A Story in Dialogue: “Working Stiffs”


“Oh, I really like this song!  Turn it up, alright?”

I rolled my eyes but did as he asked. Of course he liked this song, the narrow-wristed pain in the ass. No reason to start a fight, though.  There was a lot of work that needed doing, and all of it due by night’s end. Useless as he was, at least he was a warm body. Speaking of which, that reminded me that I needed back the tools I’d lent him. “Hey! You ever gonna finish with my hammer?  I could use it back today.” I gestured to the stacks in front of me.

“I already gave it back to you. And thanks for the loan!  I totally couldn’t have finished mine without it. That weighted …whaddya call it? Thingie? Yeah, that was awesome!”

“It’s a ball-peen hammer, and you definitely did not give it back to me yet.”

“Ball-peen!” He sniggered. “That’s it. I remember now!  I was tickled by the name.”

What are you, twelve? “No, you did not give me back the tools.  Not the ball-peen,” I ignored his fresh titter. “Nor the rest of my tools, I’d have remembered. So. I’m not mad. But I would like them back. We got a lotta work to do. Just…”

“Well, I already said I gave them back.” He thought for a second. “I’m sure I did. Yesterday, as we were leaving.  I handed all of them to you, as a matter of fact.”  He nodded, as if to show solidarity with himself.

I set down the end of the thing I was moving. “No, you didn’t. Those are damn expensive tools, and I’d have remembered if you did.”

His face reddened. “I did so, most certainly. And really, I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“Well, I don’t appreciate your making off with my tools.”

“I didn’t make off with your damn tools! I can’t help that you have the memory of a sieve!” He stalked over to the radio and snapped it off.  The dusty ground sent up little clouds with every angry footfall.

“My memory is just fine, thanks. I know you didn’t give them back to me. What’d you do? You probably just forgot that you had them or something. They’re probably in your vehicle or something.  Just admit that you forgot, and let’s go get them. Whaddya say?”

“Oh, that’s just grand. I don’t have them in my car. Where would I put them? It’s a two-seater, in case you forgot!”

I had forgotten, actually.  “So you probably got rid of them before we left.”

His look was incredulous. “’Got rid of them’, really? Really? Do you even hear yourself?”  He scuffed his toe near the base of the stack that I’d finished up yesterday afternoon.  Bones rattled down in a noisy shower, scattering to the four walls.  We glanced at each other, dismayed.  It was end-of-month quota. “C’mon. We can get these up and together in no time. I’ll help.” His voice was even, dead calm. Sweat darkened his hair into lank chunks against his forehead.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m…its…Thanks.”

“Don’t worry. It will be alright. We’ll get it finished.”

I stared at the mess, wishing for my tools. That would have made things easier. “Hey!” He was standing near the far wall, looking into the wheelbarrow.

The wheelbarrow.  Oh.

“Ball-peen, anyone?” He snickered again.

            The little faggot.

One thought on “A Story in Dialogue: “Working Stiffs”

  1. I’ve read this one before. I’m not sure if you did something to it, or if it just sits better this time. The tone seemed more consistent throughout, but the character the narrator is talking to doesn’t seem consistent somehow. Too cheerful in the face of being called a thief, even after finding the tools. I’d expect more anger.

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