The Old Man

November 19, 2006

men in St. Vincent truck

He refused the joint. They were heading back from Prospect on Colin’s truck. He always sat on the edge of the bed, back curled forward so his hands could hold the frame and with his legs splayed for balance. It had rained earlier, and his plastic sandals weren’t much use to him against the metal. He kicked them off.

This was his third month with work. Yesterday he bought a wallet to hold his money since selling the last one some time ago. He felt worth something again to have so much. Colin and his brothers had started giving him lifts home since the second week. They were his new friends and this ride home was the highlight of his day. He knew its every inch.

He knew just where to lean. Past Git’s Supermarket there was a hard bend to the right with a pot hole. He would normally lean into the turn, but Colin had two beers tonight and would probably forget the dip. At the turn he leaned opposite as the wheel fell, dropping the weight of the car, and he kept his balance. Andrew didn’t know his brother as well and tumbled from his seat into the bed of the truck. He kept silent while the three others laughed. They teased him, “What matter wit you, boy? An’t you learn from d’old man? You don see him fall!” He had mastered these roads.

He knew the importance of details. Details mattered. He saw men with soiled clothes and recognized them. The lines of dirt on a man’s shirt shifted between begging and honest work, and he knew this. He saw it in his own sleeve slapping around his arm and he leaned his sholder forward against the wind, proud of the difference. Details mattered. His callouses were his proof.

He took the beer from Andrew. Colin was driving faster tonight and the smooth level spaces between bends and holes were shortening. He timed it to take a sip without knocking his teeth. He leaned to hand the beer back when Colin jerked the wheel. He had taken the last turn too quickly, too close to the center of the road, and swerved to avoid a car he should have seen.

He fell backwards. His bare feet lifted from the truck bed as he reached down for the lip. The beer still in his hand he didn’t think to drop it even as he balanced off the edge, half in and out of safety. Colin swerved back on course but into another hole. The dip and bounce of the bed sent him straight into the air. The truck kept moving forward while he hung there, still. He landed on the pavement flat on his back.

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“Did you hear about the accident?”

“No, what happened?” Read the rest of this entry »