March 6, 2011

A dockwalloper marched in to the Bay Area, preceded by refugee seagulls fleeing the last few rattling boxcars of the 2011 Pineapple Express, which last looked on the radar like a stream of white ribbon under a big pinwheel orbiting the Bering Straits. Looks like gloomy skies are in the offing for the next week around here with snow in the mountains above 7,000 feet and a gradually warming trend in the middle of the country after a brief spate of flurries. A slow warming trend should let folks shunt down their heaters on the Island, but hovering sixty is about as good as it will get for now. Expect some high winds on the bridges on Monday.

As the Great Recession grinds on we continue to hear of companies doing mass layoffs here. Lately, the Island-based State Street Bank dumped about 100+ employees as they shifted operations to Sacto. Webcor, however, recently announced a move to Harbor Bay Island, with an unknown number of jobs to occupy an entire floor at 1751 Harbor Bay Parkway.

Mancini has got a part-time job working as a sawboy up at the Veriflo valve factory in Richmond. A sawboy is basically a journeyman machinist whose job is to cut fifty-foot alloy ingots into chunks that can be worked into unibody valves. Each day the truck pulls up and unloads by means of a crane these long rods of five-inch thick steel alloy, each weighing thousands of pounds, which Mancini cuts with a manual saw into nearly cubical shapes. The dies then got dropped into plastic trays to be sent down the assembly line for drilling.

The air is thick with the yellow/orange cutting oil used by the big ball-end Makita drills and Mancini has to shower down every day after work to get rid of the thick stuff in his hair.

Every day, Mancini rides up to the factory on the back of Pahrump's belching, coughing, knocking old Beezer before the sun comes up, and every afternoon Pahrump fetches him back along the San Pablo slot past the hookers and the body shops. Upon arrival Mancini then gives him a dollar for the gas and the trouble. And every Friday, Pahrump uses his weekly wages thus collected, minus gas, to buy a gallon jug of wine which he and Mancini and Occasional Quentin would polish off on the porch, weather permitting.

Xavier got a job working down in South City at the I Magnin distribution warehouse. This one began about 4 p.m. so Pahrump had plenty of time to gas up and haul him over for the minimum wage gig before dropping off Marsha at the Overnight Messenger dispatch office where she and a guy named Carlos maintained the radios for truckers and delivery nomads through the wee hours. Carlos came to work armed with a 9mm Beretta, which he would periodically pop off outside the door towards the swamp that lead down to the Bay. After catching some shuteye, Pahrump went through the cycle of pickup and deliver all over again, occasionally shifting to Sharon's beatup and very disreputable Tercel which had lacked its fifth gear for as long as anyone could remember when the Beezer was proving to be more than usually intractable.

Sharon worked as a crisis nurse at the Sausal Creek Psychiatric Clinic and usually was far too engaged to be concerned about her car.

"I AM GOING TO KILL EVERYBODY IN THIS ROOM, INCLUDING MYSELF! AND STARTING WITH YOU!" Sharon's last patient screamed. The man started taking off all of his clothes.

"Um, should I 5150 this guy?" Yolanda asked.

"No you don't" Sharon said, ignoring Yolanda. "You know you really don't want to hurt me. Just think how boring things would be."

Things got better with the man after that.

The bundle rolled from the car at the feet of Andre as he walked along the Strand, trying to forget the Troubles of Life.

A ragged figure emerged from the bundle. A young boy. The car's tires squealed as it tore off at the bend of Shoreline towards Oaktown.

"You okay?" Andre asked.

The boy paused, then said, "Nothing broken, nothing thrown. This time."

It looked like he had a few scrapes, nonetheless. "You going anywhere?" Andre said, a certain fatalism creeping into his voice.

"No place particular," The boy said.

"You might as well come along with me." Andre said.

"O, I know. You wanna DO me," the boy said. "That case, I want somethin' ta eat, first. I want something ta eat before anything."

"No I don't want to do you. Just want you to meet my girlfriend. Come on now."

"O that's kinky. But I want somethin ta eat first. I wan' a burger and some fries an' . . .".

"Don't worry. She'll feed you I guarantee."

"Okay now. You look funny with them rings and tattoos and stuff. You seem all right. What's up with the girlfriend?"

"Well . . . we are all kind of alike. And I expect you'll meet her approval. You need to meet her approval you know."


"Y'see she can't have no kids on account of what her daddy done to her. But you look all right. I guess you will do."

When they got to the Household on Otis, Marlene set to fussing right away. She set on a kettle to boil and got some pads left over from when Jose broke his leg the last time, and sneaked some painkiller from Javier's stash. The boy dove into the bowl of bread soup Marlene set in front of him like he was starving, which he probably was.

"How come you got tossed from the car," Andre finally asked.

"Didn't wanna go to the piss boxes with the old men no more," the boy said, while Marlene dabbed at a nasty gash above his eyebrow. An' I didn't like being beat up all the time like Sylvester my brother."

Marlene looked at Andre.

"Um where is your brother now?"

The kid looked wary. "Not sure I know nothing."

"We'll take care of him later," Marlene said.

Suan came home then, breezing through the door and shaking raindrops from her cape. "Who's this?"

The kid pushed the bowl away. "There's plenty left there. I didn't take all of it!"

"Well I see, there is plenty there. But I ate something at work already." Suan said.

"You not going to hit me are you?" The child said.

Suan looked at him. "No honey, I am way too tired even if I was of such a mind. You needn't worry about that."

As the weekend evening went on, household members drifted in from out of the rain-dappled streets. Andre held a House Meeting. "Folks I know its crowded right about now, and things are really tight, but seems we may have a new addition here and the rules being what they are, everybody has to agree."

Everyone looked over to where Suan had fallen asleep with the kid wrapped in her arms on the sofa. The vote was unanimous in favor of acceptance.

That's how Adam came to join Marlene and Andre's household.

They all knew that no family is complete without a child and they all knew that they were sorely incomplete as Islanders without one and lo! A manchild had been dropped in their collective laps. Consumatum Est.

Later that night Andre sat with Marlene at the table beside the guttering candles and the remains of the bread soup repast.

This isn't going to be like raising chickens, you know, Marlene said.

I know. This is most definitely not Turlock or Lake Wobegon. Love them or not, these are the people of the Island. This is our world. And if the Editor has any say in the matter, in this World peace, truth, justice and beauty will be the norms.

Right then the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the compassionate waves of the estuary and the tender wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.