For the past 2 or 3 months, on my way to work, I have passed a slow-moving construction site, making it’s way at no pace at all up a road, reconfiguring something deep underground.
From what I can tell, there are 3 workers on this site, but rarely altogether. Mostly there are 2. The fat, younger one who mans the digger, and the old-timer – and I mean old-timer – who does the shovelling.
It’s the old-timer that interests me most. He must be in his 80′s. He could be late 70′s if he’s been working construction his whole life. His nose is long, and beginning to look cumbersome in the way it does when you get very old, so I am happy to pronounce him 80 plus.
I’m somewhat surprised at the company’s retirement policy. I’m surprised enough that I think that perhaps something else is going on here. In Shawshank redemption Brooks begs not to be freed from prison and the security of what he knows and perhaps this old-timer has done the same. Perhaps he’s on half pay, just to be working.
And he’s working. He’s doing all the work. But very slowly. It’s a joke. I would take a photo, but I’m not that kind of person. He digs so slowly – he turfs up a yoghurt-sized sprinkling of dirt each time. The younger one mans the digger and smokes. Today he read a magazine.
The old-timer won’t take a sick day. If he doesn’t come to work one day it will be because he is dead. I imagine his heart beating in his chest, and then I imagine it just stopping.
The third man on the site is another young one, but even younger. He’s big too, but in a youthful, strong way and he helps with the manual work. He doesn’t man the digger and smoke. If the old-timer didn’t show, I try to imagine the conversation between the two younger guys. I don’t think it would last long.
It’s interesting because they are knotted around this site. This slow-moving site that must have the street’s residents at their wits end. The whole site is being inched painfully up the hill by the old-timer, and sometime in the future it will be a road again. When the old-timer doesn’t show for work, the other guys will find a way to remember him. One will man the digger and smoke, the other will commence shovelling.
Julie Melton’s photograph is on a wall in our home. Her website is here.