11 October 2010


Marco pushed his spreader up and down the hills around the buildings of the complex. The grass was green and a chilled wind tousled it as he walked, sweating. He had the areas around buildings 4 and 5 to do, then across the parking lot to building 14, where there were some patches of yellow grass from the dogs. The day was gorgeous, but Marco didn't care; it would get done either way.

The fertilizer was also a pesticide, something to get rid of the vermin before it went inside where it was warm and wet, before the chill set in for good and drove the insects to look for more hospitable places to burrow and gestate. Marco didn't care; it was something he had to do, and he'd make sure it was done, no matter what.

Some yards away, Marco saw Hiram doing the same thing, pushing his green wagon around the earth. Hiram's dark skin glistened, but his greying hair was hidden under a baseball cap, so he didn't look too pathetic. Above him a woman sat on her balcony gazing at the other buildings, taking in fresh air, at least as fresh as she'd get around here. She dragged on her cigarette, and Marco thought she might be hoping her husband wouldn't come home early and discover her secret. He smiled and pushed on.

A black and green pickup truck coughed up beside the curb where Marco was, and he went toward it, pulling the lever that stopped the spreading. He signaled across the field to Hiram, who shouted something at him he didn't understand and went off behind the building. Marco went up to the truck and stopped, sticking a yellow sign into the earth. He waved at the driver, Gary, who slid out of the truck and banged his heavy feet on the ground. Marco wiped his forehead.

Gary was a tall man about Marco's age, but with eagle eyes that saw everything around him. He took two or three steps to get around the truck to the back and dropped the gate. Marco took his last yellow sign and scratched around inside the green container while he waited. Gary pulled out a large plastic bag and, cutting it open, he poured the contents into Marco's wagon.

“We still got over there to do,” Gary said, gesturing with his head. Marco nodded.

“You understand?” Gary asked.

“Yeah, boss. Over there,” Marco replied, helping Gary get the last few pellets of fertilizer out of the bag.

Gary took the empty bag and threw it into the back of the truck. “How far along are you?”

“Sorry?” Marco walked to the back of the truck and climbed onto the bumper.

“How much more do you have to do?” Gary had an emotionless face, and he liked to keep it that way.

Marco pointed around building 14 to the buildings beyond. “Over there, boss, and still around here a bit.” He pulled up another bag of fertilizer, hopped down, and cut it open. “Hiram has over there,” he added, pointing with his head now. He poured the fertilizer into the wagon, which was already fairly full.

Gary nodded. “Great. We'll have this done in no time.” He stuck a few more yellow signs in the heap in Marco's wagon.

Marco nearly emptied the bag, then he stopped, dropped the bag on the ground, and banged the sides of the wagon to let the fertilizer settle a bit. Gary went to pick up the bag, but Marco got there first and rolled up the open part in itself. He looked at Gary and walked around the side of the truck. Gary called after him.

“Oh, I see. Taking some for yourself.”

Marco opened the passenger side door. “That OK, boss?” He sat the bag on the seat.

“Oh, I got no problem with it. It's Mike. He might have a problem with it.”

Marco opened his duffel and took out a bottle of water, taking an enormous gulp from it. Then he stuck the fertilizer bag inside the duffel and zipped it shut.

“No problem, boss. He don't got to know.”

Gary was back in the truck now, and he started the vehicle with a puff of black smoke. “All right, Marco. See you on the other side.”

Marco shut the door and the truck pulled away. He went over to his wagon, shook it one time, then pulled the lever to let the fertilizer out. He knew Mike might find out, but Marco didn't care; it would get done either way.

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