Tag Archives: fiction

Those who don’t know, teach

Those who don_t know, teachIt was Monday morning, and all of us were seated on folding chairs in the shop, facing the open bay door. Shoemaker, the shop superintendent, had called an impromptu meeting before the crews took off to go to their respective job sites.

“The owner, Benito, asked me to gather everyone together this morning to discuss something very important,” Shoemaker said, stroking his goatee and pacing back and forth. “The company has gotten a lot of complaints lately. Apparently, some team members have been whistling at women while driving company vehicles.”

I looked at Juan and Slim. Both of them were staring at their laps, examining their hands, as if they’d never catcalled in their entire lives.

“As we all should know,” Shoemaker continued, “whistling at women is inappropriate behavior. Not only that, but it’s sexual harassment. And when we make disparaging sounds at members of the general public, it reflects poorly on our company’s image.”

“Unlike our 30-year-old vehicles,” someone called out. (It might have been me.)

Shoemaker stopped grooming his goatee mid-stroke. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” He continued to pace. “Because of these complaints, we’re going to spend an hour this morning undergoing sexual-harassment training. I’m passing out pamphlets now. Please take one and pass them back.”

I raised my hand. “Can I ask a question?”

Everyone turned to look at me. Shoemaker closed his eyes and sighed. “Yes. Go ahead, Peter.”

“Are you going to be administering the training this morning?” I asked.

Shoemaker tugged at his goatee. “Yes. As the shop superintendent, it’s my responsibility to ensure all employees are appropriately trained.”

“OK,” I said. “And just so we’re clear, you’re also the one who wallpapered the shop bathroom with all those Penthouse spreads last week. Correct?”

The entire company laughed. Shoemaker’s face turned red.

“Everyone turn to page 1 in your pamphlets,” he said, casting his gaze downward. “Maybe we all can learn something this morning.”

Redheads are notorious

Redheads are notoriousWe were driving between jobs one afternoon, cruising through town with the windows down.

As we went through an intersection, we all noticed an attractive young woman up ahead walking along the sidewalk. She was wearing high heels and a short skirt that showed off her long legs.

As we drove past, one of the guys, Juan, stuck his entire head out the window and whistled. The woman jumped, startled.

“Well, that was subtle,” I said.

Juan elbowed me in the ribs. “She was hot, no?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. She was OK.”

I didn’t want to state the obvious: that she was way out of my league.

“No,” said Crew Leader Carl, shaking his head and puffing on a cigarette as he drove. “You wouldn’t want her, Pete.”

“Why not?” I asked.

Carl looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Isn’t it obvious? Because she’s a redhead!”

We drove in silence for a moment.

“Um, OK,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t get it. What’s the deal with redheads?”

“Oh, man,” Carl said. “Don’t you know? Redheads are the nastiest of them all! They’re gross. They’re dirty. They’re notorious!

I stared at him, blinking. “Carl, what are you talking about?”

“Well, let me explain,” Carl said. “The only reason I say that is because the first redhead I dated gave me the crabs, and the second redhead I dated gave me the clap.”

I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. “But you can’t just impugn an entire class of women based on your personal experiences!”

“Sure I can,” Carl said. “They were miserable experiences.”

“Maybe it’s not so much redheads in general as the type of women you date?” I suggested.

Carl shrugged. “Crabs and clap. I think the math speaks for itself.”

Teamwork gets the job done

Teamwork gets the job doneBryce and I drove to the job site together. It was an older house with a dirt yard in front and an aged paver patio in back.

We hopped out of the truck. I grabbed both a pick and a shovel.

“OK,” Bryce said, “I want you to dig a three-foot-deep trench from here—” he walked the entire length of the front yard — “to here.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for spray paint,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I started to dig. An hour later, he returned with the paint.

“OK,” Bryce said, “now that you’re done with the trench, I want you to tear out all those old pavers in the backyard. Put them in a pile by the sidewalk.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a couple of bags of sand,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I ripped out all the pavers. I hauled them in several wheelbarrow loads to the front yard and stacked them in a pretty pile by the sidewalk.

