Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine: the Job

The Job
What Blix Does, More Or Less

     As I pulled up at the job behind the old bait shop I saw what I had come to see. The job was a new custom home, far too large and far too expensive for a little surf town like ours, but only one of dozens going in up and down the beach. The “old bait shop” next door was now some kind of New Age boutique coffee shop microbrewery bookstore with authentic barn wood siding that replaced the authentic (and original) wood bait shop siding we had pulled off last winter. There were ferns inside and very expensive fishing gear that none of the locals could afford (or want) and the new owners were from Vermont or some such. But they still sold bait. Probably designer bait.

     I climbed out of the jeep, listening to the satisfying whine and grind of singing saws and the steady ker-chunk! of banging nail guns. The boys were going good. I saw Rusty down in the dark shade of the inside of the house, stacking scraps of wood and sorting through boxes of nails. He saw me getting out of the Jeep.

     “Big Dog is here,” he shouted. “Everybody pretend you're working!”

     “You're the only one out here that has to pretend,” came a voice from up high. I looked up as a figure rose up over the ridge of the roof. Broc Branham. My foreman for almost fifteen years now. As my business had dwindled almost to the point of dying completely, it was Rusty and Broc who had stuck it out. How Broc managed to keep his home life intact during the breakup of mine was a kind of miracle. Rusty, an eternal bachelor, could care less if he worked or not. Surfing, fishing, work, it was all the same to Rusty. But if Rockin' Broc wasn't building something for me, he would be doing it for someone else. He never stopped working.

     “Born to Build”, we always said, clinking our shot glasses together. He was my favorite guy to drink whiskey with. He came down to the edge of the roof.

     “You need me, Boss?”

     “Nah, stay up there. How's it look?”

     “Looks like a roof.”

     “Can you finish today? You need me?” It was mostly a courtesy question.

     “Nah, we got it. We might have to work late.” I could hear groans coming from the part of the roof I couldn't see. The rest of the crew had stopped sawing and hammering while they listened to our conversation. I grinned up at Broc. I raised my voice enough so the others could hear.

     “Well, get it dried in and call it eight hours. There's beer in the truck.” The saws started up again and the nail guns were making twice the noise as before. Broc smiled back at me, shook his head and went back over the ridge. He was small and lightweight, all gristle and grit. Rusty came down the ladder from the elevated first floor and came over to me.

     “They'll skip lunch and have it dried in by one o'clock,” he said.

     “I know.”

     “There's only three beers left in the cooler. What the hell did you and Cromwell get into last night?”

     “We sailed in through the inlet and caught up with the last of the party animals at Disappearing Island. There were a couple girls from Ohio there who had never sailed on a beach cat before. We did our civic duty to uphold tourism and a good time was had by all.”

     “Any survivors?” Rusty asked.

     “Never,” I said. “Surviving is for the weak.” I pulled a twenty out of my pocket. “If they aren't done by one o'clock, knock 'em off anyway and get 'em some beer.”

     “Aye, Aye, Skipper. Never push a Monday too hard, I always say.”

     “Wise words, little buddy, wise words.” I patted him on the back and got into the jeep. As I pulled off I heard him yelling at the crew.

     “Faster dogs! Work faster slaves! His Majesty is displeased! Don't make me get out the whips!” I headed back north up the beach to Cromwell's studio. It was ten o'clock on a Monday morning.