Tag Archives: creative writing

Hooked on a feeling

Hooked on a feelingIt was summer, and the company was getting a lot more business.

As a result, the owner, Benito, started hiring people at a frantic pace. Every morning, an unfamiliar guy would arrive at the shop while we were loading the truck, to wait for an interview.

One morning, we were in the shop sharpening lawnmower blades when a car pulled up and a man stepped out. The sunlight glinted off his arms, making me squint.

I peered at him, and I saw that instead of hands, the guy had hooks protruding from his wrists.

Crew Leader Carl appeared behind me. I glanced over and saw that he was staring at the man.

“Dude,” Carl said, as the guy walked into Benito’s office. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m wondering if we have the facilities, vehicles and tools to accommodate his disability.”

“Actually,” Carl said, “I was wondering how the guy uses the bathroom. You know what I mean? How could be possibly wipe with those things without tearing out his O-ring?”

I looked at him. “You know, Boss,” I said, shaking my head, “I don’t think you and I will ever be on the same page.”

Don’t put all your eggs in one Dumpster

Don_t put all your eggs in one DumpsterIt was late Thursday morning, and it was already sweltering. We were working at our largest account — a shopping center anchored by a supermarket.

There were no lawns to mow or weeds to pull here. Instead, the job consisted of each of us combing the property and picking up trash.

And man, was there always a ton of trash.

We’d each lug a plastic container behind us, and by the time we’d return to the truck, it’d be overflowing with shopping bags, soda cans, beer bottles, cigarette butts, soiled diapers, used needles.

“I really need to get paid more,” I mumbled, dropping a flat, run-over cat into my container.

I was walking the perimeter of the supermarket and approaching my least-favorite area: the overflowing Dumpsters in the back alley. They always reeked of rotting food, and garbage blew everywhere in an endless whirlpool.

As I approached the nearest Dumpster, I saw a pair of legs poking out, wiggling. As I grew closer, warily clutching my trash container, I saw that they belonged to Crew Leader Carl.

“Hey!” he said, wrenching himself out of the Dumpster. He was holding a carton of eggs. “Look what I found! They must be throwing out food today. I found a whole dozen eggs, and they’ve only been expired for a week!”

My stomach turned. “Boss, it’s ninety degrees out here!”

“So what?” Carl said. “It’s not like they’re refrigerated when they pop out of the chicken. You need to learn where your food comes from, pal.”

“Well, I know where it doesn’t come from,” I said. “The supermarket Dumpster.”

Love this job, and love you, too

Love this job, and love you, tooWe were driving between jobs, barreling down Main Street with our overflowing trailer swinging behind us.

One of the guys, Juan, saw an attractive woman walking along the sidewalk, so he stuck his head out the window and whistled at her as we cruised past.

“OK, that crap’s got to stop!” said Crew Leader Carl, turning around with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “We have a name on the door!”

I was in the backseat, sitting in the middle. Juan was on my right, and an overweight, acne-ridden guy named Slim was sitting on my left. He, too, was a smoker, and between every job he lit up and puffed like a maniac, filling the cab with both the scents of his smoke and his body odor.

“Hey,” he said, turning to me and elbowing me in the ribs. His breath smelled like limburger cheese and Pall Malls. “You want to know something cool? If you take a song — any song — and you replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, it changes the entire meaning of the song.”

I looked at him, blinking.

“Seriously, try it,” he said. “Any song. Just replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, and you’ve got yourself a whole new song. It’s hilarious.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” I said.

We passed another woman, so Juan stuck his head out the window and whistled.

“Dammit!” Crew Leader Carl said, pounding the dashboard. “I mean it!”

Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane,” Slim said, hacking on his cigarette. “Let’s change the words! C’mon, man! Sing it with me!”

I shook my head. “I’d really rather not.”

Another woman was walking up ahead. Juan glanced at Carl out of the corner of his eye, then looked out the window and let out a small chirp.

Through the rearview mirror, I saw Carl’s eyebrows rise. “I heard that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Slim was singing Somebody to Love with the perverted lyrics. Every time he changed the word “love” to the F-word, he laughed and hacked on his cigarette.

Just then, on the left side of the two-lane street, we saw a heavyset woman walking alongside the road.

“Hold on a second,” Slim said. Holding his cigarette, he stuck his double-chinned, acne-riddled face out the window and bellowed “Moo! Moo!”

“Dammit!” Carl said, slamming the dashboard. “How many times do I have to tell you guys? We have a name on the door! A name on the door!”

I sighed, closing my eyes. “These morons are loved.”

Slim looked at me. “What’s that?”

“If you change the word ‘love’ to the F-word, then it makes sense,” I said.

Seeking out opportunities for advancement

Seeking out opportunities for advancementWe were loading the truck one morning when Benito, the owner, appeared behind me and grabbed my arm.

“I want you work with Bryce today!” he barked.

I sighed. “Again?”

Benito wagged his finger in my face. “You do what I tell you and no complain! Bryce is good guy! He’s been with me long time!”

“Of course he’s been with you for a long time,” I said. “He’s too useless to work anywhere else.”

