Sunday, April 24, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

Job #3: Trash collector (Part III)

As it turned out, the little blister on my toe was not a blister. It so happened that a tiny metal filing--probably from a wire brush I had been using during one of my odd jobs for my aunt--had worked its way into my toe. Within a couple of days my big toe looked like a special effect from a horror movie, all purple and bruised and seeping pus. I had taken to wrapping it in gauze and wearing two socks to protect it, but it still was murder to walk on it. I hadn't told my mom. She would have taken me straight to the doctor and that meant I wouldn't have been able to work for David. And I was only a day away from finishing the field he had assigned me to clear.

Of course, now I marvel right along with you at my own stupidity, but at the time, I was determined not to lose face with my uncle. His opinion of me as being softer'n a sneaker full of shit was low enough. I didn't want him to think I was slacking on the job because of a sore toe. So I ever so gently pulled on my old workboots and rode my bike to the field.

It was one of the milder June days we'd had, but I felt murderously hot. I'd stoop to hack out a bush or pull up some clump of scrub and alomst immediately feel dizzy. My toe was throbbing and it got to the point where I was sort of standing one leg to avoid putting any weight on it. I was by myself. Dallas, the young man who had started the field with me, had moved to another job for David, digging a pit for a septic tank, I think. I had never dug a septic tank pit myself, but it sounded positively awful. I told myself I had the easiest job of all, and so I pushed on. By 11, I only had another few yards of field to clear. I sat down to take a drink of the water I had brought with me.

My whole foot felt like it was on fire. I pulled off the boot, an act that was excruciating. Blood and pus had seeped all the way through the gauze and the two socks, I discovered. Gingerly, I pulled off the socks and waggled my poor toe in the air. The cool air was slightly refreshing.

"Now what the hell is this?" I heard from directly behind me. I spun around and there was David. I thought he had snuck up behind me, but later I realized I hadn't heard him because of the incessant buzzing in my ears.

"Holy-o Jesus! Every time I come find you, you're sitting around on your dead ass, taking a--KEEEY-RIST almighty!" He said this last because he saw the bloody sock and the wreckage of my toe.

"It's nothing," I said, almost apologetically. I tried to stand up and stumbled. Before I could fall, I felt a mighty arm around my waist. I weighed 100 or so pounds at the time and David hefted me under his arm as though I was no heavier than a football. He carried me that way, hooked under his huge arm, across the field and to his dump truck, talking to himself the whole way, muttering things like, "I know! I know, goddammit! Think I don't feel bad enough, do ya? Holy-o Jesus!"

The truck was up on the embankment of the road. David propped me against the truck,hooked the door open, then grabbed a fistful of my shirt and shot-put me up and into the cab. Then he drove me straight to the hospital.

I'll spare you the gore of the needle-aspiration of the abscess, the discovery of the metal filing, the removal of my big toenail, the I.V. antibiotics. It made for a very exciting evening, I grant you.

But within a few days, I was back to being a kid with a really sore toe. I spent those recuperative days down on the beach of my aunt's cottage, sipping iced tea and reading comics. And then one Friday I heard the chain drive of the dump truck coming down the road. Despite myself, I felt a little guilty for sitting around on my dead ass, although my toe was still so swollen I couldn't wear a shoe at all. I braced to be yelled at, but my uncle was done yelling at me.

"There he is!" he called gruffly. "Drinking my tea and reading funny-books." He tossed his battered old lunch pail on the picnic table next to me. "Time for some beans!" he hollered to no one in particular. He went into the cottage to find the pitcher of iced tea. When he returned, I saw that he had doffed his socks and work boots. He poured himself a glass of tea, then rolled up his patchwork pantlegs and walked down to the beach a few feet away.

"Like em do ya?" he asked, while he cooled his feet in the lake.

I wasn't sure if he was talking to me or to himself. "Like what?" I asked.

"Them funny-books."

"Comics? Yeah!"

"Well," he says, walking back. "I got me a place over on the Bog Road where I keep a few things. Papers and what-not." He sat at the table next to me and stretched his legs out, sunning his feet. "Bet I got me a stack of funny-books--" he held his giant hand flat, about three feet off the ground "--about that high. Old ones, too. 64 pages all in color, some of em say."

Those words rang like sleigh bells at Christmas. I had spent many free hours--and nearly every penny I ever saved--buying up comics at yard sales and flea markets. The oldest ones I owned then dated to the early 1960s. But I had been to one or two comic-book stores and had seen the vintage books in plastic on the walls behind the counter. Those were where proprietors kept the rare issues. I'd seen the phrase "64 pages, all in color" on some of those books. The ones from the 1930s and 40s, the very heyday of comicdom's storied Golden Age.

"I sure wouldn't mind seeing those," I said.

"Well, might be you might and might be you mightn't," he said. "But it might be we could do us some wheelin' and dealin'." He looked at my foot. "Guess you ain't much good for field work yet. But I bet you can stand still with the best of them. I need someone to stand in the back of my truck and pitch rubbish into a landfill pit. Cos Christ knows I don't want to do it. You can start there."

"Okay," I said, waiting for some kind of punchline.

"Soon's you can move around again, you'll help me on the rest of the route. I got 14 houses to clear out this season. That means clearing attics, swamping out cellars. It's a good job o' work, now I'll tell ya."

I nodded. "Sounds like it." I hesitated, summoning every ounce of nerve for the next sentence. "Maybe it's more work than an electric bill costs."

If I thought David would be annoyed by my impertinence, I was dead wrong about him, a feeling I would be getting used to this summer. Instead, he was amused. "The ol' fella want to wheel and deal!" he cackled. "Well then. I reckon it this way. You work on the reg'lar rubbish route with me on Fridays. You spend the rest of the time working on them houses I got lined up. End of summer, we'll call it square on the 'lectrics you been using for the trailer and--"

"--and I get that stack of comics in your shed." I finished.

He gave me a cagey look. "Sight unseen, then. Might be Archie and Jughead in them funny-books. Might be Batman and Robin Hood."

I nodded.

"By gorry, we have us a bargain!" he exclaimed. And so we did. David went back to eating his lunch and drinking his tea. He still had his shoes off and his giant, pale feet shone in the sun. It took a few moments, but eventually I noticed something was odd about one of his feet.

The top of one of his toes was missing.

"What happened to your toe?" I asked, startled.

David didn't even pause. He spoke as though he'd been waiting for me to ask. "Same thing that almost happened to yours. Pride and stubbornness." He finished his lunch, then put his socks and boots back on. "We start Monday, 5 A.M. Don't make me wait, ol' fella!" I watched him lumber back to the dump truck and felt a growing thrill of excitement.

It's a testament to just how shrewd uncle David was as a wheeler-dealer. I mean, how many men do you know who could not only maneuver a teenage boy into becoming a trash collector, but also cause that boy to actually be enthused at the prospect?

I was going to be a trash collector. And I couldn't wait to start...


Do you still have any of those comics?

I have a shoe box full of some old batman and superman comic books from the early to mid 90's. They're probably not worth anything.
great story..keep it coming!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?