Waiting for Lumber

Listen to Mark Turpin reading “Waiting for Lumber” Somehow none of us knew exactly what time it was supposed to come. So there we were, all of us, five men at how much an hour given to picking at blades of grass, tossing pebbles at the curb, with nothing in the space between the two red cones, and no distant downshift of a roaring truck grinding steadily towards us uphill. Someone thought maybe one of us should go back to town to call, but no one did, and no one gave the order to. It was as if each to himself had called a kind of strike, brought a halt, locked out any impulse back to work. What was work in our lives anyway? No one recalled a moment of saying yes to hammer and saw, or anything else. Each looked to the others for some defining move—the way at lunch without a word all would start to rise when the foreman closed the lid of his lunchbox—but none came. The senior of us leaned against a peach tree marked for demolition, seemed almost careful not to give a sign. And I, as I am likely to do—and who knows, but maybe we all were—beginning to notice the others there, and ourselves among them, as if we could be strangers suddenly, like those few evenings we had chosen to meet at some bar and appeared to each other in our street clothes—that was the sense— of a glass over another creature’s fate. A hundred feet above our stillness on the ground we could hear a breeze that seemed to blow the moment past, trifling with the leaves; we watched a ranging hawk float past. It was the time of morning when housewives return alone from morning errands. Something we had all witnessed a hundred times before, but this time with new interest. And all of us felt the slight loosening of the way things were, as if working or not working were a matter of choice, and who we were didn’t matter, if not always, at least for that hour.