Tales From Mephitis. Chapter 5: The Flies and The Last Man

Updated on January 15, 2018

“When the small man casts a long shadow, you know the end is near.” Ayn Rand

They were still getting wood in. They busted their asses getting a huge dead Cherry and even bigger dead Ash dropped, cut, split, barrowed up to the barn and stacked.

The Ash was a real problem. The only way Frank could fell it and not get it hung up, was to drop it over the creek. That meant cutting up a large part of it while standing in two-foot-deep, icy, racing water.

Then they couldn’t get the huge two and a half foot rounds up the three-foot, vertical, muddy bank. It was just too steep and slippery.

It frustrated the hell out of him to have to leave those huge pieces of wood in the water like that. It had been nice, dry dead wood; ready to burn. The longer it sat in the water the longer they’d have to wait to burn it now.


He came up with an elegant solution in the middle of the night in bed.

Early next morning he brought two cold chisels and a sledge hammer down to the stream and drove them into the middle of each side of one of the three hundred-pound rounds. He stood it up like a giant wheel. Then he tossed a loop of thick rope over each one of the chisels, taking the free ends of the rope back up the steep bank with him.

From there it was a simple matter of pulling and rolling the round up the bank to where they could split it. Melissa got quite the kick out his idea. It was a delight to hear her merrily laugh in the middle of all that.

“Just like ‘The Flintstones’!”

When they finished hauling up both split up trees, they stood in the barn looking at the fruits of their day’s work: one face cord.

“Depressing, ain’t it?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Me either. Let’s get something to eat and a shower.”

“Best idea I’ve heard all day. Actually, no. Your Flintstone’s wheel trumps it.”

As he showered he thought of Thoreau’s observation that the wood warms you twice; once while you’re cutting it and then when you burn it. He hoped Thoreau would excuse him for being picky, but he seemed to have forgotten about the felling, the splitting and hauling. That added up to a lot of extra heating up.


“When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.” Tao Te Ching

The next Friday at dawn found him once again concentrating on pushing his legs to pump the bike up the last hill before Evetown, occasionally glancing behind when he heard a car coming.

The highway department had mowed back the weeds sometime this week. He picked his head up, craning it back to see how much more ahead of him there was to this damn hill, when he frowned, puzzled.

There was a large wet stain on the shoulder a couple of yards further up, with what looked like a scattered bag of dirty-white rice. Suddenly, on one of his gasping intakes of breath, the sickly sweet stench of a very rotten dead body filled his lungs and nose.

“Christ!”

As he laboriously drew up to it, he saw half-hidden under the shorn weeds what was left of a road-kill; a deer. The mower hadn’t seen it and sliced and diced it, spraying the maggots all over the roadside.

A pick-up was roaring up on him; he had no choice, he had to ride through the center of the dead maggots, adding more smears to the stained tarmac, stains that was the only record left of the lives lost there.

Thankfully, it wasn’t far to the top, where the morning breeze was flowing uphill into his face. Even the distant reek of the Transfer Station seemed refreshing now.

As he coasted downhill toward the other reek, he pushed his thoughts toward the day ahead. He pedaled in through the gate, scanning the tarmac closely for nails and glass.

He leaned the bike against the building and untied his knapsack. There was a new face when he passed the office to put his lunch in the refrigerator, or rather, a new ‘back’.

Some young kid with a bandana on his head had his shirt pulled up over his head, and was showing his back to Hoppin’ John, who stared dead-eyed ahead, slurping his coffee and coughing.

See? See how burned I am? I got sun-sick cause I didn’t take my prescription. See? That’s why I couldn’t come in Wednesday.” His back didn’t look burned to Frank. The kid just looked like a red-skinned redhead.

“GET THE F**K OUTTA HERE ROD!!!” Anton’s voice boomed nasally from the breakroom. “GODDAMN IT! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU??!! STAY THE F**K OUT OF HERE WHEN I’M CHANGING!!

