Joe Daigneault 1278 words
I show up, as usual, twenty minutes before the rest of the crew. The sky to the east is just starting to lighten a bit. It’s still too dark to see. I go over the sheets, layout the rigging, set up the torch and check the wire. Today we’re finishing a six-barrel, box culvert in the desert just outside of Whitman. As the crew shows up I drink that last cup of coffee and pop four 500mg Tylenol.
Kenny, an ex-bull rider turned-Christian-speed-freak, who is now the Super, wonders over. “What do ya need, Joe?”
“When’s the pour?”
“Well, I could use two men and three punks.”
“I’ll give you black Howard and two new skins.”
“Right out of the box… just came off the rez yesterday and Joe, don’t kill em we’re short on help.”
“Okay but we’ll be chasing it, see if you can’t get me a few more.”
“Billy T called and said the office was sending out some new guy and they said he was only to work with you!”
“Call those assholes back and tell them, if they want me to baby-sit, they need to tack 50 cents an hour on to my check and send out a few cases of Pampers.”
“Either way, it’s gotta pour, so it’s assholes and elbows!”
“Amen to that.”
Kenny walks over to an old truck. Two young Indians get out. He points me out; they put on their brand new, tool belts and walk over quickly.
I say, Yah teh hey apena, denez (Goodmorning, Navajos.)
The older one replies, Yah teh hey, hostein (Hello Boss.)
About the same time, Howard, a huge, scary, midnight black, man, with a two inch wide scar running across his face, walks over, and growls, “Good morning, you fat, white, piece of dog shit”
“Morning fudge blossom! If your all done with the sweet talk, why don’t you get these guys loading in that bottom and I’ll lay it out. Oh, and Kenny says if you break em, you buy em. So play nice.”
Howard walks over to the iron pile and starts shaking out the rods. I tell the Indians “Just do what that big black guy over there tells you, keep your hands on the rebar, don’t slow down and you’ll be fine.”
The older one says in broken English, “Wha happen to his face?”
I’m tempted to lay some bullshit story about a knife fight in the ghetto on them, but decide against it. “Well, when He was twelve, down in Morenci, he and his little brother stole the limo at his sister’s wedding. Shit, they were just two little black kids that had never seen a Cadillac that big before… going for a fucking joy ride. They made it about a mile before Howard wrapped the car around a big old oak tree. Howard went through the front window. His little brother was crippled for life. He’s every bit as mean as he looks… so I’d leave it alone.” Nodding my head toward the iron I say, “Get to it!”
Howard picks up three of the 35 pound, number seven hook bars. They are 12 feet long, with a six-foot tail. Howard is tall enough to rest the bars on his shoulder as he carries them out to be placed in the box. Unfortunately, the Indians are only about five feet tall, so they hold the bars over their heads as they walk. Both try three bars and make it about ten feet before their arms give out. The bars go tumbling to the ground. Howard storms over and starts screaming.
“You clumsy, gut eating, ccoksuckers. Are you fucker’s lazy or just plain stupid? That’s a good way to end up in the hospital. If you’re too fucking short to carry these by yourselves then team up. I don’t want to see you carrying less than five of those ‘Chingaderas’ all fuckin day… And don’t let that fat, white, son of a bitch over there run out of iron, I don’t want to hear it!”
As Howard and the Indians pack the rods in I set them into place. Working as fast as I can I tie the bars together by wrapping the wire around them, where they come together. Then I cinch them tight by pulling and twisting the wire at the same time with my hands. Another quick twist with my pliers then I cut the wire short. There’s no time to be careful, so about every five minutes I accidentally run my knuckles or forearm across the razor sharp wire. After twenty minutes, my arm drips blood and will do so for the rest of the day. I’m so use to getting cut that I don’t even flinch anymore. If it feels too deep, I just check quickly to see if it needs stitches.
Around nine, an orange Toyota pickup pulls up. An old Mexican, wearing thick prescription sunglasses, gets out. He’s the field superintendent.
He asks me, “Hot enough for ya Joey?” I’m hot and sweating. it’s around 110°.
“Hey Billy T… no, but don’t worry we’re suppose to hit 118° this afternoon. How’s that A-C been treating you?” At 118°the average guy will make it about twenty minutes before he starts puking. When it’s that hot, people die from heat exhaustion.
“The A-C’sFine… just fine. Come on up out of there I need a word with you.”
“Look, I got a pour at three and my ears work fine, so just speak up.”
“Hey… get you ass out of that hole NOW1… I need to talk with you about this guy the office is sending out.”
I’ve worked around Billy T all my life; he has a look of concern on his face that really grabs my attention, so I tell Howard, “Hey, take over.”
When I get up top, Billy T. says, “Do you remember a huge con that worked down at the yard. The FBI came in and scooped him up one day about eight years ago?”
“Yeah, I remember him. His name was Willie. I used to work with him when I was a kid… Why?”
“He’s out and coming here. Apparently, they were so afraid of him down at Florence that he’s been in solitary for the past six years. I guess he beat three guys to death.”
“So why’s he out?”
“No one left to testify, but he did the did the rest of his time in the box. They let him out for one hour a month to walk around in a cage in the sunlight, wearing shackles with two armed guards watching. Your old man gave him a job so he made parole. No General population for him. They took him out of solitary this morning and put him directly on the bus. He’s a little spooky. The office told me to give him to you… keep a fucking leash on him. There’s a tool belt for him in the back of my truck. Tell him I’ll take it out of his first check.”
Billy T drives away and I get back at it.
Around eleven, I look up from the hole and there he is in brand new, Levis, boots and a white tee shirt. Just as big as I remember, except he’s as white as a ghost from being inside.
“I’m looking for Joey Daigneault,” he says.
“Well Willie, that would be me. How the fuck are you?”
He smiles that big, shit eating, Willie grin and says. “Fine as frogs hair, boy… I’ll be, look at you. You grew up!