“I told Mary, when I handle this guy, I’m gonna tear off both ears and stick my left thumb in his eye until it pops out. It’s gonna dangle on a string, an occipital orb slapping his cheek.”
Mary looks at me, nods sagely, her blue eyes sparkling. We are standing in their kitchen. T-Bone, a Labrador of Great Sincerity, gazes up at us with adoration, his demeanor that of one who suspects that a slice of ham or other such treat may appear if only he is attentive enough. I smile at Mary, tap the side of my nose in acknowledgement. Jon's getting ready to tell a story.
“Who we talkin' about here?” I say.
“Farm Animal,” Mary says, grinning.
“Hey,” Jon says.
“What?” I say, grinning back at Mary. “Don’t we talk like that?”
“We don’t talk like that, do we, Jon?” Mary laughs. “This is a family show and we –“
“FARM ANIMAL,” Jon interrupts, “once came to work with his face bashed in, the result of his buddy – his only buddy, a guy he’s known since high school – snapping after the guy just would not shut the hell up.” Jon shakes his head. “His only friend pummeled him but good.”
“It’s true,” Mary says. “The pictures went around by e-mail. It was grody.”
I widen my eyes at her and she winks.
“If you met him,” Mary says, “you’d know right away, he’s an ass. An absolute ass. The guy’s got no filter, doesn’t know when enough is enough. First encounter, Farm Animal tells the bartender at the company Christmas party ‘At first I thought you were pregnant, but now I can see that you’re just flippin’ fat’.”
Except Mary hasn’t used the word “flippin”. Jon, who swears only when truly angry, frowns at the memory.
“The guy has no friends,” Jon says, lighting a Black and Mild, “and there’s good reason for it.” He inhales, exhales toward the ceiling. “Every other word out of his mouth is a swear word. Doesn’t matter who he’s around – “
“We ended up going to his birthday party when Jon first started working there,” Mary cuts in, “don’t even ask how that happened. His mom, his sisters, his daughter – all nice people – are the only other ones there and even then, over a birthday cake and everything!, every other word is a cuss. Pretty horrible.”
Jon stares at her, and she grins. “What?” she says.
He shakes his head so as to clear the interruption from his head. “So this guy tries to light me up over a fan and a radio I left on at work the other day. Only I had left work the day before at 11:30, not 4:00 like everyone else, and the radio – well, everyone is listening to the radio, right? – and the fan just keeps the air moving in the shop. Tom Hall told me to leave it on.”
I briefly open my mouth to ask who Tom Hall is and immediately shut it.
“So the very next day,” Jon says, “I’m painting off the eye wash station and electrical box. Tom Hall tells me to paint it off, right? OSHA requirements: you gotta have a protected area around these things so that you can get to them when you need them. “
He inhales, exhales toward the ceiling. “No parking within the painted lines, you smell what I’m cookin’?”
Mary and I nod solemnly. We do, indeed, smell what he is cooking.
“So I measure it out, paint a nice solid line around the eye wash station, the electrical box. Takes me several hours of prep, measuring, getting the area clean, the paint down – and here comes Farm Animal, who shreds it with the forklift.” Jon shakes his head in disbelief. “Drops a stack of pallets on it, scrapes it from one side to the next, then leaves the pallets there.”
Jon takes a deep breath. Mary and I are silent.
“He comes over to me, all concern and innocence, and says ‘what’s the problem here, Jon?’ I tell him, ‘make no mistake about it, you’re the problem’.
The color creeps up Jon’s neck. “He says it again, ‘what’s the problem here, Jon?’ and that’s when I blow it. ‘I want you to shut your fat flippin’ mouth’ – and here Mary shoots me a significant look – ‘I don’t want you to touch my stuff, look in my direction, breathe in my presence. Until you’re my boss, you got nothin’ to say to me.’
Jon shakes his head almost sadly. “Some day,” he says, “I’m gonna have to handle this guy.”