An hour later, Bryce returned with the sand.

“OK,” he said, “now that you’re done with the pavers, I want you to dig a four-foot-deep hole by the front of the house. Make sure it intersects with the trench.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a valve box,” he said. “I forgot to grab one at the shop.”

So he left, and I dug a four-foot-deep hole. An hour later, he returned with the valve box.

Just then, Benito pulled up in his small truck. He climbed out and inspected the site.

“Good job!” he said, walking toward us. “You guys get a lot done!”

“It’s all about teamwork,” Bryce said. “Together, Peter and I kick some serious butt.”

He looked at me. “Isn’t that right?”

I glared.

Seeking professional expertise 

Seeking professional expertiseIt was a sweltering summer morning, and we were working at one of our newer accounts. All of us on the crew were scurrying around mowing, pruning and pulling weeds, while Crew Leader Carl stood with his arms crossed, supervising.

The front door opened, and the homeowner came hobbling out. He was an older man with thin, wispy hair. He was wearing shorts that showed off his pencil-thin legs and knobby knees. The bright sunlight glared off them, and I had to look away.

“Excuse me!” he called to Carl. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” Carl said, walking toward the front stairs.

“I’ve had that tree there since I moved in,” the man said, pointing. “Do you know what kind it is?”

Carl rubbed his chin. “You know, I’m not sure.”

“The reason I ask is that it seems to drop a lot of leaves,” the man said. “It’s as if there’s a new pile every morning. Do you know if that’s normal?”

Carl shrugged. “I really couldn’t say.”

“I also noticed that it’s close to the street,” the man continued. “I’m worried about the roots. Do you think they could tear up the sidewalk as the tree matures?”

Carl tilted his head. “That’s a good question.”

“The trunk also got a split in it during a recent windstorm,” the man said. “I don’t know if it’s a hardwood or a softwood. Is there a chance it could snap someday and topple onto my house?”

Carl licked his lips. “That’s definitely something to think about.”

I turned to Francisco, who was kneeled beside me, pulling weeds.

“I love to watch a professional at work,” I told him.

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.”

Requisitioning a company vehicle

Requisitioning a company vehicleIt was a chilly summer morning. We were all at the shop, loading the truck with our mowers and tools.

As I climbed into the backseat, Benito, the owner, grabbed my wrist and yanked me back out.

“You’re not working with them today!” he said. “I need you to do a job with Bryce!”

“What kind of a job?” I asked, as the maintenance truck took off without me, spewing dust and gravel.

“What kind of a job?” Benito repeated. “You all the time questions! It’s a job where I tell you what to do and you just do it! Understand?”

“I appreciate your sharing the big-picture vision,” I said. “Thank you.”

“Load a truck with shovels and rakes, and then see me in the office,” Benito said, stomping away. “I’ll give you the address.”

“How about I just ride with Bryce?” I asked.

“Because he’s already at the jobsite! You and your endless questions!”

“So we’re driving two separate vehicles? This company’s not exactly a paragon of efficiency, Boss.”

Benito pointed at me. “Take a truck and load it with tools! I’ll be in the office.”

“How do I know what truck to take?” I asked.

Per carita! Never-ending questions! Talk to Shoemaker. He’s the shop superintendent.”

So I approached Shoemaker, a short, balding guy with a long goatee. “Benito wants me to take one of the trucks.”

“Which one you want?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. How about the ’84 Ford?”

“That one’s been stalling at stoplights.”

“OK,” I said. “How about the ’79 Ford?”

“Nah. The brakes is worn.”

“The ’77 flatbed?”

“Nope. Transmission’s busted.”

I glared at him. “The ’68 Chevy dumptruck?”

“Clutch is out.”

“Well,” I said, “I need something reliable. I’ll just take the 2000 Isuzu Hombre, then.”

“That one … wait.” Shoemaker scratched his chin. “We don’t have an Isuzu Hombre.”

“I know,” I said, twirling my keychain on my finger and walking away. “It’s mine.”