Rod came out of the breakroom smirking and headed out to the trays.

“What the f**k you tellin me this for?” Hoppin’ John told the kid dead-pan. “I don’t give a f**k why you didn’t show on Wednesday...Or why you didn’t call off. I don’t work in Venice. You didn’t stick me.”

“Yeah, well, y’know...” The kid turned crimson. Frank felt sort of sorry for him. He was maybe in his mid twenties and obviously a f**k-up. ”Hey...Ya think Ray’s gonna be pissed? Ya know? I know I missed a lot of days, but I had a buncha shit goin on, ya know...I need the work, ya know. I couldn’t help this one. I was doin a roofing job, and I forgot.”

“I told ya: I don’t give a f**k.”

The phone rang; the 6:35 call from Ray.

“Yeah, ya know, yeah. I get it...But I just need this job, see...”

“Will you shut the f**k up?....Yeah, Hi, Ray...”

When he got outside, Rod had the scavenged stereo cranking out pop music. Sounded like Brittany Spears or somebody. Frank stopped listening to popular music in the 70’s. As far as he was concerned “Yes” was the last great Rock band. Everything since was bubble-gum or noise.

When Anton came out, he walked over to the set and switched stations to a classic rock one. The Allman Brothers’ “Tied to a Whipping Post” was in full swing. Frank silently approved. Rod’s rubber mouth bent down into a frown, but he said nothing.

He introduced himself to the ‘sunburned’ kid a little later when they were out by the trays. The young man was perusing a pile of “Playboy”s and “Hustler”s that someone had dropped off and Rod had set aside.

He was acting cocky now; Frank’s guess was this was how he liked to present himself. He glanced down at the page the kid was ‘reading’.

He said his name was Byron Pellette, and he was from Milan. He was about average height and weight, with absolutely no build, but the beginnings of a good pot-belly. Underneath his bandana his head was shaved close, except for a short ‘Mohawk’. It looked like a landing-strip.

When Byron found out Rod was from Milan too, the two of them began gossiping about who was shacking up with whom, who was divorcing who, and who was related to whom. Sounded like they were all in-bred to Frank.

“Hey, f**k it, ya know? Fat Charley, he got the right idea, ya know?”

“Yeah, I heard. What the frig? He’s f**kin some old broad on crutches. Also; I heard he’s doin it to get her money.”

“See, that’s what I mean! Smart. The f**ker’s smart. See? Ya marry some rich, old bitch. All ya gotta do is f**k em a few times, they kick, and you got the money! See? That’s what I’m gonna do. All I gotta do is find the old bitch…They all want it, ya know.”

And as the day went on Frank realized Byron was indeed trying to put his plan into effect. He hit on any older woman that came in. It was so obvious what he was doing that Frank felt embarrassed for not only the women, but for Byron as well. Most handled the blandishments graciously, but Frank made a point of staying nearby in case some one really got offended and he had to draw him up short.

“Here, hey! Check this out.” Byron called him over conspiratorially a little later. He was holding his cellphone open. “A friend of mine sent me this. Ya got ta watch this! It’s a toy, ya turn it on, and this guy f**ks this dog up the ass! Ya gotta see this!....Oh, shit.” He fumbled with it for a minute.

“Ah, f**k it. Hey check these out, huh?” He showed him a photo on his phone of a pair of world-class breasts. “Not bad, huh? That’s one of my ex-girlfriends...Look, here’s another.”

“This is another ex-girlfriend, huh?”

“Yeah. Beaut ain’t she? What a slit, huh?!”

Unfortunately for him, Frank recognized the photos as being from the magazine Byron had been ogling earlier.

“Oh, wait a minute. Check this one out!” He indicated a car pulling in. “Theres my meal ticket...Helllllo, Sweet Momma’!” He crooned, flashing his best smile, one that was missing a front tooth.

