Current Occupation: Unemployed, and looking for work as a freelance writer and editor.
Former Occupation: Mailman (17 years), ceramic tile installer (12 years). In between those 2 jobs, I had 13 different part-time jobs in 12 month's time. The most jobs I had at one time was 5.
Contact Information: Joseph Musso is the author of the novel-in-stories, I Was Never Cool, which is also the name of his blog. He lives in NJ.
I was on the back of a garbage truck. The kid next to me had a bad night. He was doubled over and barely hanging on. In the beginning of the morning run he was trying real hard, but after a few streets he was done. So I was doing double duty at the stops without the driver knowing. He just thought we were slow and kept yelling back, “Git your asses moving back there else we’ll NEVER git done! You wanna be out here all day?” I kept hefting garbage cans up and over and pulling the lever to crush it all up. The kid was barely hanging on. At one point as we rounded a corner at 40 miles an hour one of his hands slipped off and he nearly went flying into a ditch. I yelled over, “Man lie down in the bucket until we stop again. Then get off and walk home or something.” He could barely nod and held his belly with one hand. Finally we stopped in a rich cul-de-sac, all big houses, nice lawns. The garbage was laid out for us in a circle. It might’ve been the morning after Christmas, there was so much. The big beast of a truck squealed, snorted, and shunted to a stop. The door swung open and the driver jumped out, storming back toward us, ready to lay into us good. He saw the kid puking up his guts and helped him inside the cab. From that point on I manned the back myself. When there was a lot at a stop the driver would jump out and help me. He’d grit his teeth every time the load was especially heavy, and yell out, “Sweet Marie I’m an old man now!” Every time it was, “Sweet Marie I’m an old man now!” Sometimes he’d add a “Good Lord up above why do You punish me so!” So the whole thing went, “Good Lord up above why do You punish me so! Sweet Marie I’m an old man now!” As the morning went on more and more was added to his routine. I began to look forward to every new refrain. Eventually it was lunch time and at a counter we chewed burgers and sipped coffees. He said, “You’re not a bad worker. What were you doing before this?”
“Uh huh.” He bit a chunk out of the burger.
“My girlfriend got on a Greyhound the other day,” I told him.
“Everybody winds up in a place they didn’t think they’d be.”
“I was wondering about things too much. With her, I mean.”
“Yeah you know, stupid shit. Things like what I could have done different, like maybe I am an asshole like she says.”
“I don’t know. Probably. A little, anyway.”
“Then what happened?”
“Then I figured it out, sort of anyway. Whatever I did and however I did it, she still woulda left. I don’t even care that much. I just hate to fail at things. It’s been happening too much lately.”
He paid the check, smiled at the waitress and we left. We hit the road again, but this time I was dreaming about Mad Max and the end of the world. A few modifications to this rig and we’d be ready to kick ass. Wouldn’t take much to outfit this beast with enough mayhem machinery to wreak some serious havoc and start controlling things. He’d be the rig-master up front, the driver. Me, I’m the killer, over-aggressive, under-sentimental, new-age killer, the hit-man of the new cosmos, manning the back with a deadly heart and an even deadlier aim. That’s right motherfucker, I’m talking about the road warrior from hell all dolled up in a garbage truck with a mouth ready to devour whole cities in one big nasty swallow. Bring it on! I finished up the day by dragging my ass back into the truck cab. The kid had scrunched himself up in the middle, still green around the gills. He’d come around a little, and for the first time all day there were words mixed in with the moans. The driver and I laughed. “Well what the hell happened to you anyway?”
The kid tried to rub his eyes but didn’t have the strength. Then, he opened his mouth and said it was all much harder than he thought it’d be, life, work, women, whatever. The drink was the drink. But it was everything he was suffering from that was doing him in. The driver said it was better to suffer than be incapable of suffering, and shifted the big rig and we were gone.