Half an hour later, Sal's mom woke up confused and more than a little angry. She looked from her son, putting a handtowel wrapped around ice on his eye, to Cliff, sipping a cup of coffee, to Diego and I, both of us now wearing blue jeans. All four of us were trying as hard as we could to not look as guilty as we were.
"What on earth happened? Where am I?" Cliff moved to help her sit up, and Diego nudged Sal, who began speaking.
"A streaker had jumped over the fence, mum. He ran by, pushed you over, and then punched me in the eye when I tried to stop him. Mr. Dillinger and Mr. Jones grabbed him and the gatekeeper called the police. They just left." He looked at me, and I nodded, giving him a thumbs up behind his mother's back. We may just get out of this alive after all.
"Oh...are you okay, darling? Do you need mommy to do anything?" Diego and I had to leave the room at this point, because we literally could not keep it together after such babying on Sal. While she doted on her son, we finished packing the cart with our mowers and weedwackers.
Sal and his mom eventually came out of the shack, and she walked him up to us. "Be good, and work hard, dear. Be careful with your eye. Look after him, you two," she said, turning to us.
Diego nodded and I said, "Yes, ma'am," before starting the cart, and she went back to her SUV, apparently satisfied with how things turned out. The three of us shared a quick glance and breathed a sigh of relief.
"You're getting bitch duty for that stunt, kid," I said, with less of a sense of smugness than I was expecting.
"Jim," I corrected.
"Come on, Jim, I was just having some fun! The two of you'd do the same thing in my shoes!"
"Yeah, maybe, but that's not the point. We like this job, and this neighborhood, minus most of the people. We're already on thin ice, as most rich people don't like it when the hired help has as much-or more-money than they do. Stop fucking up, and maybe you can make something of yourself someday." I went on in this vein for quite some time, mostly because lecturing Sal as his boss gave me a form of retribution than nobody could contest, and I am also good at making something out of nothing.
Diego stayed silent. He was like a volcano, or a tea kettle, in that he could handle a lot of shit, but when the line was crossed, he exploded. I could tell that he was seething beneath the surface, and I hoped he'd be able to make it to the range before he spewed his metaphorical magma.
Either way, once I was done reading Sal the riot act, the three of us split up and went to work, pruning, reseeding, mowing. The first three hours seemed to crawl, but once we finished the first two houses of today's work, I tool the bags of grass clippings to the dumpster at the bottom of the hill, opposite Cliff's battle station at the front of the community.
I have no idea why that dumpster is in as peculiar of a spot as it is. It just seems awkward for whatever dump trucks come to collect the trash that gets put there. The whole thing is just strange to me, as there are no ads for whichever company owns it, making it literally the only dumpster I've ever seen with no sort of advertisements whatsoever.
Suddenly, I realized that I had just been staring at it, and that I still had half an hour until break, so I wiped the sweat from my brow and heaved the plastic bags up over the rim, and walked back to the cart. Before starting it up once again, a shiver ran down my spine, and I felt like I was being watched.
I tried as hard as I could to casually glance around, but saw nothing.
"Fuck, I need a smoke." Before tapping a cigarette out from its pack, I drank several large mouthfuls of water. It was unseasonably warm this year, not that I'm complaining, as our business picked up early, meaning more money. I lit my cigarette as I began thinking about this.
"Heh, I like that thought. Not that we need the money, though. Hm." What are we doing with the money, except paying Sal and going to shows?
Before getting too far down that line of thinking, though, Cliff burst through the door of his shack and came running up to me. He sat down in the passenger's seat, panting and sweating.
"Whoa, man," I said while he struggled to catch his breath. "What's got you so spooked?"
"Drive home," he began. Apparently I'd be getting this story two words at a time.
"Why? It's not lunch yet. Close, though. I'm excited. I have some leftover pizza from yesterday. I love cold pizza."
"Shut up, (gasp) child. Your (gasp) front lawn (gasp) is on (gasp) fire!"