This is a small chapter in the beginning of my novel, "Willie" it takes place about halfway through my first day I was getting yelled at by my boss Chuck and I had been picking up wire and got a bad cut on my hand. It was an introduction to the main character in the story. This finishes the day
Puke and weeds
An Essay by Daigneault 1174 words
It’s hard to explain what the heat in a South Phoenix steel yard is like. The thousands of pounds of rebar heat up in the sun by June the daily temperature can hover between 115°f and as high as 128°f and the iron works like a heat sink, or a giant solar oven. When the temperature is in the 120°’s which is taken in the shade at the Airport, the temperature in the sun between two eight foot tall piles of rebar that are stacked three feet apart can be in the 130°’s. Combine that, with a heat that’s both humid and greasy at the same time, and the smell of cut steel and diesel. Within a few minutes you are covered with sweat, grease, dirt and the iron flakes that come off the fresh iron. Next there is the iron itself, if it’s been in the yard a while it’s covered with rust it’s heavy and the cut ends are razor sharp. The result is an environment that will smash and crush your fingers constantly cut open your hands, arms and legs, while carrying the bars, if you happen to allow the bars resting on your shoulder to touch your neck, it can blister and even remove skin. All of this in heat that’s like standing in the opening of a dirty oven that’s on high. Not to mention Chuck who seams to take great pleasure in expanding my knowledge of words based in carnal knowledge and feces that are used to describe my lacking efforts. In short, to Chuck, I was a shitty worker and a first class pussy.
But I kept grabbing the biggest bundles of wire that I could pull free. And dragging them over to a dumpster that was headed to a scrap yard.
When you’re new to working in the heat your first thought is to get a drink of water. And when you’re walking over to the water barrel your not carrying a big rusty pile of wire. It’s a little break, or so you think. I noticed the men snickering as I kept going back to the water barrel. But amazingly Chuck wasn’t screaming at me for getting a drink. I soon found out why, after about my 15th cup of water in the first few hours my belly started to cramp. I was now not only cut and filthy but I was full and way too hot and starting to feel sick. By 9am it was around 120°f. The Roach Coach pulled in and blew its horn. All of the men grabbed a bottle or two of Gatorade. I wanted to get some energy so I wisely grabbed a burrito and a coke. Once again I saw the others snickering, but I didn’t get the joke. Feeling like I just survived the Bat tan Death march I choked down the burrito while sitting on a cardboard box that was in a garbage pile that happened to be in the shade of the big crane. That was the shortest 15 minutes of my life. When Chuck told us that the break was over, I was sure he was reading his watch incorrectly. But I grabbed what was left of my Coke and headed back to the wire.
Chuck stopped me and said, “follow me over here with that shovel.” We walked across the yard to a pile of wooden forms, stacked on the other side of the yard. It was an area about 60 feet square, which was waste high in weeds.
“Cut them down and drag them over to the dumpster. When you’re done I want this area completely clean!”
The weeds had grown up in the spring rain and bloomed, then dried in the sun, so they sort of shattered when I hit them with the shovel. The blossoms were covered in stickers. Within a few minutes I was covered in little scratchy pieces of the weeds. They caused me to itch all over my now sweaty torso. This was too much, after a few minutes of scratching I was covered with red hives. I headed over to negotiate with Chuck, on the way I was starting to get dizzy and the men were watching me. As I approached Chuck I tried to say something but instead of words a stream of vomit blew out of my mouth, which about half of landed on my hive, covered belly.
The men howled and I heard one of them say, “Who had 9:45?”
Chuck tried to hide the smile on his face as he said, “Yes?”
“I’m sick,” I said.
“I can’t do anymore work. Can I go see my dad?”
“Sure.” he said. I could hear him snickering as I walked away. I wondered out the big gate and walked down the sidewalk the two blocks to my Dad’s office. I remember thinking that I may not make it, and thinking ‘will anybody find me if I fall down.’ But after about five minutes walking in the sun I came to the old brick office. I walked inside and made my way up the stairs to his office. Walking in I was sunburnt, filthy, cut and covered with hives and fresh coat of vomit. My father’s partner Ray couldn’t hide the humor he found in my condition.
My father looking up and acting surprised said, “ Did they quit early today son?”
“No,” I said, “I got sick!”
“Well why don’t you go in the bathroom and clean up a little.” He said.
His office was an old house and his bathroom had a shower and sink. I took my shirt off and washed my face, hands and arms then I took a paper towel and slowly washed my belly. It was red and swollen. The paper hurt but was cool so I would just press the wet towel against my skin, it was soothing. After a few minutes I washed my shirt. It took several rinsing to get the stickers and smell of puke out. The shirt felt cold but still stung as I put it back on. When I came out of the bathroom I was surprised that Dad was continuing with his work. I just assumed that he would stop what he was doing and take me home… after all I was sick.
He said, “Why don’t you take a few minutes on that couch there.”
Soon I was fast asleep. I slept for about an hour and a half. When I woke up, my Dad asked if I was feeling better.
I told him I was, and he said, “ Then head back to the yard I’ll pick you up when done.”
I remember almost crying walking back to the yard, but when I got back Chuck told me to finish the day picking up wire. I just concentrated on not getting sick and waiting as long as I could for a drink. The next thing I knew my first day was over.