So how did my weekend celebration go? Well, I have fireworks arm.
"What is fireworks arm?"--you might ask?
Fireworks arm is a benign condition that one receives--particularly during the Fourth of July holiday--upon repeatedly throwing lit fireworks. The following morning it is noticed that certain muscles belonging to the "throwing arm" are now sore.
Do you have this, too? If so, don't worry. Fireworks arm goes away in a day or so.
Today's featured writing is the ending to our five-part short story, Community Service. As promised, I was sure to make the ending exciting. If you haven't done so already, be sure to scroll down to earlier posts to ready stories 1 through 4.
The frightening moment was quickly ended with Rich's cell phone ringing.
"Oh, it's the boss." he informed. "Hang on; I've got to answer this." Although he certainly shouldn't have been talking on the cell phone while driving, Rich pressed the answer button and greeted, "Hello... Yeah... Yeah..." Rich sighed, "Right now…? You mean as soon as we reach the next job and get everyone started...? And he's got no one else that can do this for him...? No, it's not a problem... Tell him I'll be there in about twenty minutes or so... Alright... Bye..."
As soon as Rich ended the call, he slammed his fist on the steering wheel. "Son of a bitch!" He was not happy. "I do not want to deal with this today!"
"What?" inquired Beth. She was curious as to what instructions Joe had given Rich that would have made him so irate.
"It's a long story." answered Rich. "You see; once upon a time, Joe teamed up with another guy named Bill. But they ended up going their separate ways. They still get along, and they sometimes work deals to take on large jobs together. This usually means that I or one of the other guys for Square Deal Landscaping has to report over to another work site to help Bill."
"I see..." commented Beth.
Rich continued. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Bill is actually gay. Well, people just joke about him possibly being gay; but I firmly believe that he really is. Whenever I work alone with him, he's got this bad habit of getting close to me and touching me. He really puts the moves on me, you know? I've asked him to stop, but he says he's only joking with me."
As Rich explained this, Beth couldn't help but smile to herself. What did Rich think he had been doing with her and Tricia throughout the morning? What made him think that they appreciated it? Well now Rich was going to get a taste of his own medicine. Unfortunately, he did not have the psychological mechanisms to draw this parallel, and finally understand. Surely, Rich would only endure whatever time he had to spend with Bill, and never think about what he had done to Beth and Tricia. Rich was too selfish to consider this.
"You would think that if he pissed me off every time I worked with him that I could just kick his ass and teach him a lesson." Rich continued. "But Bill is a weight lifter. He's really strong and built like a brick shit house. One time I tried shoving him to tell him to knock it off. He just wrestled with me and pinned me on my back. Then he pretended to joke with me by sticking the crotch of his pants in my face while telling me to suck it. I wanted to murder him at that moment. But he was just like, "Oh, come on! Can't we have a little fun? I think you take things too seriously. I told Joe about it, but he pretty much says the same thing."
Rich slammed both fists on the steering wheel a second time. "Son of a fuckin' bitch! What did I do to deserve this?"
Just then, the breathalyzer sounded an alert which required Rich to supply a sample of his breath. He reached for the mouthpiece and blew in.
"Pass!" exclaimed Rich. "At least one thing is going right today.
With Rich gone for the greater part of the afternoon, things were actually quiet and peaceful for Beth and Tricia. Don simply did his work with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and having sips of mystery booze in between. As for John, he was actually a gentleman—extending kindness and courtesy to both girls throughout the afternoon. For that matter, Beth chose not to find an opportunity to hide and use her cell phone to call out for help. Maybe they had seen the last of Rich and could finish their eight hours of community service in peace.
But then around 4:45 in the afternoon—already two hours past the required eight hours—Don announced in a half-slurred, drunken voice, "I guess you girls need to come to Edgewater with us and finish the day."
"What???" complained Tricia. "We did our eight hours. We shouldn't have to do anything else. I want to go home! I'm done!"
"Just let 'em go." persuaded John to Don.
"I totally agree with you all..." answered Don with a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his mouth—ashes waiting to fall on the ground. One could tell that Don was now drunk. He had difficulty standing upright. "I'm not the one making this decision. It's Joe, the owner. He says he's not signing off on your community service until you finish up the day at Edgewater."