“How dare you!” Benito screamed. “You take that back! Bryce is my No. 1 guy!”

“Yeah?” I said, crossing my arms. “Because his work ethic is No. 2. Seriously, the guy doesn’t do anything! Whenever you pair us together, he sits and delegates while I do all the work!”

“Bryce is a foreman!” Benito said. “That means you do what he says and no complain!”

“How come Bryce gets to be a foreman while I’m just a laborer?” I asked. “I actually work. And not only that, but I’m competent, too. What does it take to get a promotion around here?”

“You no work with me for long time!” Benito screamed, clenching his fists. “You no prove yourself!”

“OK,” I said, “so let me get this straight. If I play my cards right and muddle through for several years without making waves, then someday I, too, can achieve Bryce’s advanced stature and prominence? Is that what you’re saying?”

Benito glowered, his eyes narrowing. A vein started to protrude from his neck.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said.

Several minutes later, as I was loading one of the trucks, Crew Leader Carl approached me from behind.

“I heard you and Benito fighting,” he said. “What was that all about?”

“Nothing,” I said. “We were just discussing advancement opportunities.”

Carl’s eyes widened. “Did he say he’s going to promote you?”

“Only if I achieve longevity through bureaucratic momentum and run-of-the-mill performance,” I said, shrugging. “I guess I didn’t realize this place was so corporate.”

Never make the same mistake twice — even if you’re not sure what it is

Never make the same mistake twiceAs we drove out of the shop one morning, Crew Leader Carl stopped at the office to talk to the owner, Benito. The crew waited in the truck while Carl went inside.

Several minutes later, Carl returned looking pale and trembling. He hopped behind the wheel and lit a cigarette, his hand shaking.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

Carl took a deep drag. “Not really. Benito just chewed my ass for fifteen minutes straight!”

“For what?” I asked.

Carl shrugged. “No idea. It was all in Italian. He was waving his arms and screaming. I never even saw him take a breath. It was like a damn Francis Ford Coppola production in there!”

“So you have no idea what he was so mad about?” I asked.

“No idea,” Carl said. “But I’ll tell you something: Whatever it was, I’m sure as hell never going to do it again!”

Adding beauty to the world

Adding beauty to the worldThe crew was loading up the truck after finishing a yard. As the other guys climbed into the cab, Crew Leader Carl and I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, admiring our work.

“You know,” Carl said, taking a deep drag from his cigarette, “I love this job. I really do. I always get such a tremendous sense of accomplishment after sprucing up a yard. We showed up to find the lawn overgrown, with weeds choking the planters and garbage caught in the shrubs. By working together as a cohesive team, we transformed the place from an untidy scrapheap into a verdant paradise.”

He waved his arm. “I mean, look at it. Thanks to us, the homeowners now have this pristine sanctuary in which to seek refuge from the stress of daily life. Tonight after dinner, they can sit outside with a cup of coffee and admire the twilight sky. The wind will rustle through the tree branches above, and off in the distance the crickets will chorus, providing a relaxing atmosphere lit only by the moon and stars.”

He took another long drag from his cigarette and let it out slowly. “Humans are meant to be in nature,” he said, his eyes misting as he gazed into the distance. “We’re meant to be free and roaming; not caged in cubicles like corporate prisoners. And you and I, we’re advocates of nature. We not only beautify people’s yards; we purify their spirits. By enhancing the yards that surround their homes, we’re helping people to find peace and tranquility. We’re not only giving them a space to meditate – we’re giving them a refuge in which to rediscover their souls.”

He wiped a tear from his eye. “We create beauty – that’s what we do. We create beauty.”

As I climbed into the truck, Carl remained outside. I noticed him wipe a tear as he looked at the yard, savoring all the beauty that we’d helped sculpt from the once-messy landscape.

Then he climbed into the cab, sliding behind the wheel. Starting the engine, he took one final drag from his cigarette before flicking it out the window.

It landed on the front lawn just as we were pulling away.

No call, no show — no work

No call, no show — no workOne of the guys on the crew unexpectedly quit, so Benito hired a man named Marc to replace him. Marc was large and rough-looking, with tattoos covering his face and neck. If you tried speaking to him, he’d only glower and grunt.

After a week, Marc didn’t show up one morning. The crew remained at the shop to wait for him, even after everyone else had gone to their respective job sites.

“I hope he’s OK,” Crew Leader Carl said, pacing the shop floor. “According to Benito, he didn’t call in.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” I said. “He’s probably hungover or something.”

“He knows to call in if he’s sick,” Carl said. “And he obviously didn’t quit, because he didn’t say anything to me or Benito. I’m just worried that something happened.”

“Maybe we can obsess about it on the road,” I said. “The longer we wait here, the later we’ll have to work tonight to get everything done.”

Carl glanced at his watch. “We’ll give him a few more minutes. I’d hate for him to show up and for us to be gone.”

“Yeah, that’d be a real tragedy,” I said. “We’d all be deprived of his sunny disposition.”

Carl continued to pace while the rest of us leaned against the truck, loafing. Francisco yawned and started to nod off, even though he was standing up.

