Author : Arbeiter88
Title : Phinehas A novel in the tradition of Andrew MacDonald
Year : 2009

Link download :

“Dear Mr. Marlin. This letter is to inform you that your claim for unemployment compensation benefits has been denied. This decision is based in whole or in part on information provided by your previous employer.” Doc blew out his breath in disgust and sat down heavily on his bunk. For the past two years he had been working for a company near Selma, Alabama, that specialized in demolition and disaster clean-up services. After hurricanes Ivan and Katrina had roared through the southeastern United States, causing untold millions of dollars worth of damage, he had traveled with a crew, removing fallen trees and utility poles and grinding them into small chips, which were then sold to local paper mills to be used as boiler fuel. For the first year, his manager had been an American. Doc had started on the bottom, learning to operate a knuckle boom grapple truck, a Case skid-steer, a Cat front end loader, a Cat dozer and finally, the huge CBI biomass grinder. His experience as an over-the-road trucker and truck mechanic had made him the perfect all-around man on the yard, and when the American manager quit, everybody figured that Doc was very much in line to become the next manager. The home office, which was based in the Midwest, interviewed several interested people, including Doc, but when their final decision came down, the crew learned, to their dismay, that a Mexican had been picked for the top job. The thing that had everybody scratching their heads was, the new boss had absolutely no experience in cleanup or forestry or transportation! His background, by his own admission, was in the wholesale food industry! When the Mexican showed up, Doc was given the job of leading the new guy around by the hand, showing him how things worked. In addition, he was charged with teaching him how to do the daily reports, how to coordinate the trucks that delivered the wood chips to the paper mills, how to make arrangements with the railroad and the EPA and the parts house and the diesel fuel supplier and the hundred other things that went along with running the operation. Everything had gone fairly well, at first. In all fairness to the Mexican, there were some improvements. Several people were given long overdue raises, and there was hope that the grinding crews would finally get group insurance. The problems began when the Mexican declared, in front of the whole crew, that his number one intention was to start picking off the American workers, one by one, and replacing them with “vatoes”, as he called them. Sure enough, that's exactly what the Mexican did. Within a few weeks, he tricked one of the most experienced people on the job into demolishing some old, worn-out trailers that had been used to deliver chips to the paper mill. In front of everyone, the Mexican told the American guy, who happened to be black, that his job for the week was to get rid of the trailers, and that he, the black guy, could have the money that he got when he hauled the scrap metal to the recycler. The young black, together with his retired father, spent several days on the project, stripping aluminum and cast iron from the trailers and hauling it to the local scrap metal buyer. The Mexican didn't let the young black guy clock in for the day, but again told him, in front of the whole crew, that his pay for the week was the money he got from the scrap metal. However, once the job was completed, the Mexican pulled the black guy into the office, closed the door, and told him he had "voluntarily quit", and was no longer allowed on the job site. When the young black, horrified at the news, complained about the decision, the Mexican told him that his time clock had not been punched for the entire week, and he had been reported to the home office as a voluntary quit. As is the case with such things, nobody else would back up the young guy's story. Doc had asked the Mexican about the situation in private, but had been warned that there were some things that were the responsibility of the assistant manager, and some that were exclusively the domain of the "head honcho". So, at the end of the day, the young black was unemployed, even though he had been an excellent all-around worker, known for his cheerful attitude and his ability to operate any machine on the job site. As if to rub salt in the wound, a week later, the Mexican called the county sheriff and reported that the metal from the trailers had been STOLEN, and gave them the young man's name! The young man, fearing that his father would be pulled into the mess, had no choice but to give the money from the scrap metal to the Mexican. Doc tolerated the situation for a year, until he could stomach no more. He sat down and wrote out an analysis, listing in great detail where the Mexican had performed worse than the previous manager, how revenue had fallen, how the Mexican had falsified expense reports and personnel evaluations, and mailed it to the home office. The home office, it seems, was not interested in any of Doc‟s data. They didn‟t care about profits or losses. They didn‟t care whether the Mexican was honest or not. They had hired the Mexican for one reason and one reason only. He had promised to replace all of the American workers with Mexican vatoes. Doc learned a few days later that the home office had sent his report to the Mexican. There had been a confrontation, which had been handled professionally, considering the circumstances. Doc had not been fired. Instead, he had been asked to resign, and the Mexican promised to sign off on unemployment compensation. That way Doc could have some time to find another job, rather than being suddenly pushed out. “Guess that‟s what I get for trusting a fuckin‟ Mexican,” Doc grumbled to himself as he read over the denial letter again. The Mexican had lied to Doc and to the state unemployment agency. Doc had been the assistant manager, but the Mexican had listed him as a laborer. Doc had been earning better than forty thousand per year, which should have shown the reviewers that he was much more than a laborer, but they took the word of the Mexican manager. The Mexican had also told the state that Doc had voluntarily quit without notice! And, after making a few calls, it became clear that nothing could be done about it! Doc looked around his cabin, his eyes falling on one item or another, until they came to rest on the AR-15 rifle leaning against the wall beside his bunk. “You