John McCaffrey, 9/23/2013
Current Occupation: Writer
Former Occupation: Writer
Your Short Biographical Statement: John McCaffrey graduated from the City College of New York's Creative Writing Program. His stories, reviews and essays have appeared in nearly 30 literary journals and anthologies. His debut novel will be released in October 2013. http://johnamccaffrey.
It was late morning when Bill, the crew’s foreman, collapsed. He was a heavy man with a ruddy face and fingers as thick as blood sausages. He fell headfirst into a stack of metal piping. Blood trickled from his forehead.
Henry, who was hauling cement for the foundation that would become Building A, dropped the wheelbarrow and sped over with several others to check on Bill.
“Is he okay?” Henry asked Chuck, who ran the mixer and was kneeling over Bill.
“He’s breathing,” Chuck said. “Call 911.”
Willie, the union guy, who had earlier told the men about a new dental plan, eased a cell phone from his belt. He dialed swiftly and ordered the ambulance.
“It’ll be right here,” he said in a raspy, cigarette-choked voice. “Don’t move him.”
“I know not to move him,” Chuck said back. “Everyone knows that.”
“Well, it looked like you wanted to.”
They waited in silence until the ambulance came. Two paramedics spilled out carrying a stretcher.
“How long has he been unconscious?” the taller of the two asked.
Willie checked his wristwatch.
“I’d say five minutes.”
“More like 10,” Chuck corrected.
The paramedics examined Bill. After, they placed him on a stretcher and carried him back to the ambulance and left. Never once did they turn on the siren.
“Those boys know what they’re doing,” Willie wheezed, fingering a cigarette from a pack in his shirt pocket and placing it between his lips.
“I’m sure they get a lot of practice,” Chuck added.
Willie lit the cigarette, took a long drag, and blew the smoke lazily out his nose. “Anyone know if Bill had a bad heart?” he asked.
Chuck kicked at a rock the size of a baseball.
“I think he told me he had gout.”
“That wouldn’t knock him out.”
“It hurts just the same.”
Willie nodded. He tossed his cigarette and ground it out with his shoe, twisting the foot as if he was dancing to Chubby Checker.
“I’ll guess I go check on him and see about his family getting called.”
One by one the men returned to their work, finishing up Building A’s footprint. Henry was exhausted by the end of the day, but he felt good about his contribution, his hauling of the cement, which had been spread out by the others in a neat, even gray, covering any imperfection in the dusty ground, including the indent made by Bill’s fall.