We were close to the end. Especially if you talked to Al, our foreman who said they'd never let us back on to the job after what happened, even after weeks of investigations and after OSHA said we could get back to work today. They were going to open up the job again, but apparently they wanted to do one more sweep. Shane, one of the electricians, stuck around with me for a bit hoping they wouldn't send us home again. We just couldn't take one more day without pay.

"How's that new baby of yours?" I asked.

"Eating me out if house and home he is," Shane replied.

"Ha. Yeah, they do that," I said.

"Yeah, I can't afford this. They keep this job closed, I'm screwed. Then it's back to the union pool, then who the fuck knows?" Shane said.

"I know dude. Me too."

"So what happened with that kid here?" Shane asked.

"You mean the sprinkler fitter?"

"Think he was 19. Wrenching some pipe on a scissor lift. Guess he was standing on the top bars, slipped. Done."

"Stupid ass," Shane said.

"Yeah. We all do shit in a hurry sometimes."

"Glad I wasn't on the job when it happened," I said.

"True that," Shane said, rolling a finger into his bottom lip to tuck tobacco in.

I looked at Shane as he worked the tobacco in his mouth. We sucked at this. I thought. Compassion. Now a kid's dead. It could have been any one of us.

"Give it another 20 minutes after the big meeting and I think they're shutting this job down again. I can see the foreskin by our job trailer getting antsy. He don't care."

"He'll probably steal some copper after we all leave. Scrap it. Go to the bar. Fucking douche."

"You can smell the booze coming out his pores in the morning," I said.

"Never met a dry plumber yet," Shane said, grinning.

"Hey!" I said. "Well, there’s some truth to that."

"So what's going on this weekend?" Shane asked.

"The lady and I are supposed to go to an art opening tonight."

"It's her brother. He's an artist apparently. Guess he's got a new exhibition where he's painting doors."

"Ooh, man. Interesting," Shane said sarcastically.

"Nah man he's pretty good, actually. I don't know what the door thing is about, but whatever."

"Well, maybe the doors are like people. You don't really get to know them till you're inside," Shane said.

"You seriously need some therapy," I said.

"No man, not like that. Like soul, personality, like the layers of an onion," Shane replied.

"Pretty deep thoughts for an electrician," I said.

"C'mon. You got it too," Shane said defensively. "You just do a good job of hiding it. There's more to you than meets the eye."

"Sure," I said, "just don’t tell anybody."

Shane laughed as the general motioned us away from the locked gate. They were getting ready to break the news to everybody. The head sparky took Shane aside, and Sal broke the news to me.

"Fuck man, two weeks before Christmas?" Shane said to his boss. "You know I'm getting married at the end of the month."

"I'm sorry, kid. You're a good worker but this was a make or break job for us. So far we're breaking. We'll mail you your check and you can file on Monday."

I nodded and walked through the mud to my truck. A few flakes started to fall as I stood for a few seconds to watch a hawk take off from a bare tree.

After saying my goodbyes, I thought about what Shane said and about the door paintings that hung in my mother-in-law's house with the bright red doors painted on the side of a mountain, and how the doors of the first Presbyterian around the corner from the job looked exactly like them. Snow piled up, erasing my tire tracks as I looked back in the mirror at the huge church, wondering what it looked like inside.

back to issue