I've contributed to perhaps the best humor compilation I've ever read. Available now on Amazon!

My second chapbook, "The Second Book of Pearl: The Cats" is now available as either a paper chapbook or as a downloadable item. See below for the Pay Pal link or click on its cover just to the right of the newest blog post to download to your Kindle, iPad, or Nook. Just $3.99 for inspired tales of gin, gambling addiction and inter-feline betrayal.

My first chapbook, I Was Raised to be A Lert is in its third printing and is available both via the PayPal link below and on smashwords! Order one? Download one? It's all for you, baby!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So What Do You Say You and I Get Together After Work? Part II of II

Yesterday's post was Part I.  If you haven't read it, go ahead and do that now.   I'll run for coffee and meet you back here in five...


Kevin dropped the van off at my house that night.

“She stalls,” he said, “and there’s no heat. You’ll want to keep the scraper on your lap to keep the frost off the inside of the windshield. Which reminds me, the driver’s side windshield wiper sticks, so you’ll want to stick your hand out the window to give her a good slap every now and then, except when you unwind the window, don’t do it all the way or it won’t go back up. Oh, and the tires are a little worn, so you’re going to want to slow down well in advance of any need to come to a full stop.”

He paused.

“Oh, and if the brakes don’t work – and I’m not saying they won’t! – but if they don’t, the hand brake works pretty well.”

There was the briefest of pauses as we considered the implications of using a hand brake to stop a work van and the conditions under which Kevin already knew that it would work “pretty well”.

He tossed me the keys. “Pay day’s on Friday,” he said. He handed me a map. “Don’t be late picking them up!”

Pick up time at Parkers Prairie was 6:30 a.m., which meant that I was out of the house and coaxing the van down the road by 6:00.

February in Minneapolis is a blue-tinged month, a month of brittle air and reluctant machinery. The van moved, glacier-like, from residential area to freeway, where it blocked traffic and pulled vile words from passing motorists, a mobile example of what happens to nice girls who don’t go to college.

My little criminals were waiting for me when I pulled up: Boomer (burglary), DuWayne (child support, driving after revocation, driving without insurance), Randy (burglary), Jeff (vandalism).

DuWayne was rolling a joint even before, it seemed, he climbed into the backseat.

“Pearl!” he shouted. “Long time no see!”

DuWayne and I had grown up in the same trailer court.

“We gonna have time to swing by my guy’s place?” It was Boomer.

His “guy”. Hmm. “No,” I said. “I’m not going to your dealer’s.”

The smell of marijuana drifted toward the front of the van.

“Hey, I’d really appreciate if you guys didn’t –“

“Didn’t what?” It was Randy. “Smoke a little dope? Come on, now! What else we got, huh?”

They all started talking: We got no women. We got no prospects. We sleep in a big locked room.

I sighed. “Do what you want,” I said. “I don’t care.” I paused. “Roll down the windows.”

And maybe it was the long hours. Maybe it was the outrageous amount of pot smoke that rolled through the back seat of that van, but the two months I drove van for my brother’s crew was both the easiest and hardest way to make a buck. There was the equipment we loaded and unloaded in the snow, the nap Jeff took every afternoon in the back of the van, the runs to Subway for lunch, the winter gloom of arriving at the workhouse before the sun came up, the dark loneliness of the drive back home.

The worst day on the job was my very last.

When you’re on a slight incline at the head of the line of cars waiting for the light to turn, when you’ve managed to scrape a face-sized line-of-sight into the windshield, when it’s snowing and you are forced to unwind your window to stick your arm out, intermittently, to un-stick the wiper blades, when the stoners in the back are passing yet another joint, what happens next?

The light turns green and the van stalls.

The voices from the back rise, chorus-like.

“Give it some gas!”

“No, you’re flooding it!”

“Well pull over!”

“How’s she supposed to pull over, dingus? It’s dead!”

“Hey, are we sliding?”

