Help Wanted: Contestant #3

broken_bikeArriving on an old beat up bicycle, this contestant already had me worried. My ad specifically stated “must have valid and clean license and reliable transportation.” Nine times out of ten, if a guy shows up on a bike, said guy has no license. And by the looks of his bike, his transportation was more lethal than reliable. But my optimistic side said maybe he’s that special one guy out of ten who chooses to rally for a clean environment by riding/dragging a bike to work each day. He wore a Nirvana tee shirt and surf shorts covered with blue and orange flowers. Nice touch, right? His hair was cropped close to his skull and he wore no hat. Whatever brains he had were going to fry on this 105 degree day. Huge dark glasses covered his eyes and a cigarette hung from his mouth. He smiled and introduced himself as Al. I noticed that at least he had all his teeth.

I had Al use the push mower, an old but reliable Cub Cadet.mow1 “Go into the back yard of that house and cut the grass. When you’re done, grab the edger and do that house plus these other three. You know how to use an edger, right?” Al glanced into my trailer, spotted the stick equipment and said, “You mean that over there?” I had no idea to which tool he was referring, so I yanked the edger out of the rack, shoved it toward his face and said, “I mean this. The edger.”Al wiped the sweat of his forehead and nodded. “I can edge.”  “Okay,” I said, already losing patience, “get going.”

He disappeared into the designated back yard and I started mowing the surrounding yards. As I finished my first yard I looked toward the trailer and noticed Al had not returned with the push mower yet. Figuring it’s his first day and he’d be slow, I continued onto the next yard. Upon completion of that yard I saw he’d still not finished his task. That did not bode well. I shut off my mower and walked toward the trailer. As I took a drink of dogwater I saw Al stumble out of the back yard, soaked in sweat and panting like a dog that’d just retrieved a ball from a mile down the road. He stopped to catch his breath and lit a cigarette to help regulate his breathing. He limped back to the truck and said “That mower’s a bitch to use…” I smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s a great mower, isn’t it!”

Al swayed a bit, and I swear I could see bubbles forming on the top of his head, like water getting ready to boil. “You okay?” I asked, not wanting to request the services of 911. He took a drag off his cigarette and sputtered, “You know, I only got one lung.” I didn’t even flinch. It all made perfect sense. Another pull on his smoke and he continued, “I was in a car wreck last year and they had to remove a lung.” He was still struggling for breath as I gently walked him toward his bike. I pulled a twenty dollar bill from my pocket and gave it to him. I turned his bike around, aiming it away from my trailer, away from my accounts and away from me, helped him climb on, and gave him a little shove. He made shaky progress, juggling a fresh smoke in one hand, a lighter in the other.                            Goodbye Contestant #3.

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