Physical Labour

The old man treated me like a damn dog.  I don’t think he was cheap exactly.  More like he was doing it the way his old man had done it to him, like my time and energy were his to do with as he wanted, and if he wanted to throw it away, it was no skin off his nose, now was it?

So somewhere he met this guy who wants his driveway repoured.  I get out of the truck and the old man hands me a sledge hammer, points at the driveway—cracked in places—that is still there and says, break it up, will ya.  So I take to it with the sledge hammer and damn I can’t make a dent.  The hammer just bounces off the stuff.  After thirty minutes of that I am about ready to cry.  I feel like a damn weakling.  And my hands are starting to blister.

The old man comes up from whatever he has been doing, probably chewing the fat with strange guy who has hired us, who goes around breathing oxygen out of tank and smoking at the same time.  I guess, I will have to get a jackhammer, he says.  What? The hell, I think.  He had thought, probably need a jackhammer but let’s see if the kid can do it, like I was some sort of experimental human jackhammer.  But it was no skin off his nose, now was it.

Another time, he wants to pull the engine on his ’47 truck to fix it. So he pulls the car under the car port; ties nylon rope to four points on the engine, rigs a pulley, and my brothers and I yank and yank on that nylon cord till it is cutting our skin and we can’t get the engine out.  We can get it up alright, but not out.  So we let the air out of the tires to lower the truck, and we go at it again.  And we still can’t get it out; we are swearing and cursing, my hands are bleeding, and we hear this “crack” because the car port is about to go.  So we give up; the old man rents a hoist and we have the  engine out in five fucking minutes.

I guess he figured, why the fuck not.  Our time was his time, the way he figured it, and it was damn cheap since it cost nothing.

And every spring, we did the chickenshit run.  I would go and I would fill up the truck with chickenshit, and then he would pull the truck into the back yard and I would throw the chickenshit out to where the garden was going to be that year.

I think it says something about my family that I count among our happier outings together going to the dump. You didn’t get to go to the dump every day and it was a blast with all the noise and the big tractors and junk every where and seagulls flapping about and making a racket.  And when we got that truck emptied out, I had a feeling of accomplishment.