We are. The van, at the head of a line of now-impatiently honking cars, is slowly slipping backwards.

“Hit the brakes! Hit the brakes!”

“I'm SITTING on the brakes!” I scream. “We’re on ice!”

“Holy crap, we’re going to slide into the car behind us!”

“Get out!” I yelled. “Get out and stop this van!”

Four men, reeking of pot, bloodshot eyes squinting in the failing light, climb out of the van and throw their shoulders into its back end in an attempt to keep it from rolling.

HONK! HONK! HOOOOOONK!

I look in the rearview mirror to see the man in the BMW behind us, the car that would have a van in its grill were it not for the men with their shoulders against it, laying on his horn.

He has lowered his window: “Move that piece of @#$!”

I smile feebly, hold my hands up in the international gesture of futility.

The driver of the Beemer is not amused. “Move it!” he screams. “Move it or I’m calling the cops!”

The guys keeping the van from sliding start cackling. The cops? He’s going to call the cops on a stalled vehicle?

DuWayne turns around, leans his back into the van and grins at him, revealing his missing teeth. “You want us to let this go, then?”

“I want you to move it, you low-life losers!” the man screams.

And that’s when the van starts slipping again. From the driver’s seat I hear all four voices from the rear of the van begin to shout.

“DuWayne!” It is Randy’s voice that rises above the din of the other men’s voices. “DuWayne, no!”

DuWayne is suddenly at the BMWs driver’s door, pounding at the window, which appears to have been raised against the vision of the large, dentally-challenged man charging his car. “Who you callin’ a loser?! WHO YOU CALLIN A LOSER?!”

Various forms of the sentence “no, DuWayne, no!” hit my ears as I close my eyes and put my right hand back on the keys. I begin an internal chant: Start. Start. Start. Start!

The van roars to life. In my rearview mirror I watch two of them pulling DuWayne from the hood of the car. I throw the van into gear, moving cautiously sideways as the tires seek traction.

“Get in the van! Get in the van!” I scream. “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

It takes all of them to pull DuWayne away from the BMW. They throw themselves into the back of the van, and the sliding door shuts as I drive away.

The BMW chooses to stay at the light, a line of cars behind him, honking.

I start a “normal” job in an office two days later.

Boomer, Randy, and Jeff have gone on with their lives, I’m sure, but doing what, I have no idea.

I receive a “butt-dialed” call from DuWayne roughly eight years later where I learn, through diligent eavesdropping, that he and someone named “Cherry” are down at a lake, drinking beer in his car, and, apparently, admiring each other’s swimsuits.

I hang up when they start removing them.

I no longer drive a van load of dope-smoking petty offenders to work every day.

And in hindsight, I kinda miss it.

52 comments:

Joshua said...

You hung up the phone too soon, in my opinion.

Pearl said...

Joshua, there's always more, isn't there? :-)

Joshua said...

That's what she said.

Pearl said...

:-) Thank you, Joshua! Oh, man. I mean, it ain't right, but the "that's what she said" line always makes me laugh.

jenny_o said...

So good! Girl, you know how to tell a story :)

Pearl said...

jenny_o, thank you! In hindsight, it was kind of funny, but at the time, I just wanted to weep. So cold! So frustrated!

Shelly said...

What an adventure! It kind of made me think of some of the old Cheech and Chong movies. I wonder if Mr. Beemer man was scared out of his rude ways by DuWayne...

ICKY said...

Having worked for Kiki at around the same time, I can tell you NONE of this is made up or exaggerated in the least. I once drove one of his vans with Boomer that had no heat and actually had to start a fire to keep it warm.
Those were the days.

Vicus Scurra said...

"February in Minneapolis is a blue-tinged month, a month of brittle air and reluctant machinery. "
You are the George Eliot of blogging.

willfulresemblance said...

Those are the most authentic moments in life - the ones that keep us going when office work starts to become too much like office work.

