Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unbreakable Bonds

When I was sixteen and working for my brother-in-law I had to take a new guy with me on the job and show him the ropes. This was janitorial work, so not a lot of technical skill required. Nevertheless, over the next few weeks about the only attribute he showed was the ability to show up for work, which wasn't hard since I - or my bil or both of us- would pick him up at his house. Since I was in school during the day and there were always jobs that needed done during the day, he spent a lot of time with bil. Gradually, the weeks turned into months and he was still employed and still hadn't mastered the fine arts of cleaning, like; not leaving streaks on windows, not upsetting a mop bucket once a night, and not operating a floor scrubber without being tossed around like a rag doll. I wondered why my bil hadn't either gotten on him to improve or gotten rid of him. The months turned into years, although I had gotten another job when I was eighteen, he still was working, and had become my bil's right-hand man, even though my bil would swear he still couldn't do anything right and would nag at him. They became something of a familiar sight around town, my bil, who was 6'4" and his scrawny helper who stood about 5"1", cleaning windows or sitting in the coffee shop. Many years later, after the cleaning business disappeared due to my sister and bil's divorce, they still hung out together, fishing or going out drinking, right up until the time bil succumbed to his illness and passed away. I often wondered how their friendship had solidified itself so.

It reminded me of the relationship between two characters in the Joseph Wambaugh novel The Choirboys. The two characters were both police officers who had served together in Vietnam then joined the force together, although it seemed apparent to everyone that the older, better officer couldn't stand to be around his partner. When the story unfolded, a secret from the war was revealed that had kept them together because the older one unconsciously depended on the other, and the diminutive one felt an unselfish obligation to look after his buddy, knowing that one day again he'd be needed to fulfill his destiny.


Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

It's strange how that happens, huh? I've seen it a few times myself. I always think of someone like Carson McCullers -- The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.

9:42 AM  

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