by T. Moss
Rascal Mcdermott flipped open his tri-fold leather wallet and sorted through, for the fifth time, the various cards that the union representative might ask him to proffer before sending him out on a job. It wasn’t so much that he was worried about having the proper certifications, but more along the lines that the wallet, a gift from his first boss when he turned seventeen, gave him a sense of ease. He recalled filling the finely crafted black leather trifold with his new driver’s license, apprentice identification, debit card and the first legitimate money he’d earn. For Rascal, the wallet was a symbol of hard-won freedom. He re-folded the well-worn gift, shoved it into the right rear pocket of his faded black Carhart jeans. Then he took a sip of the cold black coffee that he’d been nursing since waking up at 4:00 AM that morning, before placing the cup in between his booted feet.
As soon as Rascal had turned seventeen, McKinley Abernathy had taken the struggling, but hard working boy under his wing. Then, with what seemed to Rascal like superhuman powers, he got him a Brick Mason apprenticeship, sans the typical two to three and a half year wait that most new men faced. Even now, five years later, he was once again the youngest man in the crowded, smoky room and judging by the angry look on the faces of the other men he was not exactly welcome in Selwig, Maine.
McDermott had found his way to Maine after working, for nearly two years, in various places across Canada. The job situation north of the border had slowed greatly and on the advice of Abernathy, he headed back stateside to a mid-sized city named Selwig. The area was growing rapidly, and Abernathy promised the younger man that work, for a Mason with his skill, would be plentiful.
Rascal scanned the room again trying to discretely study the men around him. To his eye, they all seemed a bit unsavory and not exactly the type to do quality work. He took great pride in in his skill set and knew that Masonry, just as with all trades, good men that truly cared about the quality of their work were difficult if not impossible to come by. By the looks of the crowd and the tense vibe in the room, Rascal also assumed that the rep had sent most of the group repeatedly away with no work. Their issues, though, were not his concern. He’d paid his dues both literally and figuratively and if chosen to go out, he’d take the job and run with the opportunity.
The young Mason slugged back the last of the cold coffee, stood and walked to the grime splotched red trash can next to the door leading into the rep’s office. The man looked up briefly and eyed him warily. Rascal nodded, dropped the cup into the receptacle and returned to his seat. Just as he was sitting back down, one of the men sidled up to him and reached out to shake his hand.
“Burris, Wyatt Burris. You ain’t from round here are you?”
Rascal had no reason, just yet, to befriend the grizzled forty-five to fifty-year-old man, but politely shook his hand before sitting back down.
“Come by this a way to steal yourself some a our work. They ain’t taking just anybody you know. You got to have yourself some skills, and you don’t look old enough to fit that bill.”
“Been at it since I was sixteen. Skills I have. Just heard there was some work to be had down this way. Not here to step on anybody’s toes.”
“You already done that, boyo, when you pulled up in your fancy rig with Washington state plates.”
“Look, Burris,” Rascal began curtly, standing back up and noting that, as he did two of Burris’ buddies moved toward the pair flanking him. “Like I said, I’m here for the work. I get some and you don’t then, maybe it’s you that needs to take stock of your skill set.”
“Wise ass too. You young bucks are just so…”
Rascal took a quick sidelong look toward the barred window of the rep’s office and then, brushed through the three older men. As he passed, Burris shoved him hard in his left shoulder causing him to stumble slightly. He ignored the juvenile attack and continued toward the small office.
“I’m Farley Gulliver, you Mcdermott?”
“Watch those sorry degenerates. They’re bad news.”
“Thanks, I can take care of…”
“I didn’t ask for your fight resume, Mcdermott, and what the hell kinda name is Rascal? Christ, son.”
“Old man’s idea. Sort of stuck with it I suppose.”
“Sympathies. So, you’re out a Seattle?”
“What’a you got for skills Rascal?”
“Journeyman for three and a half now years. Once I was finished with school, I started bouncing ‘round. Bricklayer, Marble Setter, I prefer the detail work when I can get it. I’m good at it, and I like it. Take anything, though. I’m not above laboring.” He shrugged, “Mix mud, tote, pretty much what ever’s out there.”
“Where’d you work last?”
“Edmonton, but it dried up.”
“Dried up you say, and Knobby Pete sent you my way? Sweet Jesus save me.”
“Ah, yes sir, he did.” Rascal sputtered shocked that Pete had apparently called Selwig ahead of his arrival.
“Don’t sound so surprised boy. Anybody worth a damn knows, Pete. What is a bit un-f-ing-believable, though, is that he actually called me and gave you a nod. He don’t ever do that.”
“No sir, kind of what I heard too. He taught me a lot. He…”
“That’s another thing surprises me! He don’t teach just any mucky muck. So, you must be damned special, boy.”
Farley looked up at Rascal and raised a bushy, graying left eyebrow at him. He wasn’t kidding when he’d said that Pete didn’t train young men up. The old bastard was notoriously selfish when it came to sharing his decade’s worth of knowledge about the trade. If he’d decided to teach this Rascal fellow then, the boy must have shown him some sort of extraordinary potential. Knobby had told him to call McKinley Abernathy out in Seattle to confirm his assessment and Farley had.
While Rascal tried to absorb this new information, Farley took a minute to study the new man. He wasn’t big, just barely five feet eleven. His shoulders were broad, but not over much. They would likely thicken up a bit more as the kid matured. He was polite and sure of himself, but not arrogant and his odd light amber hued eyes hinted at a soul who was older than his actual years. Next, Farley looked to Rascal’s hands. You could tell a lot by the shape of a man’s hands. Rascal’s bore callouses in all of the correct places for a man of their trade, and what showed of the boy’s wrists, outside of his well-worn, tan Carhart chore coat, was muscular. Rascal’s thin, mid-length nose had been broken, and he carried a fairly deep, nearly three-inch long scar across his forehead directly above his left eyebrow. His four-day-old growth of stubble was a notch darker than the unruly tuft of dark honey brown hair sprouting out from beneath his battered black ball cap bearing the logo for BAC 1 in Seattle Washington.
“How old are you?”
Rascal’s curt reply surprised Farley, and he scowled up at the young man.
“Cause I’m curious?”
“Seem older’s all. That and I still don’t see what got Knobby Pete to teach such a little green pup like you anything. You tooled up?”
“Everything’s current in Canada and most of the states I’ve worked in. I try to stay ahead of it.”
“So, you a junkie?”
“You know the saying, Mcdermott. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. So?”
“No, sir. Just need the work and…”
“Right and so, McKinley Abernathy and Knobby Pete sent you to me.”
“I didn’t ask for the intro, Farley. I didn’t know shit about it. I just need the work. So, do you have anything or not?”
Farley smiled. Good, the kid did have a tipping point. That was fantastic because there was a small contingency of men who were not going to be happy with Rascal McDermott when he walked out of the hall with a work slip.
“That’s better, showing your ass a bit won’t kill you Mcdermott. Here, go here and see Caleb Oldenburger. It’s a good outfit. A family outfit with a lot of work on the books. Do right by yourself and Caleb will keep you around too. You’re getting up in years. It’s maybe time to think about settling down. Chasing a paycheck all over hell and back gets old unless you’re running from something. Knobby Pete teach you that?”
“Could be why he sent me here. He’s got a queer way of teaching a man at times.” Rascal said taking the slip from Farley. “Thanks.”
“Be safe out there, boy. And as for the rest a you sorry pukes, that’s it for today. Beat it!”
Rascal waved back at Farley and threaded his way through the throng of men now pushing angrily forward and screaming insults at the securely closed window.