Simply Suthern said...

Sounds like my Brother in laws' work van and crew for sure.

Esther Montgomery said...

After all that . . . the most surprising thing is that you got another job so soon!

Esther

Pearl said...

Shelly, Cheech and Chong is about right. They weren't bad guys, just guys who never fully embraced "rules". :-)

Icky, you know it's cold when you need a fire under your vehicle. And seems to me I drove you around more than once. :-) Remember when I drove into that giant tank?! JUst slightly smaller than the van itself, I can't help but wonder how it managed to creep up behind me like that...

willful, I fully agree!

Simply, I think if the public that have limited contact with blue collar workers had any idea they'd never leave their keys under the mat...

Pearl said...

Esther, I'd been sending out resumes and interviews the whole time. Unfortunately, the job I took to escape this one proved to be a major mis-step as my boss/the owner was quite possibly insane.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Everything seems funnier from the position of "hindsight". Can't wait to hear the story about the boss who was "quite possibly insane".

Glen said...

you truly are a wildcard .. There truly is something wonderfully grotesque about BMW drivers - they are the same the world over i think

Elly Lou said...

I'm a sucker for any story where a DuWayne jumps on a Beamer.

Leenie said...

A story like that probably makes whatever we--your devoted readers, are dealing with today seem...boring, warm and with hope for a brighter tomorrow. (note to self--put that one down to be used in a greeting card later).

Pearl said...

Delores, :-) And I've been thinking about that guy...

Glen, he reeked of privilege. The look of fear on his face when he realized that DuWayne was going to take pleasure in hurting him was fabulous.

Pearl said...

Elly Lou, I like that. If only there'd been a Tyrell and a Snake as well!!

Leenie, you have a way with the words, you do!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Aha! So THAT'S how 15 an hour in cash is not enough money for your trouble!

Leenie said...

BTW: Reminds me of a super cold winter when all we had to drive was a ten year old Bug. Built a fire under it to go to work when schools were closed and the roads were drifting. Sadly no DuWayne to push it so we could pop it into gear.

Simply Suthern said...

I'm blue/ring around the collar. I grew up with guys named Weasel, Cockroach and Packrat and yet some of these crews still scare me.

Joanne said...

My face is wet, my ribs ache, I had to leave you for a pee break. Memories of some great jobs I've had, between jobs. Good job. Now get back to that clarinet.

looby said...

I like the sentence about reluctant machinery too.

I've come here from your comment on Unbearable and a most enjoyable introduction it's been too. We all have good stories but making the telling hold others' interest isn't something given to everyone.

And yours bored me shitless.

JOKE!

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

You should put together your own gang and drive the getaway van. Kinda like "The Italian Job" in Minneapolis.

Great story!

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

eeegads! You are lucky to have got out alive.
Rosemary

Belle said...

Having been poor most of my life I know exactly the kind of vans and cars that you are talking about. Yep, I have scraped the inside of the window in the winter! We have had a few criminals in our life too - I like them much better than people who own BMWs. I knew some of them in my church.

Happy Frog and I said...

Wow, what a tale! I can imagine it really sucking at the time but looking back on it with more good memories then bad. Everyone should have that job that reminds them how bad things could get when they are having a bad day at work!

Pearl said...

Green Girl, Yep! When you work like that all day and go home to The Boy making cheese sandwiches for dinner AGAIN it gets old! :-)

Leenie, those DuWaynes come in handy!

Simply, they’ve not scared me, but I wouldn’t necessarily have left my purse unattended either, if ya know what I mean…

Joanne, :-) I practice every night! (And glad you liked the story!)

Looby, I think you and I are going to get along just fine. :-)

Middle-Aged Mormon, my criminal history is now well in my rear-view mirror, but if you need anything done, I know a guy who knows a guy…
Rosemary, working for cash in the dead of winter is not for the faint of heart!

