Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TROUBLE by Andy Henion

The new boss calls me into his office, in this case an extended cab pickup. He’s a small, energetic man with manicured fingernails and an associate’s degree in construction management. His father is the one who hired me, fourteen years prior, but is now semi-retired and fishing for marlin off a tropical coast. Like mine, the father’s fingernails are lumpy and discolored from years of meeting the business end of a hammer.

Is it cold out there or what? says the new boss. He puts significant emphasis on certain words and makes exaggerated expressions. In his hands is a gourmet coffee drink with a green sippy lid.

Your dad and I shingled in ten-below, I say. The old man took three bundles up the ladder at a time.

Yeah, yeah, he’s a legend. And he’s got the arthritis to prove it. The new boss takes a sip of his coffee drink and thumbs a drop of spittle off the steering wheel. It’s a brand new truck, special edition, glossy black with cream seating.

So, the new boss says. I understand you’ve been having some trouble.

You understand wrong.

Putting a drill bit through someone’s hand? Punching out a man at a playground? That’s not trouble?

Depends on your perspective.

Well my perspective is this. That man at the playground happens to be a friend of mine.

Then teach him some manners, I say, and stare at the new boss and his wide eyes until he looks away.

To the windshield he says, An employee who runs around maiming people would be considered a liability. A shrewd employer would not be wise to retain such an employee.

Out the window I see Hank standing near the truck, unable to look into the cab, and understand that he is the muscle in case things get out of hand. I shake my head. As the foreman, I hired Hank when he was still a teenager and taught him to hammer a nail straight.

Say the words, you fucking android.

You’re fired, says the new boss

There, I say, pulling the utility knife from my pocket. Wasn’t so hard.

I twist the blade into my palm. His face opens. Blood drips and splatters about the cab as I genuflect.

For the blood I have given this company, I say.

You crazy bastard! says the new boss. My truck!

And for the blood of my laboring brethren. Who must continue bearing your gross ineptitude.

Blood is covering wide swaths of the cab at this point, and I realize I’ve cut a bit deep. The new boss is pawing blood from an eyelid and motioning frantically for Hank. The coffee drink has spilled on the dashboard, smelling like a goddamn Christmas tree.

I step out to meet Hank, blood dripping from my fingertips. He’s a big kid, with a neck like a stump. I place my wounded hand in his, the other on his shoulder, and tell him it has been a pleasure.

Pleasure my ass, says Hank, smirking. You stay out of trouble now, you hear?

"Trouble" is the fifth installment in Henion's "Angry Suburban Guy" series. The first four ("Animals," "The Boss," "Sick Fuck," and "A Night in Vegas") appeared in Thieves Jargon.


james said...

just terrific.

jason said...

i loved this story...

Andy Henion said...

Thanks for the good word.