Zach worked the day, trying not to worry about Zoe. Impossible. How could he care so much about someone he had spent all of ten minutes with? He made arrangements with Renee to move Blackie to accommodate his health problems. As she pointed out, he was sixty years old. They discussed the possibility of early retirement for him, but she told him that after the next project they’d all be retired anyway, and would say no more about this.
Then he talked to Lance. He was a fitter/welder, primarily, with a huge scar zig-zagging up from his eye to his scalp. It was a souvenir from back when he worked commercial and fell asleep driving to work after being up for almost a week. Drove into a tree. Not that it stopped him from doing dope. He just got a bit of a handle on it. Working for Renee helped, too. She tolerated drug use, but only up to a point. Lance had always been a dealer, but now that he was with Zen, he was quite the big-timer. And very exclusive. He dealt only in the purest stuff around, and everyone knew it.
Zach didn’t do drugs, or even respected most users aside from pot smokers. But he had come to accept the fact that a certain percentage of construction workers would always do speed. As long as they showed up, did their jobs, worked safely, and got along with people, he paid no attention to their usage.
Some of them were damn good at what they did. Everyone with Zen was, in one way or another. But they were also misfits, largely. Renee’s hires tended to be too good for the industrial system. They bucked at the rampant stupidity, the waste, the inefficiency. Each was hand-selected by her, and then groomed and fine-tuned to fit her vision. If they failed to adapt, she cut them loose.
“I need a G,” Zach said to Lance by way of hello.
“Get the fuck out.”
“Yeah right. A ‘G’? Who says that? You sure you don’t wanna call me ‘homey’ too?”
“C’mon, Scarface. You know it’s not for me. Don’t make this harder than it already is.”
“One of your high-dollar sluts, then? Sorry. Can’t do it.”
“Safety violation. You’ll get hurt.”
“Look. It’s for Wild Bill.”
“That shitstain? Definitely not.”
“Lance, that fucking sulfuric acid garbage he’s doing is killing him. Doctor says his teeth are like hard raisins, and his heart is fucked. God only knows what else it’s doing to him.”
“Why should I care?”
“Because he’s Zen. He’s a hand. And Renee cares.”
“Renee cares too much, is her problem.”
“She put you on. Took a big gamble too. You barely made the cut.”
“Fuck,” Lance sighed. “I’m not dealing with him. He can go through you. One fifty.”
Zach peeled off two bills.
“For the effort. And thank you. From Renee.”
Lance reached down and pulled a baggie of bindles from his boot, unfolded it, and handed one to him.
“Give Renee my regards.”
Zach nodded and went off to find Wild Bill.
He asked around, and his foreman, a squat little ornery fucker with coke bottle glasses, ordinarily a pipe foreman, said he’d sent him to work the laydown for the day.
“He’s bad off?” Zach asked.
“Oh yeah. Almost sent him home…”
Zach took a gator there, to find Wild Bill running around the yard, looking for pipe spools to flag for delivery to the field. He waved him over, then drove right up to him.
“Get in,” said Zach.
“Aw, man. C’mon. I got a job to do. The leprechaun said he needs all these spools today. ASAP.”
“Fuck the job. We need to talk…”
Wild Bill got in, sat down, and put on his seatbelt. Zach killed the engine.
“Care to tell me why you’re out here today? I needed you on site. Not doing some chickenhead helper job.”
Bill started to lie, then thought better of it.
“I… I did too much. Didn’t sleep this weekend. So I had to do more, of course.”
“Of course. Any hallucinations?”
“You need to get off that shit.”
“I know. I can’t.”
He laughed. Then he cried.
“Are you letting me go?”
“No. Not yet. But you’re getting there. Doc says your teeth are shot. All coming out. But my main concern, and Renee’s, is your overall health and performance. You’re getting careless, and it’s become a safety concern.”
Those were magic words at Zen, who had the best safety record in the industry, despite their pace, productivity, and free-wheeling atmosphere.
Zach continued, “Why are you doing such shitty meth?”
“Aw, man. I just don’t have this recipe down yet. It’s a new one.”
“Only on my off time…”
“What’s the primary component?”
“Wasp spray,” Bill said, sheepishly. “It’s from Georgia. But when I say it out loud, it does sound kinda dumb.”
“It’s really fucking dumb. No more cooking, or I shitcan you.”
“Alright. That’s fair.”
“Don’t do anymore garbage-variety meth.”
“That’s all that’s out there!”
Zach quietly produced the bindle he’d acquired from Lance.
Bill pulled a straw from inside his hat and ripped a blast straight from the bag.
“You’ll get one line a day. I’m hanging onto it. Dump that other shit out.”
Wild Bill did so. Gladly.
“Now get some sleep tonight. I’m going to ramp you down. Maybe we can get you off of it entirely.”
“Yes, sir” Bill said.
And that is how Zach became an unlikely drug dealer. Life was funny.