The walls were being ripped apart. Sheetrock and hardboard crashed upon the floor like shrapnel. There was a cast iron tub in the corner, terrified, because it knew at the end of the day, a sledgehammer would be brought to bear. Dust and possible asbestos floated through the air as the sunlight highlighted little specks of glory. It was a bathroom remodel, and it was glorious.
"Come" They called to me. "Come, my friend, join us."
I offered to bring Little Hoss as I could not imagine what she could love more than going at walls with a hammer with permission. They declined. Cowards.
But I went. I went because Papa Scrum and Father Hitman asked me to. I could not say no. In fact, I never say no. Go ahead, ask me for some money.
So I went. I went under the impression that I would be demolishing a bathroom, gutting walls, ripping out tile, tearing out memories that the family no longer cherished. I bet they had sex in here. A hammer, a sledge, even a baseball bat: give me any of them and I would wreck havoc while quoting Shakespeare. With every swing I would take out frustrations. I would relieve stress. I would be doing man's work. And I would spit, because that is what you do when you do man's work.
I showed up and went inside the house. I got to the bathroom and stood in the doorway. The wind blew around my cape, because I wear capes, and the sun highlighted my brow. I was Jesus like. Give me my weapon sir.
Papa Hitman gave me a shovel and a broom. Papa Scrum called me Chumley.
They both pointed to the big trashcan in the middle of the room. Then they pointed at me.
What the hell man.
I was not asked to demolish. I was not asked to swing my mighty python like arms bringing about the destruction of an uppity wall. I was not asked to glisten like an Adonis. No, I was asked to be the janitor. It's because I'm Irish, isn't it?
And what is with the name Chumley. Why am I Chumley. Who is this Chumley guy and does he resemble me? Is he good with women. Maybe I want to meet Chumley. Does Chumley have a hump on his back and carry around a spiral notebook containing possible names for his adopted cabbage patch kids. Does Lennie shoot him in the head while he is petting bunnies at the end of the book? (Ha, name that reference!)
I was told that the bathroom was to small for all three of us to be in it at one time. It could be dangerous, against OSHA regs. It's a hard hat area. The excuses went on and on and it all came down to this undeniable fact: I was meant to scoop shit off the floor and put it into a trash can. I feel like a kid that was shown a bike but given just a spoke.
So I would watch them tear down walls and pull out nails. I watched mini sledgehammers come and go. They would bang, bang, bang. The debris would fall, fall, fall. They would leave so that I would have room to sweep, sweep, sweep. This is what I did. All day. I cleaned one bathroom over and over again. If there is a hell, this would be it.
I would clean and they would go have a coke. Papa Hitman and Papa Scrum would discuss the next moves. I bet they made out a little bit. I would be grabbing chunks of plaster and inhaling horsehair insulation. They didn't even give me a mask. I was the menial labor, no health benefits included. I wasn't even asked my opinion, not even about the cleaning part. Sure, suggestions on how I could be more efficient were everywhere, but did not one of them ask me what I thought of the health care bill and what it might mean to the remodeling of this bathroom? No.
The work went on like this for the whole day. Sure, occasionally I was allowed to pull a nail, a little bit of the scrap I was thrown. They tore up the floor and found the subfloring needed replacing. So they tore that up to. I cleaned it up once they threw it at me.
But this also offered me a chance. A chance to do something worthwhile, something productive, something that actually meant something. We needed a new subfloor. That would mean that a piece of plywood would have to be cut, holes would have to be made for pipes, this could be the most important job of the entire remodel. Without a floor, you have nothing.
I quickly volunteered to cut the subfloor. They gave me the measurements and I cherished them like I would a newborn. I went out to make the cut. I painstakingly transferred the marks. I measured again to make sure there would be no mistake. This would be perfect. I made the first cut, going slow, making sure that every corner received care and attention. I would love this floor like a tranny hooker (new year's resolution!) loves a good wig.
Papa Scrum came out to watch me continue to make the cuts. In a moment of concentration, and therefore weakness, he took the saw out of my hand. He then made the ugliest cut you have ever seen. It was the Quasimodo of cuts. It was jagged, somewhat circular, and a blight on the canvas that had become my master piece subfloor.
"You are never going to see it man, it doesn't have to be exact."
Sure it doesn't. Only in my heart, it was already there. I went back to my broom which would never be grasped from my hand. I picked up my shovel which I could never thrust away. And I looked at my garbage can, which may be the best I could ever get.
After 11 hours we were done with the demolition, the best part of a remodel. The guys went out to take a break and chat before going home. I leaned my broom against the wall. On a wall stud, up top where a board crossed, I signed my name. So that whoever remodeled 50 years in the future knew that once there was a Hoss that helped, even if just a little, the last time it was done. A single tear ran down my check.
I turned out the lights and I walked away.