I got the call late in my shift, ten minutes before I was supposed to quit for the day. My supervisor Louise said I had to do the job, that this guy had called before and his order had gotten lost in the shuffle. I drove over to his house in the Franklin Hills. Big fucking all white modern house that sat on top of the hill. He was standing down near the sidewalk, yelling into his phone.
Already I didn’t like him. He was probably ten years younger than me, still slim, full head of blonde hair like a fucking model. Had a beard, yellow jeans, all the trappings. He saw the truck and looked relieved. Stashing the phone in his front pocket, he waved me over, waving with two arms like I didn’t have eyes in my fucking head.
Hey! he said. Hey!
I pulled over to the curb. I’m sure glad you showed up he said, catching up, out of breath. I had this shit job driving one of those corporate junk trucks. You know, one of those “1 800 We’ll Get Your Shit Out of There” trucks.
Yeah, I replied, you didn’t say anything about hills or steps.
What? he asked innocently.
Hills and steps are extra, I said, showing him the order where the hill/step category was blank.
It’s been a fucked up day, he said. We have to be out of this house for the new owners by six and there’s still a bunch of shit inside.
I looked at my watch: 5:15. I don’t know if I can do it, I said, it’s just me. I eyed the house. It was at least three stories on a hill and I bet it had basement storage or something.
C’mon, man, he pleaded.
Alright, I said, let’s take a quick tour but no promise for six.
I was right. Four-story house. Still an entire master bedroom set up stairs, half-packed boxes in the living room. Down in the basement we were surrounded by an entire entertainment suite.
Can’t do it, I said.
I’ll give you an extra two hundred if you can.
I stared him down. $500. Let me see it, I said. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a roll and held up the bills.
I started with the easy shit first, loading up on my dolly the boxes scattered around the living room. All the crap on the floor — the books, the papers and miscellaneous — I threw randomly into a box as I hauled it away.
He had retreated into the kitchen on the far side of the house, where I could hear him yelling at someone. What a fucking asshole. Maybe, I thought, I’ll charge him even more.
Coming back in, I took in the steps going upstairs, a metal staircase that ran in tight 90-degree angles, up and up and up. Fuck, my arms were already sore, my legs burning. I grabbed the dolly and hustled up.
I banged down the mattress, springs and the headboard, which in the center had purplish wood curled into a simple heart. Even got down the night stands and the tall wood framed horizontal dresser that split into two parts. I was sucking hard air by the time I climbed for the last piece: a long dresser with nine drawers.
As I was finally easing the dresser to the first floor, it sitting precariously on the dolly, I saw a blue curtain I hadn’t noticed before. Behind was a small room with two bare feet at the end of a pale couch. I checked for the dude and then peeked in: it was a small library room, blue shelves filled with books, a small two-seater ratty couch on which a blond woman was sprawled. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but she moaned and rolled over to face the couch back and I saw the empty bottle sitting on the floor next to her.
I took the dresser out and managed to get the rest of the junk out of the house before six.
You fucking rock, dude, he said after checking all the rooms. I was sitting outside on the front steps, catching my breath, drinking water, wondering what it’d be like if this was my view every night.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the roll of cash between his thumb and forefinger. Here’s the extra I promised you, he said.
Nah, I waved it off.
Why not? he asked, confused.
I gotta leave some stuff behind.
He nodded and put his money away. As he was heading inside, he said, I wish you could take it.
I knew what he was talking about. I had been there before.
I headed to my over-stuffed truck, the wheels sitting low. I started the truck and pulled away, without even a look back, happy that it was just me and someone else’s junk for once.