10 September 2012

Hired Help

Jonas put down his shovel and sat in the dirt. He swatted at something flying around his head, although no one, even someone standing nearby, could have seen what kind of bug it was.

“I'm thirsty,” he said. “We got any coke in the truck?”

Preston kept on digging. “Just you get up. We ain't got no coke and we ain't got time to sit around.”

The sun was hard up over the pea field, and sweat was in the both of their eyes. Preston paused to wipe his forehead with the back of his arm. Jonas stood up and did the same.

“Crap, it's hot.”

“Just get digging, Jonas, we gotta' get this done, you know that.” Preston was a thick man. Thicker than most men his age, men in their late twenties. He carried himself as though he actually knew what he was doing most days and most hours within most days. If he didn't know, he made it up. “When we're done we can go get a coke in town. Morgan'll be OK with that, but we gotta' get this done.”

“I know that.”

“You know that. Now just let's get going, OK?

Jonas picked his shovel up again and threw himself into the work. Spadeful after spadeful of dry earth they scooped out of the shallow pit and threw to the side. The powdery, surplus dust from each throw made its way into their noses and onto their tongues. Preston could feel the grit when he swallowed, and he could feel the grit on the surface of his front teeth when he ran his tongue over them. They went on like this, scooping and throwing dry earth for a good fifteen minutes, sweating and breathing heavily. Their cotton shirts soaked through and stuck to their backs and sides.

The first part of their work done, they paused again to wipe the sweat off their faces. Jonas tossed his shovel to the side and sat down again.

“I don't see why we just go along with every damn thing he ever says to us. Why we just do every damn thing he says.” He spit into the ground.

“Just don't get going, now, Jonas, dammit anyway. Morgan calls the shots and Morgan pays the bills, so you just dig when he says dig, and you just ask how high when he says to shit. Don't be a dumbass.”

“I ain't no dumbass, but I just don't know why we go along with every damn thing he says.” Jonas was fishing around in his breast pocket for his Skoal. He lifted it out, pulled off the tin cover, and took a dip. He put it in his lip, closed the tin, put the tin back in his pocket, and spit. “Sometimes I just think you're the dumbass and so am I if we just go along with every damn thing without asking.”

“Come on,” said Preston, let's just get this done. Get up off your ass and let's go. I'm in no mood to argue.”

Jonas got back up again and together they sized up their work – the reason they were here, the reason they had been digging this shallow pit for the past fifteen minutes. They squatted down, got a good hold on it, and lifted it gently into the hole. Preston quickly got to shoveling the dry earth back into the hole. Jonas picked up his shovel and joined in for a half of a dozen throws.

“It's harder filling it in,” he said, stopping in mid-throw and letting a shovelful of dirt fall short of the hole.

“I'm gonna' make it a whole hell of a lot harder for you if you don't get working,” said Preston. “I ain't gonna' say it again.”

Jonas joined back in and without another word they finished the work. Preston leaned the handle of his shovel up against his collarbone, the blade still in the dirt. He wiped his hands on his grimy trousers. “OK. Now we can go get your damn coke.”

“I ain't feeling too much like a coke anymore, Preston.”

“What the hell's wrong?”

“I think I just want to get back to town, OK?”

“Whatever the hell you want. I'm gonna' get that coke now, though.”

The sun was hard up over the pea field, and sweat was still in the both of their eyes. Jonas spit and turned to walk back to the truck. Preston kicked at the blade of his shovel and then kicked at it again. He turned and followed Jonas to the truck.

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