Chapter 17 – Day One

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The Los Alamos Landfill, like most landfills, was an ever-evolving work-in-progress. One mound of refuse that was marked by an old stove, a rocking horse, trash bags full of used Huggies broken open and rolls of really bad carpeting up on top might morph into shingles and brick pieces, plumbing and two-by-fours the next day, maybe just a little forward and to the right.

One wondered if any Lab refuse made it there. Maybe some scientists took home their work and rather than bring it back to the Lab for disposal. They just mix it in with their shredded paper, take-out containers, and volumes of newspaper and magazines.

It was a large enterprise, with enough regulations to make it a federal operation and while it was municipally controlled, might as well been a government job, given the influence the Feds had in Los Alamos. Trucks were continually coming in and out throughout the day. The dust stirred up was enough to choke a fish and the sound of the bulldozers redecorating the dump was about the only thing that you could hear.

When Scott had backed the truck up to where Todd indicated - way farther in than Scott was comfortable with - he shut the loud engine off and got out. Mikey was still standing guard atop the load and growled at Scott as soon as he came around the back.

“Cool it!”, Todd commanded. “Down!” The big dog jumped over the tailgate and onto the ground to stand before Scott, growling once again. Scott held his breath.

“Cienta te!” Todd told him. The dog sat, looking between Scott and Todd. “He’ll stay there no matter what. Let’s get this thing unloaded.” Scott was hesitant. Todd looked at Scott and then down at his shirt, pants, and shoes.

“The Brooks Brothers are gonna be pissed off at me!” Todd said. “You’re gonna have to go ahead and waste those duds, Dude, we’ll get you some proper work clothes when we go to Albuquerque.” Then he laughed. “Hey, that was good - waste those duds, Dude. Cool.”

Scott knew it would be bad form to protest, so he put on the ragged gloves Todd tossed to him and helped by unlatching the chain catch on his side of the tailgate. Without speaking any further, Todd began dragging out huge pieces of unidentifiable metal pieces and structures. But there was a huge amount of just plan trash in amongst the large pieces and it stank. And there was standing water in old tires that managed to slosh all over Scott’s nice Guess jeans. Todd would just chuckle from time to time when Scott would grunt as he tried to dislodge pieces of refuse from the seemingly solidified mound in Todd’s Ford.

For his part, Todd was a machine. He managed huge pieces of rusted steel with ease and worked non-stop and Scott was hard-pressed to keep up with him. Add to that the altitude thing and Scott was again winded before the truck was halfway unloaded. Fortunately, Todd did the work of three Scotts and Scott managed to stay upright without tapping out by the time the bed was empty. 

And I thought I was in pretty solid shape,” Scott thought to himself.

Todd pitched a dirty, worn broom to Scott that had been at the bottom of the heap. “Sweep her out and let’s vamanos!”

Scott climbed weakly up into the bed while Todd walked off with Mikey. He watched as Todd headed over to the entrance shack while he swept the remaining swamp water and gunk out of the bed. 

Todd was down low, talking into the window with the guy. Then Scott stopped and paid closer attention to Todd reaching into his back pocket for something before thrusting it inside the window and giving it to the man. Then he said something else and patted the window sill before turning around to come back. He saw Scott watching before Scott could look away and climb down from the pickup bed.

“Okay!” Todd exclaimed when he got to the truck. “Now we can go into town. Mikey, IN!”

The ride into town was the same as coming to the landfill, except that Scott was absolutely filthy and probably smelled like the muck in the truck bed. And Mikey. 

Todd rested his head back against the column behind the window. Scott kept his nose out  the window and for this ride, Mikey leaned against Scott and had his large head out the window behind Scott, occasionally turning his head to smell Scott and growl, leaving what was on his wet nose and muzzle on Scott’s neck.

At the lower speed limit in town, Scott had to lean even farther out the window to keep from gagging on the fumes. Todd was oblivious. The few people on the sidewalk all turned to look when the Ford rumbled by, curious looks sometimes turning to stares as they recognized the truck and its passenger.

Scott pulled into the large parking lot at Todd’s direction and pulled up against a melting six-foot pile of snow and ice surrounding a light pole.

