Odd Jobs

Meagan Maguire 

He affixed a sign to his trailer. “Odd jobs wanted,” it said. Painted in lumpy white paint on some old scrap wood. His name was Dwayne. Just Dwayne. He was fifty-two, antsy about getting too old to do odd jobs. He wheezed in the morning.

But there was no choice in it. Kelly, his youngest, had moved home with baby Ian in tow. Her boyfriend had left her and Dwayne would be damned if he failed them too. They would not go without. He had always managed and even if his knee was giving out and his lungs burned he would manage still.

The next day was too warm. Flies choked up the air in the trailer. He got the three of them out of the house early and they spent a few golden hours at the town beach. Ian tried to eat pebbles, shoving them into his chubby mouth. They got home in mid-afternoon. It was so hot Dwayne began to sweat before the lake water had fully dried off, forming an uncomfortable blended dampness down his neck and back.

Kelly sat the baby in the grass, which he uprooted gleefully in little fistfuls. Dwayne stood in the driveway, enjoying the sight of them laughing, forgetting for a second his beer gut, his hurt knee, his lungs, the little bit of luck that separated them from the streets, and the odd job that needed to come in.

Just then an Audi pulled into the driveway. It was black, with chrome rims and tinted windows. Three men came out. Well, he supposed they were men. They might have been boys. All three wore boat shoes, khaki shorts, and button-up shirts. They were tanned and healthy. With their red-faced joviality, he figured they were a bit drunk.

“Hey buddy,” one said. He had mirrored aviators resting on his head like a crown of laurels.

Dwayne looked on blank-faced as the guy doubled over laughing, soon joined by his bros. Kelly watched from the grass. Even the baby had stilled.

A full minute passed before they were composed. “Hey,” the guy started again. “You looking for an odd job?”

“Yes, I am,” said Dwayne. His mind filled with visions of big tips fixing up these kids’ vacation home.

“Well, I got an odd job for you, man.”

“Brian, don’t fucking do it,” said another one. But his tone of voice egged his friend on.

“You can suck these nuts, bitch!”

All three burst out in laughter. They fist bumped each other. Brian oozed smug triumph.

“I think you better go, boys,” said Dwayne, quietly. The three laughed harder. Kelly brought Ian into the house. He was thankful they hadn’t targeted her. And, selfishly, he was grateful she had left before she could see how he burned with shame. What he might have done if he was still a young man, still strong.

“Please leave, boys.”

“Alright you old cocksucker. Don’t worry. We’ll leave. You can get right back to fucking your daughter in your fucking trailer.”

He watched them leave. He didn’t realize until the Audi was out of sight how cold he was, or how gray his chest hair had become, or how much he missed feeling like something more than a grub dug out from under the safety of its rock to shrivel in the sun.