Works For Me!

Life On The Back Page - April 2023

Daryl Gay | April 1, 2023

It seems to be a fact of everyday life—EVERYDAY—that wherever breakfast is served in establishments open to the public, one can stumble upon, over, around and through a gaggle of gents confidently curing the world’s ailments. One by one. Despite the fact that they’re all talking at the same time.

Did I say gaggle of gents? Possibly I meant collection of codgers. Drove of dimwits. Swarm of simpletons. Pack of pinheads…

Pardon me if I seem unsympathetic; all I wanted was in and out. With a biscuit.

Unfortunately, they all know me; that I’m always on the hop, places to go, things to do, people to see. Besides them. But I was either too slow or not competently camouflaged…

“THERE HE IS! And he’s got his thinking cap on, too! (See what I mean? GON does NOT spell t-h-i-n-k…)

So let’s make it as painless as possible.

 “I can’t believe you boys have run up against something you don’t have an answer for. What can I help you with?”

Red Suspenders speaks up. (They are in place, by the way, not to support his massive belly but to  enhance it in sartorial splendor. Modish, he ain’t.)

“Unemployment! You still working?”

This should be easy.

 “Every day. Til I die. Plan is to officially retire on my 100th birthday but continue freelancing until I  get et by a bear or some such.”

Coke Bottle chimes in. (It’s the glasses, you see. And what HE can see is Mars. Far side.)

“So what we’re wondering is why every other winder in town has a HELP WANTED sign in it. Right beside the apology sign for being short-staffed. Any idees?”

Yes. But Pandora ain’t opening this box.


White Socks slips slyly between me and the door. (They’re pulled up within 2 inches of his knees, just shy of baggy, threadbare shorts hanging below said knees, providing approximately 1 inch of year-round leg tan.)

“You know, I remember yore granddaddy, Pap. Did he ever retire?”

Weak spot, there; bringing Pap into this was a low blow. OK, so I got five minutes…

“Worked most of his life in the cotton mill, retired with a pat on the back and a Bulova, bought a 20-inch push mower the next day and started doing yard work in the  mill village. Walked the roads and picked up bottles to sell (2 cents a pop!) before everything went plastic. If he could make a dollar using his back and brain, it was deposited.”

Secretariat dips even lower. (Man, who CARVED those teeth???)

“And your Daddy never stopped building, did he?”

“Everything from condos at Jekyll to doll furniture when he couldn’t lift anything heavier. If him and Pap could have outworked cancer, they’d still be at it.”

And from the third table comes, inevitably, the silky smooth voice of Elvis. (Decked out in the same bellbottoms purchased in 1970, and I think he must’ve raided Ma’s stash of coal-black Rit dye for that pompade. Her lard can may be missing a glob, as well.)

“So we’ve established that you come from a long line of working folks and don’t seem to know any other way of getting things done. Any suggestion of how we could begin to remedy this problem?”

Hmmm. Well now, let me see…

“Just mebbe. Tell you where to start, and you can get back to me with a full report, because I got some questions gnawing at me, too. 

“Ride out—that means all of you are going to have to get up—to that big old store where your wimmenfolk like to shop and gossip. When you get to the parking lot, look for the first little tree on the left. There’ll be a feller laying under it. Probably got his cap pulled down over his face. Dog tied to the tree. 

“About every two hours, as soon as he’s done napping, he’ll get up and mosey on to the entrance so that everybody can see him as they drive in. There will be a sign in his hand, listing but a small fraction of the ordeals he’s somehow survived. Why, compared to this guy, Job—not in any way, shape or form to be confused with job—was plumb lucky.

“Now, I need these answers:

1. Who wrote that sign for him? Because it’s for sure he can’t read the ones that got you ol’ boys so agitated in the first place.

2. What’s the day’s total on folks he dupes, er, persuades, to stop and drop off paper or silver?

3. How many have done it more than once in the two years he’s laid up under that tree?

4. Can’t he find a better tree? Across the road there’s a small hardwood-bordered creek that runs through uninhabited territory; he might even could catch a fish for supper. Alas, that’s a couple hundred yards away; shape he’s in, no way he’d ever make it that far.

5. How much of the day’s take goes for Alpo?

6. Do they eat out of the same can?

7. Is there an uglier dog on the planet?

Figgered that would keep them busy for a spell; long enough for me to evacuate the premises. Besides, none are so dumb that they don’t frequently come up with the perfect solution to each and every problem. It’s just that, what with all that coffee, they forget what it was en route to the potty and back.  

But I do have one final question: “By the way, any of you boys need a job?”

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