The Salad Days: Part 2, a short story

          That summer was the hottest on record. Coll hired on a roofing crew run by his old high school friend Bobby. In 2001, shortly after the planes hit, Bobby turned twenty-five and got married so he started telling everyone to call him Robert, but Coll still called him Bobby. Bobby was a savant of sorts. He was good at math and building things, but a heavy dope smoker, and socially inept to a fault. He talked too much and had no tact whatsoever. They re-roofed seven houses that summer. One day while they were rolling out the black tar paper and spiking it down with the staple gun Bobby started in on Coll.

            So Coll, you got a girl. She freaky?

            You see, fellas, Coll replied to the group, what you have to understand about Bobby here is that he lacks the proper upbringing. As a child he had impetigo and his old man just put him in the garage for six weeks. That and he’s never really liked any woman he’s ever been with, if you can call them women, and so he has no respect for them or other people’s personal boundaries.

            Hell Coll, you did let her pee on you, you son ‘va bitch, I can see it in your face. Besides, don’t get all fussy just because you’re stuck doin real work for a change. Where’s all that college got you now, huh?

            It was nearly time for the regular three-thirty break when Coll lost his balance and dropped the full four by eight foot sheet of plywood he and Bobby were carrying up the ladder, flaying the skin off of Bobby’s entire right calf. The fight didn’t last long, but it was a good distraction from the heat and the toil. The guys on the crew sensed that to get involved was to cross an invisible but very real line. Hobbling across the yard, Bobby screamed obscenities, and jabbed at Coll with his hammer. The first swing of it missed Coll’s face by an inch, but the second landed good and solid on his left shoulder. Coll balled his fist and in one swipe silenced Bobby, who slowly arched backwards, lowering to the ground as would a slain gladiator. On the way to the emergency room no one spoke, but Coll knew he was out of a job.

The Salad Days: Part 1, a short story

Adam Coll lay on his red sofa directly in the stream of the whirring Zenith A.C. window unit. Through the pane he could see the staggering hot blue summer sky, filtered only by the slightly shimmering leaves of the old cypress in the side yard. At 33, being recently unemployed, he had no plans for the day, nor any real direction for the near term of his life. Around 1 o’clock he rolled over on the sofa. Placing his feet on the hardwood floor, he rose and walked into the kitchen where he drank the last of the milk from the fridge. Buttoning his haggard Levis and slipping on his sneakers, he stepped out the back door and walked the gravel drive to his white pickup.

The radio said it was 101 degrees. Having sat on the dash all morning the wayfarers burned his face a little. The disc jock played The old man is down the road as Coll left the neighborhood. Airport boulevard stretched out in front of him in a downhill line all the way to the river. Sleepy old town, not a damn thing you could do about it. The interstate gleamed white hot and Coll glanced out over the trees of the black land prairie to the east and then to the hills west of town. A woman with big Jackie O glasses passed him in her Mercedes. You could hate the rich, but you couldn’t beat them, he thought.

The city pool was quiet. He stretched out on a bench and opened the Laferriere paperback. Romance floated across each page, and the steaming sun lulled Coll into a heavy sleep. Down the rabbit hole, he saw his childhood home, the woods where he used to hunt with his big black sheep dog, Lucy. The brown creek rippled under the downpour of rocks made into hand grenades. Viet Cong sniped at him from the trees; he escaped across the train tressel and over the hill through the ragged barbed wire fence onto Mr. Reinhardt’s land. There in the shade he rested, drawing enormous female breasts in the dirt with a stick.