Chapter Nine: Jobs

Genesis of Another American God

Summer arrived slowly, like molasses pouring onto everyone. The heat made everything feel sticky. I could barely will myself to wake up before I needed to go to bed. I spent time with Makayla when I could. It seemed she tried to avoid me. I didn’t mind. I stopped caring about the dysfunction of our relationship; we seemed so much more perfect than any other dynamic—despite our growing hatred for each other. (I still stayed in denial about the crumbling blocks of our imagined life together.) I knew I needed to cling less and allow her much more independence, a greater deal of space. No more of the parasitic relationship. We needed to move on. I just didn’t realize then that meant letting each other go separate ways, move forward with other people. Steady and stoic, I am ever resistant to change. The Acedia, if you want to stay so very catholic about the matter, like a curse through each bone of my body.  The best way to say it is to call me a conservative in my outlook. I recently decided to identify myself as liberal reactionary. Social progress, but with a stayed economic outlook. And I want for myself a more traditional relationship. Not woman on bottom or any of that shit, but I need a woman to look after me, play the mother figure. A Gala. It’s Spartan, perhaps.

I looked for jobs through the summer but found non. With little experience, I didn’t even appeal to the fast food industry: the problem of not owning a car. You need a car to get to work and need to work to pay for a car. (On top of this, I still felt no desire whatsoever to drive.) And no one I interviewed with liked my proposed solution of biking.

I even tried to get a job as a ranch hand. Broccoli picking and washing. No use. I suppose they didn’t fancy paying me a normal minimum wage. Illegal immigrants are so much easier to control, and you don’t need to pay them nearly as much. They can’t complain after all. I envied the job as a Steinbeck fan. I wanted to experience the lives of migrant workers, the lives of the people at the backbone of Americas agriculture industry. Before robots and Monsanto destroy it all. I considered myself a writer, a great writer in training: I needed to experience the last little bit of that ever dying soul of America.

At the end of the summer it became clear I needed to go to college. Some fancy degree would help me flip burgers, obviously. It’s part of the shift from intellectual institutions to simple factories. Thanks again, Mr. Wilson. Talk about a system demaning and downgrading the meaning of a degree. Now nearly everyone believes that college is a right and not a privilege. Everyone believes they can better themselves by education. They mean simply attending classes. Not really learning. And if everyone has this education, then education is valued less. More people demand better grades, and more people get them. Te people that truly deserve the good grades are lumped in with those that bitch and moan until they receive what they want. No one seems able to accept that if they do a bad job on a assignment, for example, they deserve sympathy and a better grade. Work isn’t assessed based on its value and what it shows. No, it is based only on how much one can whine until the grade is bumped up to something that helps them pass. And as a result, people who really did that well suffer. Grades inflate too far in modern society.

One day, while looking through the classifieds, I noticed a small ad for carnival workers. With nothing better to do, I called the number. They told me to show up the next day with employment information. ID and social security. I did not hold my SS card on me, but I knew the information existed on my draft registration card. I boguth that down the next day, riding on my red bike. I always chose a red bike when I could, as when mud splashed into my face, I could at least look down and pretend the vehicle a mass of human flesh. The boss woman took a look at the card and commented, “this is almost as good as a drivers license.”

Good, I thought. I couldn’t drive. Never bothered with getting an ID card, though events that week would convince me of the need to. I turned off my mothers cell phone, which I brought with me in case of trouble, or the need for a ride.

“Go over there and talk to that guy,” she said. She pointed a man who looked in charge of the operation, who I later knew as her husband.

“Okay.” I went over and found myself soon assigned to two old men. They both talked dirty and smoked like without the burning sticks they would keel over. One wore a hat like a floppy woolen helmet. I swear his name was Clem. He acted like it. His mannerisms made him seem like one of those old, tough mountain men who spent their lives with only a donkey and a dozen cans of chili mining for gold. Grease covered his face, darkening all the weathered lines. I suspected him slightly racist from the way he dressed and talked about some black guy he got into a fight with.

I pinned down the ride. It looked like a large grouping of buckets spinning over and over again. Much of the work required me to climb up on the machinery. Swallowing my fear of heights, I did so. I planned on not coming back to work the next day. I wanted to soak in the tub with candles and virgins. And cry. I realize hard work would never suit me. I bit my lip and soldiered through the day. As I placed the last pin, a black guy in a jumpsuit came up from out of nowhere. He began to yell at the old men. Apparently, they put the ride together completely wrong.