The object of his attentions was an emaciated woman maybe in her late sixties, clutching a Chihuahua in a knitted vest tightly to her deflated breast. She wore a jean jacket embroidered with Day-Glo turquoise plastic beads and a cowboy hat with “Cowgirl” stitched across it in hot pink.

Here., You let me get that for you darlin’...I’m here to take care of you. You don’t have a thing to worry about now, cause I’m here for ya!” He took the small bag of garbage from her gallantly, and tossed it backhand into the hopper.

She smiled at him.

“There ya go. Anything else I can do for you, ma’am?”

“Ya see that?” he excitedly told Rod when she was gone. “Ya see that? I think I really made an impression, ya know? See the way she was lookin at me? Oh, she wants me, she wants me bad.” He started to do a little clumsy boogie. “I’m gonna be rich, rich, rich! No more f**kin workin, just kickin back and gettin my c**k sucked!”

“You do realize, don’t you?” Frank interrupted his reverie. “That judging by the way she was holding that dog, she’s actually more likely to leave everything to that dog, than you.”

“Oh, shit! Ya think so?”

Before the day was half gone Frank had gotten his life story too, unsolicited; at least the glamorized version.

The upshot was that his was a typical one up here. And the more miserable the story, the greater the pride they took in it. Byron didn’t know his father. He never graduated High School. His mother was an alcoholic, hell-on-wheels bitch, who made his childhood miserable with her beatings, her shacking up with all her ‘boyfriends’, and her drunken rages. She threw him out when he was eighteen but he still sees her from time to time “cause she is my mother.”

It didn’t take a psychiatrist to see why he thought of women as he did.

“Hey, I know, it sounds like shit, but women need ta be treated like shit. Ya try and treat em nice, an they walk all over ya. They want ya ta smack em around.”

It also seemed that the Milan Police were very unfairly persecuting him for breaking and entering someone’s vacant summer camp, but they had it all wrong; he was innocent. He was just accidentally passing by and stopped in to have a drink. It was the other guys who broke in. And they were the ones, or maybe it was the cops, who planted that stolen shit in his truck.

A late model SUV pulling an aluminum trailer came into sight. Rod let out a long groan.

“Here she is. See that car? She always has big garbage bags that stink and she just dumps the other bags on the trays, and God, what a mess. If ya don’t get them before she does and she dumps what she thinks are recyclables, ya haveta go through it all and throw it all out. She dumps everything on those trays. I try and get them before she does an when she’s not looking I throw them all out. She always argues about how many stickers she’s got to pay too, so I just let her pay what she wants. Quick…Here she comes.”

A short, aging Japanese woman with grey streaks in her black hair climbed out. She was cute, with an engaging smile, and quite voluptuous for a Japanese woman. She headed for the trailer and quickly undid the bungis securing about a half dozen huge clear plastic bags.

Rod was right: Despite the transparent bags, Frank couldn’t tell which were the recyclables and which was the trash.

The bags were very heavy, but without hesitancy she threw herself down on one, wrapped her short arms around it, and with a heave, got it up. She staggered under the weight, but made it to the hopper. With an extra heave she got it up and over the wall.

It was filling up with other customers suddenly, and in the rush she got away from them. The next thing Frank knew she had heaved a bag up on top of the boxboard tray and with a mighty pull, swept the bag out from around its contents. Inextricably mixed with the boxboard were cigarette butts, soiled napkins, coffee grounds; everything under the sun. She managed to dump two more bags like that before Rod and he could grab and toss them.

“Thank you much for help. How many you need?”

“Just give me four.” Rod grimaced.

Four!? Why so many!?”

“Okay, Two.”

“That better.” She flashed him a sunny smile. “Bye-bye!” she cheerily said, waving as she drove off.

