Disconnected

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Mollie Savage


Two pit bulls glared at me from the gray, grimy office area. The brindle stood, marched in my direction and commenced sniffing around and between my legs.

“Hello, pooch.” I tried my damnedest to stay calm. Dogs smell fear. I let my hand fall, palm open for his inspection.

“His name’s General.” The second pit bull, as gray and grimy as the machine shop I’d entered. Jack Winston, according to the name plate on the desk, said “Hep you?”

“I’m Sandy. With Precision Phone.” I said. My usual act was a forward greeting, shake hands, get down to business. I wasn’t sure if the General would favor that maneuver.

“You’re too early, ain’t been installed yet. ” Jack, seated, stared at me.

“I know, that’s why I’m here.” I waved my work order. Fucking new salesman, Ted, forgot to tell the customer that I was going to install their new telephone system. It always happens when I show up. Customers think I’m the training ‘gal’. Most get over it. Most of our systems go into clean, professional offices. Those are educated people. They’ve heard about the equality of sexes. I could tell this old dog hadn’t read a newspaper since the civil war.

General pushed his fat flat nose into my crotch. Shit, next thing he’ll be humping my leg. “Mr. Winston, do you think you could call General off? He’s getting a little too friendly.”

“Ain’t mine. Belongs to the boy.” The bastard got out of his chair, leered my way, and as he pushed open a grease encrusted metal door said, “He’ll be along shortly.”

General commanded my attention with his inquisitive sniffs and snorts.

“Dog, get the fuck out of here.” I looked into his beady brown eyes and roared, “NOW!”

“Hey little missy, don’t you be getting fierce with the General.” A younger version of Jack Winston smiled while he scritched General’s cropped ears. “So you’re Sandy. Ted told me he’d be sending his top notch installer. Didn’t expect a pretty little blond like you.”

He stared at my tits. I don’t wear a bra, never have. Those puppies are nice and firm. There was a time when men gaped at my boobs, I gaped at their, usually, less than bulging crotch. I learned. They consider it an invitation. Now I look them in the eyes and speak.

“Are you Jack Winston? I need to talk with him or this phone system won’t get installed today.”

“That’d be me.” He thumped a black oily thumb against the faded blue tee shirt clinging to his puffed out chest.

“Fine. If we can confirm where you want each phone and where the equipment room is, I’ll get to work.” I handed him the floor plan attached to my work order.

“What’s this mean, KSU?” He stepped beside me. Close, too close.

“Key Service Unit. The box that makes the phones work… goes in the equipment room. According to this” I stepped back, pointed at the pencil sketch of the office layout “it should be in a closet in here.” I turned the knob of a cheap hollow pine door and pushed it open. “And, let’s see. A phone goes on desk in here, one over there” indicating the old man’s perch, “and one in the shop area. Right?”

He nodded, scratching his unshaved cheek. “Yah, just replace the old ones.”

“Great. I’ll just scope out the equipment room and hop to it. ”

Before I could flick on the light, he grabbed my hand.

“Wait. You can’t. I mean, don’t go in there yet.”

“No problem. You’re the boss. I’ll bring in my stuff. Tell me when.” I flashed my pearlies. Hell, I don’t ask questions, don’t make demands on the customer. He probably has girlie pictures in there. Rednecks like him think we ‘ladies’ are offended by their little boy fantasies. I went out to my truck and commenced hauling in my tool box, ladder, spools of cable, and the boxes of telephone gear. Depositing all on the unmopped, unswept linoleum floor in front of Jack’s closed office door. I went back out for a smoke. Wasn’t my problem if the customer delayed the install.

I’d never been to the ship channel before. Houston’s inland port for petroleum presented a gloomy picture. Barges billowed black soot that swirled like soiled snow over cinder block buildings, sour sulfuric water puddle on the crumbling concrete streets. I was in the midst of repair alley. Pipefitters, machine retoolers, blade cutters and ice houses; where unhappy, underpaid workers bitch about the boss over quick can of Buckhorn Beer.

I flicked my half smoked Camel toward the dumpster. Better inside than out.

“It’s all yours.” A new version of Jack Winston walked out of the open office. No two day stubble; a clean green polo shirt, jeans with a sissy sharp crease, crocodile skin boots. Hot damn, he was one looker. “I’ll be back at 11:45. If you’re done by then, I’ll buy you lunch.”

“It’s a deal.” I shot him a wicked grin. I felt moist. Everywhere.

Two and a half hours. Half hour per phone, one hour for the KSU. My shoulders tightened. Half the normal time frame for a new install. I carried my green metal tool box into the Jack’s spartan office. No girlie posters on the walls, just a gray metal desk and chairs. Clothes were neatly draped over an oak Captain’s chair by the small, open closet. I stepped into the closed, let out a whistle and relaxed. What luck. Three pristine phone cables connected to Ma Bell’s interface. No need to run new cable if they all had continuity. Fifteen, twenty minutes per phone, max.

General poked his snout in my tush. Damn. We eyed each other. I reached down, slow. Real slow. Patted his big brown head, and scritched behind those poor cropped ears. I swear, he purred, like an overgrown kitten. Friends for life. “Okay, let’s do this job together General.”

He followed me like an obedient private. I worked with precision and speed. Checked cable continuity, rewired jacks, attached the KSU to the wall, punched the cables down on the mounting block. One hour. An easy hour ahead programming and testing. I went out for a Coke and a smoke.

Eleven thirty-five. System installed, work area cleaned and gear loaded in the truck. I scrubbed off dirt and sweat with some toilettes I keep in the truck, undid my pony tail and brushed the dust out of my hair. Be nice if I had a little ribbon or scarf to tie it up with, but no luck. I couldn’t complain, I’d been lucky so far. Got the job done in record time, and in a few minutes a free lunch with one hot dude. I sat on the tailgate humming while I filled out the paperwork the boss demands we turn in at the end of a job.

Eleven fifty-five. I lit a cigarette off the butt of the one I just smoked. What an asshole. A goddam stupid asshole. I walked over to the nearest ice house, bought a cold Buckhorn and joined the other unhappy workers bitching about the boss.

pencil

Mollie Savage lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her husband Joe, dog Frida Von Pumpernickel and The Caterina. In order to support her writing habit she is a Small Business Coach and operates an organic market garden. Mollie is currently working on a biography of a Missouri newspaperwoman. You can connect with Mollie at collage[at]townsqr.com.

Posted in Uncategorized