            A buzzing came from his walkie talkie. He grabbed me and we walked quickly off across the fairgounds. Apparently, a man with a voice like a little girls, a woman with teeth dirtied form too much tobacco and a Mexican needed help setting up the child roller coaster. You know the kind, which barely goes up and down but kids from six on down to about three love it and think it the best thing since their family took them to Disneyland in the dead heat of a shit summer. (Parents crying and screaming, kids kicking and rejoicing and screaming and then screaming and crying again too scared to meet some shit-headed plagiarized rodent.)

            He set down the blue tracks, and told us to start bolting them together. I picked one up and started heaving it over. Others took up the slack from my ineptness, and the Mexican took a shining towards me, I suppose. He started talking as I continued to drag the blue tracks into their place.

            The black man came back, and pointed to me and the little girl voiced man.

            “Go get some wood from the bumper cars.” I nodded, and fell in step behind the man. He looked back and began cracking jokes about random observations. Flowers and phalluses, cotton candy and cars. I began to suspect his mental state along the lines of Lenny Small. he sure acted it, as the men in charge of the bumper car made jokes about him and he simply took it. They kicked his ass with their spiky boots, and gave him the worst possible wood. Before I managed to return with the wood back to the roller coaster, the boss told the half-wit to start to work on setting up “the slide”—one of those big plastic slides that are worth far less than two tickets to zip down in a boring brown sack. He handed me more wood than I could carry and told me to come back quickly. I did so. Then the first real hell of the day began: that bastard slide.

            A man with a hard Boston accent, probably just out of jail, handed me some kind of electric tightening tool. It looked better suited to relieving a woman’s sexual tension than pumping up the hydraulics of the slide. Fine. I started moving the tool one way, and a man came by to yell at me for doing it wrong. I started twisting and turning the thing the other way; another man came up and asked me what I thought I was doing. I told him I only did what I was told. He told me I did it wrong, and took the tool away from me, telling me to worry about getting random spikes out from under the bottom of the flatbed truck the slide resided on. The Mexican from before came buy and grabbed me. He told me to truck over to the roller coaster. When I got there, I found it completed, and the Mexican asked me to help put a few pins in place on some octopus ride. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank fate! This would serve as a breather. It did, and after I finished placing the pins a bell sounded.

            “What’s that?”

            “That, my friend-- that is the sound of food. Tell you what, you see this belt here?”

            “Yeah.”

            “What do you think I one it for?” He didn’t let me answer, but continued on with, “I won it for ridin. I am the best bull rider there is. Three years in a row. You know what I did with the money?”

            “No.”

            “I bought a house for my momma and my old woman. My kids are down in California.”

            “Oh.”

            “I wasted the rest of the money. Now I have to go on the road with this carnival. It makes good money, lots per week.”

            And with that he sauntered off, and I found myself left to get a slice of pizza and sit alone for a while.

After that light dinner, the only food I ate all day, I found myself recruited to help with the tilt-a-whirl. While these contraptions are fun, hell on earth is working on putting together this big machine. It required three cranes, and a dozen people to stand holding up little blue sides to make sure all the little kids wouldn’t saunter under the machine and get themselves chopped into little bits like they deserved. Not to mention the time it took to lower each individual cart onto the large flats that make up the ride. All the while this boy about my age with five or six teeth missing, a swastika tattoo, and a cap like Daniel Boone would wear went on and on about the danger of the tilt-a-whirl.

“Yeah,” he said, “I get hurt every week on this thing. It’s great.” It scared me a little the way this boy wore each bruise like a badge. It’s something to feel proud of, I guess, to get hurt on the rides. Even if your own stupid ass caused it. I suspect he never filed for any sort of workers compensation because he believed that the faggot thing to do. (He talked like that.) Also, they probably would fire him if he complained at all. That’s how these things seem to work.

After standing there for an hour or two, I gladly thought about the next day when I could stay home or call Makayla and complain. We would hug, kiss, I could cry a little, and the world would seem fine. That is, until everything set up and payroll came around.

I got fifty bucks. The others told me I could make about that much per diem, and I decided I would fucking stay on through the week. I needed the money to spend on whatever I wanted, and if I made it my parents couldn’t control the funds. I could smoke a cigar or two, just to try it out. After all, I realized I enjoyed the look taste and feel of the thing while shitfaced drunk on senior skip day.