Later Anton came out and asked him to help him downstairs baling cardboard. After a quick run through on how to turn the baler on and off, he had Frank driving again; this time with the ‘grapples’ on the skidsteer. They were the ones that functioned like a set of jaws, the upper one with ‘fangs’ in the form of four long, pointed, steel teeth. The grapples were used to pluck out a mouthful of cardboard boxes from the bunker and then drop them into the baler’s hopper.

The opening and closing of the jaws was controlled by the right joystick. To open the jaws, you pulled it to the right; pulling it to the left closed them. He felt awkward as hell trying to remember what foot controlled what, and what hands did what. He often opened the jaws instead of closing them, or vice versa. And more than once, while transporting a mouthful to the baler, he accidentally pulled the joystick to the left while he was pushing the stick forward to turn left, spilling the whole mess on the floor. He didn’t have the time or opportunity to see how Anton was running the baler, or how he was tying the wires.

He flagged Frank down after a little while.

“I forgot. I’ve got to go to the County Center today. I’m supposed to be there already. I won’t be gone long. Keep plugging away on that bale. I’ll probably be back before you’re done. Or if you need anything John and Tom should be back soon.” With that he simply turned and left.

Jesus. I don’t have a f**king clue what I’m doing here. I can’t believe how they ‘train’ people here.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders, sat back, fired up the skidsteer and went for another load. He concentrated on coordinating his hands and feet, to try and gain some fluidity. There was no way around the ‘learning curve’; he knew that. It was going to take time and practice, so he was going to have to be patient with himself. ..But he didn’t have to like it.

All of a sudden he realized the baler had quit running. He shut off the skidsteer and got out, frowning.

“Now what?”

He looked it all over, puzzled. He tried to remember everything, or more accurately the little, Anton showed him.

The switch was still on ‘Run’, and in “Auto’. The bale wasn’t done yet, even though he knew it would shut off when it was done, because he remembered Anton telling him a siren would come on and lights would flash.

Then he remembered the mill and all the other places he’d worked. Aside from the usual attempts at bullying in the pecking order contest, there were always also ‘games’, tricks, pulled on the new guy.

“Okay. Let’s see. This piece of machinery uses much the same control technology as I was used to in the mill. What would shut it down?”

He went around the baler looking for Emergency stop buttons, checking each one he found.

Sure enough, one had been pushed in. He knew he sure as hell didn’t push that in, and they don’t push themselves in. There was no way it could have happened unless someone else had been down there with him sneaking around: Some one was playing games.

He glanced all around. No one. But it would have been easy to sneak down here, push in the ‘E-Stop’, then get out while his back was turned while he was in the skidsteer grabbing cardboard.

“F**king assholes. I don’t need this shit at this age. I’ll kick their asses.” He went upstairs and looked around. No one. “Piss on it.”

He climbed into the skidsteer and went back to work. He drove into the bunker, got a load of cardboard, drove it to the baler, lifted it up high over the hopper and released the jaw. Most of it fell right in, but as always, some pieces had been pierced by the ‘teeth’ and were pinioned on them.

He did as Anton had showed him, and like he had been doing each time he dumped a load: he tipped the bucket all the way forward, and rapidly pumped the right foot pedal to jostle the grapple jaw, trying to shake the pieces free.

To his stunned surprise, the bucket fell right off the boom arms and landed with a deafening crash right in the hopper.

He heard voices, and looking up saw Hoppin’ John and Little Tom on the catwalk looking right down at him. Tom acted innocent and surprised; John looked as dead-eyed as a fish.

”What happened!?” Tom called down to him.

“I don’t know!...I was just loading it and the bucket fell off!”

“Didn’t you fasten the lockdown clamps when you put the grapples on!?” Hoppin’ John asked him accusingly.

I didn’t put them on! They were already on when I started! “He snarled up at him. “I been loading this for a half hour already with no problem ...I didn’t have any problem until just now! Get it!?”

“Oh.”

He started to get out of the machine.

