I sat in my six-month-old, three-quarter-ton pickup with the air on and watched as streams of people came and went from the single-story, cinder block building simply identified by a large block-lettered sign as the Employment Department. Folks would flow in and out, often desperate people who were actually looking for labor and not actual jobs, as the twenty-first century had come to define them.
I was listening to a radio talk show on gun control, when Grady O’Shea emerged from the building with a pamphlet and some loose sheets of paper. He took a brief look around and then headed in my direction.
Most people who saw Grady for the first time would describe him as a big man, but he wasn’t particularly tall. He wasn’t short though, and he had a massive upper body with a deep chest and wide, heavily muscled shoulders. His imposing torso tapered to a narrower waistline, and everything was supported by his short, stocky legs.
He was wearing, as he always was, a pair of stagged off Carhartt double-front loggers’ jeans, with extra-deep hip pockets for falling wedges, and a hickory shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. A bright red pair of Logger’s World suspenders connected his shoulders to his trousers. His feet were jammed into heavy wool socks and weatherproof Romeo slippers.
He walked with a grace and agility that belied his size, as he approached the passenger’s side of my truck. A smile emerged to grace his face, as he levered himself into the seat of my truck—a smile so wide it made the corners of his eyes crinkle.
A massive paw came at me on the end of a piston-like arm, and I politely shook it. “It’s good of you to do this, Reggie,” he said. “I was gonna drive my own old rig down, but I’m not sure the ol’ girl would stand the gaff.”
“Glad to do it,” I said. “I have a couple of day’s sick leave coming.”
“Sick leave,” he said, provocatively. “What the hell’s that?”
“It’s something that comes with a government job,” I told him. “They have that, and vacation pay too.”
“May the saints preserve us,” he said, in the Irish brogue that his father used to speak in, as he directed his eyes to the headliner of the cab.
I maneuvered my way out of the parking lot, and headed up a one-way street to the freeway. Then I asked,
“So where is your rig, anyway?”
“Down at Bub’s Bean Barn. I walked up to the unemployment office. Bub said it’d be all right to leave it there for a few days.”
I nodded in response, but Grady was gazing out the window and didn’t notice.
“It’s kind of late in the spring to be out of work isn’t?” I asked.