[an excerpt from a work-in-progress]
We’re in a good rhythm, me and Jim and Jerome, lifting shovels full of steaming asphalt from the back of the truck Les is driving. It goes me, Jim, Jerome – shovel, shovel, shovel – don’t even have to think, just go. I can feel a small click in my shoulder every time I lift the shovel back up, but it’s always done this, even in high school. It doesn’t hurt though and I don’t think it’ll ever turn into arthritis or tendonitis, or whatever it was that made Herbert quit at the end of last summer.
Click, shovel, dump, click, shovel, dump, but Jerome stops to wipe his forehead and I don’t see it in time. Our shovels collide.
“Fucking, what the fuck?”
“Sorry man, sorry.” He’s a young kid, maybe 22 or something, good enough guy, and a hard worker.
Jim leans on his shovel. “You guys wanna break?”
I want to keep going, finish up at least this stretch, but Jerome’s sweating like a motherfucker. He takes off his hard hat and his hair’s all curly and plastered to his forehead – almost looks Italian, this kid.
“Any donuts left?” I ask, resting the handle of my shovel against the back of the truck.
“Les,” Jim calls out to the big guy climbing out of the truck, “you leave us any donuts, you lazy son-of-a-bitch?”
Les looks like a donut, one of the jelly filled ones, all round and super pale until the sun’s out, then he gets beet red. Always huffing and puffing and trying to get out of doing any of the hard shit. I’d give him the boot if I was Jim, except they worked together way back and Jim knows Les wouldn’t find other work.