"It's easy work." reassured John to both girls. He sensed how irate they had become. "I'm really sorry that you had to experience all of this today. And I'm sorry the boss isn't being fair with you."
"Edgewater is condo complex that has a small, man-made beach for kids to play at near the pool." explained Don. "All you need to do is hang out over there and act like you are pulling weeds. John and I will mow the lawns and bag the grass. I'm sorry... Just like John said, it sucks you have to put up with this shit today. Fair enough?"
"Fine!" agreed Tricia in an irate voice.
"Yeah, that's fine." added Beth in a disappointed voice.
Now you probably wonder how four people managed to drive from job to job in the cab of one pickup truck throughout the afternoon. Well, let's just say that it was a tight squeeze! John drove with Beth pressed up tightly against her side. Tricia sat wedged between Beth and Don, who sat in the passenger seat with cigarette dangling from his mouth. It was hot and sweaty! The cigarette smoke made it impossible for everyone else to refresh after each job. Tricia could not wait for her day of hell to finally end.
At about quarter to six—going on eleven hours of community service for the day—Beth and Tricia stood leaned over on the small, manmade beach of Edgewater while pulling up weeds. As John promised, both he and Don mowed the property. John walked behind the wide hydraulic-powered mower. Don drove the riding tractor mower.
"This sucks!" complained Tricia.
"I know..." agreed Beth. "They have no right to keep us here. But we are almost done. And hopefully we don't have to see Rich anymore."
Unfortunately, Beth spoke too soon. Just as she had said that, both girls spotted the second truck with trailer belonging to Square Deal Landscaping pull into the site. It was Rich who hopped out of the cab as soon as he parked. From a distance, one could see invisible flames of anger and rage dance around his body. The sunglasses nearly melted off his face as his eyes equally burned to match the rage. He picked up a nearby bucket that was half filled with grass clippings and whipped it at the side of the trailer. Clippings fell out, of course.
Rich opened the side door of the trailer and reached for a gas-powered blower. Rather than use it as a landscaping tool, he repeatedly beat the side of the truck with it.
Then he looked over to the girls who cautiously observed from a distance, "Tricia!" he shouted.
"Oh jeez..." she commented before answering. "What???"
"Get your ass over here and pick up all of this shit, now!"
Tricia wanted to point out that it wasn't she who dumped the bucket. But the day was almost over. She felt it was best to cooperate. "Okay..." she called out while walking towards the truck.
But then Rich pulled a shovel out from the trailer and began to violently beat the half-emptied bucket of grass with it. He was looking for anything to punish at the moment; release the anger and frustration of being harassed by Bill throughout the afternoon.
Tricia momentarily glanced behind her at Beth with a terribly worried look. "I don't know if I want to go over there..."
"I SAID, NOW!" shouted Rich.
"I'll come with and help you." promised Beth as she ran over to Tricia.
Both girls nervously approached the area where Rich continued to beat the company trailer and landscaping equipment with shovels, brooms—anything he could get his hands on. There was just no end to the fury inside of Rich.
John must have seen Rich's display and quickly rushed over. For he was there by the time Tricia and Beth reached the trailer. "Was he doing it again?" he asked.
"Hell, yeah he was doing it! What the hell do you think?"
Tricia had no idea what Rich might have been talking about. Whatever it was, it caused Rich to become unbelievably angry.
"I'm sick of that fucker touching me! That fuckin' homo! And Joe won't listen to me!" Rich whipped a toolbox into the parking lot. Wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers flung about.
While this happened, Don continued to drive the tractor and mow the several acres of lawn that surrounded Edgewater Properties. He was clearly drunk, and had no business operating a motorized vehicle—especially the kind that is used for landscaping with multiple blades and weighing hundreds of pounds. Don was seeing double and struggled to maintain straight lines.
"Clean this fuckin' shit up!" Rich ordered to both girls who nervously watched the violent display. "I'm not signing off on your community service hours for today. You two bitches are too fucked up in the head for the real world. You're coming back tomorrow so I can finish you!"
