fiction by jeff goldthorpe
Up at six I'M LATE roommate's got the shower DAMN it's COLD this is summer? Going to union hiring hall at least avoiding personnel sniffing my stinky armpits while I await student financial aid GOTTA piss bad fumble with shirt pants stumble down silent drowsy hallway OH NO if union officers notice my two year absence from hall in school paying cheapie unemployed dues they'll UGH my roommate's strange goofy morose part time boyfriend sits at kitchen table made the coffee thanks and lights up a joint he asks: Toke? Why not? Weed and coffee I'll be flying I'M SCARED a union officer scrunching up his face--"Haven't seen you around here past year buddy let's see your records''--good to piss finally wash face take a few more tokes gulp down coffee GUILTY shouts Local 6 President "of stealing privileges of union membership while attending school fulltime without regard for unemployed union brothers'' OOOHH back to my room undercover snuggle with drowsy lover long hug make up after awful weekend fight soft heavenly flight warmth flesh MUST
OUT the door SCARED in my pocket "Nicagagua INVASION''
Claustrophobia of urban scraping by thousands huddling here on Shotwell Street Barrio Folsom 21st Street playground drugs basketball turf Folsom Boys Rule Y Que Fire Department Pacific Gas & Electric the closeness of war Ironworkers Hall fellow in car with Ironworkers patch on cap talking with wife at wheel "Don't start talking like...
No vacation summer here
No Esprit De Corps t-shirts or Mediterranean sunlight
Gray thick blanket gray fog
its hues reflected onto streets buildings people
This is San Francisco too
Daily grind of lumbering into work daily
I'm shivering need heavier jacket is it the dope SCARED eyes scrutinizing ears listening haven't seen you around hall deserter from the ranks of the proletariat RUSHING traffic down 18th Street but Shotwell Street sleeps jacked up cars snoozing on sidewalk a box of tools left out unstolen watched by neighbors at 6:45? Passing Mission Health Center mural's fertile man/woman/child happily gazing cross street at Kilpatrick's Bakery whose pipes jut out: "VEG OIL'' "SUGAR''--within graying 47 year olds coated with white wonder twinkie flour sugar and one 31 year old boyfriend of waitress at Rite Spot Cafe half blck down her parents are intellectuals and she likes Sunday gospel services in Oakland RIGHT turn on 14th Street left on Folsom under freeway rushing walls scrawled "L'l Smiley'' "Poor whites are the niggers of the revolution'' past The Stud where only two nights ago I was drinking dancing walking weezy home past the TOOLMASTER store where it was spray painted "Oh Toolmaster...Master Me'' and "Masturbation causes tool damage'' Still SCARED will I know anyone? Did they see me at The Stud? left on 11th Street left on Harrison past old beer brewery walls knocked out years ago empty uprooted vats sprawling fence town WHERE ARE the winos street people junkies urban beasts and goblins and drunken thrill seeking teenagers staking out territory at night WHY is my heart racing?
Here hall is spray painted "International Loafers and Winos Union'' Seven men slouching outside eye me curiously I nod PUSH frosted fog plexiglass door making gray sun grayer smoke flourescent-filled room BARS at Dispatch Window union newsletter dispatch rules and new stringent rules for people avoiding DUES in line at dispatcher's window my gods it's Hefferson at window old time 4000 lb. stand-up comedian alcoholic town fool who somebody says has cleaned up still gets soused occasionally and one of his kids takes him home and I always thought he lived in welfare hotels and when I make it to the window Hefferson says "10130? Yer number ain't been on the job board for awhile--have to wait till after jobs go out to activate yer number'' Okay just wanted to check on my number man STUPID so I came here for nothing wait 105 minutes for nothing oh well here I am
Nobody I know but the little red faced guy who never talked once in my 5 years at JOLLY FOODS which is topic of conversation of three other guys so I ask they hiring still, what's it like? "You worked there?'' FEAR cannot reveal my illegal student status I say Yeah worked there 5 years but just got sick of it quit a couple of years ago--the three guys turn to me
You gave up a permanent position at
Very very sad
Their eyes are wide with pity and wonder at strange creature leaping to certain death as Lemming wildly hopping out to sea
My excuse: young single restless male OUTSIDE breathe cool gray air cooly startled turn to find Angel my favorite Mexican Jolly Foods new Christian shop steward "How are you my friend?'' sweet voice like fog floating over a hillside of three year absence FIRED Angel while visiting an ailing relative in Mexico and THREATENED to terminate me year before that when my Dad dared to stay alive on his deathbed longer than three weeks JOLLY still making Angel pay for his sins he describes his eleven jobs since then he recalls the cursed name of JOLLY personnel executioner PINKERTON: no shit when he used to work at Schlage Lock people threw tools at him when he walked through the shop just like they did to his strikebreaking ancestors and when Angel saw him last week face full of warts scabs monster before our very eyes COLD
Inside sitting near dumpy old guy with bulding eyes wool cap Local 6-style Rodney Dangerfield close enough to be friendly not too close to be presumptuous reading of severed heads hearts homes wariscoming wariscoming american prez sez war soon if contadora guys don't negotiate something RAGE sinking into daily routine job school
Am I dying
But walking to the hall I was
but money--but trapped--but moving--
but happy away from muggy summers
Rodney is talking cut in unemployment benefits 'cause recession is over it's only melancholy 8.9% hear "So recession is over ha ha'' HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I told "em they should join the Army good benefits work on computers it's wave of the future Rodney and friend spoke earnestly "I'm too old for the military'' "I already did my time'' so we get to talking they're both from Wallworth's closed down "this is reagan country'' whole warehouse a year ago "consolidation of operations another big warehouse shut tight another St. Regis ColgateCarnation
These 47 year old guys
bunch of fish flip-flopping wildly on beach their scales do not shimmer in the sun the grungy greengraybrown walls light (Angel is waiting for the flying fish of the future)
They ask me where I worked my true confessions I quit Jolly Foods to go to school nine months unemployment benefits--NO--I did not tell them of bolshevik burnout, Rhonda, Miguel, bisexuality, The Stud, about how good it felt being fucked till he started pushing too hard--so I say night work was steady when I was at Jolly Rodney says Jolly doesn't hire for night production any more
Hefferson takes the dispatch mike: "No jobs jet Coffee truck is here if you want something'' Guy standing in front bellows: "Fuck you and the coffee truck!'' As people saunter out I'm still giggling to myself why I don't know getting drowsy will go home to sleep soon Hefferson closes job board five minutes early so I can finally put my number up on job board behind 40 others maybe I should take that temp painting job STOP LOOK LISTEN: there are only three or four guys under 30 in this hall
Sitting down again near Rodney listening to his genial conversation with black guy his age they worked at Wallworth's Rodney wants to leave at five past 9 turns to his friend
"Hey man gimme a dollar's worth of change''
"Shee-it, what choo want a dollar's worth o' change for?''
"For my daughter,'' Rodney says
"Sheee-it, a dollar's worth o' change for his daughter--shhee- it''
Rodney trudges out back to his house in Visitacion Valley paid off but taxes are a bitch and it's too small to rent you know
There was an old man
who swallowed a house
he died, of course.