One Big Hit PDF Print E-mail

The Rock flicked his "Sawzall' off, put it down and gazed about for a moment. "Damn," he said. "Damn, I need a hit." He punched his fist into a pocket made by the other hand, repeating the "Damn" with each slap. "One big hit, zall I want." The others on the crew had paused too and now were lighting cigarettes.

"Playin' the ponies tonight, eh, Rock," one of them suggested.

"You're fuckin rights," he answered, continuing to punch with a regular rhythm. "I'm hot today, damn hot. Gonna make a killin' boy."

He too stuck a butt in his mouth, after first pounding it against the package with three sharp taps. Lighting the end of it he leaned against the wall he had been cutting up and the others relaxed, knowing not much more would have to be done for the week: the pay cheques had come and now it was simply a matter of putting in time.

The Rock told one of his stories about how he once had the inside dope on a rigged race. "Right from the horse's mout'," he said, grinning broadly, "or the next best thing. A jock friend let me know that he was ridin' a winner that day. He was out of the chute with 18 to one odds an' didn't make it past the grandstand before the clumsy mule did a flop an' broke a leg. Landed against the fence thrashin', an kickin' an' screamin'. Christ, ya ever hear a horse scream? An' he broke the jock's leg too. Serves "im right for givin" me a bum steer. I lost a tidy bundle that day, let me tell you," he added boastfully as though it were a story about laying up gyproc or laying down women. His was the pride of defeat. "Snap, just like that. I woulda been sittin' pretty but for...." and he snapped his fingers for punctuation.

Singing loudly, flatly, the Rock's son strode into the room wearing nothing but cut-offs, sandals and headphones: ""...just a victim of fashion, fashion and accessories....'" He ignored the smoking, joking others. His well-groomed biceps, held rigid by task, set him apart from their slack and flaccid bodies. He lorded this accomplishment over these others who, for the most part, had achieved nothing but age and a weariness which had thus far eluded him.

"We're takin' up a collection," the Rock yelled over to his son. One of the others reached over and touched him as he passed. Dumping his armload of debris on the pile, Kevin removed the headphones. "Run an errand Kev-boy - We need some hardware," he said and his body jiggled and jostled with delight. The others reached for their wallets and the money passed from hand to hand, change was exchanged and the bills were handed to Kevin. One of the apprentices was dispatched with him.

"Okay you guys, we haven't got all the time in the world ya know. We gotta job to do." Big, hardened hands engulfed his machine and he began slicing through the gyproc, sectioning the wall, before pulling it down. Soon another layer of the white dust settled on his black, slicked-back hair. He leaned against the vibrating machine and his entire frame quivered. The numbness to which he had grown accustomed quickly set in. He pushed the thrusting, hacking blade along the partition until he met the main wall at the corner. With the blade now clawing uselessly into the slit he rested a moment, breathed deeply of the dusty, white air and wiped a forearm across his face, leaving a streak of mud in the sweat.

No one talked over the noise of the machines. Noise and dust separated these men into silent, single units. Yet it bound them also, bound them as blood does a family. Men worked mechanically, dismantling the inner shape of the office, breaking off drywall and throwing it onto a heap with twisted, steel studs, wires and insulation. The world that had once thrived as an office was piecemeal being discarded and only this mound of rubbish could attest to its former meaning. It was work to these men but, beyond that, simply dust to dust. Little remained but vague, unrealized dreams and memories of corporate conquest even more obscure, all to be hauled, finally, to the dump. All but the main wall would come out and new walls would section off the space according to the demands of the next tenant. Soon it would suit a different need but now the space was choked with a whitish haze. The men moved about, indistinct shapes in the murk and the Rock tried to focus on their images for a moment, blinked, and then the rum arrived.

"Let's see if it's any good," he said and took a great swill, unmixed. Lowering the bottle he waited, as the men gathered around, then he felt the power enter his brain. The others were grabbing for plastic cups and ice cubes, Coke or rum or were lighting cigarettes or brushing dust off their clothes. All were quiet, momentarily sombre, as they swilled strong ones and waited for penetration.

"The old lady picked up seventy-five at bingo the other night," one of them eventually said.

"Drinks are on you today."