John came to the girls' defense. "Easy, Rich! Don't take your problems out them. They didn't do anything wrong."
This sent Rich into another fit of rage as he nearly flew over to John. "Don't you ever fuckin' tell me..."
Just then, a loud crunch and mechanical rattling could be heard from the distance. It came from the area where Don was mowing. It was loud and frightening enough to distract Rich to look over and see what it was. He could see in the distance at the bottom of a land burm that Don lay trapped underneath the tractor mower which had rolled over on its side. The burm was a several foot slope with a significant angle; dangerous to mow with a tractor if not paying attention.
"Ughhh!" Don called out. "Help! I can't move!"
Rich, John, Beth and Tricia all ran with lightning speed to where Don called out for help. Once there, the four of them added enough combined strength to pull the tractor back upright and push it out of the way.
Don struggled to pull himself up. "I think I need help." he cried.
Rich held out his hand and tried to assist Don by pulling him up. But Don seemed to lack the necessary strength in his legs. He simply fell back on the ground when trying to stand up.
"I think I broke my leg." cried Don. "I'm too drunk to feel anything right now, but I'm pretty sure I broke something."
"You're not supposed to be drinking while operating this equipment." reminded Rich. "That can be another DUI on your record. And you'll probably lose your job if Joe finds out."
Don offered the excuse, "I guess I didn't realize that I was drunk..."
Rich sighed and then beat his own thighs with his fists—another temper tantrum. "Son of a bitch!" he yelled. "What are we gonna to do?"
"Well we better call the paramedics." advised Tricia. "He's hurt pretty badly."
Suddenly, a dark light bulb illuminated in Rich's head which offered a demented solution. "You know... I'm thinking you did all of this." he to Tricia.
"Excuse me?" asked Tricia in a challenging tone of voice.
"That's right! You did all of this!" repeated Rich. "You see, you owe me a favor for putting up with all your shit today. So what you're gonna do is tell the paramedics and cops that you had been driving this tractor mower on the burm, and rolled it. Somehow you escaped, but the tractor rolled far enough to crush Don's leg."
"NO!" sharply replied Tricia. "I am not lying and covering up what happened here, today. We're not even supposed to be here right now. Our eight hours were completed a few hours ago. This is your problem. He wasn't supposed to be driving the tractor while intoxicated."
Rich shook his head and threw his hands up in the air. "Fine! Fine and dandy!" He stormed over to the tractor mower and sat into it. "Fine and fuckin' dandy!" He turned the key which, amazingly, started the engine right away. With zero turning radius; he quickly made a complete 180, and charged towards Tricia.
Now this particular brand of tractor mower was a serious agricultural machine—state of the art technology. It was intended to be used by landscaping crews that might have had contracts to mow entire neighborhoods of homes, or possibly acres of industrial park land. Chances are that the rider would have a need to drive on residential streets or even small highways. For that matter, the engine of this particular tractor mower was capable of reaching speeds of over twenty miles per hour!
Tricia screamed in terror and ran out of the way. "You crazy asshole!"
With zero turn radius, Rich whipped the machine around and faced Tricia with his eyes of fury that burned through his sunglasses. The he charged after Tricia, again.
Tricia screamed and ran off. She realized that Rich was serious in whatever demented plan that he had. But she had no idea as to how much power and speed that the mower possessed.
Tricia was smart. Rich realized this while chasing her at speeds nearing twenty miles per hour. Of course it wasn't possible for her to outrun the tractor. But Tricia quickly learned that it was only necessary to suddenly stop and turn for the opposite direction. This made it necessary for Rich to momentarily offset the hydraulic steering and zip around before charging after her. And when finally caught up, she would quickly run in the opposite direction which made it necessary for Rich to offset the steering and resume charging.
It would only be a matter of time before Tricia grew tired. Rich knew this. Eventually she would make a mistake; maybe underestimate a turn or even trip and fall. Then she would get what was coming to her. You see; Tricia was so young without any scars received from the hard life, or those sometimes cruel and unfair lessons that we reluctantly receive. She had it too good as far as Rich was concerned. Today would be the day that she earned some scars and some hard, unfair lessons. Rich would run her over and allow the blades to chop off a leg or two. Then it could be explained to police and paramedics that Tricia had been driving the tractor mower which rolled over on the land burm, chopped off her leg(s) and ultimately injured Don.
