Wednesday: a half-assed dead-center, destined for a fugitive leave of the senses. It promises just enough downtime to poorly salvage what’s been laboriously pinched. The sooner we get there, the better we’ll sleep off nature’s unpredictable schedule, so let’s resume the imposition & get the inevitable temporarily over with:
(again . . .)
Assemble at one of the worksite guest rooms where Anthony the Lender passes out that day’s meal vouchers as the workers rummage through tools. He gives general instructions, eyes the tools again & disappears.
Engaged watches you put the food ticket in your wallet & asks if you want to make a quick two-grand, then how many credit cards you have. You reply “None that work.”
NC listens, then blurts that he blew through a $750,000 inheritance & wrecked five cars before coming north. The incredible amounts cause a brief silence of disbelief, then Engaged takes NC aside.
You stuff your wallet into your front pants pocket as NC pulls his from behind.
At quitting time, see Reserved walking on the mountain road & offer him a lift. He gets in & says his roommate drops him off at 5:30 each morning on the way to their own job & then he walks up to the lodge. He mentions a child living out of state with a relative, an illness, & then the conversation ends. You let him out at the security gate with “See ya tomorrow.” He doesn’t reply & stands by the side of the road & checks his cell.
You wonder how far away he is from wherever & why.
1/7Reserved doesn’t show up at the morning gathering. Instead, a slow-moving middle-age shuffles in with duct tape patching his pants front, zipper-to-crotch, & crowned with a downy scalp fairing random pinkish gouges imagined as healed hatchet wounds. Anthony the Lender hands him a hardhat & small pry bar, puts him to work next to you & walks out of the room.
Engaged shows you a selfie video of him & his girlfriend at Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas drinking from a bottle of Hennessy by the pool. Next, he scrolls to a photo of a condo with a new-looking sports car parked in front. He explains that he takes “temp jobs like this” to overcompensate for “other” income.
A few hours in, Lenny the Accuser returns while workers sluggishly pry at baseboard trim & pull up carpet. He separates you from Gouges for a task in another room.
While walking with you down the hallway, Lenny says that one of the regular lodge employees complained that someone had been tailgating them on the road from the security gate on the previous day. The employee didn't recognize the other car but thought it could’ve been one of the demolition workers. The Accuser warns that “everyone needs to watch their speed when they’re driving on the mountain — security will not put up with speeding.” He tells you that he expects all of the demolition workers to know that. Proceed the rest in silence to a room with an open window where DJ Redeyes & NC are sliding debris onto a plywood chute leading to a dumpster a few floors down in the parking lot.
You don’t relay the traffic alert to anyone.
Friday morning opens outside with Anthony the Lender guiding the crew down a trail to a partially gutted guest bungalow. Inside, it’s strewn with discarded scraps of wood, PVC sections & wads of pulled wiring. He instructs to clear it out & meet up with him after lunch, then leaves. The work lasts about an hour until everyone slows to a complete break, leaning & sitting around exposed joists.
Engaged slides his back down new drywall & folds onto the floor, wrists on bent knee-tops, looks at his cell phone & says that his girlfriend texted a photo of herself from the gym. He turns his phone to show a woman on an exercise bike, in sweats but not sweating & smiling to whoever is taking the pic. He says he wants to show you what he's going to send back to her, then swipes the screen & holds it up.
The photo is of a skinny man from neck to knees, reclining without a shirt, underwear bunched down, erect.
He looks at you & says, “. . . just wanted you to see if I should send her this."
You ask, "That's you?”
You ask, “How'd you take that? The angle, I mean…”
Engaged holds the phone arm straight out in front of him as if snapping a pic, spreads his legs slightly & says "You know, just held my arm out like this,” then pulls the phone back & reviews the shot again for himself.
You ponder whether he took it from somewhere on the property or if it was already in his photo library.
Engaged looks back at you with “What’ya think?” & swivels his grip like he’s about to show the pic again.
You say “Yeah, I think you should send it.”
Engaged looks down at the screen & pokes it with a grin.
After lunch, return to the closed floor of guest rooms & continue the demolition. At quitting time, Lenny the Accuser & Anthony the Lender address all, saying that the job probably won’t last for the two weeks as promised — “not sure how long, but we’ll let you know on Monday.”
After they exit together, Hammer Smile smiles to the room that he just got off the phone with the temp agency & they’re going to assign him to a new job starting next week. No one responds as they put their tools back on the worktable, then amble out. Gouges stands in a corner, takes off his hardhat & slowly palms his downy wounds, eyes closed as if trying to remember something, then opens them & looks into the hat.
While carefully monitoring your speed down the mountain, realize you forgot to return a screwdriver in your jacket pocket to Anthony the Lender. Turn around at the security gate & drive back a little faster. He’s standing in the parking lot as if expecting you. You return the tool & apologize. He says “okay” & walks away, seemingly distracted by another thought, back into the lodge as Gouges exits, thumbing out the curled edges of the duct tape patch, then squints skyward.
A few parking spaces away, a familiar sports car. Engaged & NC are sitting inside, Engaged behind the wheel. Both are staring down. It starts & backs up, tapping the bumper of a car parked behind, then pulls forward & stops. Both look back, then at each other.
Glance up to see Lenny the Accuser watching from the open guest room window with the debris chute.
The sports car pulls out.
You speculate about NC’s wrecked inheritance claim & where he could be going with Engaged, then look back up to the window. The Accuser is gone.
Across the lot, DJ Redeyes walks out from the surrounding woods.
Give yourself a quick pat-down for any other tools then drive back onto the mountain road expecting to see the sports car ahead, but no sign.
Mid-Saturday at home. The windows frame overcast black-&-white stillness. Dress just enough to loaf from room-to-room. Make a sandwich with the surplus sack lunch fixins. Chew while emailing a resignation to the temp agency. Scratch some quick subtraction to hazard the leftover wages. The afternoon passes innocently idle with a sober tone of sovereignty in the air.
Dusk shows up earlier than expected. Weigh options in measured splashes & lowball a plan to remember to make up another plan.
Okay, we’re off work now — sorta. There’s always something or other going on or off inside; hit or miss whether reckless or imposed, etc . . . Without fail. Like it or not.
The remaining three weeks of that January were spent plotting & staging inconclusive schemes of income balanced between waking & sleeping as if a job itself of stumbling onto or away from proposals of situational fallout sorted through or brushed off as just more work.
(There’s another description of work titled, oddly enough, “Work” in my 2020 Black Sparrow Press collection of rants, Cuttings from the Tangle.)
In Bilocate—part four, we’ll take a leisurely nature walk & observe the legged, the winged & the devoured between.