12-نقاش خانهکتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 12
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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متن انگلیسی فصل
When the beast-feeding finally got to me, my friend Jeff suggested I work for his dad, a housepainter who needed help on the weekends. I’d met Jeff in the West Valley Division of the Los Angeles Police Department Explorers, a branch of the Boy Scouts. He was Native American, and his last name was Redman, and he was able to joke about it. He was cool and streetwise, with a strong mischievous streak. His dad, Jim, was a man of few words.
On our first day together, a Saturday, Jim picked me up at 6:00 a.m., and we rode in silence to an industrial building, a job he’d already started. When we began, he tossed a rag to me and said, “Soak that in turpentine and keep it in yer back pocket. Any time you make a mess, clean it up right away. It’ll be your best friend.”
“Okay,” I said. Made sense.
We finished day one at dusk. I was beat. And uncomfortable. By the time Jim picked me up the next morning, I had developed a mysterious rash on my backside, raw and itchy and irritating as all hell. On the drive to work, he noticed me scratching my sore left ass cheek.
“What’s the problem?”
I told him that I didn’t know, but something probably bit me or else I was having some kind of allergic reaction. I glanced his way and caught a slight smile crossing his lips. We sat in silence for a while—easy for men to do. But why would he be smiling? Then it dawned on me. He told me to keep the turpentine-soaked rag in my back pocket. It was the turpentine! That bastard did it on purpose!
I didn’t say anything. I took it as some type of initiation. But I did find another location to stash my turpentine rag.
One day after quitting time, we didn’t go straight home. Instead, Jim drove to a far-flung neighborhood. In the alley behind a row of tract houses he slowed to a stop and got out of the truck. I wondered where he was going but didn’t say anything. I had become accustomed to his taciturn ways. He peered over a fence and then came back into the truck cab. He handed me a lunch-sized brown paper bag and told me not to open it. “Just take it up onto the bed of the truck. When you’re up there, look over the fence and you’ll see a swimming pool. Toss the bag into the pool, then come on down and get back in the truck.”
The task seemed simple enough, and I knew why he asked me to do it instead of doing it himself. The years of physical labor had beaten him up pretty badly. He had limited mobility in his arms.
I began to ask what was in the bag. “Just go on,” he said, and I did as my boss instructed, hopping into the back of the truck and peering over the tall fence that separated the homeowner’s property from the alley. I saw that it was an easy fifteen feet to the pool’s edge, so the throw had to be at least that. Better to be long than have it land on the deck or a chair. I flashed back to how disappointed one-armed Leroy had been after I’d botched it with the newspapers. I couldn’t mess this up. I weighed the bag with my hand and determined that it was heavy enough to toss underhand, like a horseshoe. I gauged the distance several times, thinking it all through, and finally Jim got impatient. “What the hell are you doing up there? Throw the goddamn bag.”
I took a deep breath and I tossed it high into the air. It felt good. It looked good. It WAS good! Right in the middle of the pool. Swoosh. YES! I quietly pumped my fist and scampered down and into the truck’s cab. As Jim drove off I waited for an explanation. When that wasn’t forthcoming, I asked. He nodded and smiled. “Inside the bag was dried India ink,” he said. When the paper got saturated and fell apart, the powder would expand and bloom and spread throughout the pool, finally settling on the plaster siding and bottom and permanently staining it. The owners would have to drain the pool and sandblast the entire surface to remove it. That’s why he told me not to open the bag. It would have stained my hands. He explained that he’d painted that house nearly a year ago. He’d tried again and again to get them to pay, but no dice. This was his way of closing the account.
On another occasion, Jim picked me up and we went to a small market that opened early. He grabbed a couple sodas, a few packs of cigarettes—the man could smoke—and six whole mackerels. An odd selection of groceries, but as I had come to know Jim . . . not that odd. I didn’t even bother to ask.
We drove to an unoccupied two-story modern in the Mount Olympus area off Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. We parked on the street in front of the house and Jim told me to grab the ten-foot ladder. He retrieved the hidden key from the planter near the back door and marched upstairs—I instinctively knew to follow. He pointed to a spot in the middle of the upstairs hall. I opened up the ladder on exactly that spot. He told me to climb up and open the air conditioning’s intake grill. I did. The filter plopped out of its resting place and I handed it to him. As I steadied myself about eight feet off the ground, I heard crinkling. I looked down and saw Jim removing the wax paper from the mackerel.
He calmly instructed me to throw the first one inside the AC ducting in one direction as far as I could. I threw it and we heard it slide fifteen or maybe twenty feet. He handed me another cold dead fish, this time telling me to send it down a different duct. I threw three fish in three directions. I replaced the filter and reaffixed the intake grill’s clasp. We methodically moved to the downstairs intake and repeated the steps. Three fish—three directions.
We returned to the truck and drove for a while in silence. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I asked what it had all been about. “No other fish stinks like mackerel when it rots,” he said. They’d only expunge the smell by replacing all the air conditioning ducts and compressors. The whole system. It was another nonpayment situation. I asked if he ever tried small claims court. He smiled wider than I’d ever seen him smile. “We just did.”
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