Richard P J Lambert CC
Chachoo: Good Work is Good Work
Scar on throat, no voice,
croaks like a crow
looking for work, for strictly cash.
Up north the season is short, labor is precious.
Already got Petey with PTSD, Iggy the Inuit warrior,
not real names. I say we’ll try you out.
Call him Chachoo.
He’ll move dirt, carry lumber
and next thing he’s walking the top plate
balanced like a bird setting trusses, no fear.
Short, squat, strong as two men in one body.
Every noon a skinny girl brings
a hot salmon sandwich
and they sit together, quiet.
In sunshine his body sweats
like a cold glass of Coca Cola.
Anybody tries to talk to the girl, eye contact,
Chachoo jumps in his face like a grizzly.
A dark cloud, cold wind
as Chachoo is tossing scraps in the dumpster,
final cleanup when the deputy’s car pulls up front.
Warrant from Louisiana, name, photo.
Never heard of him, we say
because good work is good work.
A single leather glove, all they find.
A year later, warm city — hey — it’s
the daughter near the bus station,
give her some cash, tell her
it’s back pay which some of it is.
“I’ll see he gets it,” she says.
“Did he really kill a man?”
Her eyes, deep brown, so wet.
“He was protecting me.”
I say, “All they found was his glove.”
“He don’t need it.”
Then like Chachoo, she’s gone.
Morning, Chancellor’s Handyman
Two dogs promise
with sincere snouts, soft whimpers:
Set us free to run this fenced yard
just a few minutes. We’ll be ever grateful.
With human fingers I unlatch chains.
Whoa! Like deer they leap the gate.
Gone, the Dalmatian and the big goofy mutt
through mud and wet weeds sticky with seeds.
Call me sucker. Call me fool.
I say to you, this world needs more softies.
Here comes Dr. Markoman tying a bathrobe shut
asking why I let his dogs out in the early morning
so I jog around the private school campus
among beautiful young minds
embedded in goofy (but graceful) young bodies
not unlike the dogs that are waiting in the back yard
when I return. Warm tongues, happy tails.
Now who’s the fool?
Monday’s first task is to stuff ten cubic yards
of spread-out rained-on garbage into five cubic yards
of dumpster. Shove. It squirts. Rinse, repeat.
Call me dirty. Call me smelly.
I say to you, deal with your garbage. Or deal with me.
Next, this old door is sticky, delaminating.
Glue and clamps, grease the hinges, shave the edge
while in the next room for donors an elegant breakfast
of croissant, crème fraîche. Give me crunchy bread
with black coffee, then let me run with dogs.
I fix things. You need me. What’s next?
Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. He lives in La Honda, California, where he built a house and raised a family under (and at the mercy of) giant redwood trees. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses. More at: joecottonwood.com.
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