JULY 10, 2016
A BIG WORK
So anyway, the new moon Monday has evolved into a gradually waxing crescent that hangs in the sky from midday through the afternoon into night. The skies have been astonishingly ice-blue clear and the days breezy. A wind kicked up midweek causing the trees to stir as the long hair of the Bann Sé tousled the leaves and made old women take out their rosaries to mutter spells under breath.
Mr. Cribbage hired a couple day laborers named Oso and Orlin to perform landscaping work on his tenant property. As was usual for Mr. Cribbage he went and fetched the guys from the pickup-point in his pickup truck and brought them onto the property with rakes and shovels and shears and other implements of mass destruction and gave the simple instruction "Reducir!" while waving his arms around.
"¿Y esto?" Oso pointed at the bamboo planted by Elizabeth, the tenant.
"Ummm . . . excavar . . . uhh poco ... pequeño, oh heck remove it."
"Uhhh . . . si. Todos un pequeño something. When done . . . uh finis trabajo come see me."
Then, Mr. Cribbage went away, leaving the workers to do what they do.
Elizabeth, wearing her bathrobe, peered out the window behind the curtains as the men went to work with a will. They had been brought to work and they intended to work the short stretch there for a full eight hours and then collect their pay. No sense working half a day and then standing out at the day worker plaza again.
While Oso removed the eight-foot high bamboo curtain that shielded the house from the street, Orlin went to work with a will upon the rose bushes, the flowering succulents, the gladiolas, the hedge, and the blooming gardenia as well as the jasmine clinging to the fence. As fragrant masses of branches thick with blooms began to pile up Elizabeth rushed out.
"¡Heno! No corte todo! Deja las flores! Dejar un poco de bambú!"
It was then that Oso noticed the scarlet and purple remains of the glads on the ground. "O! Las flores!"
Everyone stood around looking at the piles of bright petals, breathing in the scent of the decimated gardenia. Oso had lopped the tops of the trillium and the reddish stalks also lay in the pile. O well.
"El jefe va a plantar aquí otra cosa," offered Orlin. "The boss will plant something here." He wiped his brow of sweat.
"¿Que hora es?" Oso asked.
Orlin told him and so, since it was not yet five o'clock they went back to work decimating the shrubbery and whacking back the rose bush even further as Elizabeth fled wailing into the house. The chief of the fire department lived across the street and he came out to look at what had happened. He took his hat off and scratched his head. He hailed from Louisiana.
"All be damned!" he said.
Around five, the two day workers put down their implements and
Around six, Denby came to visit and disturbed a deer which had come to feed on the six foot pile of vegetation piled out in front of the fence.
There now was a lot of space to plant as the two workers had razed to the dirt most of the growth Elizabeth had planted over five years. The mighty rose bush had been thinned until it was a scraggle of branches about two feet wide. The gardenia looked like the Gengis Khan had run over it with his horsemen . The setting sun beat mercilessly on the now unprotected housefront.
Elizabeth was in tears. "Why did Walter have to do that to my garden? He could have at least told me!"
Denby shrugged. "Landlords got all the power, no soul."
"Renting sucks." Elizabeth said.
Meanwhile Oso and Orlin had headed off to the Old Same Place Bar to have a beer and kick back after an honest days work. It was of Orlin's point of view that it had been a good day.
"Too bad about las flores," said Oso.
"Should we go over and see if Mr. Burbage has any work tomorrow. Last time we dug and dug for all day."
"I don't know about that," said Orlin, thinking. "Last time there were problems."
"Ah!" said Oso, remembering.
"Too bad about that wall," said Orlin.
That day they had broken up the patio and dug trenches very deep for a long time. It had been Mr. Burbage's intention to lay down new flags. They had stopped for a drink of lemonade Mary Beth Burbage had brought out on a tray. Then, there had been this big crash behind them and Mr. Burbage had come out to see the entire hillside retaining wall had fallen down. Some thirty feet of it made of stone. It lay in the pit they had dug along its foundation all broken up and Mr. Burbage had looked upset.
"No worry," Oso had assured Mr. Burbage. "The rock is all broken to small pieces. We can take out quick with wheelbarrow and then you have your hole empty again."
"We are good workers," said Orlin. "We work harder and longer than anybody else out there. Nobody needs to watch us."
"I don't know why Jose does not want to come stand with us on the corner," Oso said. "He never has any good work and so he never has any money."
Orlin shrugged. "We are good workers. We always work very hard."
Jose, sweeping the floor of the Native Son's of the Golden West Hall after a banquet heard about what happened to Elizabeth's garden from Denby, who helped taking out the garbage.
"Esos chicos son idiotas," said Jose. "It is better to work smarter, not harder."
From the porch of the NSGW Salon they both could see long lines of taillights up on the Nimitz. A column of smoke ascended from further down where a big rig had overturned and caught on fire, blocking the freeway.
"All the dot commers are stuck in line up there," Denby said.
"Jornada de trabajo se realiza," said Jose, "And everyone still going home at midnight. I think it is better to work smarter, not harder."
"Tambien. I agree with that, amigo," Denby said.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.