“Roll your window up.” Todd said. “Mikey can get a little excited if people come around my ride. Especially little toddlers,” he added, grinning and raising his eyebrows.

~~~

Scott was standing in one of the aisles with his phone out and his list of supplies up, refreshing his memory of what they had to get. Todd found him in the aisle and came up to him with conspiratorial face.

“Okay, Chollo, here’s the deal,” he quietly said. “The checkout girl? Bobbie? I got you set up with her.”

Scott was blindsided. “What? What are you talking about? I’m going to go get some drywall tape and mud. Do you know where it’s at?”

Todd looked away and then back at Scott. “Dude! I’m telling you. I got her all hot and heavy for you. And besides, cool it, we don’t need any of that stuff. I got what we need to finish in the shed.” 

“Who the hell is ‘Bobbie’?” Scott asked. Todd guided Scott by the arm to the end of the aisle, which, of course, bugged the hell out of Scott. Todd secretively looked around the corner toward the checkout area.

“See the one in the red apron?” Todd asked, pointing his chin in the general direction.

Scott could see three checkout stations, only two of them staffed and both women had red aprons on. One of the two women at the cash registers was a blond woman in her late forties, not fat but not thin, either. Scott could immediately tell she was a smoker by the vertical lines on the top and bottom of her thin lips. She had a motherly smile and a pink sweater that had a Christmas wreath sewn on in patches.

“The Blond?” Scott whispered.

“No, Dude, come on.” Todd said. “The other one. The brunette. Bobbie.”

Scott looked over to the young woman he had passed over. “That’s the Bobbie who you’re talking about?” he said, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah,” Todd replied, pulling Scott back into the aisle. “She’s primed and ready to pump, dude,” he said, grinning.

From what Scott could see of the girl in that brief moment, he guessed she was in her very early twenties with fine, brown hair falling past her shoulders and up about one-eighty, he guessed. His own weight. But instead of six foot, she was about five-foot-four. She was big. That’s mostly what Scott registered - her size. 

“Uh, let me think about it,” Scott said, continuing from before. “Most of that drywall job has to be redone.”

Todd laughed. “You’re kidding! Don’t make more work than we need, Dude. And don’t think about it, you can’t escape fate. She’s gonna be yours. And soon.”

Ignoring that comment, Scott continued, “That drywall job looked like it was done by a drunk!” Scott said.

Todd thought about it a second and said, matter of fact, “Actually, yeah, I think he was drunk when he did that. I think I left too much beer for them that night. That’s all they were getting paid, though.”

“No wonder!” Scott said, exasperated and validated.

“Dude, we gotta get other stuff going before we look at that. We gotta finish the cabinets and counters so we can finish the tile and grout. Let’s just get some wood filler and small wood screws for now. I’ll get that. You go find some spackle. Get a big bucket of it. Then wait for me up front and chat her up.”

“But there are all these other things we need to get...” Scott said, holding up his darkened phone.”

I already got a phone, Dude,” Todd said, holding up his flip phone as he backed away with a quick smile, then turned to go down another aisle. Scott stood there with his phone in the air looking at it and said to himself, “I meant the list of things on my phone.”

~~~

Scott quickly found the spackle and headed up toward the cash registers. He stood a bit away - not in line - to wait for Todd and look at the list on his phone. There were many things he could get right then and there. He worried that this was going to continue this way, with Todd deflecting what Scott thought should be done. When he looked up from the list, he saw the cashier, Bobbie, staring at him. She smiled before turning to the other cashier. Scott looked back at his list, then to either side, looking for Todd.

Todd finally came strolling up to the checkout and motioned for Scott to join him. The older blonde was free, but Todd went to Bobbie’s register even though she was checking someone out. Scott could see that there was more than wood screws and filler in Todd’s big arms.

“What’s the chainsaw chain for?” Scott asked.

Todd looked down at it. “What, this?” he said. “It’s for the stump out front. Gotta cut it up first before we can blow it out.”

“What do you mean, ‘blow it out?’” Scott asks, concerned.

“Hey, don’t sweat it,” he said, turning to the register. Then the customer before them left and they slid all of their items up the conveyor. Todd smiled big at Bobbie, who was chewing gum to beat the band.

“Bobbie! Hey, this is the dude I was talking to you about. Scott. He’s from LA.”

Bobbie was confused. She popped a bubble and looked at Scott. “You mean you’re from here? I ain't seen you around at all ever. And I woulda noticed you, boy,” she said, dreamily. 

“I’m from Los Angeles, not Los Alamos,” Scott said. Bobbie’s eyes went big.

“Holy shit, that’s so cool!”

Scott did not know what to do with this as Bobbie scanned the items by muscle memory, her gaze never leaving him. Todd looked from Bobbie to Scott with that huge grin on his face. Scott was sure he was red-faced. He was sweating in his unzipped coat and then looked down at himself and the rust and grime all over his designer jeans, shirt, and hiking boots.

Scott saw that Bobbie was not embarrassed or put off in the least. At least she was not blushing and that allowed Scott to take note that she had facial skin like porcelain, as they say, and flawless. She also had a nice nose. But she was a big girl, though, and he couldn’t escape that one.

Todd elbowed Scott like they were the fourteen year-olds in Stranger Things.

“The total is $48.55 including state tax,” Bobbie said to Todd.

Todd looked at Scott. Scott looked at Bobbie, then at Todd. Bobbie looked at Scott, stretching her smile.

“Oh,” Scott got it. “Me.” He pulled his wallet out then with it in hand, asked Todd, “Didn’t Betti already...”

Todd interrupted, smiling. “Just pay, Dude. We’ll straighten it out later.” Then he turned to Bobbie. “Scott’s down to help finish the Bee house. He’s a good one, this hombre.” He put his beefy arm around Scott’s shoulders and squeezed as Scott handed Bobbie his credit card. Scott heard his shoulder crack.

“Yeah? He looks like a good one,” she said, flirting. “Fact, he looks like a great one.” As Bobbie handed Scott his credit card and receipt, she made sure to make contact with Scott’s hand.

As she bagged up the items, Scott looked at Todd who flipped his bushy red eyebrows up and down and nodded toward Bobbie.

“Thank you, sir. Hope to see you again soon,” she said, smiling.

Scott pushed Todd out of the check stand - a feat in itself with Todd’s size.

“I’m sure I’ll be in again sometime. Nice meeting you!” They got outside and to the truck before Scott would let Todd stop and talk to him.

“Scott, Dude. Why didn’t you ask her out?”

Scott shook his head. This was all too much for him. “Not into it, Todd. Leave it alone.” He looked back to the store and saw that both women were looking out at them, commenting to each other.

“Look, Chollo,” Todd began, “You can’t be too choosy up here on the mesa.” Todd’s blue eyes were bright and earnest, set into a pie-shaped face that always looked freshly scrubbed. “You gotta get it where you can and I got you an inside ticket to heaven there. She’s prime, man, and ain’t been around. You know, Compiche?” Todd said, trying to reason with Scott. 

“No. Todd, listen. Don’t do me any favors, okay? I just want to get this job done and Betti taken care of and get back home.”

Todd was offended and came back at Scott. “Don’t do you any favors, Dude? Dude, that’s all I’m doing for you with this deal. Doing you favors and screwing myself in the process.”

“What does that mean?” Scott asked, challenged.

“That means that I gotta stop work on all these other money-making projects to babysit you.”

“Well, you don’t have to babysit me. Go do what you have to do,” Scott said, putting the supplies in the back of the pickup. He opened the door to get in and Mikey was there, growling at him again. Todd told Mikey to cool it.

“What’s it gonna take to get him to stop thinking I’m a king size piece of meat?” Scott asked Todd, looking at Mikey.

“Bring him one,” Todd said, poker-faced.

“Bring him what?”

“Bring him a king size piece of meat,” Todd answered flatly.

Scott looked at the massive dog and remembered the package of meat in the snow. “Yeah, I guess that might do it.”

“Yep,” Todd offered. Then he said, “We’ll see if I have to babysit you or not. Betti said you might be a little green in this area.”

“I can hold my own,” Scott countered.

Not smiling, Todd just stared ahead. “We will see, compadre.”

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