Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Weirdest Things I Have Done for Twelve Dollars an Hour part1


This is a new segment I am trying out. I've worked about twenty five different jobs in my life, and as any journeyman knows, some wacky ass things happen when you need money and have little moral fiber and even less integrity. Comment with any fucked up thing you've had to do. The only rules are you could have only made twelve dollars or less on the job.

I used to work as a cook at a restaurant. It was a TGIF type of deal, only it wasn’t a chain. It was owned by a tall, grey haired, Lincoln Continental driving Italian guy named Mickey who was teetering the line of insanity. To me, he was in one of the most beautiful stages of mental collapse. He had a strong moral sense that worked in great contradictions, a product of years of power, of getting what he wanted because he was the man in charge. His mind was so fucked from lack of any formidable authority that he was able to do (or in most cases, have done for him) whatever crazy idea popped into his head, no matter how backwards it was. In this particular instance, he had heard of a guy who bought a shitload of rabbits to feed to his snake (snakes?), and all of a sudden he got all animal liberation and shit, despite the fact that he owned a fucking steakhouse and had me cook him a New York strip every time he walked into the kitchen.

Mickey knew that I was a hard worker and needed money, so he used to give me extra work to do when I wasn’t at the restaurant. He had me breaking down sheetrock with a sledge hammer in a club he was opening, or helping him move from his office above Taco Bell to the office in a shoddy ass mansion he just bought. The usual side-work type shit for the most part. Occasionally, though, he’d have me do some wacked-out shady stuff. I didn’t really care. He kept me on the clock while I was working, which was fine with me. Twelve dollars an hour was pretty good for a twenty year old, dirt-stained, perennially stoned punk with his seed blossoming inside his would-be wife’s belly. And besides, I liked Mickey, and completely respected his liberal insanity. It was charming as fuck. I hope that when my mental shits the bed, it does it the same way Mickey’s did.

And so, I agreed to help steal the rabbits.

There was a bitter chill in the air and a round Halloween moon lit the autumn night as we drove through town, looking to free the rabbits that our boss had commissioned us to save. They were to face inevitable doom in the lockjaws of a giant snake, and that actually intrigued me more than it triggered any kind of disgust. Can a snake really fit a whole rabbit down its gullet? If it could, well then why would I want to stop such an impressive feat? It would be like clipping the long-toenail lady’s nails, or shaving the bearded lady. But, fuck it. My wife was pregnant and out of work, and I had to pay rent for our shitty apartment (a 2 bedroom above an Italian deli).

Mick had paired me up with a fifty year old dope junkie who had just gotten out of jail. His name was Bobby. He wore a brown leather jacket to cover up his fat body and his salt and pepper hair was combed back in the faux-slickness popular amongst the Italians that crowded around Mickey at the restaurant. We cruised the back-roads in Mickey’s beaten maroon Ford Ranger, Bobby behind the wheel, running his mouth about how he never wanted to go back to “the joint,” and about how Mickey had looked out for him, and a bunch of other sappy garbage that made me wish that Goodfellas had never been made—that people like Bobby had no stereotypes to immerse their otherwise crappy personalities in. The classic rock station was playing on the radio and I would have much rather been listening to Billy Squire try to smooth talk girls into stroking his wang than this fuck tell stories about prison. Maybe the stories would have been a little more interesting if I knew they were true. But the truth would have gone something like, “Big black guys passed my ass around like a hookah in a hippy dorm room, and all I could do was pray that Rico the angry Mexican had some dope to ease the pain.” That would have been a good story—gory, but honest, like all good stories are.

We finally found the house and parked in front. I was a little surprised about how unsurprising it was. It was a little shack with crudded up wooden siding, dead weeds along the lawn, and a gravel driveway. It was the type of place where you would expect rabbits to get fed to snakes, amongst countless other heavy metal dreams come true. Bobby reached in the backseat and grabbed a pair of bolt cutters from the backseat. As we both got out of truck and walked up to the porch, lit by a lone bulb hanging from the ceiling, he handed them to me. They were big and heavy. The rubber grips were black and the metal was red, cold, and worn from years of use. He told me to go around back, open up the gate, and wait for him. He had obviously scouted the place out or something, because he knew there would be a gate, and he knew that the job would be made easier with bolt cutters. Or else it was just criminal instinct, which I could also believe. Either way, I walked slowly to the gravel driveway, trying to see what Bobby was up to.

He rang the doorbell. A skinny man with a longish brown hair opened the door. He was topless and his torso was tattooed. He seemed surprised enough. I couldn’t hear what Bobby said to him, but as he opened the screen door and pushed the man into his own house, I no longer thought of his ass as a hippy’s hookah. It was his hookah and his alone, passed along in prison because he liked to share, not because of the mannerless greed of its abusers, and also maybe for dope.

With Bobby and Snake Guy inside, I walked down the short gravel driveway in the dark, clutching the bolt cutters as if they were a ray gun and I was about to megablast seedy green aliens to hell, Shatner style. I arrived at the gate that led into Snake Guy’s back yard and curled the snapping turtle lips of the cutters around the arch of the rusted up gym lock that kept the chain that held the gate closed. I put some strength into the squeeze, wiggled it a little, and just as I got the lock free, the backyard light came on. Bobby came walking out of Snake Guy’s sliding glass doors and onto his splintered deck. Covering the far end of the back yard were dozens of wood and wire cages stacked next to and on top of one another, all of them filled with rabbits. Bobby came down into the backyard and I joined him once I got the gate open.

“Where’s Snake Guy?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Bobby answered with a contrived badass dip in his voice that made me want to smack him upside the head. “Let’s get these rabbits to Mickey.”

I rolled my eyes and did as I was told. We tripled up the rabbits into the cages so we could fit them into the truck. Snake Guy was nowhere to be seen. I tried to imagine what Bobby did or said to him, but I couldn’t. The only thing I could think about was how weird it would have been to see a fucking snake eat a whole rabbit.

We drove the rabbits to Mick’s mansion and unloaded them into the basement. He opened the door in the bathrobe that he always wore around the house and told us to bring them into the basement. Bobby and I did as we were told, and that’s the end of the story for right now.

Next time on “The Weirdest Things I Have Done for Twelve Dollars an Hour:” Mick, Bobby and me hunt the basement and backyard of the mansion for the loose rabbits and their childrens.

1 comment:

jw said...

what up man; nice to hear from ya. Love the blog and the work on it. I put your link on my site with the others, and feel free to do the same with mine if you want.