“Don’t move!” Tom shouted. “Those arms might drop on ya! Behind ya, on the right, there’s a lever. See it? Pull it up. That’s it. That locks the arms in place...’Safety first’, right?”

Frank got out as Tom came downstairs. John just watched, leaning his huge gut on the railing, every once in a while spitting into a cup or coughing.

“Why don’t you disconnect the hydraulic hoses while I go get the front end loader and some chains?”

Tom assumed Frank knew how to do that, and he was right; thank God. The last thing he needed was to act like a complete incompetent. No: The last thing he needed was for Ray to show up and see that bucket in the hopper. That would be the end of his ‘career’, of that he was dead certain.

In less than five minutes Tom was back at one of the overhead doors downstairs in the seat of a huge John Deere 644E Front End Loader.

Frank raised the door for him, and he maneuvered the loader into place, lifting the bucket to just over the skidsteer’s bucket in the hopper. Frank climbed up and fastened chains to both, then vaulted out and directed Tom as he gently lifted the bucket out, and lowered it to the ground. Tom stayed to help get everything up and running again. He bent down to look at the bale.

“Where’s Anton?”

“He said he had to go to a meeting at nine.”

Jesus, John!” Tom called up to the silently watching slumping figure. “These wires are all screwed up!... Jesus, the bale’s not even done yet, and the wires have been poked through!”

“Jesus H. f**kin Christ!” Hoppin John snorted in derision, and in so doing began to make a bad enemy. Frank glared up at him. He turned and left.

“Some one’s playin ‘f**k-f**k’ games.” Frank told Tom coldly. “First someone shut off an E-Stop on me, then the clamps ‘happen’ to be opened. What’s he talking about anyway about ‘lockdown clamps’?”

“These here.” Tom walked over to the skidsteer and showed him how a set of two levers locked the bucket or forks safely in position.

“Thanks. Now I know. I didn’t touch them because I didn’t know they existed.”

“Anton didn’t show you?”

“No. Must have slipped his mind.”

“You think somebody did it?”

“Yeah. Unless they can unclamp all by themselves, somebody’s playin games. I don’t play f**kin games. And they’d better f**kin stop right now.”

Tom said nothing, just kept working. As he did he showed Frank something of the idea of the baling process, and Frank began to piece together a working model in his head. When Tom left, he went back to loading cardboard.

Sometime later, while he was on his way back to the bunker for another grapple he heard a piercing whistle. Startled out of his concentration, he instinctively searched for the source. He saw Hoppin’ John up on the bridge by the trays looking down at him, obviously irritated. Frank saw his lips pull back and his gut jump as another piercing whistle cut through the din. Instantly, Frank bristled up like an old boar.

He hated being whistled at, summoned like a dog.

Now that John knew Frank saw him, he started saying something, and making gestures that were apparently supposed to be meaningful. Frank couldn’t hear him, nor understand his gestures, so he shut off the skidsteer and started to get out. There is no safe way to exit or enter those machines. You either have to step on the bucket’s rim, or step on top of a tire while reaching forward to grab a part of the frame to steady yourself as you clamber down.

Frank was still smoldering from the games earlier, and being whistled for only made him flare up. In his anger, he slipped off the tire and just barely caught himself before he fell, but it took some fancy gymnastic gyrations.

Hoppin’ John laughed at him in delight. Frank landed on his feet, pivoted quickly to face him and shot him a look, his face contorted with rage. The man instantly stepped back quickly, even though he was a dozen feet above Frank and behind a three-foot cement wall topped by eight feet of fencing.

“You okay!?” he ventured.

“WHAT do you f**king want!?” Frank roared, absolutely beside himself with an animal-like rage.

“Uh... Bring the grapples up here.”

When Frank drove up with the skidsteer he was still seething.

Without meeting his eyes, John silently directed him to the two “Metals” barrels. Those were 55-gallon drums for any scrap metal that couldn’t go into the tin can bunker.

