The job was a popularity contest conducted by the tough guys. To be in the contest, one had to be physically large, powerful, and have endured a lot of physical punishment in their lives. They had a certain brotherhood. The rest of us were second rate because we were smaller. The bigger guys in the brotherhood took turns to see who could be the meanest to the smaller guys. Those who were not mean enough were out of the brotherhood. Few made the decision to exclude themselves from such membership. They didn’t last long with the company.
Exceptions to the less than huge being bullied were the few who had reputations for being either crazy or tough enough to do damage. They were largely left alone. I was one of them. This was due to a party some months prior at which a coked up nut job pointed a gun in my face over his girlfriend. I sat there coldly staring at death without blinking while the gunman raged. Unable to strike the fear of death in me, he got frustrated and left without firing a shot. One guy at the jobsite, Jason, knew of this, and told the others to leave me alone. More than a few doubted Jason on this, as they saw nothing to warrant caution.
Uneasy weeks rolled on as we all worked in the blazing sun on the remodeling site. I saw smaller guy after smaller guy come and go quickly. It happened like clockwork. The guy would start on a Monday, get bullied and harassed all day, be intimidated to where he doubted himself and feared getting a beating, and quit by Tuesday or Wednesday. The few that mouthed off would be beaten. I kept to myself.
Jason called off one day, due to his three year old being sick. Doug was the biggest and meanest guy there. He hated Jason, but didn’t dare challenge him dead on. Instead, he decided to take me on when Jason was absent, to prove Jason wrong and boost his status.
First Doug began belittling my work. I was a mix of gofer and hammer swinger, known for speed, not for power. I worked feverishly. It was my style, and all I had. It wasn’t enough for Doug, or so he pretended. He barked, I hustled. Part of the reason I did was it was early and I wasn’t yet fully awake. As I grew more awake, I grew angrier at Doug. The others in the brotherhood stayed quiet. I thought they knew something.
Finally lunchtime arrived. I was famished. The brotherhood headed off to eat huge amounts of food and tell each other how tough they were. The other guys left in trucks to get burgers. I was broke, so I sat off to the side and ate my sandwhiches and smoked. I heard the brotherhood hooping and hollering. Deep laughter filled the remodeling site.
The other smaller guys weren’t yet back from the burger joint when the brotherhood decided work was to begin. The foreman was usually gone from the site, but was known to watch from a distance to keep an eye on things. He hadn’t been on the site all day, so the brotherhood was in charge.
Doug called to me. His tone was stern.
“You, little shit, go over to the pile of rocks and smooth them over. The landscapers need to work there this afternoon. Start with the larger rocks near the back of the garage. No, first, get that log out of there. Toss it in the woods. Hurry it the fuck up! Come on, get moving!”
I walked over to the garage. There were sizable rocks there, but I didn’t know why they should be moved. The log, I could understand though. The brotherhood had been near there for lunch, so they probably saw the area as an eye sore and decided I should clean it up. I didn’t care, as I got paid the same no matter what.
I came to the log, and hurriedly lifted one end to begin tossing it away. The log came up easily. It was dried out and weighed even less than I thought. I tossed it, and then heard the worst sound one can hear from a log; loud buzzing!
A cloud of really pissed off yellow jackets rose from nowhere. I turned and ran, full sprint. The brotherhood laughed in the distance. A few wasps got me. I ran faster. The brotherhood laughed harder. The buzzing grew louder. I ran even faster. The sound of laughter grew louder and louder.
They didn’t realize I was running right at them. By the time that reality set in, it was too late. They yelled
“NO! NO! Run the other way!”
Not a chance in hell. I ran right at the brotherhood, in full sprint. The fat fuckers couldn’t accelerate, and the bees needed a good target. I would bring them one. It was me or the brotherhood, and you just knew who it’d be!
I made sure to pass Doug first, and delighted in hearing him cuss as the cloud of wasps engulfed him. I was being stung less and less as I heard the brotherhood yelp more and more. Before I knew it, no wasps were chasing me.
When I had tired of running and was sure no more bees were coming, I stopped and watched the aftermath. The brotherhood and the laughter could not be found or heard. A pickup came driving down the lane. The driver was laughing hysterically. The passenger was the foreman. The truck stopped and the drivers’ window rolled down.
“Are you ok, son?” He hardly held his snicker.
“yeah, I only got ten stings or so.”
“Let me introduce myself. I’m Dan. I own the company.”
“Oh, nice to meet you.”
“That was the gawddamned funniest thing I ever saw! You really turned it on them! Hilarious! Hop on back, we’ll give you a ride.”
I hopped in the back of the truck and we made our way down to the site. Members of the brotherhood meandered everywhere. Big red spots covered their bodies. Dan and the foreman laughed and laughed. I didn’t dare.
An angry Doug approached, giving me the evil eye.
“That fucker! He ran toward us deliberately! Did you see…”
“Yeah, I saw the whole thing. We were sitting up there watching to see what you guys were up to. We saw it ALL.”
Doug turned and walked away. A few of the other members of the brotherhood snickered, even as they had been stung too. Dan announced that the day was over because of the bee attack. The brotherhood piled into trucks. Dan gave me my day’s wage and added a hundred bucks, saying it was worth it for the entertainment, and gave me a ride to the bus stop. As he dropped me off, Dan advised me to not come back. The brotherhood would not take kindly to the bee thing. Then he gave me another hundred and bid me good luck.
I rode the bus to the first bar, and got off. I needed some drink to counter the bee stings. Alcohol was invented for such days.