“But what sort of plan is that?”—you might ask?
“It doesn't make sense!”
“The police and paramedics wouldn't believe it!”
“Witnesses would report what really happened!”
Upon thinking these things, one needs to consider as to just what sort of man Rich is. Do you seriously think the man is half intelligent? Do you seriously think that he is of sound mind?
No; rather, Rich is a demented idealist and quite stupid. His brain is clearly damaged from the years of heavy drinking. Then there are his personality and behavioral disorders.
Rich continued to chase after terrified Tricia with full intention of chopping off her legs. But she was actually winning in the scrimmage by drawing closer and closer to the edge of the lawn; aiming to make it to the parking lot—possibly into one of the trucks to drive away. At one point, Rich spotted the gas-powered weed trimmer that John had apparently left on the ground before rushing over to watch Rich throw his tantrum. (This would have been before Don rolled the tractor mower). Rich quickly scooped up the trimmer and actually pulled the start cord while his foot remained on the tractor accelerator. The trimmer engine roared, and was now a high-tech scythe to be wielded by the landscaping grim reaper. He was monster on tractor wheels that continued to viciously chase after screaming Tricia. And Rich was sure to use the roaring gas trimmer as a weapon to cut Tricia with any time she was close.
After some five minutes of this scrimmage, Tricia made it to the pavement—home free in her belief. But then to her disbelief, Rich merely bumped over the curb that separated lawn from parking lot; flew some three feet above ground and then slammed onto the pavement—sparks momentarily flying upon impact. The pursuit resumed in the parking lot. Tricia actually tried to make it to one of the trucks, but Rich was too fast on the tractor. Even still, would locking herself into one of the trucks only trap Tricia?
"Somebody help me! Please, somebody help me!" Tricia screamed and cried. She realized that the pavement helped the tractor roll faster as there were no bumps and hills on the ground. Because of this, Tricia made her way back onto another area of lawn which was separated by parking curb.
The curb might have been about six inches high. But Rich didn't care. He charged towards the lawn at open throttle and was abruptly halted with the front tires hitting the curb. The action flipped the tractor upside-down which ultimately set Rich's back in an uncompromised position and then broken by hundreds of pounds of machinery! It would be many months—maybe a few years—before Rich could stand on both feet and walk.
Seconds later, Beth and John reached the accident. You see, they had been trying to chase down and stop Rich all along. It was only then that terrified Tricia realized this.
Everything, thereafter, seemingly happened at the blink of an eye. Police, paramedics and fire trucks raced into the parking lot with sirens screaming. Residents of Edgewater Properties poured out of the condo buildings to observe the disaster and commotion. And then a black pick-up truck with the Square Deal Landscaping logo whizzed in.
An angry man emerged from the pickup truck. It was Joe. "What the hell is going on here?" he demanded.
As paramedics rushed over to treat drunken Don with broken leg and psychotic Rich with broken back, a man who lived in one of the condo units quickly answered Joe's question.
"You want to know what happened? I'll tell you! First of all, I don't appreciate this new gig of half naked girls doing your landscaping. I’ve got kids who I don’t want seeing that shit. What is this? Hooter's Landscaping? Then I see that clown over there get out of one of the trucks. He started throwing buckets of grass all over the place and was beating thing with shovels and rakes. Oh, and that idiot over there was driving the tractor all drunk. He can't even make a straight line while mowing. And then to wrap up the performance, we all got to watch that maniac over there chase one of your half-naked girls all over the property in a tractor. He ended up crashing into the curb and flipped the tractor. I'm definitely going to report this to property management and urge that your contract isn't renewed."
By now, both Tricia and Beth stood nearby with their ripped open t-shirts. They were dirty, sweaty, and looked to have just finished a marathon.
"I want to go home! Now!" Tricia demanded. "Take me back to my car!"
Calmly Joe answered, "Look, all I ever ask is that my workers try their best. Just try your best. Okay? Why don't you finish pulling weeds at the manmade beach over there, and we'll call it a day."