BRANDON THANE SMITH

 

Laid off Again

Laid off again. Fired, you might say. Usually it makes me happy to get laid off. More time to myself, is what I usually think. Usually.

Not this time.

It seems the rejections are becoming too many. Whatever rejection does to the soul, itís happening too much to mine, itís piling up too high.

Youíve got to treat the soul right. Forget the body, it isnít a temple. Itís a fleshy little tool, a disposable tool. The soul is whatís precious. And it canít thrive on rejection.

Itís praise my soul wants, what it needs to breathe. But I donít think itís ever coming. And weíre left here gasping.

Suffocating.

Lenny came out and spoke to all the laborers. He said, "Chuck and Martin," as he pointed at one with a pinkie and the other an index, "I need you guys to go over to the cooling tower and expose the water-main there."

They each grabbed a shovel and walked on.

"Ian and Craig, go grade the sublevel over there in the northern end of the building."

They trudged off to the trailer to get grading rakes and a transit.

"And, Donny, Iím going to have to let you go."

"Thatís cool," I told him, "but do you have my check?"

He did.

He gave it to me and I drove off. But I felt a little sadness rise up inside me.

Yesterday I worked 17 hours in the ditch with a shovel. I exposed three buried pipes for the hoe operator. Lenny actually thanked me for working so hard, for shoveling with so much enthusiasm. He came near praising me.

I was almost a hero.

Nobody could keep up with me as I tore through virgin earth and undermined the lines.

But he had to let me go.

Itís springtime now and I had envisioned myself working for Lenny through the entire summer.

Just ten minutes before he laid me off, I had been looking over Martin and Ian and the others, trying to imagine what they would look like wearing their best clothes at the Christmas party. I pictured myself drinking champagne and telling a joke over near the decorated tree. Standing under mistletoe and taking kisses from office girls.

And as I shoveled out gas lines and drainage pipes yesterday, sweating into my own eyes and tasting airborne soil, I was watching myself drive to Florida in the new car Iíd buy with the money I made off Lenny. Listening to jazz on the 7-speaker cd system. Waving at beautiful women as I passed them and glanced over the big bare breasts they exposed to me by lifting their shirts. They tried to wave me down and get me to stay the night with them in some roadside motel, but my car was the fastest on the road and I was a vector straight to the beach.

But Lenny had to let me go. I kind of felt like crying.

I went to a movie and then got a whore. It made me feel a little better.

When I got home my neighbors were having a cookout. I went over and tried to get into one of the conversations, all the conversations, but whenever I spoke to somebody they made an excuse and went inside. I saw the curtains moving and eyes peeking out to see if I had left yet. Finally I went inside my apartment. I checked out my window a bit later and all the barbeque people were back outside, laughing loudly at something. They were shaking their heads a lot too.

I made a few phone calls but nobody answered.

So I just went to bed.