“What happened to you? They’re swarming like damned buzzards,” Will said with his crooked grin. Will waved his arms around when he talked; it was the way he was. He thought it was funny. He thought it was cute and he was right.
He saw my hand and feigned dramatic surprise. “What happened to your hand?” he asked, staring at the huge gauze. “Is your hand in there somewhere?” he said with a chuckle. “That is a huge bandage! Wow! Wow, Elsa, what’s it like to have that much gauze on your hand?” he babbled. “There’s talk on the street. They’re really humming out there. Rainbo (a local brand of bread) and one of the Pepsi guys have already asked me to put a good word in to the boss for them. They said you aren’t going to work at Frito anymore and they want your job.”
Oh brother. “What did you tell them?” I asked.
“That I didn’t want to work them. I told them that they were too ugly to work for Frito. What happened?”
“My hand is burned.”
“Can you work? Is it true? Is it bad?”
“I don’t know. Look. I’m tired,” I said and I was. “I want to load the truck and go home. They gave me a shot and it’s going to wear off,” I explained. I was in my fourteenth hour of the day…
“They said you were crying at the corner store,” he said, probing.
“I was. Right now I just want to load the truck. Goodbye Will.”
I could say that. Will was not that sensitive. He was an Aquarian and so was Frank. We all got along. We were all three wildly independent but tight in our own way.
“Do you want me to help you? That’s not sexist, Elsa. Don’t get mad! I know you can do it. I know you can load your truck with one hand. There’s nothing you can’t do, does it hurt?”
My hand was hanging limply. “I can’t feel it.”
“I just thought I’d ask. Since your hand is injured and all. Plus, I’m done over there,” he said, nodding towards his warehouse. “I’m just hanging around here to see if you were going to show up. You know. I wanted to know if you were dead or not because if you were I’d have to call the boss and let him know.”
“Yeah, he’d expect that. I know that you think I’m a suck up. You think I suck up to the boss but if someone dies on the job, I would have to let him know. He’s my boss but we’re friends too. Sort of. We’ve known each other for…hmm…how many years now?”
“I think it’s 24, Will. Last I heard,” I said with a chuckle. He mentioned the length of his Frito career on a daily basis, damned near.
“Right. So he expects me to let him know what’s going on down here.”
I rolled my eyes at the suck up.
“So can I help you then? It won’t piss off that new man of yours will it? Will he get pissed off if I help you? I don’t want any trouble at the warehouse. The boss wouldn’t like it. I’d have to tell him you know. He relies on me to keep him abreast of anything going on down here.”
Our boss was in the city, an hour away.
“I don’t think the new man will mind.”
“You know a lot of men don’t you, Elsa?”
“About as many as you do, Will.”
He laughed. “That was a good one Elsa. You got me there.” He stopped to let it register. “Who is your new man anyway? Do you have one yet or have you not gotten rid of the last?”
He paused to collect his payoff and I delivered it, chuckling heartily and smiling my appreciation.
“The men hang around you like buzzards. What is it with you and buzzards anyway? We see them driving by all the time. Your old men? They used to be your new men but not anymore. They come by the warehouse looking for you,” he said with a laugh to provoke.
I laughed too. I didn’t know this and was flattered and embarrassed.
“Uh uh. He comes by?” I asked.
“Yep. He’s been by many times. And the guy who tried to marry my wife before I met her? He comes by too. I still can’t believe you went out with that guy.” Will had been married for 25 years.
“He liked Janis Joplin, Will. He had potential.”
“I know, I know. You told us.” He rolled his eyes. “I admit he is a good looking man. He’s better looking than I am, most men are. He’s been by too of course. I wish he’d leave my women alone, the son of a bitch. How about the guy who had the car that he said he was going to keep until he dies? Do you remember that guy or should I remind you?”
He looked to make sure I was smiling, and I was. I chuckled at his wit. “I remember.”
“Yep. Him too. They all drive by here, lookin’ for you. Frank and I wave ’em down when they drive by. We ask them if they want to buy some chips, but they never do.”