Frank had already learned what he was expected to do. When the barrels were full, somebody brought a skidsteer with a bucket over, and someone else emptied the barrels into the bucket.

Then the full bucket was driven over to the scrap metal roll-off next to the C and D roll-off and the metal dumped in. When that roll-off was full, the foreman called it into Ray, who scheduled a driver to pick it up. From there, it was emptied onto the floor of the metal baling shed. There a crane operated by Tom or Farina loaded the awkward mess into a metal baler which crushed it into cubes. These were stacked and then sold to a metal recycler.

Frank got the skidsteer into position and waited. Hoppin’ John began to silently make hand motions for him to do something or other with the bucket. But with those vague wavy gestures, he couldn’t tell whether John wanted him to lift it, roll it, or what. Whatever Frank tried, the fellow exasperatedly rejected with his hand.

Hoppin’ John was getting red and flustered, and Frank could see this was going to really piss him off in a minute if John made just one wrong face. He abruptly shut off the skidsteer, leaned forward, and with his muscular forearms on his knees, pinned him with his gaze.

“I don’t do sign language. What do you want me to do?” he said slowly; low and menacing.

“Roll the bucket back.”

“Now, wasn’t that easy?”

Later on, Frank went down to run the garbage baler and Hoppin’ John watched him surreptiously from up top.

Anton trusted him on his own with it already, but Frank himself felt he hadn’t found the key to understanding it yet. He could run it in ‘Semi’, as long as there was no problem. And if the strapper screwed up, he wasn’t sure how to troubleshoot it yet.

And then there was “losing the pack”. That happened occasionally when too many bulky, soft items were fed in, usually by Rod, that caused the bale to start oozing out prematurely. That meant the next bale also would be too soft to hold together as a bale, because the already-made one acted as a wall against which the next bale was pushed.

Even when strapped, soft bales fell apart on the floor on the way to the roll-off, making a stinking mess of amazing proportions. A ton of garbage that was supposed to be held together in a bale, but wasn’t, covers a lot of ground when it breaks. And until you made a firm bale somehow, every one from then on would fall to pieces. Consequently, everyone lived in dread of “losing the pack”.

At the end of the day Hoppin’ John lumbered out in a bravado swagger of squared shoulders and clenched gloved hands to where Frank was talking to Rod and Amen by the trays.

Frank sized up his body language and noticed he had put on opaque, wrap-around sunglasses.

Classic ploy when you don’t trust your eyes not to blink in a stare-down. Seen it many times. Means I’ve already won.” He thought.

“Twenty five hundred and out.” Hoppin’ John announced gruffly without preamble when he stopped in front of Frank.

“What?”

”Twenty five hundred on the gauge and out.”

What are you talking about?”

“When the pressure gauge reaches twenty five hundred pounds, no matter how many lights you have; kick the bale out.”

Frank realized he was both trying to salvage face as well as to offer him helpful advice.

No sense pushing your dominance too far, I always say. Give the other a chance to make peace and save some face or you make needless enemies that you’ll always have to watch behind your back”. He thought. “Thanks. I’ll remember that.”

By the time he got his knapsack stowed after quitting time, both Rod and Anton had already gone out through the entrance gate and it was locked behind them.

Quickly, Frank did an about face and headed for the exit. As he raced toward it he saw Hoppin John just swinging the second of the two gates shut. The same black-haired woman Frank saw the other morning was waiting in the truck.

Frank yelled for him to wait, but he either didn’t hear or ignored him. Frank shot through the narrowing gap as the gate closed. John jumped back, startled.

“Oh. I forgot about you!”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you did!” Frank tossed back over his shoulder, whipping out onto the highway’s shoulder. “Asshole.”

Thinking back on it as he rode home, Frank tended to think the reason John kept closing the gate was probably innocent; he had noted already that John had a strong inclination to be completely oblivious to his surroundings.

He glanced across the road at the mutilated deer on his way past it.

