Monday, March 10, 2008

Hardly Working

The second punch breaks my nose and I know it right away. Between the loud crunch and the sting and the throbbing, there really ain’t much doubt. But I’m lucky, ‘cause it never hurts as bad when you’ve got it coming.
“Damn dude,” I say and it comes out all nasally, kinda sounds like "bamboo"
“What the hell were you thinking, Mikey?” He’s standing over me like he’s a tough guy. Man, real tough guys don’t need to sucker punch.
“I was thinking I’d make a little extra cash, but shit…I think I need to go to the hospital.” It hurts my face to talk. Still, there ain’t that much blood. Not as much as you’d think.
“Harold knows it was you,” he says. “And he’s pissed. Understandably.” This is Wes. Sucker punching, tough talking, motherfucking Wes.
“Man, Harold doesn’t know who I am,” I say. “How’s he…”
“Shut up, just shut up,” he cuts me off. “I’m going to help you get out of this one, okay?”
Help, huh? Like I want any of his help now. The asshole just broke my nose for Chrissakes. Man, all this is his fault anyhow.
Last week I saw him at the pub. Wes, the nose breaking, ball busting motherfucker. He said, “Hey Mikey, how’s it going?” and, “Hey Mikey, can I buy you a beer,” and man, I liked him a lot better last week.
So, I sat there and we were talking a bit. Just small talk and all. I told him my boss had been riding me man, and it ain’t like waiters don’t get enough shit as it is. “At least you get tips,” he said. “Come work at the deli with me. It’s all the shit and none of the tips.” Yeah, I guess he had a point.
Then he said this, “I don’t know how Harold does it. Every night he closes that place all by himself. I’m off at six and his worthless son is god-knows-where. But Harold stays late. It isn’t safe.” And yeah, that got me thinking. But I guess I thought wrong because now my nose is broken.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out,” he says.
“I don’t know,” I say. And I don’t. All I know is my face really hurts.
“So here’s the deal. Harold is willing to let this slide if you give the money back. He says business is bad enough as it is, doesn’t need a robbery scaring off customers. Just give me the money, I’ll get it back to Harold and we can all forget about this.”
“Screw that,” I say. “Why would I just give it back?”
“Because if you don’t, then we call the police. And if we call the police, you lose the money and you go to jail. Understand?”
“Under my bed,” I say. “In the blue duffel bag.” And then, “Hey, can you give me a ride to the emergency room?”

My father always told me, “Son, this is America. Just work hard and everything will turn out alright.” He was stuck in a factory until his heart gave out at 52, but I sure believed that lesson. Turns out, we were both fools.
I’ve done my share of labor. Worked in kitchens, worked on docks, even spent a summer in the North chopping trees. I’ve worked every damn day of my life, even my days off. I’ve worked every damn day of my life and every day it was honest work. Well, I’ll tell you something I wish my father had told me: hard work kills you early, and honest work is for chumps.
Now, that’s something I’d like to tell my son. I’d like to, but the kid probably knows it already. Working for his Pops, he must see the poetry in motion everyday. The kid, it must be getting to him. He hasn’t been acting the same lately. No, he sure hasn’t been the same at all.
But that’s all beside the point. See, I worked hard and honest and I saved up a little cash. Not much, but enough. I opened a deli. Someplace all my own, someplace where I wouldn’t have to answer to any boss. And yeah, the son of an Irish immigrant opening up an Italian Deli, sure I caught some shit. But it was just more honest work and it paid the bills. Barely, but it paid them.
Lately though, lately business hasn’t been so hot. I’m coming up in the red. And sure, that’s bound to happen every once in a while. But six straight months? That I cannot deal with.
And things keep on getting worse. See, two weeks ago I find out I’ve got an employee stealing from me. He always seemed like a straight shooter, but what do I know? So I fired the kid. Nothing else to do.
Honestly, that didn’t help any. Last two weeks I’ve still been coming up short. And things keep on getting worse. See, there’s a nice little cherry that tops this sundae. Past Friday, just as I was closing up, some thug comes in, smashes up my deli case with a bat. Now, forget that it’ll cost me a good $1,200 for a new case. Forget that I had to throw out all my meat because the little shards of glass went all over the place. Nope, all that aside, the bastard robs me and a week’s worth of hard, honest work gets thrown in a duffel bag.
So, I’m done. If ten minutes of working easy and crooked will get you as far as a week of working honest and hard, well then sign me up. Sorry Dad if I’ve let you down, but this is America and working hard only gets you buried in a poor man’s grave long before your time.

I’ve got nothing against stupid people. Nothing really, except stupid people, well they have a tendency to be predictable. And predictable people, they’re easy to manipulate. I’m not a bad guy, I’m a guy who was done wrong.
See, I didn’t deserve to lose my job. Harold, he was nice enough when he let me go, but the man’s in denial. And denial, well that’s for stupid people. And you know what they say about stupid people.
Yeah, Harold doesn’t want to face the facts. The fact is his son’s a no good smack-head. Fact is his son’s been stealing from the family business to keep that shit flowing. And the fact is I caught the little punk with his hand in the cookie jar.
But the kid, he wouldn’t go quietly. Shit, I wasn’t even going to rat him out, but he flipped. Ran and told Harold I was the one ripping off the deli. Harold, deep down he knew I was innocent, knew his son’s no good. But the man’s in denial. And while I’ve got no problem with stupid people, I do have a problem with being fired.
And then there’s Mikey. I don’t know Mikey that well. His sister and I dated for a few months. I’d buy a round whenever I ran into him, stay on the family’s good side, you know? But that was a year and a half ago and the kid still thinks we’re buddies. Mikey’s another guy who ain’t exactly MENSA material. Mikey likes to drink, likes to smoke, likes to take it a little too easy. Mikey, he’s stupid and man, is that kid predictable. I used him sure, but the lazy fuck had it coming.
And yeah, maybe he didn’t deserve the broken nose. But with guys like that, you’ve got to grab their attention. Stupid folk appreciate violence. And besides, he went a little overboard with the baseball bat.
There it is. Harold fired me for stealing, so sure-as-shit I had to make things square. I’m not a bad guy, I’m just karma in the flesh.

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