September 2021- time to remember your last job –
(for Joe Crenshaw aka the Colonel)
It was near 70 degrees before 8:30 that morning.
Cicadas buzzed like personal buzz saws.
There were close to a hundred Durra-forms on the truck.
These were 5 to 6 inch plywood thick supports for poured foundations.
At 6 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide and about 60 lb. a pop, they were
a lot of fun to pull off the truck and into a 20 ft. dirt hole.
I could barely manage one.
The other guys thought this was funny.
Randy, for instance, could carry 3 at once, like he was shuffling
I had never seen another human being quite like Randy.
He was jet/coal/crude oil black. He had a build like Shaft Hercules.
His waistline was a razor sharp 24 inches. He was missing his
front teeth, and lisped slightly when he spoke. I knew some guys
who were terrified of him (with good reason) I seemed to
get along with him fine. I liked to think of him as “Black Lucifer.”
This morning his skin shone with a slick perspiration that
made him appear like a polished ebony alabaster stone.
We were lining the durra-forms up along the footings that had been poured the day before.
Break time eventually dragged into 10 o’clock. By now it was close to
80, with a towel wringing humidity. The crew gathered around the sawhorse
in the shade set up with a battered blue cooler of water, cardboard container
of Morton’s salt and stack of white Styrofoam cups.
No one sat down to drink. It was that hot. We were working on a relatively
small island surrounded by bays and inlets. Not a breath of air moved.
Sonny and Joe (aka “The Colonel”) were off to the side discussing
what was to accomplished by the crew today. I saw Sonny looking
over at me repeatedly. This was never a good thing. Sonny was a bit of a puzzle.
He was related to Joe in some strange way by marriage and was the
foreman of sorts. Sonny was fond of screaming at you in his very own
hyper-ubonic – dialect. For example, it might be, “hey you go get em anglebos”
or “Man, we need all da neebos.” If you don’t catch on right away
what he wanted, he would get hysterical and start swearing a blue streak.
Funny thing was he could speak perfect English, when he wanted to.
After he was done introducing you to his language, he would turn to the
lady whose yard we were working in and say both politely and distinctly,
“That’s right Mrs. Rabinawitz, we will be finished with this project
So when I saw him striding purposely over to me in his pork-pie hat and that look
on his face I wasn’t surprised in the least when he blurted out;
“Vinny. Go ge da truc. Go down the yar. Get 30 ousan jer ales, sixteen
lengs of scaffin and about twenty-five bos. Got it?
O yeah I got it. I could speak Sonny fluently by now. Staron had taught me well.
I was allowed to run errands with the truck because it was well known I had
been to college for a couple of years. Dropped out of State College. Couldn’t
get with the books, so now I was one of Joey’s boys. Well, sort of.
So I went to the supply yard. Got someone with a forklift to load 40 pallets of
Jersey Scale red bricks. I dug out the scaffolding sets and about 25 seven foot
long planks. It took about the better part of an hour. When I drove back on the
worksite, it would soon be lunch.
I parked truck.
Sonny started screaming
in the heat and dust,
“WHERE YO BEEN AT, MAN?”
I COULDA LAID BLOCK FROM HERE TO PECONIC BY NOW!
I shrugged my shoulders.
Randy said, “Aw fuck, you Sonny.”
We ate lunch.
The afternoon was an infinity of sweaty backs,
scraped knuckles and grueling toil.
By three o’clock most of the men weren’t speaking to each other.
No need. Took too much effort. Everybody knew their job.
The foundation grew. The mixer came and went.
In a blur at last we were loading the truck and the sun was on
the golden 5 o’clock slant.
We all jumped upon the bed flat truck for the ten-minute ride to
the ferry. Everybody was still a little quiet. As we drove through the
microscopic port village, which was an exclusive resort for the
wealthy yachtsmen, abruptly the truck pulled over to the side of the
road and the Colonel stuck his head out the window and announced,
“all right, lets go have a beer.” I’m buying !
Crew had moved faster than I had seen all day. Myself included.
Inside the combo bar/restaurant it was happy hour. The bar crowd dissipated
rather quickly upon our arrival. Somehow the appearance of a half a dozen sweaty,
half naked, dirty workmen wasn’t the proper ambience. Bartender, a slight
man in his late forties looked up from his bar to see a row of thirsty, leering, workmen
smiles rather than the half in the bag, well tipping patrons, who had been there
just a minute ago. He seemed not to really know where to start, till a
voice boomed from the other end of the bar, “Buy all these boys here
cold beer and hell even buy that white boy one too.”
We only had a couple of rounds.
Joe said anybody missed the truck on the way to the ferry was fired.
