Larry and me went into business for ourselves after we met on that last big construction job on the new shopping center. It's not like it used to be. You can be the best workman in the world but still be unemployed a lot of the time if you're in our field. If you can't depend on steady work, at least why not be your own boss, I say. You can get a lot of advice these days on how to start your own business. We do good work but it's hard getting started. You got to sell yourself and I admit that's tough for me. I always figured if you do a good job you shouldn't have no problems. But these days you have to kiss everybody's ass to get ahead. I have a bad temper sometimes, and I've lost a job or two over that. But there's sure to be a lot out there for us, just a matter of time. There's always work out there for good workers.
I wish we were better with the financial end of things, all that paper-pushing stuff, then we could be more independent. We have a cell phone and a laptop and that, but I don't know much about computers, and Larry--well, Larry's not one to sit down in front of one of those things. He likes hands-on stuff, not so much fooling around with numbers and words. All we need is someone part-time for the billing and so on, and we can't afford to pay much. All we can get for what we can pay is smart-mouth Louise. She knows her stuff, but what a bag. She works at home, and I call up and I hear some kid screaming in the background. You'd think for what we're paying her she could get day care. She acts like working for us is a big fat favor she does out of the goodness of her heart.
It's lunch time, and we're at this Schezuan restaurant in the mall. I'm surprised Larry'll eat this Chinese stuff, but his doctor warned him to lay off the meat and potatoes and Big Macs. I don't have the heart to tell him now they're saying this Chinese food is bad for you, too. They're always changing their minds, so who gives a rat's ass anyway? The cute little waitress comes up and says, "You reah'order?" She's real friendly, but you can hardly understand her. I order tofu with broccoli and hot and sour soup. I got to watch my cholesterol, too. I don't even have medical insurance. Larry orders moo shoo pork. "You wana'ha'tea wi' 'at?" I get a beer, because I need to cool off. Too bad the little Chinese girl's English isn't better. I'd rather hire someone like her instead of Louise. I bet she does what you ask and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The food comes and we start eating. The beer really tastes good.
"Good?" I ask Larry
"Yeah. I like this stuff. I was hungry."
"Hey, Louise didn't get the statements out on time."
"What's wrong? She got problems at home again?"
"She always has problems".
"Do you think she's really up to the job?"
"I don't think so. I wanted to tell you I'll be real honest with you I never thought she was up to it. I mean, it's our company, so do we let her ruin it? We can't wait around for our money." Larry wrapped up a moo shoo roll and shoved it into his mouth. "And she isn't real friendly. Just does her job and that's it. And she takes her own sweet time about it."
Well, who do you know could replace her?"
"Maybe we can get my sister to help us out, she used to be a secretary, but she's got all those kids. Boy when's she going to stop, I ask myself. Six of them and another one coming and Ed out of work. I may be nuts, but not that nuts."
Larry sopped up some brown gravy.
"Too bad I can't get some work out of Brenda. It would be nice to get some back for the money she gets out of me.But she's got the kid…no use talking about it."
"Hey. I saw the kid on Saturday."
"How is he?"
"O.K. I guess, but I wish Brenda would have him ready when I come for him. I don't think she ever makes him take a bath."
"So what did you do? Said Larry.
"Oh, nothing much, hung out. Aline made us lunch and then we went to the park."
"Have you talked to the lawyer?"
"Well, he says custody's going to be hard to get, but hey, I can't afford to keep two households. Aline only makes $400.00 a week and we got the mortgage and payments on the truck. You know what business has been like, Aline doesn't like the way Brenda and the kid get so much money off me."
We chewed glumly for a few minutes, paid our bills and lit up our cigarettes. I shouldn't talk about this stuff. I get real upset. But once I get started, I can't stop.
But what really burns me up is that Brenda doesn't care about my feelings. She never had no consideration for me. I went to that therapist and everything. Old bat. I mean, I tried. We talked a lot about my dad. I really miss him. It's funny, I'm thinking a lot about him these days. I swear to God--he wasn't real nice to me, he hit us kids a lot, but now he's dead, I wish we had more time together. A boy needs his dad. She's ruining Brad, she lets him run wild. sometimes I think maybe I ought to just take him away somewhere.
Larry looks at me funny, and I realized I've actually been sobbing. What's wrong with me these days, anyway? No control over my emotions at all. The doctor says it's bad for my blood pressure, so I have to be careful.
"There sure isn't much justice in the world," says Larry. "Honest to god, women are more trouble than they're worth. I wonder if those Asian women are like that,"he says, glancing at the waitress's cute little shape.
"Maybe not, but you got to watch out there. You marry one of them, and before you know it, Grandma and Grandpa, Mom, Dad, and all her sisters and brothers will be living with you. Everyone wants to get the hell out of those places and come over here. They're looking for some sucker of a nice American guy. It's the good life like we have, they want, ha."
"Yeah, or they turn out to have some disease or have to get all their teeth fixed. You got to be careful."
Larry can be pretty funny sometimes, so I got a good laugh out of that. And believe me, I don't find much to laugh at these days. So I'm an angry white guy! Damn right! I'm expected to work myself to death while everyone else takes it easy on my money and sneers at me and calls me stupid, too. What if some day I get sick and can't work? No one's going to look after me, you can bet, not like some cow on welfare.
We head out to the truck. Nice one, brand new, it looks good with the Logo on the side, Bill and Larry's Construction. As I get in, the vinyl burns the back of my legs. We have one job to finish this afternoon, putting in the dry wall in a small apartment over the garage for some retired folks living with their kids . Kind of a long day in the heat, hot right under the roof there, my arms get really tired, and my back's killing me, but we're finished for the day by five and ready for a couple of beers, thank God. I get tired, not like when I was 20 and could work all day and raise hell all night and be ready for a full day's work again. I had plenty of fun and never worried, until I met Brenda.
Larry's a good guy, and we get along. You might think he was kind of a bum from how he looks, and I don't think he's ever had a steady job, but a good worker when he gets started. I know he had some trouble with the law, DUI, same as me. Served some time, too, just like me. He's a little younger, not forty yet, no wife, but these days you just worry about having them. He's smart to stay away from it. I sure would if I had my life to live over.
Yeah, I like Larry a lot. He's a smart guy who never got much of a chance. He started working in the sawmills right out of high school and made good money, but now that's all over. He's going out with some English teacher now who has a couple of kids, so I'm always telling him to watch out. She's another one of those ones like Brenda, with a big mouth, and she can argue you under the table. I kind of like her myself, maybe we're suckers for these smart women even though they drive us nuts. But he says no way is he getting into a permanent relationship with a woman who has kids. Just shows how smart he is.
Well, in spite of what I say, Brenda and I had some good years when things weren't so tough. We had a little house out in Southeast, and she liked looking after it, at least until the kids came. Maybe that's the problem. Kids. No one ever told me how to be a father. I just told you about my dad. Anyway, after Brenda had that accident and killed our kid Melissa, well, that was the beginning of the end. She never could drive worth a damn, and here she was trying to find her way out 26 near Hood in the dark. She never did tell me what the hell she was doing out there anyway. Well, she just went to pieces after that, yakking about the accident night and day, carrying on, screaming, crying--I couldn't stand it, she just went nuts, even though the doctor gave her something. God it was horrible enough without the way she went on and on about it. She went back to school and that helped for a while, but then she got so involved with her professors and all that crap that I don't care about so I just felt like we didn't have anything in common any more. That's when I moved out, and Aline was glad to have me, you bet. She's OK, no problems and no kids. And I like it that way.
© 2001 Marianna Scheffer