It was late afternoon, and we were returning to the shop after a long, exhausting day.
As we rumbled into the yard, we noticed a commotion by the shop door. A group of guys was standing in the doorway in a tight circle. We all gazed out the window, trying to see what was going on.
Francisco hopped out and flung open the bay door at the farthest end of the shop. Slowly, Crew Leader Carl backed the truck and trailer inside.
We climbed out of the truck with our lunch containers. A guy from the construction crew named Carlos was unloading tools from his small work pickup.
“What’s going on over there?” Carl asked him.
“It’s no good,” Carlos said. “The irrigation specialist, Bryce, is in the hospital.”
“No kidding?” Carl said. “What happened?”
“He was working with the new guy, Chuck. Chuck was using the nail gun and nailed Bryce right through the hand.”
“Where’s Chuck now?” Carl asked.
Carlos motioned to the group of guys standing by the door. “Over there. The shop superintendent, Shoemaker, is chewing his ass right now.”
We all approached the time clock, which was mounted on the wall by the shop door. The crowd made way as we approached.
I saw Chuck sitting on a folding chair against the wall. He was pale, and his hands were shaking. Shoemaker was standing over him.
“So tell me again what happened,” Shoemaker said.
“I don’t know!” Chuck said, his voice wavering. “We were at the job, working on the deck roof. Bryce was on the ladder, holding a board, and I was using the nail gun. The next thing I knew, his hand was right where I was nailing, and the nail went through his hand, pinning him to the deck.”
“But exactly what happened?” Shoemaker asked. “I’m sure he didn’t just stick his hand in your face!”
“I don’t know!” Chuck said. “It all happened so fast. Bryce’s ladder started to wobble. He was standing on the top rung. The next thing I knew, he was falling, and I panicked and squeezed the nail gun.”
“So he was falling when you got him?” Shoemaker asked.
Chuck nodded. “Yeah, exactly. He was in the middle of falling.”
“So what exactly was your plan?” Shoemaker asked, frowning. “You decided to nail him to the deck to break his fall?”
Chuck shrugged. “Like I said, it happened so fast. I didn’t know what to do!”
“Well, for starters, you could have let him fall,” Shoemaker said. “I’m sure he’d be in a lot better shape than he is now!”