We were all in the maintenance truck, zooming down the highway. As usual, Crew Leader Carl was driving. He had one arm slung over the wheel, steering, while the other dangled out the window, holding a cigarette.
As usual, I was sandwiched in the backseat between Juan and Slim. Slim was an overweight, acne-ridden guy with a massive gut that hung over his belt. He, too, was smoking. Even with all the windows rolled down, the cab reeked of acrid smoke.
“Ugh,” Slim said, shifting in his seat. “Hey, Carl? You think we can stop at the nearest convenience store? I got to use the can.”
Carl glared in the rearview mirror. “Again? That’ll be the fourth time today!”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Slim said, grimacing and holding his swollen stomach. “Maybe it’s the corndogs and onion rings I had for dinner last night. Either that, or the half-bottle of gin. I’m not sure which.”
“Yeah, it has to be one or the other,” I said. “It couldn’t be the two of them joining forces.”
“I’m tired of having to stop every two seconds,” Carl said, peering down the road, scanning for a standard station. “You’re like a walking Imodium A-D commercial!”
Slim tossed his half-finished cigarette out the window. “Well, what am I supposed to do? It’s not like I can squat behind a bush! It sucks working at a job that doesn’t provide a bathroom.”
“Maybe we can glue a toilet seat to a five-gallon bucket and keep it in the trailer,” I suggested.
“That’s actually not a bad idea,” Slim said. “Even better, we could tow around one of those porta-potties — like the kind they use on construction sites and at county fairs. We could hook it to the trailer so it’s available wherever we are. It would be nice to have our own bathroom — one that doesn’t require a key chained to a baton.”
“Porta-potties aren’t ideal,” Carl said. “They stink, they’re always humming with flies, and they’ve got that blue Kool-Aid-looking chemical in them. That stuff splashes up and burns your ass. Trust me, I’ve used enough of those things to know, and I’ve got the chemical burns on my butt to prove it.”
I stifled a laugh, then dug into my front pocket for my notebook. I flipped it open and jotted down something.
Carl looked at me in the rearview mirror, his eyes narrowed. “What are you writing, Peter?”
I looked up. “What’s that?”
“I’ve noticed that every time we say anything, you take out that stupid notebook and write in it. You’re not recording our conversations, are you?”
Slim looked over at me, frowning.
“Of course not,” I said, quickly flipping the notebook closed and jamming it back in my pocket. “I was just adding something to my shopping list for tonight. That’s all.”
I licked my lips, hoping they hadn’t noticed the higher pitch my voice had taken.
“That better be all,” Carl said, glowering. “Because what happens on the Lawn-Cutting Crew stays on the Lawn-Cutting Crew. Got it?”
“Of course,” I said, placing a protective palm on my front pocket. “Besides, this job isn’t interesting enough to write about, anyway.”