sure you wanna do that?” His younger brother was standing in the open door, grinning at Doc, the “see-I-told-you-so” look as plain as the nose on a Jew‟s face. “Fock you, ahhshole,” Doc retorted in his best Schwarzenegger imitation. “Well, Timmy, you were right, as usual. Fuckin‟ Mexican lied to everybody. He got rid of me, and screwed me out of my pennies too. Looks like I‟m going back on the road.” Tim reached down and touched the black, semi-wild tomcat that was walking back and forth, rubbing against his legs. “Reckon it‟s gonna come down to that? You remember how aggravating it was before, what with the DOT rules and all. You think it‟d be any different now? Dispatchers lying to you left and right. Customers expecting you to unload their stuff by hand, when you need to be resting. Cops trying to make their quota of tickets. Can't idle your truck and keep warm or cool, what with the price of diesel and the clean air bullshit. And they„ve made things even worse, with the Hours of Service rule changes they made back in oh three. Do you really think you could make a living, sitting still for ten hours a day?” Doc pulled gently on his beard, his eyes not focusing on anything in particular. “Brother, it doesn‟t look like I have much choice. We don‟t exactly live in the mecca of employment, you know. The black belt of Alabama has a higher unemployment rate than anywhere else in the state. Probably in the whole country. Several of our local counties are listed among the poorest in the nation. And now, companies are bringing in the Mexicans as fast as they can sneak them across the border. Friend of mine, met him down at the Rumble Strip bar, works at the Social Security office. He told me that they are forever running into situations where Juan Lopez has a social security number, and a dozen other Mexicans are reporting income under the same name and number! Hell, there are even web pages on the internet that specialize in supplying “guest workers” to anybody that wants them!" "Black folks, white folks, people who were born here and speak the language, skilled people who want to work and need to work, we‟re being pushed out of our jobs and the goddamn civil rights people won‟t take our side! I always KNEW their real goal was to destroy America, and not to help the niggers! Even that frizzle headed Morris Dees, supposed to be the champion of the poor, downtrodden masses, laughs at people who ask him to help stop the Mexicans! On his web page he claims we hate them because we're afraid of them!" "You ever thought about going into politics?" Tim grinned at his older brother. He paused as Doc waved his middle finger in the air. Tim continued. “Welllllll, we‟re not exactly broke. Land paid for, cabins almost paid off, all the cold, hand pumped water we can drink, winter garden starting to look pretty good, all the bobwhite quail we can eat, just itching to walk into the traps, Cahaba river with 150 species of fish within walking distance, solar cells all set up and charging. Don‟t be in such a hurry. Who knows? Maybe now would be a good time for you to go see that lady lawyer that's advertising all the time. Get you a crazy check and work under the table!” Doc looked down at the steel toed boots he was wearing, and looked up with a wicked grin. “I could run over to Mobile highway and pick up an ounce hard, and make lots of money selling to the local crack-hoes!” “Um hum, til you get caught and Big Leroy make you his bitch,” Tim scolded. Doc laughed, his first genuinely cheerful moment since opening the letter. “Well, I just got screwed by a Mexican, so maybe my ass is stretched out enough that I could stand some jailhouse love!” Tim obviously didn't see the humor in his brother's statement. “So, when are you gonna head out? You gonna go back with the folks you were with before? Gonna haul produce from the west coast? You won't have to worry about things here. Mr. Willie will be okay. He already catches most of what he eats, and he‟s made friends with the bobcats, and I‟ll be here to take care of things while you‟re off in New York or where ever,” Tim offered. “Lynx,” Doc corrected. “They‟re not bobcats, I don‟t think. I saw an article in National Geographic. The pictures I saw looked exactly like these cats. Big-ass dark tabbies with short tails and rear ends jacked up like a 69 Chevelle hot-rod." Mr. Willie, almost as though he knew he was the subject of the conversation, walked across the bare wooden floor and jumped up on the bunk beside Doc, demanding some attention. “But to answer your question, I think I‟m gonna try something new. Pull a tanker, or maybe even a flatbed. The mistake I made before was driving for an outlaw company. Everybody knew they were running illegal, including the cops, which almost cost me my commercial driver‟s license.” Tim grimaced as he remembered his brother‟s frustration at having to work a local job for the past three years. “Hey, JB Hunt is hiring! I hear they run legal, and I don‟t think I‟ve ever seen one of their trucks pulled over by a cop!” “Don‟t you have to get back to work?” Doc asked his brother in mock irritation. JB Hunt was a running joke between the brothers. Doc was probably the worst non-conformist in the family, and JB only hired ultra-conformist drivers. “Off for the rest of the day!” Tim retorted, his left hand waving a tackle box in and out of the door. “Everybody else on the crew is too drunk to paint, and I‟m not gonna do it by myself! Wanna go to the river and drown some worms?” “Dang, brother! Haven't you noticed that it's cold out? This is December, or have you been down here in the woods so long you've lost track of time? Maybe later,” Doc said as he studied the denial letter for the twentieth time. “Gonna get on the computer and update some applications.” Tim patted the prepaid beep-beep cellphone on his belt. “You got my number if you need me!” Doc watched as his brother walked through the woods toward the river. He envied Tim‟s easy-going outlook on life, and how simple he made it sound, losing a job and finding a new one. Almost like deciding which pair of underwear to wear today! Doesn‟t really matter which ones you wear, or if you decide not to wear any at all! He looked around his cabin, taking some kind of mental inventory of where he stood. Fifty years old, but in excellent health, nearly new pickup in the front yard, eighteen years experience driving a truck, lots of experience in maintenance and heavy equipment operation. ...

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