Ron Roy, 4/29/2013
Current Occupation: Operating Room Processing Technician.
Former Occupation: Operating Room Processing Technician, Car Dealership Delivery Driver, Traffic Flagger.
Contact Information: I’ve always written about work and working people. Since graduating from college with a degree in Literature, I’ve worked primarily in the Health Care industry. My first novel, “Passing Time” which takes place in a paper mill, was published in February 2011 by Blue Cubicle Press of Plano, Texas, which also devotes itself to people caught in the daily grind. “Zen Roadside” was the winner of the 2012 North Country Flash Fiction Competition of the New Hampshire Writers Project. My story “Cumberland Valley Chevy” will appear in Blue Cubicle‘s Overtime series in the fall.
“Are you still clear?” My partner asks. His voice on the radio is the same mess of static and sarcasm that it always is.
“I’m clear,” I say. “I’ve got nothing.”
Of course there’s nothing. It’s the afternoon lull. Nothing between now and three o’clock but John, that old retired dude who goes for coffee every afternoon at two and veers in my direction, pretending to run me over. John never tires of this joke. In an hour there’ll be the change of shifts at the prison, school letting out, the State License Division closing for the afternoon. For now it’s nothing, single cars, barely worth our time.
“I’m clear, too,” his voice grates at my ear.
So why is he even calling? Why not keep his trap shut?
I wiggle my toes in my sweaty boots. There’s sweat on my neck, too, but that runs off. The leather of my boots captures the moisture. My feet stew.
My back hurts. My arms sag, but I don’t put down the sign. Rule Number One of traffic control. NEVER PUT DOWN THE SIGN!
My bladder’s full. I ask myself how long I can hold out before I make the call, “Hold traffic,” prop up my sign and duck into the bushes. Maybe another five minutes. I sigh and stare off into my field.
We’d been on the job all summer, shifting up and down a ten-mile stretch of road, but we’ve been stuck in this one spot for over a week. The pipe crew hit water and can only go a few feet at a time. I’ve memorized this field. Cattails and purple tufted bushes line the far edge by the river and give way to withered stalks and sharp bristles that die out at the ditch beside my feet. I never knew there were so many shades of yellow and brown.
Yellow butterflies move amid the stalks. White wings shadow them. Grey moths flash purple at their tips. A grasshopper lands on my boot. Wings folded, it disappears, brown on brown. When it flies, the wings reveal bright orange.
The smells and sounds bring me back. That’s probably for the best. Car exhaust mixes with diesel fumes. Road dust fills my mouth. I hear the warning beep of the loaders backing up, the air brakes from the dump trucks, the heavy base note of a jacked-up, off-road pick-up as it approaches and slams to a STOP. The driver curses at me and waves his fist.
That voice returns.
“Clear to send?”
“Clear,” I answer. The punk in the pick-up can wait.
“Sending,” my partner says. “The last vehicle in line is a white Chevy Silverado, but check out the woman in the black Suburban. That one is my future ex-wife.”
I smile as I look back out across my field. My partner is still an asshole, but it’s nice to know that on one subject, he’s quite clear.