From high above the first floor of the foundry, the whistle signaled the end of the shift. As he had done much earlier in the day, he cut the supply of gas to his torch before removing his face guard and setting it aside. Every muscle in his body screamed for relief. It had been seven hours since his last break, a break which was long overdue. The foreman, having found someone less competent at their job to bitch at, had forgotten to remind him of his extra time and he hadn’t the inclination to remind him.
Despite the interruption, he had still managed to meet his quota for both shifts, and then some. Even though his mind continued to return to the phone call, he had completed his work with experience that was backed by decades of expertise.
“What did Davie mean, there was a problem with Vanessa? If something was wrong, why didn’t Marsha just call him? And for that matter, just where in the hell was she while this, whatever it was, was going on?”
All were questions that would have to wait, at least for another hour. Before he could return to Bryer Street, a trip to the locker room, a brief shower and change of clothes, and an hour drive lay ahead of him.
“John,” a voice he recognized as that of the second shift foreman called out, “can I talk to you for a second?”
“Yes sir,” he answered with a sigh, and then under his breath; “…now what?”
“Hey listen. I know you’ve been here for eighteen hours already, but I’m gonna need you to make sure the tanks are full before you leave.”
“Can’t you have someone else do it,” he spouted off. “I don’t have much left in MY tank. Besides, my next shift starts in a few hours, and, I could use the rest.”
He looked down at the smaller, younger, man with tired contempt. He could tell, by the way he shifted from one foot to the other, that he was acting on the words of the man before him, following through on the promise that he had briefly entertained the idea of escaping.
“Oh fuck it already!”
John threw his hands in the air, resigning to the task before him, before shouldering his way past the very miserable messenger.
“I’ll fill your goddamn tanks! I’ll replace the goddamn rods. And then, after than, I’m going the fuck home. Now, do you have a problem with that,” he growled after suddenly spinning around.
“N-not at all,” the younger man sputtered. “I’m sorry John,” he offered miserably. “I really am.”
“Fuck you,” was the only response he felt fit to offer.
When he returned to his workstation, he placed both of his palms against his forehead and pulled his hands down over his face in exasperation. “If we’d only gotten into the Union, this shit would never have happened,” he muttered unhappily.
It was hard work, and at times he thought he wasn’t going to be able to finish the task, but an hour and a half later found him at the other end of a shower, pulling on the last of his outside clothes, and gathering his things together to leave. It wasn’t until he looked at his watch, which now read 2:01am, that he remembered his friend’s cryptic request.
“Shit,” he spat. He hoped that it was just an old man’s worry, that whatever the news was, was only a neighborly concern. He didn’t have the energy for anything else.