From Systematic Rube
The company I brushed with had a small but loyal work force consisting of myself, my buddy Chris, the owner Alan, who was also a good friend, and one cramped truck. The truck didn’t have a name. We weren’t the sort of guys to name a truck, even if the truck was a friend too.
Looking up I peered through the blue haze of my exhaust. A white vision was cresting the hill, a girl dressed in white slacks and a frilly white top and a pair of sneakers. I glanced around for a white horse.
The white vision was the Mill’s summer intern. I’ll capitalize the M in Mill there. Capital M like Mother, and Matriarch. What the Mill said, we did. We depended on the Mill, the Mill Made us Money. We were nice to the Mill. However, seeing the Mill intern floating up the hill dressed like a tennis-pro seemed incredibly incongruous at the time, akin to miners finding a nice set of bone china sitting on a shelf of rock deep underground.
I yelled at Alan and knocked a branch off his helmet to get his attention. I made sure to stand clear of him in case he turned suddenly and sawed my feet off at the ankles. The girl floated over and gave us the news. Dry lightning had sparked a fire in a swamp the evening before. The company’s heavy machinery had been put the fire out before it could spread, but they needed us to come help mop up the operation. It was far cheaper to get us to do it than real men who mattered.
It was our first morning on the job. It had felt good to strap on our saws and survey the uncut block. We’d worked so hard to iron out the wrinkles in the operation the summer before, making little money, and were finally ready to buckle down and get rich like rock stars.
Alan smiled and kowtowed before the intern, then we watched her drift away like a cloud through the tall grass. When she drove away, Alan threw his helmet and mask to the ground and swore. The Mill paid a set wage of thirteen dollars an hour for the sort of unskilled labour we were being asked to do. He’d calculated the bank of the block we were currently working already, and we were about to carve a few big holes in our wallets. Plus, there was always the weather to contend with, and the will of the Mill’s budgeters. The weather or the secret confederacy which handed out the contracts, we weren’t sure which was more fickle. Our contract might get cut off at any time.
Chris and I, on the other hand, had never fought a fire before. It would be a new experience. We packed our gear with slow fingers and returned to the logging camp before we went to fight the fire. We were already on the clock. Road minutes mattered.