Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

Finish my last year of school and start making some real money. Hell, I've handled this crap for a whole month so far. Now, if I just get through the day without getting fired, and hopefully without puking, I'll be golden.

A couple of guys pass by and mutter 'hi' under their breath. I say 'hi' back, still trying to hold down the contents of my gut. There's a lot of noise-men yelling, trucks roaring into the yard, the thumping of the packing machines. My head feels like a boiler under way too much pressure. I shuffle off in the direction of my workstation, but I'm taking my time, trying to ignore the damn smells and noises.

The essence of my job is twofold. I am a grunt. I unload sides of beef off trucks in the mornings and in the afternoons take huge racks of hotdogs off a washing apparatus and load them onto a conveyer belt for wrapping.

I got this job through a connection and basically get paid as a union guy but don't belong to the union. The union, by the way, is poetry. They have negotiated time off, vacations, breaks and benefits out the wazoo. You don't want to work too hard or you can hear it, "Hey fuckin' college boy, are you get­ ting paid by the box or the hour?" You see, all the nice gentlemen here would like to work at least one hour of overtime a day. At time-and-a-half, working one hour extra a day means getting paid six days for five days of work. Seems pretty slimy to me, but I don't have a wife and kids to support. Plus, management ain't exactly angels either.

My stomach gurgles menacingly. I know for a fact that I am so sick that I'm not going to make it today unless I get away from the stench that's weaving its way into my nostrils and into my digestive tract. Maybe I should have called in and taken my chances, but they just don't take that weak stuff from grunts. I'd be gone and I need this job. But if I get sick on the meat, I won't have much of a future either.

I decide to face up to my problem. I see Severan Reynard giving directions to two guys carrying a crate of ribs. Sev calls the shots on the floor. Sev doesn't say much and he really doesn't have to. He's 5'11" but seems bigger. He's got a body as wide as a truck with a decent size gut and skin so dark it actually looks black. His goatee is black and so are his eyes. His eyes are what do the commanding. When he wants something done, he opens those black eyes wide and points. The whites of his eyes are such a contrast to his other features that it shakes people. It's fuckin' freaky.

The funny thing is, Sev runs the place but he's not the real boss. Supposedly, there's a foreman. I haven't seen him yet but I heard he 's some lazy sack of shit that got "put" in the job. Sev doesn't have the title, but I guess running the place beats taking orders from someone else. Everyone, including the foreman, knows Sev's the best guy, so it just works. Word is he did some wild stuff in the Marines like 15 or 20 years ago. Obviously the guy has been around. Supposedly he's a pretty straight shooter; I figure that if I go and talk to him and let him know how sick I am, maybe I can pull some other duty today.

Sev is talking to Sal and Frank in the doorway of the employee lounge. The lounge is a large room with 20 foldout cafeteria tables. In the comer there is a soda machine, a candy machine and a table with a microwave. It doesn't look like the guys are saying anything monumental, so I figure this is as good a time as any to talk to Sev.

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