"Anyone win anything in the draw last night?"

"That was thirty bucks wasted," another returned. "I was one number away from a thousand. Geez, I was pissed off."

"Close only counts in horseshoes."

"I don't change channels so they must change me..., "" Kevin suddenly blurted, his voice trailing off to a tuneless hum. He stood apart from the others, sipping and looking out of the window, oblivious to their world yet part of it in every way. Before him stretched a landscape of towers, glass cells like the one he now inhabited. Only fragments of the sky were discernable, white against the grey, and the earth was sheathed in ashphalt and concrete. People scurried about far below as mindless of his gaze as he was of their presence. The glass, the distance, the music, however, strangely connected them; all were linked by an impenetrable isolation.

"You should get a couple tickets on next week, they're giving away 500 Chevies," one of the men resumed.

"You could sure use one of those. That old bus you drive sounds like it's about to pack it in."

"Christ," the college student, only summer help, piped up angrily. "It's nothing but a tax on hope, a tax on bloody hope. The government gets its cut of everything from death to daydreams."

Some of the others grumbled approval, slandering the government with oaths of their own.

"Nobody even really wins, " the young one added.

"People win all a time," the Rock responded, a note of booze and belligerency entering his voice. "Ya read about it all a time in the paper. Ya see "em on TV payin' cash for a new house."

"It's a scam. PR men probably make them up."

"Someonz gotta win, it's in the odds. An' it mayzwell be me. Sooner or later my number'll be up, just watch. Dish out a few bucks on payday an' POW!, just like that, ya won't have to work again."

"Won't ya miss us Rock?"

"You won't forget who your pals are, will ya?

"Hell no. I'll be down regular, bring a case of beer, you know...."

"And probably charge us for it too, probably charge pub prices."

"More'n that, hell, I'll charge you hoolioes double."

"We can shoot the shit just like old times."

"Yeah, an' maybe I'll throw a few boards around, just to keep my hand in, you know. I wouldn't work regular though, I wouldn't have to."

"The old alchemist's dream, eh? Something for nothing," the college boy insisted.

"It ain't for nothin'. I been workin' for twenty-seven years. It's about time I got somepin' for it."

"A gold watch is the usual reward, isn't it?"

"Listen to this smarty elik kid," the Rock said, turning to the others. "Think's he's got all a answers "cause his mommy sends "im to school with a pat on the behind. I tell ya kid, I went to the school of hard knocks. Ever hear of it?"

"That's right," someone else verified.

"Can't even tape a wall an' he thinks he's got all a answers. Do a man's work for twenty-seven years, den maybe you got some answers. You don't fin' dos in books."

"And you only find fool's gold at the end of a rain...."

"'... Tigress by Fabrege, it makes me cream my jeans when she comes my way-y-y....'" Kevin let out a monotone wail that abruptly ended the sparring match. His tiny buttocks heaved and jounced a curious dance amidst the silence of the job site.

The Rock was sullen and morose. The alcohol had made him edgy. He had failed to attain the calm he desired. Picking up a chunk of plaster he threw it at his son, hitting him in the leg. Some of the others raised their glasses when Kevin turned around. He turned hack, unconcerned, his body not missing a beat of the tune that reeled through his head.

"Let's get some fuckin' work done around here," the Rock said as he drained the bottle into his glass.

"We should have got two," one of the older men said sadly. The rest stood around, disappointed, shuffling their feet in the dust, sipping and not wanting to pick up their tools.

"Let's put your money where your mout' is then," the big man barked. "I gotta get to the bank anyway." The men pulled bills out less cautiously this time, not bothering about change, offering advice on the purchase.

"Grab some peanuts."

"We're okay on ice."

"The men continued to gab among themselves for some time after the Rock had departed, outlining their weekend plans or bragging about women they would like to make or making seats from the rubbish and tool boxes, joking and smoking, when the apprentice who had gone along with the foreman rushed in, breathless.

"Fuckin' eh!" he puffed, "The Rock just got hit. Some fucker ran a light. He's real bad. They just threw him in an ambulance. But he's worsen that...."

While the men were getting to their feet, confused, a chorus rang out, lustily, ""...She's got Betty Davis eyes....'"

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