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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Part II: Careful Who You're Callin' a Loser, There, Suit

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 drops the van off at my house that night.

“She stalls,” he says, “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 pauses.

“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 is the briefest of pauses as we considere 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 tosses me the keys. “Pay day’s on Friday,” he says. He hands me a map. “Don’t be late picking them up!”

Pick-up time at Parkers Prairie is 6:30 a.m., which means that I am 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 is rolling a joint even before, it seems, he climb into the backseat.

“Pearl!” he shouts. “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 say. “I’m not going to your dealer’s.”

The smell of marijuana drifts 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 sigh. “Do what you want,” I say. “I don’t care.” I pause. “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.


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.


R. Jacob said...

I had a 72 olds 98 that decided one day to stop giving off heat or defrost the windows. Add to that windshield wiper motors that gave up the ghost, ah yes I remember it well. All in the middle of winter. Sigh, loved that car!

TexWisGirl said...

what a great adventure! i hope that bmw guy was scared sh*tless!

savannah said...

i am so glad i went back and read part 1! great story, sugar! xoxoxox

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

We had a '75 Gremlin. That car would not die. It also had no traction in snow or on ice. Climbed every hill sideways in winter. I was subjected to lots and lots of horn honking (etc.) Wonder what duWayne is doing now?

vanilla said...

...and thus it is that Pearl yearns fondly for the days when going to work meant real excitement in her life.

Ms Sparrow said...

Ah Pearl, you have really lived! You are so good at portraying these adventures of yours.

Lynilu said...

At the end of Part I, I thought, "No, Pearl! Don't do it!"

At the end of Part II, I said it out loud, but I laughed when I did!

fmcgmccllc said...

Who in the name of all that is sane calls 4 perps trying to fix it "A Loser". Guy was asking for it, he is so lucky the starter Gods worked for you.

Beth said...

The guy in the BMW could have used a toke…
I’m quite impressed with your multi-tasking driving. ;)

jenny_o said...

I wonder if BMW Guy ever got any wiser ... Petty thieves with some basic courtesy vs well-heeled cretin ... nothing's black & white :)

Eva Gallant said...

What an adventure!

TV's Take said...

You have lived many a lives! Great writing

esbboston said...

Now you have me wondering what my "worst job ever" was, while I am in the middle of s'pposed to be watching a graduation ceremony......

The Elephant's Child said...

'It was the best of ti'mes, it was the worst of times.... Thanks. I loved this.

Cheryl said...

Boy, I wish this story could go on and on!

bill lisleman said...

I enjoy your stories. I seem to remember this but the re-work added more excitement to it. Too bad you can't add sound effects. Hearing the spinning tires, honking, guys screaming would effort to turn this into a radio show.

Nessa Roo said...

Why? Why would you hang up? It was just gettin" good...

River said...

You kinda miss it? You really are crazy.....but at least you can relive it here in the telling.

bazza said...

Hi Pearl. A great story! It reminds me of the time I was driving my first vehicle through a torrential rain-storm. The one large wiper flew off into a muddy field in the dark, never to be seen again. I had to drive along at 5 miles an hour squinting into the murky distance. What fun!
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Great post. I've worked with guys like that. Great fun, but would you invite them home?

NellieVaughn said...

This wasn't a blog post, it was an almost action movie. Add an explosion, and Michael Bay could direct this. Never mind. Don't let him anywhere near this post.

NellieVaughn said...

This wasn't a blog post, it was an almost action movie. Add an explosion, and Michael Bay could direct this. Never mind. Don't let him anywhere near this post.

sage said...

Well, at least you got a story. Both pieces had moments of horror and laughter in them, thanks for sharing. It reminded me of my time in the bakery.

Buttons said...

Oh Pearl I can see how you miss this job. You must be totally bored in every job since. The rush of emotions must have been an adrenalin rush that no job can ever provide again. Or maybe you are addicted to the holy crap:)
I am glad your life has slowed a little and I have a brother just like that. Scary.Yo umake me laugh out loud every time. Great writing I was on the edge of my seat. B

Peace said...

I enjoyed this one. I may know some of the guys from your description of them.

esbboston said...

Second hand toke

Simply Suthern said...

You miss it so much. Thats why you love riding the bus.

Looking for your own Randy, Boomer Jeff and DuWayne.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

It's like their names were cherry-picked for this story--Randy, Boomer, Jeff and DuWayne.
And I think I owned the sedan version of that van--right down to the wonky wipers.

Pat Tillett said...

Now that was an adventure! The "crew" sounded like the people I hung out with in my younger days. A really good story and very well written! Loved both parts!