Randy had sat down at a table in the dining room
with a couple of nice looking girls in their early twenties.
Joe reeled him back in.
All at once everybody was gone from the bar except Joe and I.
The bartender looked terrified.
So far, no one had produced so much as buck for the 12 beers.
He looked at Joe.
Joe grinned, “Sorry mister I ain’t got no money, I’as a poor man.”
Bartender looked like he was going to cry.
Then Joe added hopefully, pointing to me, “I think the white boy
has some money though.”
He walked out the door leaving me there.
Bartender looked at me meaner.
He could handle this.
I looked down to where Joe had been sitting.
There was a twenty left on the bar.
More than enough.
Walked out the door to the truck.
Then started running as it pulled away.
Everybody was laughing pretty good.
It was after the supper/normal quitting time rush.
There wasn’t much of a line for the ferry.
It was a short beautiful five-minute ride to port.
After the endless ghastly heat and tedium of the day
this was a kind of pay off.
This is what you daydreamed about at 7:30 in the morning
standing in a sand pit with a thousand eight inch blocks to move.
Of course the feeling of a few beers coupled with the certain
knowledge of a few more with something to eat in town put
everybody on the back of Joe’s truck feeling damn right.
Stunning pre-sunset evening.
The light etched in surreal watercolors.
The soft rocking rhythm of the flat bottom vessel.
The smell of the salt breeze in your face
And that breeze, that was the best part
that damn wonderful coolness in your face.
Everybody was kind of quiet. Lost in their own thoughts.
Somewhere else after work. Peaceful.
Joe was in the cab of the truck talking with Sonny.
Yup. Everyone on the crew mellow, blissed out.
Now as I said the ferry wasn’t very crowded.
However parked right next to the truck
was a very expensive looking, polished gray BMW.
Your basic upper-middle class family on vacation
on an outing, whatever. Mom & Dad in the front,
kids in the back seat.
The little boy must have been 4 or 5
but the daughter, well she was a big girl,
a very nice looking big girl
and Randy had taken notice of her.
First thing I heard was a soft cooing sound of
Randy almost whispering over the side of the truck
towards the window seat where she sat.
“Baby, my name’s Randy…what’s yours?”
I think at that point all four windows on the “Beamer”
slid up and sealed simultaneously.
Somebody else in the crew did too.
Now Randy stood up.
Peeled off his white sleeveless T-shirt
and proceeded to flex everyone of those muscles
contained in that massive arsenal in his upper body
toward the direction of the car window.
Saying a bit louder now, “Hey baby…you like dis?
Bet you never seen anything like this…want some?
Now everybody on the crew is watching and laughing.
This of course gives Randy an audience.
I thought, “this is gonna get really good or bad really fast.”
The family from Larchmont in the gray BMW
are all staring straight ahead. Eyes front.
All except the little boy.
He thinks that Randy’s funny.
Which of course he is.
Randy yells over to the kid,
“Hey little white boy…ever see your sister neckid?”
Little boy grins and laughs.
Mother’s hand shoots around from the front seat to
restrain junior’s enthusiasm.
Randy’s delighted with the whole scene.
So he leans over the side of the truck and with his face inches
from the daughter’s window seat starts blowing gently on the window.
Fogging it up.
No reaction from her.
Or dad. Or mom. Even junior isn’t laughing anymore.
The crew is howling by now.
So Randy starts to lick the window where the girl is sitting.
Brings down the house.
Finally Joe gets wise to what’s going on in the back of the truck.
Starts yelling in that booming southern accent of his,
while pounding his fist up into the inside of the truck roof.
“RANDY…..BOOMBOOMBOOM……. I’M GOING TO KILL YOU……
BOOMBOOMBOOM…….. KNOCK IT OFF RIGHT NOW……BOOMBOOMBOOM…..
OR WHEN WE GET TO PORT I’M GONNA TAKE YOUR
ASS OUT TO MOORE’S WOODS AND TIE YOU TO A TREE
Till I collect your sorry ass in the morning !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And that was it.
Within seconds we started to dock,
everybody just forgot about it.
Randy looked bored.
But the little family.
Who knows what they were thinking
but you may be able to take a wild guess.
That window that Randy had given
so much personal attention to
was pretty slick with
It didn’t look very nice
on that otherwise spotless car.
Daughter was gone from that seat.
In fact the entire load of passengers
were a work of art in frozen still life
staring straight ahead
and that car shot off
the frigging ferry fast.
The rear bumper hit the deck so
hard you could see sparks
I do remember that.
But I don’t really remember
what happened next.
Probably just walked down Front Street
And got a beer at Meyers
Thinking about Randy tied to tree in Moore’s woods