Monday, October 11, 2004

Rachel

Rachel drove her fork lift down the center aisle. A big yellow, at least it had been yellow once, thing purred quietly. The yellow had long ago faded and chipped away leaving the dark metal exposed on the corners and a grey primer almost everywhere else. She drove the oldest forklift in the warehouse and treated it as her own. Rachel could have driven any one she wanted, but she kept old fellow, not old yeller like the dog, but old fellow, or sometimes odd fellow when a resister went bad, and drove it because it was the only fellow who stayed. The company hired her back when 'civil rights' was forced on the white people. She got the job because she was a woman and black. No one liked her much then and no one likes her much now, except maybe Lydia. Some said, she and Lydia were seen over at the Library bar once. Others said that wasn't true, they just happened to be there at the same time.

On the forks, rested a 55 gallon barrel of fatty acid the mixing department needed before the day's run could start. Someone had forgot to pull all the mixing list last night and that made extra work for Rach. Rachell hated being called Rach. Her first husband called her Rach the bitch. And when she heard him say it, he said it as a rhyme. Not the rich bitch, but the Rach Batch. He didn't give her any children; he didn't stay home long enough when he lived there, and then left before the second month was out for some younger girl he'd met at Tucks playing pool. She waited for him to come back and when she heard he found someone new, she cried one time, she cried herselft to sleep just one time then she was glad he'd gone.

Rachell kept right on working and driving her forklift. No one knew she'd even been married to that first man at work. She came to work early most days. She punched her time card and went to the break room to smoke a Pall Mall cigarette. She'd smoke half of it, knock the burn off the end, then save the rest for her morning break. Lydia didn't like smoking and never went into the breakroom because of that. Rachell knew some of the young white boys smoked in the warehouse, but she never said a word.

The warehouse foreman never bothered her. Why would he, she was old enough to be his mom, or in a different time his nurse maid. Her momma worked for $3 a day back when surburbs first started being built. She'd get a ride from the woman who hired her, lunch and $3 for six hours of work at the white family houses. Rachell remembered her mom going off and leaving her to watch the younger two girls. She remembered staying stuck at home. She didn't know what her momma did for a long time except to see her leave during the week and take them to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.


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