Blue Collar

“Come on down from thar, Buck!” Wayne Crenshaw hollered up to the roof from down on the grass. “Sometin’s wrong with Ozzie!”

Buck walked over to the edge of the sloping shingle, his safety harness following behind him like an obedient snake, to shout down to his boss.

“What?!” he hollered, orange nail gun still in hand.

“I said come on down from there! Something ain’t right with Ozzie.”

Buck took off the rope, something he’d normally never wear at a job out in the country, unless like now when the slant was very steep, and raced down the metal steps of the ladder, making them clang beneath his work boots.

“Where’s he?” Buck said, wiping his nose with his free hand.

“O’er here, c’mon.”

Oswald lay under the trees on the brittle brown leaves from the past autumn, heaving his chest up and down and uttering pained moans from dry, chapped lips.

“The hell’s the matter wit ‘im?”

“Fuck knows,” said Crenshaw. “He just fell down like this after goin’ the woods fer a piss. Reckon we should call an ambulance?”

Ozzie moaned louder, something like words.

“What?” Buck said. “What is it, Ozzie? You dyin’?” He leaned down toward the greening man.

Ozzie moaned again and rose from the leaves in a start, plunging his teeth into the other’s shoulder. Buck screamed and blood gushed from the wound, pouring down over his work shirt and staining the mouth biting him bright red.

“Jesus fucking Christ Oz! What’s got induya?!” Crenshaw took off his old ball cap and swatted at the man, hitting him in the face over and over to little effect. Buck continued to scream and struggle but it did nothing to loosen the vice grip of the teeth sunk in the meat of his shoulder.

“Get him off!” he screamed. “Christ, get him off! Fuck!” Buck punched Oz in the face with his other fist, over and over again, and blood poured from his assailant’s nose, mixing with his own.

Suddenly the stillness around the cottage was broken by a loud thwap, and Ozzie’s body fell back against the dry leaves again, making them rustle beneath it. Crenshaw stood, holding the nail gun limply at his side.

“What the fuck was that?!” Buck said, standing. He held his bleeding shoulder with his hand. Already his shirt was soaked with red. “I need to get to a fucking hospital.”

Wayne Crenshaw stared into the rustling leaves of the forest, then looked down solemnly to the lifeless body before him.

“Shut the fuck up, son,” he said, and dropped the nail gun onto the grass beside him. “Now we’s got ourselves a bigger problem.”

Somewhere off in the forest, a bird sang.

 

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