“Listen here pretty boy,” Eddie said. “I’ma tell you how this garage works. In fact, listen long enough and I’ma tell you how the world works…wait, what’s your name again?”
“Chris,” the boy Eddie called pretty said. Chris was still trying to figure out why Eddie pronounced garage gairage with two distinct syllables and he watched as Eddie leaned over and spit in the trashcan beside the car Eddie was working on.
“Shit,” Eddie sighed. “Chris. Chrissss. Chree-iss…” Eddie rolled each pronunciation over and over as if searching for something to strike him as acceptable. “Nah, fuck it. We’re just going to go with Pretty Boy. Right Carl?”
From under a raised hood across the room, a voice answered, “Mmhmm.”
“Hot damn Carl, at least show Pretty Boy your ugly ass so he knows who he’s talking to. Shit,” Eddie said and spit again. Chris stood in amazement, leaning on his pushbroom. He’d never heard anyone talk like Eddie before. Words, and their pronunciations, didn’t seem to matter. Everything that rattled off Eddie’s tongue was a stream of words that resembled English, but a kind unlike any Chris had ever heard and this was Chris’s hometown. The breaks, punctuated by a brief silence and then a spit, had their own rhythm as well. What struck Chris was, for as weird as all of this was to him, he understood exactly what Eddie was saying.
Carl stood up from behind the hood, and tipped a slight wave to Chris. “Don’t mind him, that’s just fuckin’ Eddie man.” Carl huffed and then bent back to work, “fuckin’ Eddie.”
“Now see here Pretty Boy,” Eddie said, “that damn Carl’s no joke. I seen his old ass stoop-slap the sheriff and run from a gang of them little folk.” Eddie was leaning on the passenger side of the open hood, intently working on the beater in front of him. When Chris didn’t respond, Eddie snapped his head up and eyed him cautiously.
Chris saw Eddie eyeing him and said the first thing he could think of. “Kids or midgets?”
There was silence for a moment. “Come on Pretty Boy,” Eddie laughed, the brief uneasiness broken. “Everybody knows you can’t say midgets anymore. They’re little people. Right Carl?”
“Mmhmm,” Carl said.
“An’ hot damn if he doesn’t love ‘em,” Eddie laughed.
Chris heard Carl muttering “fuckin’ Eddie” quietly as Eddie, tickled with himself, just giggled as he set back to work.
“So where was I Pretty Boy,” Eddie asked. “Your skinny ass think you could sidetrack me?”
“Nah,” Chris said. (Although he wondered if Eddie ever stopped talking.) “You were going to tell me the way this gair-age worked.”
Eddie peered up again, an unsure look on his face.
“Oh, and, you know, if I was lucky, how the world works too,” Chris continued.
Eddie huffed, “Okay then.”
“Aww Eddie, what’s the matter,” Carl piped up. “Pretty boy got your tongue?”
“Goddamn Carl, you just tend to your business and go get some quiet time with that Li’l Uns magazine you got stowed in your lower drawer, you ain’t foolin’ anybody,” Eddie called back. “Pretty boy’s got to hear this soon enough, cause I ain’t sending his green ass out in the world without the wisdom I can impart.” Eddie winked at Chris, who was relieved Eddie didn’t take the mocking seriously.
“So the way this garage works is you, me, and goddamn Carl over there is on the level. None over, or under, the other. You sweep and get the carwash set, we do the real work and all’s square. Above us is the ‘Heyboss,’ Mr. Locke.”
“Why is he the heyboss?” Chris asked, feeling stupid for not knowing.
“Shee-it pretty boy, because if you need anything all you have to do is say ‘hey boss,’ and he’ll do like every other ‘heyboss’ does,” Eddie said.
Eddie spit again. “Say no.”
Carl laughed from the other end of the garage. Chris watched as Carl scooted by a hulking shape under a tarp. Chris never would have seen him if Carl hadn’t laughed. Chris was surprised though. Watching Carl, Chris saw the way the bigger man slid deftly around the corner, as if not wanting to even brush the shape under the tarp. Safely past it, Carl went back to work and Chris turned his attention back to Eddie who had kept on talking even though Chris hadn’t been paying attention.
“-tight ass son of a bitch, but he keeps us paid and the lights stay on here. Plus he lets us work late,” Eddie finished.
“Why’s that matter?” Chris asked. Eddie didn’t seem like the type to ever want to work late.
“Two reasons: A. We can drink after hours. 2. That’s when me and Carl can work on our own project.”
“You talking about the tarp?”
Eddie shut up. He eyed Chris again. “Pretty Boy what you know about it?”
“Nothing,” Chris said. “I just saw Carl skating by it as if it would break and I didn’t know if y’all were trying to make you a girlfriend out of spare parts and some extra lube.”
Eddie laughed. He shook his head and leaned back to his work. The last thing he said before the silence that drifts over a workplace when everyone is actually working was:
“Nah pretty boy, but by the time we’re done I just might want to fuck it.”