“It’s not like him not to show up,” Carl said.

“He’s been here a week,” I said. “He hasn’t exactly demonstrated longterm stability.”

“But he explicitly told me how much he appreciates this job,” Carl said. “He was so grateful for the opportunity. I can’t imagine that he’d squander it.”

He shook his head and sighed. “I wonder what could have gotten into him?”

“Probably a fifth of tequila and a six pack,” I said.

Finally, Carl’s cell starting ringing. He put it to his ear. “Yeah? Oh, you did? Well, that’s good news. I’m glad you found out. The entire crew was worried. Huh? Yeah, we’ll go ahead and hit the road.”

Carl put the phone away. “That was Benito. He just heard from Marc. Apparently, he couldn’t come to work this morning because he’s in jail for beating his wife.”

“Well, that’s reassuring,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Thank goodness he’s OK. Now we can all rest easy.”

Carl glared at me.

“I mean, I know all of us were deeply concerned about his health and well-being,” I said. “I’m just glad he isn’t hurt.”

Carl closed his eyes, sighing.

“I just have one question, though,” I said. “Is going to jail for beating your wife an acceptable excuse to miss work? I mean, can you declare that as sick time, or maybe personal vacation? I must have glossed over that part in the employee handbook.”

“OK, Peter!” Carl barked. “Enough! You’ve made your point.”

Spit happens

Spit happensBenito, 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.”

A crew that carries in the groceries 

A crew that carries in the groceries“Oh no,” Crew Leader Carl said, as we pulled to a stop in front of our next account. “Mrs. Beale is waiting for us.”

I looked and saw a little old lady standing on the sidewalk, her hands planted on her hips.

“I need your help,” she barked, as we all climbed out of the truck.

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said.

She pointed to the car parked in the open garage. The trunk was propped open.

“I just got back from the store,” Mrs. Beale said. “Carry all of the groceries into the house!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said.

The five us grabbed an armload of groceries and paraded into the house.

“Each of you kick off your shoes before coming in,” Mrs. Beale said. “You’re all filthy. I don’t want you tracking mud on my carpet.”

We all kicked off our boots in the washroom before marching through the house with our sacks.

“Put the refrigerated items away,” she said. “The other things go in the pantry. Hurry up – my ice cream’s melting.”

She glared at Francisco. “Comprehend-o?”

Francisco nodded and started unpacking bags. When her back was turned, he rolled his eyes at me.

When we were done, Mrs. Beale led us back out to the garage. While we were tying our boots, she barked, “I’m having a get-together on Saturday night. Carry all of this patio furniture to the backyard.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said.

Francisco and I each grabbed the end of a heavy table and lumbered out the side door. The other guys followed us carrying chairs and an umbrella.

“Set up the furniture,” Mrs. Beale barked when we got to the back patio. “Put the table over there. And I want those chairs by the house!”

We scurried around setting up the furniture. When we were done, Mrs. Beale put a finger to her lips and frowned.

“I don’t like it,” she said. “Put the table over there, and the chairs over there.”

We rearranged the furniture over and over until she was satisfied.

“Thank you very much for your help,” she said.

Crew Leader Carl checked his watch. “Well, our half-hour’s up, Mrs. Beale. We have to go to our next account now.”

She balled her hands into fists. “But you didn’t even touch my yard! You lazy bastards! What kind of a maintenance crew are you?”

It’s always wise to have a backup plan

It_s always wise to have a backup planIt was a sweltering summer afternoon. I was standing in a hole, digging, while Crew Leader Carl stood over me with his arms crossed, supervising.

“Ugh,” he said, scratching his left inner thigh with the heel of his right boot. “I have the itchies.”

I moved to the far side of the hole.

“So,” Carl said, scratching his left armpit, “how you liking the job so far?”

I shrugged, tossing a shovelful of dirt. “It’s OK. It wasn’t my first choice.”

Carl quickly sniffed his fingers, then continued to scratch his arms and stomach. “That’s right. You wanted to be a reporter or something like that, didn’t you?”

“Just something where I could pay off my student loans before I’m seventy-five.”

“If you’re lucky, you won’t make it to seventy-five,” Carl said, reaching into his shorts and scratching furiously. “Then you won’t have to pay nothing back.”

“Sound financial advice,” I said. “Thank you.”

“You should have had a backup plan,” Carl said. He was now scratching his right thigh with the heel of his left foot, balancing precariously on one leg. “You should always have a backup plan.”

“This is my backup plan,” I said. “Digging holes in hundred-degree heat for minimum wage wasn’t my first choice.”

“Take me, for example,” Carl said, crossing his arms and scratching both his armpits simultaneously, looking a little like Molly Shannon’s Superstar character. “I’ve always got a backup plan. If this landscaping gig doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my previous profession of being a chef.”

I dropped my shovel. “You handled and prepared food?”

He nodded. “For fifteen years, yeah. At restaurants all over town.” He checked his watch. “So, how about breaking for lunch?”

I grabbed my shovel and continued to dig. “No thanks.”

He frowned. “No thanks?”

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” I told him.