Howard parks the Lincoln in the familiar
spot. He takes a moment to savor this feeling, so long
in coming. He looks at the factory in the distance, at his
own grizzled hands on the wheel, and he feels it again,
the swell of pride and relief and validation. And then,
like so many days in the past, he puts sentiment behind
him, swallows the emotion like a bite of meatloaf, and
goes about his business. He picks up the Thermos and
lunch bucket and his camp chair, and walks the familiar
path. They have let the whole thing go to hell, of course:
the sidewalk is cracked and broken and the lawn, always
so carefully tended, is nothing more than a weedy field.
He is a little surprised that the new people in
charge would have let it stay this way, but it is just the first
day, and even the big man can’t do everything, Howard
supposes, when all is said and done. Just like he thought
all along, they have made a real mess of things and it will
take time to clean it all up.
He walks the broken sidewalk and turns the corner
to the entrance and pauses at what he sees: Charles, here
already and waiting in his own camp chair, sipping coffee
and reading the Post-Gazette. He smiles. Of course. He
wonders who else will show up today.
“Charles,” he says, as he settles the camp chair and
pours himself a cup of coffee.
“Thought I might see you here,” Charles says. He
nods and tips the coffee cup and hands over the sports page. “Penguins won again,” he says. “Things are looking up.”
“You can say that again,” Howard says. He realizes
he is nervous, the first time in years, but it’s much better
than the anger that had been swelling in his gut for the
past decade or so, better than the boredom and the
futility and the embarrassment. “You think they’ll have
us on the same jobs?” he says.
“I suppose it would be best to get us back to what
we know,” Charles says.
"Thankfully all of this nonsense will be over soon. Is over. He looks at his watch again. 8:15. Fifteen minutes late. This is not normal."
This makes sense. He was almost worried that they
would be sitting at computers now, or that this would feel
more like the job interviews he has shown up for and left
before they started, cattle calls where they herded him
into a room with fat teenagers and Mexicans and deadeyed
losers who were twenty years younger than him and
looked like they had given up long ago.
“Time is it?” he
Charles adjusts in his chair and checks his watch.
Now he is remembering that Charles has his ways about
him, a certain set of airs. “Eight,” Charles said. “Should
be starting up here soon.”
“You think they…” Howard starts, and then he
remembers everything that happened already. “Never
mind,” he says.
“Yeah, maybe because it’s the first day,” Charles
says. “You done with that sports?”
Howard hands the section over and accepts
the front page. “Thanks,” he says. On the cover, a
giant picture of a big man with his hand on the Bible,
accepting his proper position. Howard looks around. It
is a little weird that nobody else is here yet. It is somehow
unnerving that the lawn has not been mowed. He puts it
out of his mind. He can’t possibly expect all the details
of the transition to be worked out yet. He watches a jet
sail over his head and away into the clear blue sky. He
watches the trail left behind. He remembers something
about those chemtrails, how they are really part of a
weapons program or messages to the Soviets. Thankfully
all of this nonsense will be over soon. Is over. He looks
at his watch again. 8:15. Fifteen minutes late. This is not
normal. He stands and tries to act casual. “I might…” he
says, and takes a few steps toward the factory door.
“Locked,” Charles says. Something about his tone
is annoying, arrogant.
“Just thought I’d try,” Howard says. “Guess I’m
ready to get back to it.”
“Hear you there, guy,” Charles says. He crosses
his legs. “Sure they’ll be here soon. Maybe just. . .I don’t
“Yeah, sure, definitely,” Howard says. He sits back
down in his chair and looks at the sky. The chemtrail is
That is another one of the signs, he remembers:
the chemtrails, they just stay there like graffiti in the
goddamn beautiful blue American sky. Soon all of this
will be over and the sky will be clear and clean again,
the way he remembers it. He looks at the locked door,
at their two cars sitting in the parking lot, all the empty
spaces and the weeds and the broken sidewalk, at the dark
windows of the factory behind them. “They’ll definitely
be here soon,” he says. “Definitely.”
. . .
Early-bird orders available now.
Howard and Charles at the Factory
$10.00 paperback ISBN 9781944853709
"Like a Pittsburgh Pirandello, Dave Housley gives us characters helpless in the face of the invisible forces that shape their lives. A furious, darkly comic fable for this precise American moment.”
- J. Robert Lennon
Coming January 2020
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