The shrink was not cheap. Forty bucks a shot, not chicken feed adjusted for inflation. So I had to make some money.
The old man got me a job as a brick mason tender. Mostly I worked with him; I doubt if anybody else would have worked with me. No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get any faster or put on any muscle. It was a job from hell, for about a year as I recollect.
A tender is the brick layer’s servant. You get on the job and the first thing you do is start the cement mixer to mix up a batch of mud. The worst thing that could happen was the mixer wouldn’t start and then you’d be playing catch up for the rest of the day. I hated it when that happened. With the mud going, you started carrying brick to the brick layer. I used this device that allowed me to pick up ten at a time. I’d lug them over and he would start putting up the outer shell of the fireplace. You would continue lugging brick to the spot of the fire place.
After a bit the outer box would be about shoulder high and the bricklayer would go inside to make the firebox. He usually mixed the mud for that. Then I had to lug the firebrick inside. While he was building up the firebox, you would start setting up the scaffolding. The scaffolding was usually shit, all rusted and covered with concrete. They you hoisted up three two by sixes for the bricklayer to stand on while he built up the outer shell of the chimney and stuck down the flu and filled in around it (requiring yet more mud). Then you put up a mud board and heaved mud onto it and the brick layer would come out and start working on the outer shell again.
That was pretty much it; all day long. Lugging brick, throwing up mud. To get it to the top level of the scaffolding, I would stand on top of the wheel barrow, one foot on each outer edge and heave the mud up from there; otherwise it was hard to get it up to the top level. You had to keep an eye on the mud. When it started to run out, you mixed more. When he was running short the brick layer would shout, “Mud. Mud.” And sometimes, he would shout, too dry, and you would go up with some water and slop it on the mud to make it easier to spread.
And when you weren’t lugging brink, or mixing mud, or hoisting it, the bricklayer would have you rake the joints which you did with a joint raker and/or smoother. This would go on for 8 hours a day, and the next day also for 8 hours, and so forth and so on, endlessly. And as I said, I didn’t get strong. In fact I got weaker.
One day I had to work a retaining wall. Just me, one tender, for three layers. It was fucking impossible. I ran my ass off carrying block; these were the whoppers, twenty five pound each. It was, “Mud, Mud, Mud.” All day. They had no mercy and since it wasn’t their job, no way they would help. On the way home, my hands cramped up around the steering wheel. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get my hands off the wheel if I needed to shift. They had locked right up around the wheel. It was a weird sensation. But they loosened up after a bit.