 

*     *     *

 

That skip day we went to Newport, and I failed to inform Makayla, other than to give her the obvious “I won’t be coming to school.” We proceeded to go to the Oregon coast, Newport. It took all of us in the car a while to find a campsite, and at the one we found the other trillion members of the school just so happened to pick to party. We didn’t complain too much: it meant some free booze and cigarettes and more people with whom to talk and yell and fall down drunk. We pitched our tent separately form all the rest, in a small campsite that stretched back into a weird looking wooded area with soft ground. I pitched my tent poorly, ignoring an offer to sleep in a tent with the other boys. I need and like my privacy, after all. I could at least stick my hand in my pants if I slept alone, and fantasize about turning into any of the hot girls. Well, not so hot, but at least fairly attractive by my reckoning.

We went to the beach, and looked around. The others played in the ocean. I did not want to get wet, so I sat around staring off at the sea, imaging the drowning. It’s the beach that makes me feel suicidal but not suicidal. I mean I feel I did the deed just by imagining it, and can sit out there on the sand for hours on end just listening to the rhythm of the rolling tide and clashing rocks.

After that we went back for a crappy dinner of something I can’t remember. Then we busted out the booze and began to drink. I started walking around, not really going anywhere, after a few beers. I didn’t really want to do much but sit and think like a sad soppy moping pathetic drunk. The kind of drunk I imagined myself, not the talking theoretical asshole I proved myself.

I felt buzzed slightly. Not drunk though. I didn’t really intend to get shitfaced.

“You faded, I’m faded. Let’s drink some more. I’m so faded so buzzed. Here have some, no gimme that,” someone said. I pushed them away and went with a few other friends back down to the beach, where we heard a loud crash. Apparently another friend decided it a good time to demonstrate his powers of flight from a cliff. He failed, of course, with no harm done. After all, he landed in soft sand. He raced off with the group that watched him, back to the partying campsite to get more alcohol I suppose.

An acquaintance, a school jock and heartthrob I suppose, came up to us and started talking. His eyes looked bloodshot. He cried between every syllable. If ever anyone fit the description pissed, this was a living example.

“Have you seen where they went?”

“Who?”

“My friends, they just left me hear I fell down and I guess they went away I have to pee I went over there did you see he fell down off the cliff.”
            “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I love you guys. I love you.”

“Uh, good to know.”

“I needa get back to the campsite can you tell me where where which which which way they went?”

“It’s just right up there, see through the trees.”

“Oh yes, I see I’m going now bye bye bye bye bye.”
            I shook my head. “Bye.” He left, still stumbling all the way. We looked out to the sea and found nobody. We needed to find our friend with the bottle of booze before he did anything more stupid—like falling off another cliff. We tracked him down to the party campsite, and I snatched the bottle away from him.

“Gimme that back.”

“No,” I said, “fuck you. I’m gonna drink this so you don’t.” I chugged it down and within five minutes could barely stand straight. I took a drag from somebody’s clove cigarette. Some girl helped hold me up. I wanted to stick my tongue in her pussy. I wanted to stick my cock in her mouth. I wanted her to press her breasts against me. Instead of saying this or anything to get to this point, I pointed upwards and made some stupid comment about the goddamn stars. Besides that, I knew that if I tried to perform drunk I probably couldn’t. And I still believed myself faithful to Makayla in body if not in mind, more than I could say for her—though I can’t say I blame her much.

I sat down at another campfire and began to talk about Frued and psychoanalyze those present. Someone gave me a cigar which I puffed and puffed and puffed. They refused to give me any more booze…

 

*     *     *

 

The next day the carnival assigned me to work in a small booth handing out cotton candy and apples and popcorn and a bunch of shit you don’t really want to eat. I washed my hands and got right to it, and I fucked up a few things with the register but fixed it quickly. Then I took a break and got a western from the library and read it until I found myself called back to help deal with the rush. Soon I began to run the shop when the woman in charge went out to steal a kiss or a laugh with her disabled husband. I didn’t mind much, at least not until eh customers started acting up, complaining about the plastic taste of their orange soda. They didn’t like it when I told them since it’s made with wax it’s not going to taste like a damn orange. In the end I gave them their money back.

I guess I still looked like a child. I stepped out to smoke a cigar and the police called me up, looked at me and asked me what I thought I was doing. I told them. They said fine, but lets see your ID. I whipped out my passport, which I carried on me for ID purposes, and they started acting like total assholes.

“Oh, got your passport, what are you gonna do with this? You from out of the country.”

“It’s a US passport, see right there, it says so.”

“We’re just messing with you.” I wish some angry Sunni or Shiite would come up and blast them to pieces for hassling me. Then I went back, read some more of the western, and continued working.

I finished my work for that week with about four hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket.