“What’s on the menu for today, boss?” Jack asked as he stumbled over to the manager.
His boss didn’t mind him any attention and kept looking forward waving one hand as if he was actually doing something. Jack nodded whispering “asshole” under his breath and started up the makeshift stairs leading to his usual work station. He lights up a cigar on his way up.
It’s a long hike to the top of the building. Jack’s climb is slow and careless. He often wastes his work time away with monotonous activities like watching Jackie Chan movies on his cellphone and staring off into distant lands. On his way up his mind is still foggy from his lack of sleep and, of course, the whiskey. He slammed straight into another worker who was walking down the steps. The man staggered and grabbed onto the railing, saving himself from a long fall downward.
“Goddamn it bro wake up!” The man was wearing a bright orange hazard vest, puffy blue jacket with matching pants. His coffee took a tumble off the edge of the stairs. They both leaned over the railing to watch it splat onto the ground. “Better the coffee than me, ay?” he chuckled.
Jack was lost with words. He wanted to apologize but at the same time laugh at the guys’ subtle joke.
“Ay man you all right you look a little lost?”
“No. No,” Jack finally responded. “I—I’ve just had a little bit of a rough week. Hey man, I’m sorry but I don’t have anything to clean that jacket.”
“HAHAHAAA! What, for this piece a shit? We work in construction my man. It ain’t a fashion show. I want a new goddamn coffee though. It’s a struggle out here these days, every dollar gotta’ count. Hey, whatcha’ smokin’ there? IS THAT A MACUNUDO?! Damn where’d you get the money for those these days?”
He was tanner of the skin, rough skin, young but white in his beard. His smile was bright and it gave him an aura of warm jolliness that spread to whomever he conversed with.
“Hey, I didn’t properly introduce myself, I’m Mike.” With a big open smile he reached out his hand and kept it stiff in the air in front of Jack’s chest.
“Name’s Jack. And to be honest, I don’t exactly have the money for much of anything I buy.”
They shake hands. Mike grasps Jack’s hand hard and gives it a vicious shake. “It’s a damn pleasure to meet ya’ Jack; however, I believe you owe me one.” And then, he was off, skipping his way down the steps whistling a familiar song to Jack’s ears.
Jack’s eyes watched Mike and he skipped off. “Fuckin’ weirdo.” he said under his breath and turned back up the stairs.
When he reached the roof of the building, he walked out of a doorway that opened up to the words “Migration ERA” in Hollywood text overlooking the south side of New York City. The words were half painted red, stood thirty feet tall. To the right of the doorway were buckets and buckets of paint. Jack had been dragging this task on for two weeks now, not too much attention was set on him—or on any workers for that matter.
On this side of the city there weren’t many high-rising buildings, this was the largest one. The words towered over a large community of low-income housing complexes. Most of the people here were drafted into the army, but the ones who remained were over cumbered by financial struggle of the hard city life. Jobs were easier to come by now that the city was empty, but not for the lower classes. Life was still the same. People were still judged by the clothes on their back and the color of their skin. At this time, the culture of the city was veering off from being the melting pot. It was like an assorted box of chocolates—all separated by connected walls forming sectors in a grid. Most of the city was filled with low-income minorities who couldn’t afford to move and got lucky enough to not be drafted. The city was much different from what it was before the war, that’s for sure.
Jack grabbed two buckets of paint and hobbled his way over to a ladder stationed in front of the words. He set the buckets down and then gently strolled over to the edge of the building. It was time for his morning routine. He sat down on the edge of the building and kicked his legs over the side. It’s a wonderful view out to the Northern side of the world. But when Jack looks down he sees a ruin of a poor neighborhood underneath. His eyes focused on the greener side of the picture, to the side of the city rested a vast set of mountains in the far far lands away in the distance. The sky was gray, dark and cloudy. The air filled with a misty fog. It wasn’t the best weather for site-seeing, but Jack made no mind of it. He propped one leg on the ledge and lied on his back smoking his cigar. He drifted off into a light slumber as he puffed clouds of smoke into the sky above.
* * *
To be continued…