I snorted. I tried to play it straight with, Will most times, but that last got me and I laughed like hell. I could picture them picking on these guys. Razzin’ ‘em. That’s what they call it. Frank and Will, I mean. They call it “razzin’.”
“So Elsa. I’m glad I made you laugh. Now let’s talk about your hand. Is it sore?”
“Right. You said that. Well, I’m glad it’s not hurting. They’re sure got enough gauze on it. So can I help you load some of this?”
“Yeah, thanks. Get the dip and some salsa. I can get the chips.”
He looked around and laughed. “I didn’t think you’d really make me help,” he said.
I smiled. “Move it, Will, I’m in a hurry.”
He started to help but kept talking. “You’re pretty independent, ya know? I was just saying that. You know. To be polite. I didn’t really think you’d make me work,” be babbled in classic, Will _____ style. “How do you find anything in here anyway? I think you need to straighten up around here, Elsa. Run a tighter ship. I don’t want to have to call the boss.”
I laughed because he was like a clucking hen. He kept his warehouse spotless. Mine was overflowing and looked like a bomb went off.
I pointed, “Salsa there, bean and cheese, over there. I wanted him to get the canned dip because they were heavy, see? Hard to pick up with one hand. “Just get them and no more talking. Can you do that, anyway? Can you shut the hell up?” I asked, smiling.
“I don’t know. I’ve never tried. Well, I’m just glad you’re not dead. I was wondering. I will help you. I was teasing about the offer being polite. Just think of what Frank would do if he found out you had a bad hand and I didn’t help you. He’d be mad, wouldn’t he?
I laughed. “Yeah, Will. He’d be mad as hell.”
“He’d probably kick my butt, wouldn’t he, Elsa?”
“It’s true. He probably would so don’t tell on me, okay? I think Frank probably could whoop my butt, what do you think?”
“I think you’d be dead meat, Will.”
“Yes. On this one point, I think I agree with you, Elsa. But it’s only because I am a lover. I am a better lover than Frank but just to save my butt from being kicked, be sure and give me a good report to Frank, okay? And I’ll do the same for you with the boss.”
I smiled. “Okay, Will, that’s a deal. But could you load a little faster? I want to get out of here and get away from your talking. Your talking is insane.”
He smiled. “Well now that you mention it… it bothers me how everyone wants your job. And they want me to get it for them. That’s pretty stupid, Elsa, do you know why?”
“Because before you came down here, the boss asked Frank and me if there were anyone already down here that he should hire. See, they all asked him for your job when it came open. Every vendor in the county asked the boss to hire them.”
“Really?” I’d never heard this.
“Frank and I thought about it but we told the boss we’d rather take our chances with whomever he might send down here which says a lot. We would rather take a chance on getting someone from the city and you know how we feel about city people.”
“Well that’s how sure we were that we didn’t want to work with any of these vendors around here but none of them ever figured it out, which is very stupid. Don’t you think? If I were them, I’d have figured this out. How about you? Could you figure that out?”
“If I didn’t get them a job before you came down here and then you died, I still would not get them a job. They all know that I am in tight with the boss. A suck up, that’s what you call it, right, Elsa?”
I laughed. “Right.” Will was helping me load. I was tossing cases of chips with my good hand and thinking this is definitely a 2-handed job. “Why not?” I asked. “Why not get them a job?”
“Because I don’t like them,” he said, cheerily. “And this is the reason. It’s the way they act. They have no class. Do you know how they feel about you? A lot of them. Most of them?”
“No I don’t,” I said, tossing cases on the truck. I didn’t know they felt anything about me, just look at what I am learning today.
“Well, what do you think? They’re down here. They know everyone. They know the area. Your job comes open and they ask for it. The boss tells them he will think about it. He says he will think about giving them the job… for political reasons.”
I stopped loading and turned to listen.
“All of them are sure that they are going to get hired. They think it’s a shoe in. They tell everyone that this is their last week selling coke, or whatever. 10 people thought they were going to get hired, Elsa, and next thing you know they hear someone else got the job and guess what else?”
“What else, Will?”
“It’s a girl. It’s a damned girl. People went crazy about that. That you were a girl.”