Belle, my first car didn’t have a heater at all, although it did have a cassette player and a quilt in the front seat. We were all awful cozy back then!

Happy Frog, true! When I’m disliking my job I just think, well, I could go back to carting around work-release guys in a van whose better days are behind it…

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Ah, but they seem like an amiable group of stoners.
Also? I don't blame DuWayne one bit. Mr. Beemer was an a-hole. Mr. Beemer can suck it.

Pearl said...

Dawn, that's pretty much what we all thought. Only DuWayne had the courage of his convictions. :-)

Bodacious Boomer said...

Been there, done that. When we were just married and beyond broke almost 30 years ago, we paid $50 for a green station wagon that had no heat or back window.

The guys on the car lot were actually laughing at us when we drove it away. It was fabulous.

Pat said...

My idea of a really good time would be to sit round a campfire - late at night, by a lake and just listen to you Pearl, telling stories.
In fact you can scrub the lake. And the camp-fire.

Eva Gallant said...

I loved this! You just paint wonderful images with your words. I could see the whole scenario unfolding before my eyes!

Troll said...

Amusing blog. Eons ago, I was involved with a hotel that got it's housekeeping staff directly from a County Jail delivered daily in a Jail-Bus. I think one of them invented the term "baby-daddy". First time I ever heard it anyway.

lisleman said...

Your stories are great. I went back and read from the start. The BMW driver is lucky he was not soon sliding down the hill. I wonder if they would recognize themselves in the story. On the downside, nice brother letting you drive that dangerous van.

R. Jacob said...

let us raise our hands and share the fact we have all driven something like this in our lifetime!

That gentleman's lady said...

You mean you don't stash your pot in your car?!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I just love your writing, Pearl! I really feel I've just been in that van with you! What a great story! (And am glad the jerk in the Beemer had people honking at him in the end!)

Audubon Ron said...

Next time, tie fishing line to the windshield wiper and a stick to the end so when it sticks you can pull it loose. My buddy Ed did that with his Rambler.

Diane said...

What I wouldn't give for an iota of DuWayne's gumption.(Old word - still good, though) Love your posts!

Vapid Vixen said...

Why do we always cave and let people smoke in the vehicle when we're doing THEM a favor by chauffeuring their butts in the first place?

This was tragically funny.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

The whole story is wonderful, and wonderfully told. The sentence about February in Minnesota is beautiful and classic, and that comment about you being the George Eliot of blogging just might be the perfect way to put it.

KSK said...

What a nightmare!!! ..but you have a GREAT story!!! :)

ipenka said...

Really enjoyed the image of the van. I don't know why but whenever I think of a van, its the Scooby Doo version. Great story!

BlackLOG said...

You should have so let the car slide into the BMW and claimed he had run into the back of you....

P.S. don't judge me I might drive a BMW but I always use my indicators and can confirm they come standard with the car and are not an optional extra….

HermanTurnip said...

"Epic" doesn't *begin* to cover this story! Man, makes me wish for those crazy days I spent in the military.

Great...now I'm feeling all sentimental. Thanks.... ;-)

lime said...

best/worst, miss it/don't miss it. yeah i get it. kinda like when i lived in a neighborhood with a halfway house for the state mental hospital. it was ALWAYS interesting.

Suldog said...

That was a GREAT story!

I can empathize, a bit. I drove a school bus for mentally-disabled kids for two months one summer. It was actually a van-sized vehicle, and, as with your scenario, it was both a hard time and a very enjoyable time, depending upon the day.

Anyway, excellent job here telling the tale.

Register website said...

Respective technology and entertaintment blog it is. I have been long looking for some nice blogs. Very enlightening article it is for read anyone.domain registration india

Kristy said...

Well told story! Your brother sounds a bit like my brothers. My dad used to drive an old van and he delivered papers in the middle of the night when laid off from work. My brothers would ride with him as punishment because they had dropped out of school. One night I went too...sounds like I have a story to tell!