job #36

          job #36
was in Philadelphia, a parts warehouse on Fairmount near
16th., 65 cents an hour, right after World War II, SNAP-
OFF-TOOLS, and the manager was a bright good-looking boy,
fine posture, raven hair, Tyrone Power features, his favor-
ite saving was:   “we do the impossible first and the remaind-
er later on!”   I asked to speak to him one day and I said to
him:   “look, 65 cents an hour isn’t very much, how about a
dime boost?”   he explained that they were on a limited
budget, it was impossible, they couldn’t do it, and besides:
“Tommy was getting 55 cents an hour.”   Tommy was a 16
year old albino with the middle finger missing (right hand)
(the most important finger).

I had to take the packages to the post office each after-
noon in a wooden cart with 2 big wheels and a handle in the
back.   I’d done that with bolts of cloth in New York city
but now where I worked was next to the bar I stayed in each
night until closing, and although I tried to sneak the cart
up the alleys somebody from the bar would see me almost every
day, usually a hooker:   “well, Big Time, where ya’ goin’ with
the backward rickshaw?   ha, ha, ha!”

I came in very hungover every morning and I silently and
viciously and efficiently did my work.   nobody bothered
me except deeply into the 3rd. week Tommy walked up and
said, “aren’t you happy? and I said, “happy?   why?” he
said, “I’m happy.”   “good,” I said, “go away.”   he said,
“you ought to be happy.” I asked, “o.k.   why?” he answered,
“because today is payday!”   “but Tommy, we’ve worked for it
all week…”   “I know, ” he said, “but you see… today we
get it all at once!”

it was early in the middle of the next week when I phoned in
sick.   I was sitting in the bar about 10:30 a.m. when Tommy
walked in to buy a pack of cigarettes for the manager.   Tommy
saw me in the bar mirror.   Marie, the hooker, was telling me
her troubles and buying me free draft beers.

I got to Tommy before he got to the door.   “look, kid, there’s
no need to tell anybody that you saw me here.”   “oh no,” he
said, “I won’t tell anybody.”

the next morning they let me work ten minutes, then the man-
ager called me up into the front office.   “you phoned in sick
yesterday and then you were seen at the bar next door yester-
day morning.”   I asked, “who saw me?”   “it doesn’t matter,”
he said, “what matters is that you lied to us.”   “no lie,”
I said, “I was very sick.”   “what were you doing in the bar?”
“a man can be very sick and a bar can be the best place he
can go to.”   “we’re letting you go.   you have 3 days pay
coming…”   he handed me a little yellow envelope.   they
always paid in cash like that.

in the bar I opened the little yellow envelope:   there were
two fives, three ones, three quarters and three pennies.

“shit!” said Marie, “you’re rich at last!   I’ll have a 7 with
a soda back!”   “give me 2 Buds in the bottle,” said Lilly the
lesbian.  “gimme a draft beer,” said the frogman.   “give me
a ten and water,” I said.

but the drinks came back as they always do in good places…

about 10:45 a.m. Tommy walked in for a pack of cigarettes.
16 is pretty young to buying smokes.   he saw me in the
mirror.   I got to Tommy before he got to the door.   I held
him by the arm and looked at him.   “I didn’t tell anybody,”
he said, “honest, I didn’t tell anybody!”   I let go of his
arm and he walked out.

when I sat back down Marie said, “molesting young boys now,

I told that yes I was and wouldn’t she like to come to
Camden with me that night to catch the fights?

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: