Odd Job World
The iceman walked laboriously down the suburban street, carrying the hefty load upon his broken back. He had delivered blocks of ice to middle-class housewives for five years, and his back screamed in agony and torture. It was not as if the iceman’s body was broken or hurt - it was a scar of a different source. It was the ever-deepening impression left by the bag of weights, the valley being carved into his soul.
The schoolchildren played on the lawn with their jumping ropes and kick balls and jacks, girls smiling in white dresses and ribbons in their hair, boys in their new slacks, hair combed back with mousse. It was the age of perfect family structures and flawless leisure living. The children played, and the men dressed up in identical suits and hats and briefcases and walked to town to work. The housewives were left alone to clean the homes and cook the casseroles and pamper themselves with the latest fashions. That was where the iceman came in.
The door opened. “Good morning, Mrs. Brown.”
She smiled graciously. “Good morning, Ted.”
He had her on her back on her own kitchen table, screaming “Yes! Yes!” in utterly wild pleasure within ten minutes. This was the job that kept him in business. Once the gossip started to spread, it was just a matter of time before another lonely housewife begged her husband for an icebox just like in the ads. And before you knew it, another pussy was spread for you. That was how you got your clients.
“Back when I can remember, in the 1940s or so,” my Grandfather started, “you had your milkmen, who used to ride on horse-drawn carts instead of an automobile, filled with milk, eggs, bread, and whatever else you needed for around the house. There weren’t too many grocery stores. If you needed something, you waited for the milkman to come to your door, and you would ask for whatever it was you wanted. Now, the milkman was always running to and from the cart, and the horse would just keep walking at a steady pace. The milkman spent more time off the cart then on it. And when someone needed a little something extra, the milkman would turn to his horse and whistle, and the horse would stop. That was the most amazing thing.”
He reached for his coffee, as I watched with an imperceptible smirk. The hot drink dribbled down his chin and onto the tablecloth, but he didn’t even notice. He set the cup down dramatically and thought.
“Let’s see, there was also the iceman. Now, back in the ’50s, the new household technologies like television, refrigerators, and microwaves were all in a rage. And they didn’t used to have freezers like we do now, they had iceboxes, little boxes with a block of ice sitting in it to keep the food cold. Only they of course melted, so every couple of days the iceman had to come around and get you a new one. So there was this guy, walking down the street with a big sack thrown over his shoulder that was filled with ice blocks. And he went door to door replacing all the old ice blocks. And I remember, all the kids would wave at him and yell, ‘Hello, iceman!’ and ask, ‘Where you going, iceman?’ He was quite the popular figure. All the little kids would get all excited and whisper, ‘There’s the iceman! There’s the iceman!’ back in the day.”
He sipped some more coffee, and repeated in reflection, “Back in the day,” looking down and shaking his head. Meanwhile, I thought about what the iceman was really like, what he was really there for.
As the iceman left the Brown account, he bid her good day, and she waved casually, to make light of their parting, and he turned the sidewalk and continued down the street. He saw the little kids playing, stopping to turn to him and watch him, and ask, “Where you going, iceman?” I’m going to fuck your mommies, he would always respond in his head. The Brown account was slightly short, and brunette, not his type. He also had the Smith account a couple of blocks down, tall and brunette. But his favorite was the Partridge account, a nice tall blonde. The iceman strolled carelessly down the street.
My grandfather was only in town a couple of days, but I had to work anyway. I was driving along Sunset Avenue in my junk car with the lit-up sign atop, a dozen pizzas in the passenger seat. It was a Friday night, always more busy, and I enjoyed a smoke while cruising down the road, all to myself. I liked to smoke a nice cigarette while I drove, and made a point of blowing smoke at the oncoming headlights, to blur the image like a dream. I also liked to pick some of the toppings off of the top pizza, only a small portion, and dump the cigarette ashes in the edges of the box. When confronting my clients, I liked to put my hat on backwards sometimes, or cough spastically, or sneeze right on the box, or put the cigarette in the top of my hat, just to make it blatantly obvious, perhaps by the stream of smoke emanating from my head, that I was an insatiable delinquent.
There was one pizza left, and I ate all the toppings off of this one, and threw two butts into the box, because my last client was my favorite. Her name was Angel, and no one knew why she always ordered a pizza when her family was out of the house. I did, though. No one would touch a loser like me except Angel, this horrid pothead. She was the only one that I could treat like shit, and still get it once a week. I pulled into her empty driveway, shut off the engine and the red “Pizzaria!” sign, and smothered the last cigarette in the center of the pizza. I closed the box, put on my hat, and walked up to the front door, which was promptly opened. She was shorter than me, darker, and stoned, but still hot. Her eyes barely met mine, and she walked into the house for me to follow. I closed the door and threw the pizza aside, watching her make her way to the bedroom, taking off her clothes.
She had a joint in one hand, and set it in her mouth to pull down her pants, just before she entered the room. Now she was completely nude, sitting on the bed, withdrawing a bag of pot from her drawer, rolling two new joints for us. She lit us up, and then she positioned herself on the bed, legs spread, watching me undress. She never smiled, and rarely talked.
Meanwhile, down the block, a little kid named Jimmy was playing in the snow. He had on his parka, gloves, boots, and cloth hat, and was running around alone in his backyard. It was just passing into nighttime, and he watched his parents through the window, sitting on the couch with wine, talking with their “adult” friends. Jimmy wasn’t allowed in the living room at such gatherings, so when dusk fell, he wandered into the trees. Jimmy was not afraid of the chill wind, the dead silence, the eyes and ears of occasional creatures, as he walked deeper into the forest.
“Psst,” he heard. He looked off toward the sound, and saw illuminated by the full moon, a tall snowman peeking from behind a tree. It smiled with its string of coals, and waved with its stick arm and hand.
“Jack!” Jimmy shouted excitedly, running over to meet him.
“Hello, Jimmy. How are you doing tonight?” Jack asked.
“I don’t have anyone to play with.”
“Aww,” Jack sighed. He had three giant snowballs for a body, with sticks for his limbs, a carrot for a nose, coals for mouth and eyes, and a tiny black hat. “I will play with you.” Jack had a friendly adult voice. “But first I need your help.”
“What is it?” Jimmy asked.
Jack held up his arm, and flexed his fingers, which were no more than sticks. “I found a better hand on a tree over there, and I need your help plucking it off.” He said it innocently and matter-of-factly. “Will you help me?”
Jimmy looked at the stubby arm, then at Jack’s smiling face, and replied, “Sure, Jack. I’ll help you.”
“It’s over here.” Jack led the way through the forest, little stick feet shuffling along, leaving tracks like a bird, and Jimmy followed. They soon came to a tree, and Jack pointed at an overhanging limb. “See that stick with six long twigs?” Jimmy looked. “It’s not out of reach, but I just can’t get a grip.”
Jimmy walked underneath it, took a hold of the wood, and bent it around to break it. “That’s it,” Jack encouraged. The limb snapped off easily, and Jimmy examined it. The hand was bigger, longer, and looked to be more useful. Jack reached over and pulled off his right arm. “Don’t worry, Jimmy, it doesn’t hurt.” The branch fell to the ground, and returned to its natural stiffness. Jimmy handed him the new one, and Jack fastened the stiff branch to his side, and it sprung to life. Jack flexed his new hand, turning it every which way. But then a slight frown came across his face.
“What is it?” Jimmy asked.
“Well,” Jack started tentatively, “do you think I could get some eyebrows?”
“Sure,” Jimmy said graciously, and picked up Jack’s old hand. He snapped off a couple of twigs and looked up at the tall snowman. “Bend down.” Jack did so, and Jimmy, just able to reach, pushed them into place above the eyes. “There, all done.” Jack moved them up and down, trying them out.
“Perfect,” he said deviously. “Thank you very much, Jimmy.” He brought the menacing new hand down onto Jimmy’s shoulder in a paternal gesture. “Now, what game did you want to play?”
The iceman walked up to Mrs. Partridge’s door and rang the bell. After a few moments, he rang again. She opened the door, smiling only dimly.
“Good morning, Mrs. Partridge.”
“Good morning, Ted,” she responded softly. “Come in.”
Once in the living room, the place they usually did it, she paused and said gravely, “I’m sorry, Ted, but this is the last time.”
They both took off their clothes. She lay down on the couch, and he climbed on top of her. This was the business. Every now and then you gain another client. But times change, and every once in a while, a wife seems strangely emotional when she tells her husband that she doesn’t want an icebox anymore. But that was fine. That was just a part of the cycle, a part of the world. Thrusting himself back and forth, he thought about how “perfect” this suburban culture was. What did the kids do behind the family’s back? What did the husbands do to cheat the system? Was this perfection really what people were after? It seemed that all it did was constrict the soul. All it did was press its members to find a new outlet to freedom. In short time her orgasmic cries interrupted the iceman’s thoughts, so he finished his business and left.
“Have a good one, Mrs. Partridge.”
She waved. There was no structure in reality. It was just an odd job world.
I sat up against the headboard of Angel’s bed, getting high on the last few millimeters of her courtesy joint. We had finished fucking, and sufficed to relax. I looked over at her, lying on the pillow, eyes closed, joint held limply between her fingers, hand hanging over the bed, burnt down to nothing. I nudged her, but she was deeply unconscious. I tossed the remains of my joint away, and looked over at the drawer. If there was one girl I could cheat, one girl I could fuck, it was this one. I opened the drawer and took the bag. After getting dressed, I stuck it in my pocket, and bid her good evening: “Fuck you.”
I enjoyed a nice drive home, smoking a nice cigarette, clutching the nice bag of pot. When I got home, I called up a friend I knew. “Hey, Charlie.”
“I swiped a big fuckin’ bag of pot, man. Get the guys together and come pick me up.”
Jimmy climbed into bed, his mother right behind. “Did you brush?” she asked, sitting down on his bed, pulling the covers tight around him.
“Yes,” he replied, flashing his white teeth for her. He could smell the alcohol on her breath.
“Good boy.” She kissed him on the forehead. “Did you play with your friend Redfoot today?”
“Not anymore, mom. He left.”
“But you played with your little Indian all the time during Thanksgiving, and the witch during Halloween.”
“I played with Jack Frost today.”
“Oh, and who is Jack Frost? Another imaginary friend?”
“He’s not imaginary, Mom. He’s real. I met him in the forest last week. He’s a snowman.”
“A snowman? Wow, he must be fun to play with.” She looked out the window behind Jimmy’s head. “Oh, is that him?”
Jimmy looked. He saw Jack sitting perfectly still outside, pretending to be a regular snowman. “Yep, that’s him.”
“You know, you shouldn’t have built him so close to the tool shed. Daddy’s got to get in and out of there without anything in the way.”
“But I didn’t build him, Mom. He walked over there himself.”
“Right. Well, tell him to move somewhere else tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, sweetie.” She walked over to the door and turned out the lights.
“Goodnight, Mom. I love you.”
She closed the door and left. After lying still for a moment, Jimmy started to wonder why Jack would come to the house. He rolled over and looked out the window. But Jack was gone. The tool shed door was open. Jimmy looked at the ground and saw a trail of birdlike tracks leading up to the house. Just then, Jack’s face rose up from under the window and smiled. Jimmy opened the sash.
“Hi, Jack. What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to say goodnight before you went to sleep. I get lonely out there in the forest.”
Jack leaned forward in through the window. “This is a nice room you have here.”
Jack brought his arm up through the window. In his new six-fingered hand, he held a gardening trowel, like a small shovel, pointed downward like a knife.
“What’s that for?” Jimmy asked.
Jack’s new eyebrows bent inward between his eyes in a malicious expression, and his mouth formed a smile.
Jimmy’s mother sat back down on the couch and refilled her glass of wine. After finishing his sentence to their guests, Jimmy’s dad asked, “Is Jimmy asleep?”
“Yes, Jimmy’s asleep.”
Just as she brought the glass to her lips, they heard a piercing child’s scream. Jimmy’s mother and father looked at each other.
“What the hell was that?”
They bolted to Jimmy’s room, threw open his door and turned on the lights. Jimmy’s mother dropped her glass of wine and screamed. Jimmy’s father rushed over to the bed, where Jimmy’s dead body lay, stabbed, mutilated, and bloody, trowel sticking out of his chest. “Oh, God!”
“Oh, God, this shit is good,” said Charlie, sitting in his chair, smoking a joint. I sat across from him on the couch, with two other guys. Another guy lay down on the floor in front of the fireplace, staring up at the ceiling.
“Where’d you say you got this shit?”
“I swiped it from Angel, you know, that waste of life that lives in the next subdivision?”
“Fuck man, everyone swipes from her. You screw her?”
“Yeah, I gave her a nice big sausage with her pizza.”
They all laughed a stoned, humorless laugh. Bruce, the guy on the floor, asked, “Does anyone want to go get some beers?” We all looked over at him, interests piqued by the idea. “You look about old enough,” he said to me. “You could manage to get us a couple of six packs, right?”
“Maybe, man.” I wasn’t concentrating.
“I know a place over by the Waffle House that doesn’t card.”
Bruce stood up. “Charlie, get your car, man. Let’s go.”
We all looked at each other. “Alright.”
There was no one to see, but on that night, in the deep of the forest, a snowman was running as fast as he could, snowy body stained with blood.
Charlie drove, and I got the passenger seat. The other three crowded into the back, jamming to some angry rock music. There was something about this talentless shit that made it enlightening to hear.
“Man,” I said, stoned, feet on the dash, seat reclined, staring at the roof of the car, “there’s something about this music,” and I closed my eyes, “that turns you on, puts you in the zone.”
“I think that’s just the Mary Jane, dude.”
The car barreled down the backwood road, trees on either side, not another car in sight.
“You ever wonder if when you tell a story, that story becomes a life, and those characters become people?”
“Fuck, dude, what are you talking about?”
I closed my eyes. “There was this little kid, and he befriended this living snowman, named uh -,” I tried to think, making it up as I went, “- Jack. And everyone thought it was just an imaginary friend. But one night, Jack comes up to the kid’s window, and murders the kid in cold blood. Pretty fucked up scenario. What do you think?” I asked, turning to Charlie.
Jack kept running, and came upon a road.
Charlie turned to look at me. “I don’t know, man.” He wasn’t really watching the road. I turned to look at the drab night scenery. Suddenly, in my drugged up vision, I swear I saw a fucking snowman run across the road. “Look out!” I yelled, grabbing the wheel.
“What the fuck!” Charlie yelled back at me, pulling my arm away. But it was too late. The car swerved at too much of an angle, and flipped over, skidding down the road, into a ditch, and against a tree.
As I died, I wondered, are people one day going to tell their grandkids about how back when automobiles and telephones were all the rage, there were boys who used to deliver pizzas to people who called and ordered them? But in reality, all that really happened was that they hooked up with special clients, and they fucked them and swiped their drugs. Damn, there really wasn’t any order to society. It was just an odd job world.
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