The Real LJ Idol | week two | 444 words
Three Little Words.
The end of the week was always too long coming. You dragged yourself from one dog-tired day to the next, working hard to keep your numbers up and calling yourself lucky for the chance to do it all again.
Punch the clock, check your line, count the hours 'til quitting time.
You'd started on the night shift four years back, and that was some kind of hell. Now you worked days, and your wife and baby were waiting at home when you were done. Working graveyard hours, you'd never have seen them, but the day shift was pretty good. You might nod off before the baby did each night, but just being there was something—more than your Daddy ever did for you.
The job wore you down. Machines did most of it, but they couldn't be trusted. You had to watch for the one-in-a-thousand screw-up until your vision blurred, and the next day, you'd feel it. Your skin was so dark you couldn't tell if there were circles under your eyes, but when you woke up with heavy feet and an aching back, you knew those damn circles were there.
Your wife was grateful, and she told you so. "Gerald," she'd say (your father's name that you swore you'd never go by, just another bet you lost), "I don't know what we'd do without you, baby. You make it all happen."
A man could survive on a whole lot less than that.
There were times you forgot what day it was, watching metal parts roll down the assembly in an endless river, pieces of some other unmade whole. What does it all mean? you thought, not the hour-by-hour but the larger picture of some future ten or fifteen years down the road.
It was like standing in an abandoned field and looking at a sign saying, "You are here." The here wasn't the question—where the hell else would you be?—it was the context, the overriding plan that you couldn't begin to see.
Whole weeks could pass by like that, where all you could do was keep on going.
But sometimes you walked in the door at night, and your baby boy reached for you and your wife's eyes lit up at the sight of your face. All of your work made that possible, and a hundred other things you might not even imagine until after they'd happened.
Your time on the treadmill didn't define you, and you couldn't let it blind you to everything else that was there. There was a lifetime ahead to carry your family through, and the path you'd chosen stood a damn good chance of holding true.