postcard from bishop

by underswansea


He barked, “Count them out old man.”

It was morning coffee break. The sun was already hot. The young man was strong as a bull. He had arms like a gorilla and a deep barrel chest. They had been working together less than a week. Bishop wandered what he had done wrong, in a previous life, to have to work, side by side, with this pumped up braggart. It wouldn’t have been so bad but the kid never stopped talking.

He was curling two, full five-gallon diesel cans. First one and then the other, left and then right. They looked like they were empty. But Bishop knew they were full, because he had struggled to get them on the bed of the one-ton Ford after filling them at the pump an hour earlier.

“Count them,” he said again.

Bishop thought, this young fucker needs a lesson.

“Hey old man I said count.”

Bishop reached for his breast pocket. “One,” he said, pulled out a cigarette, resigned, as if settling down for a good show.

“Two,” Bishop said. The young fellow was getting what he wanted. He was curling the cans with vigor.

“Three. . ., four. . ., five. . ., six. . .,” Bishop struck a match and sucked in a long drag from his smoke, “Seven. . ., eight…”.

Diesel splashed out to of the breather spouts and onto the man’s coveralls. On nine, Bishop flipped the match at him.  When the young fellow realized he might catch fire, he dropped the cans and threw himself backwards tripping over a tangle of landscaping tools.

Bishop was quick. The match went out just as Bishop figured it would. He was going to hit the young man hard behind the ear. Give him something to remember him by. But as luck had it, an overturned rake presented itself. The fellow was on all fours. Bishop stepped on the rake hard. It caught the young fellow under the chin. Bishop heard the sound of teeth clacking together and a few crumbling. The man went down like a flattened hog, his big arms lying useless at his sides, as if he was skydiving into the dust. A glass jaw, just as Bishop figured.

Bishop took another pull off his cigarette, blew out the smoke into what was turning into a good day and said, “Ten.”

He hoped the young fellow would be up by the end of coffee break. There was still a shit load of work to be done.