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Fiction #96
(published August 22, 2002)
Tart, part 4 of 4
by Roy Johnson

The next morning I went out in the garage and took my nailbag off the workbench and threw it in the back of my truck. I showed up for work with a mean hangover and purple flower around my eye. The Mexicans on the roofing crew laughed at me and shook their heads. I laughed back with them and grabbed my saw to get busy making some noise because I didn't want to talk about it. I pulled the trigger and the blade spun and sunk into the plywood ripper I was cutting for them and sawdust spewed across the concrete slab in front of my shoe. I pushed the board across the cutting table to Tomas.

"Como' esta tu novia joven?" Tomas said.

"It's over," I said.

"She hit you?" He pointed at my eye.

"Her brother."

"Sus hermano?"


He was quiet for a minute then shook his head and pointed his finger at me, "Heh-heh."

"Very funny. Take your damn plywood."

"You need good Mexican woman. Cook for you," he said as he took the plywood ripper up the ladder with him. He shoved it onto the new decking and when he got to the top rung he vanished onto the roof with the rest of his crew and I didn't see him again until quitting time.

When I finished wrapping up my orange extension cords and had the tools locked in the temporary shed I unhooked my nailbag and walked to my truck. Some of the roofers were already out there gathered around a tailgate drinking Budweiser in the shade. Tomas waved me over and I put my nailbag on my front seat and headed under the tree where they were talking. A wetback I didn't know held a beer out to me.

"Nah, I can't." I pointed my thumb behind my back at the ignition-breathalyzer inside my truck.

Tomas rattled off something in Spanish and held his fingers to his lips like he was blowing into an imaginary hose. They cupped their chins and slowly nodded at the technology he explained. The alcohol hummed through their veins like an electric current and they all began another excited conversation I didn't understand.

"Esta chica hace muchos problemos for you," Tomas said, pointing at my eye.

"I know, but it's over like I was telling you."

"My friends," Tomas passed his open palm toward the circle of wetbacks surrounding the tailgate, "We get this man for you if you want."

They nodded their heads rapidly and pumped their beers at my bruised eye. They watched me as I shifted my weight and lowered my eyes to the ground. Tomas took a long pull on his beer.

"Nah. It's okay. Thanks though."

Tomas put his hand on my shoulder and hugged me close.

"Gracias," I said.

He patted his heavy hand on my shoulder and handed me an unopened beer. "For later, when you home."

"Thanks," I said.

I backed away from their contagious grouping of fellowship before I ended up having some beers and not being able to start my truck. They all raised a hand at me and I raised one of mine and turned my back and got in my truck. I pushed my nailbag across the seat and a pink slip of paper fell out. I unfolded it and read: YOU'RE NOT AS OLD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE. I put the beer beside me on the seat and went through the ritual of starting my truck and drove home listening to some country music.

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The Next Fiction piece (from Issue #97):

On Parables
by Franz Kafka (with brief commentary by syndicated advice columnist the Giant Squid and Rob, his lab assistant)

The Last few Fiction pieces (from Issues #95 thru #91):

Tart, part 3 of 4
by Roy Johnson

Tart, part 2 of 4
by Roy Johnson

Tart, part 1 of 4
by Roy Johnson

The Love Letters of Jack Warren and Devon March, part 6
gathered by Riley Hoffman and Morgan Johnson

The Love Letters of Jack Warren and Devon March, part 5
gathered by Riley Hoffman and Morgan Johnson

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