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Writer & Historian

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Dirty Dishes and Other Stories

February 22, 2011

A collection of short stories about working life

Working the early morning shift. Related short story: Cold Radio.

The stories you will read here are my attempt to share some of the bad times and the good times with workers both young and old. They are stories of disappointment and discouragement, but there are also funny stories, stories that play with work situations and invent things that might have happened or perhaps should have happened. You will meet many different people in my stories: good bosses like old Mr. Buie and bad ones like “the Beak” and “the Rat.” You’ll meet union leaders with grit and others that are clearly not up to the challenges of the important role of fairly representing working people. Capitalistic owners and their managers are always there, lurking behind the wrongdoings and mishaps that can occur in a workplace. And somewhere in each of the stories you will find me. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find in this collection.

Dirty Dishes

Arty and Robbie sat at the card table and listened attentively to Skip.  Lola sat close to Skip but behind him like traditional Chinese wives would do, not beside him. She was leaning forward in the only other chair in the room, an old chintz-patterned easy chair, the kind you see in rumpus rooms and at cottages.  It was lumpy, lopsided and reeked of cat pee and dried up sweat. “This job is going to be a piece of cake,” said Skip as he nursed a bottle of Old Style beer.  “No cops, no safes, no one will ever suspect.” Skip was an old hand at this business. He’d done hard time for a bank heist a few years earlier. That gave him a certain cache with Arty and Robbie. They’d done short bits for penny-ante criminal activity: rolling a postal worker, hitting a welfare cheque cash stop, a liquor store once.

Dirty Dishes – Feb. 2, 2013

Firing Tom

It was at the Christmas party. Hard liquor, mostly McCallam’s single malt and a few bottles of Canadian Club, was virtually flowing from the water fountains. Tom was downing the Scotch “neat,” as they say in the movies, and he’d already had a few more than he could handle. When he made an inappropriate remark to June, the head secretary in his department, people – the wrong people – noticed. No one quite remembers what Tom did that was so terrible.

Firing Tom – Feb. 2, 2013

Phosphate Phil

Phil Allen and Enrico Luciano, the new arrival from Palermo, Italy, got the dirtiest, toughest job in the phosphate plant that morning.  They were to clean mixer number 3.  Every few shifts the huge metal cylinders got caked with the muck that would eventually make phosphate fertilizer.  Number 3 was especially bad.  Everyone on the day shift hated the task, so they were happy when the plant foreman chose Phil and the Italian. Paddy McDermott, a.k.a. The Beak, was the day shift foreman in the fertilizer plant.  He often chose Phil for the filthy jobs.  And as usual he chose the Italian to join him. “Stanley!” he barked from his cubbyhole office.  It was separated from the lunchroom by a windowed wall so he could see his shift workers even when they were on “pie time.”  That’s what they called coffee break.  “Take these two men over to the mixer and get started,” Stanley.  “I want that job done by noon today.”

Phosphate Phil – Feb. 2, 2013


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