On The Site
By Lou Blodgett
On the site, there’s a large shed. On the floor of that shed is tile, installed during the Johnson administration. Some of the tile has cracked, and some has sluffed away, leaving bare spots. The old tile glue still does half its job well, there on the OSB, clinging in a pattern of intent trowel streaks.
“They did a good job here.”
“They all went back to Texas. That was Pantco.”
“Whole place just sat awhile. Then Hanror bought it. Replaced the windows last year.”
On the tile and bare board are chunks of dirt knocked off the soles of work boots. Like oddly-shaped die displaying the throw most likely, these clumps have dried hard. Some have turned to dust through a second hard rubber stomp of steel-toed boots, which, in turn, may have left another mud offering. Those clumps rested and dried through the night, to the hum-cycle of the camper ‘fridge.
“They need to get someone in here to clean.”
“Clean? Who would do that.”
“They have a service come in over at Pentlux.”
“Well, Pentlux has the budget.”
The interior walls are one-ply, with wood-grain print, stapled to the studs. Toward the back, there’s a gash from where they had been carrying something long and made a mistake. But it was loud, and it was spectacular, and there were no apologies.
“Watch out for splinters.”
The shed has an acoustic ceiling, made of the worst kind of plastic. It has drooped and slipped from the frame in places. Along the exposed edges of the ceiling tile the fiberglass core is leaving the job, especially around the light fitting, which seems to be holding everything up in its clutch from where it dangles in the exact middle of the roof. The air is bass and tenor. What little treble there is falls pesky on tired ears.
“Don’t spoil ‘er. Taurus is a good car to start with.”
“She wants a Pontiac.”
“Well, tell ‘er she was born too late.”
The counter and cabinets in the back are made of particle-board, and were salvaged from a double-wide trailer. After so many decades, they have just lost that formaldehyde smell, and the edges are showing signs of expanding apart. There is a sink in the counter, (the cleanest place in the shed) but the place has never been hooked up to water. At least it’s good for a laugh at the expense of the rookies.
“Then he turns it back off!”
“That’s it, Sparky. Conserve water.”
A small ‘fridge sits on the floor next to the counter, with a grime-pattern near the handle. It contains:
A Diet Coke can, nearly empty, down from the original third.
One convenience store spring roll, still wrapped, purchased a month before in hope.
Five mayo packets, placed inside the door with good intention.
An infusion kit.
“Don’t mess with that.”
“I’m not messin’ with it. What is it?”
“It’s in case someone needs to infuse. Don’t mess with it.”
“I’m not messin’ with it.”
You can take your pick of temperature. It’s cold near the door, and toward the middle, heat wriggles its tentacles in the dry air. If the heat were distributed, it’d be perfect, but the gas heater decides, and it’s a machine. The microwave has a cleanish patina, and terse instructions printed on the door. But it doesn’t say:
“Put the Hot Pocket in the center of the carousel. Punch 3 minutes with a knuckle. Press ‘Start’.”
Then, the shed light dims.
There is a tomato sauce splash on the inside of the door of the microwave, shaped like a little archipelago. This persistent logo is known to all; its shape so distinct and familiar you can see it in your dreams.
“Who’s gonna clean that.”
“Itt’l just be dirty the next day.”
“Who would want to clean that?”
“You think that service they have down at Pentlux, you think they clean the microwave?”
“________ wouldn’t spend money on that. He needs new rims for his Porsche.”
There on the wall, the State and Federal Minimum Wage notices seem to have skipped a step to the right, away from the wrath of the long something that was mishandled, and the other side of that there is a small poster showing the indications for, and the steps of, the Heimlich Maneuver. It is from the ‘80’s era, and all the yellow in the print has faded to grey from the sun. Below the poster is tacked a 3” x 4” photo of someone posing next to a large carcass in Wyoming.
There are hard plastic seats around a hard plastic buffet table in the center of the shed. The table is roughly textured in anticipation of grime and use. On the table, forgotten in plain sight, are tiny salt and pepper packets. There are also ketchup, mustard and taco sauce packs which rest thankfully away from those poor boots, and a few coffee stirrers and sporks.
The table is surrounded, and the workers step to, leading with thighs and knees anchored by workboots. Steel chair legs scrape a lunch-time overture. The juniors sit in lawn chairs and any other horizontal surface on the periphery.
The grey steel foam-core door opens from the outside. It scrapes the floor and stops at 10º of arc.
Someone grabs the handle from the inside and paws the dirt away with his foot. He stands and swings the door open the rest of the way for the electrician.
“Hey! You pennyed yourselves in!”
“There’s crap all over the floor.”
“They need someone!”
He holds the door open for the electrician, but the electrician ain’t comin’ all the way in. So, he begins to scoop the dirt into a pile with his foot.
“Jay! The bearings are in.”
Jay gets up, carrying a tasty something in a small tray which he won’t leave behind, and, humbly ducking his head as he goes through the door, rushes off to the site, and the project that can’t wait.
“Sam! You don’t need-ta do that.”
Sam continues to quietly gather dirt from the area in the front of the shed, to a spot just inside the door, from as far as his legs can reach.
“Like I said. We need to get someone in here.”
“_______ is not! Gonna-spend-money-on-that.”
Sam swings the door to the wall, leaving it all the way open, and mutters that he feels like he’s in ‘Das Boot’.
“Forget the boot! Get a shovel in here.”
“Or a Bobcat with a scoop…”
“Bring a crane and ball over and finish the job!”
“Yeah! But then where’d we sit.”
Sam kicks the pile of dirt dice out the door.
“Sam! I said! You shouldn’t have-ta do that.”
“…It’s wide and we’re goin’ to overtime!”
Lips tight, Sam finishes the job, kicking the dirt-dice, specks and dust out onto the site.