Dad’s 59

ar knocked on the screen door.  No answer.  I knocked again, louder.  

From inside the house, a voice called out, “COME IN!”  

I was looking for a job, and barging in at the suggestion of a disembodied voice seemed like a bad move; instead, I called out, “Hello?” which sounded stupider out loud than I expected.  

“COME IN!”  the voice repeated, and by pressing my nose to the screen door, I could see someone leaning back in a chair in a room beyond the one I was being encouraged to enter. 

“I’m here about a job,” I called out.

“I can’t hear you!” the voice called out, and the man leaning back in the chair motioned for me to enter with a hand that was holding a fork.  There was something intimidating about being gestured at by a man brandishing a fork, and I had the sudden urge to leave–to just turn around and walk off the porch and accept unemployment.

In the 1960’s, the thing about being in high school and getting a job in a small town was that nothing was open after 6 PM except bars–Osterday’s hardware store, the Darlington Dry Goods, both lumber yards, Schultz’s pharmacy, and  the three family grocery stores in town all shut their doors at 6 which meant there wasn’t work for a high school kid like me who was in school until three and then had three hours of ball practice.

The summer was different.   Benedict’s Fruit Farm hired on in July, and in August there was work de-tassling corn, but those jobs meant at least half the summer without earning money.  

The only other business that hired on in the summer was Hendrik’s Concrete.  They poured house foundations, barn slabs, curb and gutter, and had one crew that replaced two county bridges every summer.  That extra work meant they added a summer worker to each of their six crews, and it was to apply for one of those jobs that I had come to the Hendrik house; and when the man continued to wave at me to enter, I opened the screen door and took one step into the house at which point the German Sheperd that had been lurking, unseen, inside the door, bit me in the leg.

“What’s going on?” the man in the kitchen called out.

“I think your dog just bit me,” I called back.

“What?!?” the man said and he hurried toward where I was standing with one leg into the house–the leg to which the dog was attached.  The dog hadn’t so much bitten down as he had grabbed on.  His eyes were looking up at me, as if it was my move next.  The man, still holding his fork, looked down at the dog sticking to my leg, and said, “Rex!  Release!”

Rex glanced from me to his owner and, possibly because of the fork in his owner’s hand, opened his jaws and slunk back into the shadows inside the door.  The man said, “I can’t believe that just happened. Are you hurt?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.  “I’ll look in a second, but first I want to say that I’ve come to apply for one of your summer jobs.”

“You’re here for a job?” the man said, and when I nodded, he looked at the holes in my pant leg and said, “You’re hired!”

We shook hands and I glanced over at the dog in the shadows: for a moment I thought about petting its head, but then I decided not to.

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