Watching from the Warehouse, by Harvey Sutlive.
Mama and I own a few houses in the neighborhood of the college here in Marais. We rent them to students. This is a small town and our college is a big deal. It's a small college for children from well-to-do redneck families. It's not distinguished in any way.
Mama made me go there for a year and a half, but I had some kind of breakdown, so I had to leave. Unfortunately, the doctors never found a good medical name for what was wrong with me. I didn't have any symptoms, that was the main problem.
Mama was unsympathetic. She gave me the maintenance-man job on our rental houses. But I didn't like that so I didn't perform very well.
Now I'm in charge of our cold storage warehouse. I love this job. I love the warehouse. I count the boxes of stuff that come in for storage. I make out a receipt. Every week I defrost the refrigeration pipes. I cut the grass around the edge of the warehouse.
I do a great job, and Mama is starting to be nice to me again. I've been in charge of the warehouse for almost a year now. I'm doing so well that Mama's starting to mention college again. Which isn't a good idea, because I didn't like that at all, and I would not do a good job if I did have to go back.
My central nervous system was defeated by college. I simply couldn't get out of bed in the morning. If the alarm went off, I would reset it ten or fifteen times. Or twenty or thirty times. Until past lunch when my classes were over. Only then was I able to get up, and eat something, and maybe go for a bicycle ride.
The cold storage warehouse is a special place. We're located on the outer edge of downtown by the ex railroad station and the feed store and the paper supply company. It's not a busy area. We have a cold storage section and a cool storage section in the warehouse. It's a very old brick building. My office is in the front left corner. There's a little porch on the front of the building.
The biology department at the college uses quite a bit of space on the cold storage side. They keep lab supplies over there and frozen experiments. Two pallet-fulls of frozen cats stacked in individual lab supply boxes for example. The cats are for freshman anatomy classes. They come dead and stretched out. The lab boxes are the dimensions roughly of a carton of cigarettes. The cats stretched out and flattened slightly inside the boxes.
Our two restaurants and one of our grocery stores use the cool storage side of the warehouse to keep produce. And some new-agers have a farm just outside town, and they rent space for their organic vegetables in between selling trips down to Charlotte.
The walls of the warehouse are solid brick on the outside, three layers thick. On the inside the walls are lined with cork.
There's a grassy lot next door to the warehouse. My girlfriend June rides over on her horse to see me almost every day. She lets her horse graze in the grassy lot while we sit around and talk. June has short brown hair which she dyes reddish blond. With June in the picture, Mama and I are getting along a lot better.
June is a massage therapist, but she's still trying to build up her business. She waitresses at the Fast Bar, the best supposedly bar/restaurant in town.
June and I are saving money, then we'll take a trip together. Maybe all the way around the world. You can buy that kind of airline ticket. Mama doesn't think we'll do it. We've invited her to come with us if we do.
June is thinking about taking classes at the college. At first I thought she was just saying that to impress Mama, but now I believe she may actually do it. I hope Mama doesn't get over optimistic and put me back in college. That will be a big hassle for everybody.
June used to work at a museum in Jacksonville Florida, but she got interested in therapeutic massage. She picked Marais out of a list of college towns that didn't have a massage therapist. That's how she moved here.
Her sturdy but vicious mongrel horse Prince hates me, and I did hate him back enthusiastically at first because he bit me and sidekicked me whenever I got close enough. June says that Prince is half quarter horse and half mustang. She keeps him just outside town on the new-agers' produce farm. She rides her bike out to feed him and ride him.
I keep my distance from Prince and enjoy watching him swish his tail and graze in the lot next to the warehouse. I enjoy watching large animals.
Behind the warehouse there are trees which crowd the back wall of the building. The ground falls off dramatically. There's a big creek beneath the trees. If I keep doing this job I may build a little deck back there in the shade of the trees.
I should defrost the refrigeration pipes today. I'm in the warehouse office now and Mama has dropped by. She and June are next door in the vacant lot. June is rubbing her hand on Prince's neck. Grass grows up to June and Mama's knees. Mama and June are talking. They are happy.
On the trip around the world I think Mama will come with us, if we actually do it. I never mow that lot next door. Prince likes to graze it too much.
Harvey Sutlive has published one story in Slate Magazine, in the U.K. He lives in a rural area outside Athens, Georgia. You may contact him in care of Offcourse@albany.edu.
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