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Jerry looked better than any hog-faced man should,
a Porky Pig grin always on his face, happy to meet
us each time he came around to fix what had broken.
He knew torque and the mechanisms of heat
that kept our kitchens working, the assistant to
the ex-Merchant Marine who was the high priest
to the mysteries Jerry studied, these two heavy men
ministered across the central Arkansas chicken
franchise empire, putting us all back to work when
again and again a pressure valve blew and rained
scorching grease across the exhaust vents and ceiling,
when choking smoke or bubbling sewage stench
filled the kitchen’s air and drove us out, when what
was cold was too hot or what demanded heat was
too cold, their gruff grunting bitching voices called
forth whatever metal secrets they both knew and we
were fully ignorant of and they healed the sad sick
store so we could return to our yoke of business.
But Jerry needed more than his assistant’s salary
provided, a wedding and honeymoon approaching,
so he joined me on Friday and Saturday nights,
some extra hours for him helping me cook and clean.
I met his fiancé, a perfect Petunia to his Porky,
and his smile grew even brighter reflecting hers,
so I minded much less after meeting her that he
was paid three times what I made for following
my lead, his maintenance rate eleven dollars
an hour while I saw only three fifty at my best pay.
He hated washing dishes, the trays and wire racks
plastered with dried flour or slick with an evening’s
layer of grease, so I took the sink while he sprayed
the red brick tile with the steam hose, pushing
before him all the grime and soapy bleach water
toward the drain mouths at the back of the store.
He yelled out to me, something I don’t remember,
and I turned to see him spill forward, his left knee
leading the full weight of his body to the floor
and the point exploded with a shotgun blast, his
knee shattered and his screams following as he
rolled over in a heap of tears and pain. I called out
for help and the two girls working that night and
the assistant manager came running as I took
every clean towel I could find, piled most of them
under his head as a pillow and then began gently
wrapping the others around his blood-soaked jeans
where I could feel some sharp points of bone trying
to poke through the fabric. No matter how we pleaded,
we couldn’t convince the panicked assistant manager
to call for an ambulance, so he pulled his truck to
the back of the store and the two of us lifted Jerry up,
carried him to the bed of the truck where the girls
had spread clean aprons and towels to make a soft
pallet for Jerry to lie on. One of the girls got in back
with Jerry and the assistant manager drove them all
to the nearest hospital, leaving the other girl and me
with the keys to the store so we could finish closing,
so I could wash Jerry’s blood down the waiting drain.
copyright 2015 Jon Tribble
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