After I finished breakfast, I jammed into the big Ford van along with everybody else. We were driven out to a desolate section of railroad tracks by the waterfront. It was in bad shape. The switch needed adjusting and several broken down ties needed to be replaced.
Unfortunately, this was the sort of job that machinery wouldn’t help all that much with.
I worked with half the gang – the others were sent to another, easier job – but I didn’t complain. The work was hard, but the pay was good, and I needed to save for tuition.
We worked out in the midsummer sun.
The rails and ties soaked it in and radiated heat.
By lunch, we’d made substantial, sweaty progress. The switch was working again and we’d replaced most of the bad ties.
When we drove back out, we made quick work of finishing the rest of the job, drove to another part of the plant to replace a broken rail – a comparatively quick and easy job – and called it a day.
I managed to hitch a ride with a co-worker to the city bus hub at Gore Park, which meant cutting two busses out of my return trip. The 35 College bus came right on time, and I arrived home only slightly later than I normally would have.
My father was waiting on the front porch. He was sitting in his chair with his feet up on the railing.
I waved when I walked up the driveway – I wasn’t trying to be smug – and he nodded.
Up early this morning, huh?
Yeah. Three busses to catch.
Right. You make it in on time?
Yeah. Caught a ride to the punch clock at the canteen.
I went around to the back door, took my shoes off, went downstairs, unpacked my stuff, then came back up to put my lunch containers in the dishwasher.
Mom was already making dinner.
Your father was going to drive you to work this morning, you know.
Yeah, I thought he might.
He was pretty upset when he found out you left.
Well, he told me I wasn’t using the car.
Yeah. It doesn’t feel like it though.
I’m sure he feels worse.
You’re probably right.
I went out on the front porch with a Coke and sat down in another chair, leaving an empty one between us.
We didn’t say anything for a while.
It was starting to cool down. A breeze went through the small leaves of the big locust tree on the front lawn. The red maple across the street shivered.
Not an easy one, but not too bad. Hot down there by the water where we worked today.
Yeah. Taking the car out tonight?
Probably not. I’ll be hitting the sack pretty early.
My mother came out.
We went inside.