Last time: “Maybe you’re right Buddy, maybe I need a break from restaurants. Tomorrow I’ll go check out Muncies’s Landscaping.”
By J.T. Hilltop
It wasn’t like I wasn’t used to the fecal matter slamming into the rotary wind oscillator it‘s just I wasn’t thinking the said fecal matter would be literal and figure so prominently in my life. The closing of Cavelieri’s restaurant was a lot to deal with and frankly the furthest thing from my mind was me needing a new job. No longer was I an apostle to a culinary madman, no more waitresses to flirt with, no more free beers, but worst of all no paycheck. I was now saturated with disappointment and disillusionment believing the universe had let me down. All my meditating and chanting was for naught. Maybe what I needed really was new path to follow, a change for the better. Time to seek another avenue of employment, to shed the dry snakeskin of the restaurant industry and molt to another field. Actually field sounds right Ken was right I should get as far away from any kitchen, knife wielding Chef or teasing waitress and do some fieldwork. I need a sacrificial rack of lamb. I should do exactly what Ken suggested and go work landscaping for Muncie and earn some cold hard cash. As fate would have it and timing being everything my brother’s ex boss was in need of one more laborer. Hell man I can labor! So it came to pass that I had became the new landscaper laborer for Muncies Field and Dreams Landscaping. More accurately put, I had become the new lawn mowing leaf raking topsoil carrying shit spreading go boy. I had chosen to become a hard working laborer having my skin scorched everyday by dermal burning threats the sun makes good on while also enjoying the hearty aroma of freshly decayed organic shit. Not just any old shit, but class A number one horseshit Munson got from the stables. Enough about the perks though, there’s also a downside.
Every day ended the same, my arm and back muscles pounding out a rebellious beat building to a painful crescendo. I try and cool the aches and pains with an ice cold beer but it seem as though all my muscles tightened up into ball of overworked subdermal tissues and tendons screaming at every movement. My skin radiates a pinkish aura from hours spent unprotected by those relentless threats of the harsh sun. It left my neck and shoulders feeling like they were rug burnt adding to my misery. As if that weren’t enough there was that omnipresent stench of decaying crap implanting its neverending carousel of stink deep into my nasal cavity. Deep! One of my less enviable jobs was to take compost, decayed animal shit and who knows what and spread the malodorous mixture across a field. At first the smell of evaporating morning dew so earthy and rich comes up off the ground like a wisp of warm steam in a pleasant tease just waiting for its replacement. Breathe deep and enjoy that nature while you can because within seconds the dank aroma of compost rises triumphantly up the nasal passages. Its a blend of some of the most offensive smells I could ever imagine, if dogs smelled that stench when they sniffed another dogs ass the species would go extinct. The steaming stench of a mountain outhouse combined with a quarantined fraternity bathroom joining forces with week old spoiled milk and assorted cheeses creating a cacophony of disgust that slowly creeps up my nose making an all out aerial assault on my entire being. The assault continues for hours even after my work day was done. Like pigpen the stench takes on an identity of its own following me everywhere even stalking me all the way to the shower where it finally meets it’s match and scurries defeated down the drain. A small portion of it sets up camp in my clothing as a rank reminder of my newly acquired hopelessness that was eased but never eradicated by the cold beer.
I began taking diet pills every morning to keep me awake and give me the energy to bust my ass out in the shit fields and then swallow down pheno barbs at night to sleep through the amphetamine rush. An expensive proposition because on days that it rained I would be sent home making no money for the day, needing extra beer and weed to calm me down from the pills. Between the pills, beer and weed I went through all my savings after just one week of solid rain. Penniless I was gloomily staring out Munson’s tool shed listening to the rain wondering how the fuck I got here. As if on cue fate suck its fat foot inside the door forcing its way in. Out of the blue my friend Patrick came by with an offer to become an assistant groundskeeper for a local dude who owns three nursing home properties. It’s a full time job despite weather and Patrick was quitting. The job was open and he promised to recommend me. Think how cool it would be to be able to use my newly acquired skills on three locations where you get paid even if it rains. That’s how it was that I became something different. Now I would be a shit spreader with a title. The assistant groundskeeper of the Vieros Healthcare facilities. I was still in charge of manure movement but now I can add garage cleaner to my resume. Whatever, I was working and making money on a regular basis again. Besides the work wasn’t nearly as exhausting so life was good again. Adios Muncie, now I can concentrate on saving up money to get the Hell out of here. Maybe even look for a new kitchen job come the fall.
I found myself spending most of my time at one specific locations, Mimi Dee’s. That was the nickname used by the staff at the Miriam Deegan Adult Home owned by the Vieros one of the richest families in town. They also owned two other homes but I only worked at each once a week. Vieros Ault Home was a full scale nursing home, and the Lighthouse was a health related facility, which is a fancy name for old folks home. The only difference in the two being that about eighty percent of the “patients” at The lighthouse and Mimi Dee’s could care for themselves. Those at Viernos couldn’t even wipe their asses but that was already too much information for me. My concern was making sure all the properties were well kept, trimmed and mowed so the families of the patients would believe that no expense was spared in the upkeep of their parents dwelling. Mimi Dee’s was sort of their flagship home so most of the attention was bestowed on that property. But I was happy mowing lawns and raking leaves, even trimming the shrubs which I knew by name. Not the Latin names, the names I made up for them to keep me sane while spending hours alone caring for properties. Big Zebra, Burning Bush, Sticks, just weird names to entertain me. One great benefit was not having the shit stink hanging around me all day and night.
So here I was in a quaint little Long Island community called Cool Springs working on a property of a former Pratt Mansion turned Rest Home. Tending to the chlorophyll producing floral zoo of colorful organic plants and flowers busy enjoying their days photosynthesizing away and looking pretty. My boss, Fred drove from property to property and left me alone most of the time. He drove me to Mimi Dee’s, gave me daily chore lists, like mow the two acres of lawn, trim the hedges, or weed out the flower beds, and went about his business. A questionable bonus was being invited inside for lunch everyday. Not the taste bud tingling foods Jimmy made but it was decent and best of all free. The best part about eating inside the nursing home was the company at lunchtime. I sat around the table with two other guys, six cute young nurse’s aides, and two nurses. On most days I was the center of the aides attention and I dug that. The free meal was back, the flirting was back, and the paycheck was back. What could possibly go wrong? Little did I know at the time, but fates fat foot was a mere ten feet away teasing me by tapping out the familiar sounds of pots and pans banging, plates clinging, and sizzles sizzling out a kitchen concerto. How I miss and love those sounds.