Back when I was a kid, I fell into a bad crowd. It was a bunch of guys who used to do “odd jobs” for cash, you know, “under the table.” We didn’t report any of that income. We didn’t tell our folks. We all had “real” jobs, you know, like at the mall; I worked in the pretzel store, but that was just a front, as far as we were concerned. No, that pretty-boy nonsense didn’t give us the “kick” we got from hard labor.
The first time, my buddy Bryon asked me if I wanted to help out on a “side deal.” It was an old bitty who needed to clear out a storage unit. I was maybe 15 and intrigued by the action. The money was better than minimum wage, but I was really excited about the opportunity to lift some heavy boxes and stuff. Furniture, even!
The shed was dirty and full of spider webs, and there was dust and crud on everything. It was nasty hard work; the dirt mixed with our sweat made black smudges on our bare skin. I was sore for at least three days from lifting and hauling all that crap. The guy with the truck bought us a cream soda on one of the trips back and forth.
When I got home, I snuck straight back to the bathroom and got in the shower before anybody saw me. My folks were concerned about why I was so stiff and sore, but I told them we were playing football with some guys at the park. What a rush! And I made $40! Tax-free!
The guy with the truck called Bryon about another job about a week or two later. I was totally stoked, anticipating the exertion and the burn and the cash. This time we were digging a ditch. Seriously. It was 18 inches deep and about 100 yards long. The homeowner was laying a pipe for a fountain out behind his house. There were about six guys. Bryon and I cut through that yard like it was pudding.
The other guys were, like, “Dude! We aren’t getting paid any extra for working fast! The guy’s paying us by the hour! We might as well take our time!”
We were, like, “Fuck that, loser!,” and we just went at it, grunting and spitting and sweating balls. It was awesome.
Mr. Petersen was, like, “I can’t believe you got that done so fast,” and he gave us a bonus. All of us.
And we were, like, “How you like them apples? Can you say ‘work ethic’? In your face!”
And they were, like, “You showed us! We have learned our lesson.”
The burn I got after that day was as bad as it ever got, but, damn, the buzz was intense! I told my folks we’d been playing basketball or something.
We kept pretty busy from that point on. Most of the work we did was moving furniture and stuff. We hauled sod fairly often, too.
One day, my mom asked me if I had been working out. I said, “No, why do you ask?”
And she said, kind of slyly, “I don’t know. You’re looking pretty buff. I hadn’t noticed how muscular you had gotten.”
I played it off. I said, “Guys get muscley when they get to be my age, you know?,” or something like that. But I knew I was gonna have to cut back on my activities.
A few years later, when I was working at the bank, one of the supervisors said I looked strong and would I maybe help her move some furniture. I hadn’t done any of that in years, man, and I really wanted it, and she was pretty hot, so I said, “Sure.” I don’t think she picked up on how excited I was, but it didn’t work out too good.
We got everything moved OK, but when I was sliding the couch into place at the end of the day, I slipped and put a little scratch on this huge painting she had leaning against the wall. She didn’t see it when it happened, and I didn’t say anything about it, but I didn’t feel right about taking her money, and for the rest of the time I worked there, I felt like I was gonna get found out.
For further consideration: I was going to say something about “Breaking Bad” or “Blue Jasmine,” but now I’m all about “Masters of Sex."