Continued from the previous chapter, here.
Asa Pemewan looked up from where he was helping his father clear branches from the back yard. “I’m still not sure what all I need to do. It’s not exactly a normal situation, you know.”
“Well,” his father replied, “there’re still branches for y’ to pick up. If y’ can’t get that one,” and he gestured towards a particularly large tree limb that had fallen into the yard, “then I’ll help y’. But it’s really just lift-and-carry work.”
“Not that. The job thing.”
“Oh. Right. It isn’t a usual thing, no. And I’ve never run into it, really. Never have had a boss die on me before I went to work. Hell,” and he puled on a tree limb of his own, “never had one die on me yet. Quit, sure, or get transferred or fired. One got arrested; tried to hire a high school girl as a hooker, I think. But never died on me.”
“I didn’t think so.” Asa had moved over to the indicated limb and begun to tug on it. In between the efforts, he added. “I don’t think a lot of people have, actually. So I’m not sure where to look for insight. Not that I can do a lot of looking at the moment.”
Asa’s father said nothing in reply, only nodding as he continued his clean-up work. Asa pressed on. “It’s the kind of thing that I run into a fair bit, actually. Folks have this idea that you can Google any damned thing, just punch in a few keystrokes and reveal all the information in the world. But it doesn’t work that way. Some stuff is online but doesn’t show up on Google. And while some of that’s the kind of thing you hear about in the news–child porn, drug trafficking, how to buy your politicians, and the like–a lot of it’s not. Like what the etiquette is for job offers made by somebody who dies before the offer can be taken up.”
Asa struggled a bit more with his limb, dragging it across the yard to the pile of brush and other assorted debris that was growing in one corner of the Pemewan backyard. “Or what the etiquette is for a date that was scheduled before a storm rolls through and wrecks a lot of the town.”
His father grunted out among his own exertions “Yeah, I’d wondered about that, too. I’ven’t heard that the church was damaged at all, and I think Rev’nd Kerr lives on site; I know there’s a parsonage, and I think she uses it. But, yeah, y’ll prob’ly still need to drop by and see if y’re still on–and offer to help if y’re not.” He heaved on the fallen branches and other assorted detritus. “I imagine a preacher’d appreciate having the help.”
Asa nodded. “Who wouldn’t? But it is strange that I’d be on a date, let alone a date with a minister. It’s been a long time since I was possessed of any great religious feeling.”
“I know, but I don’t know why. Y’ used to be eager for church, y’ know, more so than y’r mother and me. Not because we doubted, mind, but because working makes folk tired–and, well, son, y’ were a little shit as a kid. I loved y’, and I still do, but y’ were a pain the in ass when y’ were growing up.”
“Y’re welcome. Thought y’ deserved honesty at this point in y’r life.”
“Like I said, thanks.”
The two men worked without words for a time, but not silently; both grunted and groaned frequently as they bent their backs to clearing the yard of debris. They continued in the same way as they moved to the front yard, grimacing at the sucking mud that much of the yards had become. But they continued, and they saw many others at the houses nearby doing much the same thing. A few encouraging words were exchanged among them, fathers and sons and daughters–but few mothers, if any–working to clean up what the storm had disturbed.
At one point, a man from down the street whom Asa did not recognize but his father did came down and asked to borrow a chainsaw; a tree had fallen through his roof, and he was working to remove it. Asa and his father followed the man back to his home, where his young daughter, perhaps two and a half years old, was crying and his wife, her mother, tried to comfort and quiet her; the three men worked to cut the tree into manageable pieces and remove them from the house, and others who lived on the street found tarps and pieces of plywood that had been held in garages and shed for projects that would be done “someday.” They did not make a perfect seal, to be sure, but they made enough of a barrier to keep out the sun and the rain. “And it’ll be like camping in the forests, like in the fairy tales,” Asa told the girl, and she nodded, although tears still streamed down her plump and reddened cheeks.
Amid the work, Asa had little enough time to think about his own problems. Taking care of others’ often has such an effect. It also often puts a person’s own problems into relief. Asa knew that things could be better for him–they can be better for everyone, really–but he was also being reminded a bit of the perspective into which to place his problems. And when, at around half past five, the power came back on–the sudden lurching into life of a street’s worth of air conditioners sang in polyphonic tenors of electricity’s return–his voice joined the general cheering. After all, cool air–both in the home and in the refrigerator around beers chilling down–is a welcome thing after a long working day.
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