“All you need is one look at any carcass to know that ‘something’ has left. But what has?” he thought as he began the coast down the short hill.

Wasit’ worth anything? What was the point of that deer’s life? To end up as maggot fodder? Is there any purpose? Or is it just the blind urge of life? Is consciousness just an effect of life, like digestion? Non-existence is logically preferable then.

‘Death says: You are the product of an act that ought not to have taken place; therefore, to wipe it out, you must die.’”

He sat upright on the saddle as he coasted down the hill, maintaining his balance with a light touch of his left hand on the handlebar.

So Schopenhauer was right? Nature doesn’t give a damn about the individual; it’s the species that is ‘Its’ concern.

Nature is ‘Indifference’ as a God. Nature equals Indifference equals God. We’re all like those billions of coral embryos cast out upon the sea’s currents: It only matters that a handful survives to continue the species. The rest can perish.

It’s the species that matters to an ecology. The individual is nothing but a food source for something else ultimately.

Maybe that’s all humanity is: just a food source for viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

The classic Stoic view was that most of us are born to play minor roles or be cannon fodder, some are seemingly blessed, and a very few play epic roles.

‘Just take your place with grace, then be on your way’; as Bruce Cockburn put it.

If the world is as Spinoza saw it; if what the Christians call ‘God’ is merely the sum total of Nature, which is merely the Anima Causi, then no justification is necessary for good or evil: It is. Shit happens.

There is no universal ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ just what is good or evil in terms of an organism’s life.... Evil and Death are the reasons why mankind has philosophies and religions.

Yet; in a way there really is no such thing as ‘Death’ either. Death doesn’t ever really happen to Nature. ‘It’ never dies, only the individual consciousness and identity dies...Only our memory and ‘mind’ dies’...‘Death’ means simply the annihilation of our mind. The rest is transformed into sustenance...

Is that all there is? Is all the rest of it; religions, ethics, art, justice, all empty?...Sure seems it.”

He remembered the billboard of the Great White Cowboy Church of the North he saw that morning.

But not to them.”

“Man and Woman is Family! Stand up for GOD!” the sign had screeched.

“I don’t believe this. They’re acting like little boys, playing pranks. But somebody could have gotten hurt.” Melissa commented incredulously after she heard how the day went.

“If they keep it up, someone is.”

“Oh, great. You’re not going to get into a fight, are you?” she asked him worriedly.

“Don’t worry. I haven’t hit anyone in decades now, and I need this job. But I don’t need that crap. I’ve been through this so many times its like reading a script.

Don’t worry about it. I made my point and he blinked. I think he’ll retain that, but if he doesn’t then I’ll escalate it as far as needed...but not to fighting on the jobsite: I’ll kick his ass right outside the gate.

I may have to work in a dumps; but I will be treated with respect...But I don’t think it’ll come to that. He’s just a dumb, sneaky, bitter, cowardly bully-type, that’s been in the same job for seventeen years without a change. I’ve seen his type all my life.”

“Okay, okay. Your foreman, what’s his name?”

“Anton”

“He gardens? That just doesn’t seem to fit someone who works there.”

“No, it doesn’t. But he really sounded into it.”

“Listen, I’m thinning out my plants; why don’t you ask him if he wants anything?’

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why? I’ll just throw them away if I can’t give them away to somebody. If he’s just starting, he could probably use quite a bit. And it would save him a lot of money.””

“I don’t think so.”

“Why?”

“Listen. I just started there. I don’t want to seem like I’m sucking up to the boss in any way shape or form.

“But you’re not. I’m offering them. This is how we started too, remember? If Sally hadn’t given us her thinnings we couldn’t have had what we have now. It’s just tradition.”

“Listen...That’s not how it will look. Maybe you know and I know it’s your idea, but that’s not how it will be seen”

“How about if I make a list of what I’ve got, and you just give it to him?”

“Fine.” He sighed. “More complications.”

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