Friday, September 19, 2014

Honey Truck

The driver climbed down off the honey truck and said his name was Edgar.

“Thanks for coming so quick,” Clarence said. “Figured it might take a while.”

“You got lucky,” said Edgar. “I do a run out this way every three, four weeks. This is the week.”

“How do you handle the smell?”

“You get used to it. Sewage is sewage. Some of them’s worse than others. Did you clear the top off the tank?”

“Naw, I didn’t know where it was.”

“I got to charge you extra for digging it open. Seventy-five bucks unless it’s deeper than a foot.” Edgar looked at him, stooped there. “Tell ya what, I’ll do it for forty, old-timer.”

“Long as you can find it.”

“Yep. File says it should be over here southeast from the window about fifteen feet. See? Even nine years later the lawn dips a little.”

“Nine years?” Clarence asked. “You sure it’s been that long?”

“According to my chart, yeah.” Edgar drove his shovel in the ground and dug as he spoke. “One old guy living alone, takes a while to fill her up. You the new owner? We can get you on a reminder system.”

“I’m just a tenant. Rent a room from Jonesy.”

Clarence went inside and got two cans of cold ginger ale. It was hot out. In less than ten minutes, Edgar uncovered the septic tank lid. He opened it, hauled his hose across the lawn, stuck it in, and turned on the truck’s pump. While it chugged, he said, “Looks pretty clear for nine years.”

Clarence said, “Yeah, well, Jonesy likes to think his shit don’t smell. Maybe he’s right.”

When the pumping was done, Edgar offered to cover the top of the tank.

“That cost extra, too?” Clarence asked.

“Twenty-five bucks.”

“I’ll do it myself. Throw a little grass seed over top.”

“Suit yourself. Where is Jonesy anyway?”

“He took off a couple days ago. Visit his brothers.”

“I thought his brothers were dead. Heard he was last of the clan.”

Clarence looked at him cross-eyed. “Cousins then. I dunno. He’s gone is all.”

Edgar looked from the cabin to the tool shed, both pitched like a good storm could blow them down. “You hear things,” he said, “about the weirdness that went on. Nasty things.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Clarence said.

“Did you know the family well?”

“Just Jonesy. I rent the back room. It has its own bath but we share the kitchen. Play a little cribbage now and then.”

Edgar said, “Not a lot of people have much good to say of him. I guess anyone can act regular if they try hard enough. Maybe it’s just stories.”

“Some people talk too much.”

“Let me get your invoice.” Edgar walked to the truck and turned on the spindle to curl the hose back into place. It left a dirty grey streak across the lawn.

Clarence fished his wallet from his pants and paid cash. “Told Jonesy I’d take care of a few things while he was away. You know. Clean up the yard and such. Figured I’d get the septic done while I was at it.”

Edgar took the money and shoved it in his shirt pocket. He didn’t offer to shake hands. Clarence stood at the end of the laneway and waved as the truck drove away.

He went inside the cabin and dragged old Jonesy from where he’d passed in his favorite chair. He dumped him in the tank and was done. Clarence was pretty sure that at eighty-one himself, he didn’t have enough shit left in him to fill the tank before the time came to visit Jonesy and his brothers, too. Let the township figure out what to do with the property after Clarence had died. It might as well be him got to live here while he and everyone else did their best to forget the man.

Truth be told, though, dropping a load that night after dinner, Clarence did think about Jonesy. And what Edgar had said. And he worried remembering the prick once or twice a day from here on in might be steeper rent than he’d bargained on.