It was a cool, clear morning on the Payette River where Kevin was framing a small cabin. He began his day like any other. Up before the sun, coffee in his thermos and perhaps a twinge of a hangover. Not a big deal really, once you got used to it. Besides, he reasoned, Who wouldn’t drink with my problems?... I’ll slow ‘er down a bit once life settles down. He longed for the days of old, the days of plenty, but for now, a liquid solution would have to suffice.
He pulled onto the job site in that rusted old Chevy that always rattles on a bit after you turn the key off. The kind where you have to keep your foot on the brake for a minute until she finally shudders to sleep.
Kevin slid out of the truck and into his bags for another day of Framing America, as he and the boys liked to call it. Appearances suggested Vern and Troy were suffering from the hangover blues as well. Just another Monday.
“Mornin’ boss man,” Troy said. Troy Jenkins was a laborer on the job; a good looking young man, but a little dumb. Vern was his uncle and trying to teach him the trade since his discharge from the service. Troy had picked up a DUI when he was stationed at Fort Lewis, withheld it from his superiors, and been dishonorably discharged.
“Good morning, Troy.”
“Where we startin’ at today?” Vern asked Kevin. Vern Green was an old school carpenter, 52 with a worn face, deep wrinkles and gray stubble. He was a little jaded but a fine hand on the job.
“I was thinking we could roll out the cords and tools, then take coffee. Sound good to you guys?”
Vern and Troy were pleased by this suggestion and began rolling out while Kevin pretended to look over the plans and do boss stuff.
Forty five minutes and a few cups of coffee later, the boys got to work, lining and bracing the walls in preparation for framing the roof. There wasn’t a lot to do that day; no trusses until Thursday, and no deck framing materials until tomorrow. They worked their respective hangovers off at a leisurely pace, while the sun gradually warmed the cool, autumn air.
Kevin was a little concerned coming up on November, and having just this one job to finish. He had a couple more bids out for small jobs, some insurance work, and a little addition, but nothing on the books. Not yet. It could be a rather modest Christmas.
That was the reality of being a contractor today. One job to the next and hand to mouth. In better years he had been busy, like really busy. He and Natalie had the big house on the hill, the fancy rigs, and all the toys and trimmings one could ever covet. They were also fucking buried in debt—The American Way. When the economy tanked in ‘08, all that went away. Not a fuckin’ thing was paid for and they lost it ALL. Natalie’s success as a realtor—gone. Kevin’s success with a big crew building McMansions in Sandpoint—over.
That was when Kevin’s drinking took on a new urgency; it became a way of life, or a life elixir, whether he wanted it or not. Natalie had certainly noticed but turned a blind eye in most cases. It was easier not to notice, not to fight. Her family had trained her well in the ways of denial and enabling. Besides, he still went to work every day and he wasn’t a mean drunk or anything.....but he was still a drunk, and you don’t confront a drunk on their drinking. Oh hell no.
Copyright © Rusty Henrichsen, 2013