I winced, my stomach turning. “Broken pipe?”
“Yep.” He spit again, the juice landing on the toe of his boot. “Water’s coming up by that tree. Looks like a geyser. I reckon the pipe’s busted underneath.”
“So we’re going to have to dig down to find it?” I asked.
“Yep. That’s what you’re here for. Glad you brought your shovel.” Bryce spit again and grinned, showing off his rotted teeth. They looked like black beans protruding from rancid gums. My nausea grew worse.
“Aren’t you going to help me?” I asked. “You’re not just going to stand there while I dig, are you?”
“I’m the repair specialist,” Bryce said, spitting. “I’m not supposed to touch a shovel. I’m just here to diagnose the problem.”
“So you’re saying there are two types of employees: Those who diagnose the problem, and those who dig?”
He grinned again. “Yep. And because you’re new, you dig.”
He hawked another wad of spit, the juice trickling down his cheek and neck. He brushed the back of his hand across his face to wipe it off. I threw up a little in my mouth.
“Sorry,” I said, dropping my shovel and walking away. “No can do. I got to go home and take a shower.”
“Take a shower?” Bryce said, chunks of tobacco dribbling from his mouth. “What are you talking about? You haven’t even done anything yet.”
“I know,” I said, “but for some inexplicable reason, I already feel dirty.”