“They did?” There was no such thing as a Frito GIRL at the time. Very few women…
“Not me though. I know the boss. I’ve known him for a long time and he told me that you were not a normal girl. But these other vendors? The boss sends a girl down here instead of hiring one of them and they just couldn’t figure it out. They are too dumb to figure it out themselves so they ask me how this could happen.” He laughed. “Do you know what I told them?”
“What did you tell them?”
“I told them the reason they did not get hired is because you are better than them!” He chuckled. “And do you know what they said?”
“They didn’t believe me. They don’t believe that you are better than them. They don’t think it’s possible,” he said with a snort. “Because you are a girl. They don’t see how you can do this job better than they can. Do you see what I mean? Do you get it, Elsa? Do you get it?”
“I do. I get it, Will.”
I didn’t really get it, though. I laughed and shook my head. Who knew? A doctor caught me singing in my truck, my peers think I am inferior, my old boyfriends are looking for me, and if a germ touches my hand they will cut it off. Hmm.
“They think that maybe you had an affair with someone to get your job.”
My jaw dropped. “What?”
“I told you they were stupid. Listen, Elsa. I just want you to know that I’d not turn my back on any of them. I’m glad you’re not dead,” he said, wiping his forehead in drama style. “Whew! That is one call to the boss I would not have liked to make. Not that we talk all the time or anything,” he added.
“Okay, Will, I think I’ve heard enough now.”
“You’re welcome. Are you going to call the boss? Tell him about your hand?”
“It’s too late today. He’s gone.”
“Don’t you have his home number?”
“I’m not going to call him at home. I’ll call him in the morning.”
“You should call him tonight.”
“Go clean your warehouse, Will. I saw some dust over there when I pulled in.”
“You’re sure you don’t want me to call the boss for you? Let him know? Give him a heads up?”
I didn’t need to answer that. Old joke. Inside joke. I didn’t want him to call and had no idea if he would.
“Okay, Elsa but just so you know, I will defend you honor out there. You just let Frank and I handle the buzzards. You can count on us! I will keep telling everyone that the only man we want to work with is you.”
I laughed. “Thanks, Will. I’m tired. I’m going home.”
“Want me to get the doors for you?” he asked. He meant the rear doors of the truck.
“Yeah, thanks. Ciao, Will.”
“Ciao. Elsa. I am only saying that because you are Italian. I don’t normally say that.”
“Right. I know.”
“You’re the only Italian I know, did you know that? So I only say that to you. Take care of your hand. Is Scorpio coming over to help you out? Is he your new man? I like that guy. He is a tall guy. How tall is he anyway? Seven foot? I think he wants to be your new man.”
“Yeah, he’s coming out. He’s bringing the meds. How tall? I don’t know. I haven’t asked.”
“You know how you can find out without asking?”
“Ask to see his driver’s license. Make up a reason.”
I laughed. “Yeah, Will. That’s cute. I’ll do that and I’ll let you know.”
“Okay because I do wonder this quite a bit. I think of this to myself very regularly and so does Frank. We both think he may be seven foot tall and we’d like to know for sure. He may be one for the record books.”
Sitting in my truck, I waved my hand at him, started the truck, and drove away while he was still talking. This was normal. Will never stopped talking, it was part of his charm and his routine.
Driving away, I looked in my rear view mirror and could see his mouth moving. He was waving too, he always was. Big wave. He waved with his whole arm over his head like he is landing a plane or something.
All in all, I was grateful for the distraction, never mind the help. Interesting information about the other vendors, I had no idea. I tossed it around for a half a minute and I could see it now. Made a lot of things make a lot of sense but I didn’t think about it for long, because I had real problems.
My hand? I couldn’t feel it. I was operating on pure instinct. I intended to think about my hand and what I was going to do about it, first chance I got but at the moment, I had my mind on pain medication. I wanted to get home and meet Scorpio before the drug wore off. This was a major priority because I didn’t think I could go another round of pain.
As it turned out I pulled in my driveway and Scorpio pulled in behind me. I could see he’d brought dinner. I felt a wave of gratitude because I hadn’t eaten all day. The thing about Scorpio was that he was packing some serious brains.
Skip to Part 10 – The Scorpio