“This place, first off, will stress the fuck out of you. Moving furniture ain’t no thing. It’s keeping the shit intact that’ll get you ya heart attack. Like we got stuff runs as high as 36 grand. No shit. They make it outta expensive wood and have it built by these European carpenters who are like magicians. But don’t get me wrong. As good as anything looks it’s still a cabinet far as I’m concerned. You know what I mean? The point being you scratch an 18 thousand dollar coffee table it’s gonna be your ass. I mean, the regular furniture we can touch up with like a marker or some paint, but this super expensive gear --fuck it. I’ve seen guys get fired for putting scuffs on shit a quick polish would fix.
“So there’s stress.
“Never mind everything has to stay organized; sometimes there’s nothing to do for hours then suddenly there’s three trucks parked down the street and they all need to be off loaded yesterday -- it’s like we go zero to 60 all the time. And that’s not even thinking about deliveries: hauling this shit up four flights of stairs. Guy you’re with fucks up, you can get crushed. I’d say ask Andrea, but fuck, he got crushed. To death. It happens.
“So there’s stress, meaning there has to be stress relief. Drinkin’s not a bad idea. Boss don’t mind so long as nothing gets damaged. The only thing about that is he won’t ever let a drinker go out on the trucks. Going out on the trucks, deliveries, that’s the only way to get tips. Don’t always get tipped but when you do -- every little bit helps, yaknowwhatumsaying? But to get to it: everybody has a way of dealing with stress. You got to or you’re dead. Tommy, he liked to prank.
“His favorite was doing what he called ‘puzzle stacks’. A puzzle stack is when he would like, um, make this whole maze out of like coffee tables, and in the middle put like a standing lamp. Now you don’t need any of the fucking tables, but that lamp has to go out. The easiest way is to just move all the tables. It takes time which is as annoying as shit on your shoes, but it’s always quicker than tryin’ to figure out the maze. Besides that Tommy’d do all kinds of shit. Like if you were drinking a bottle of water, he’d wait till you weren’t paying attention then takes his box cutter and nick a little hole in the bottle neck that way the next time you take a drink water would spill all down your front. Fucking hilarious, far as I’m concerned. One time he put Wacky Tack, that super glue, in Pete’s gloves. After a long day, you’re hands’ve been sweating, you don’t notice a little wetness in ya gloves. Not till about time you get home, try to pull ‘em off, and they’re super glued to your fucking hands.
“Anyway, like I said, even the guys who got pissed eventually found it hilarious. Except for Diego. Diego always took the pranks personally. I never figured that out. I mean, we’re all getting the business from Tommy, but for some reason, Diego tends to think he’s getting it special. Why? I don’t know. If he was the only Mexican working here, maybe I could see some reason, but he’s one of five. There’s nothing unique about this motherfucker, is what I’m saying. But Diego’s got it in his head Tommy is out to get him. Make him look like a bitch and all that.
“Here’s where shit gets weird.
“We got these crates for a restaurant opening in Evanston. This is like two years ago. It’s supposed to be like a log cabin steakhouse with all this bullshit on the walls to make it seem like it’s for mountain men, real suburban mountain men. Anyway, some of the crates have got traps. You know the kind. They’re like a circle of teeth that snap shut. See, we got to open the crates to do an inventory on ‘em. Inventory done, we put ‘em away. End of story. Right? Wrong! A day later Tommy and this other guy, Chris, are loading a truck. Tommy had this thing about vases. Something to do with his mom, I never really wanted to know. He’d get kinda hard, ya know with his cock, when talking about it, so I always just changed the subject. So anyway, when he’s working, usually he’s the only one touches the vases. This time -- I guess to finish up quicker -- he lets Chris go grab this like child sized vase. Chris runs off and smack!gets his leg clamped by one of the traps for that fucking restaurant.
“Boss, he figures one fell out, got kicked around somehow, or somebody was planning to steal it for themselves for whatever reason -- it all gets chalked up as an accident… which is no real kindness for Chris. Kid got his Achilles tendon cut, and his leg all fucked up. Boss gave him a nice fat handful of cash, but he let the kid go. And like an idiot Chris signed papers on his way out. Never sign papers after you get fired. I’ve seen too many guys get broke all kinds of ways -- bent in half, back all fucked up, an arm ripped out at the socket cuz an asshole held onto an armoire with one hand while it fell downstairs like he was gonna save it single handed -- shit starts to drop you just let it fall -- but never sign papers. That’s just the Boss keeping himself from getting sued. So Chris gets bear trapped. Shit happens. Except Diego keeps asking why Chris was going for the vases instead of Tommy. Weird, right? Unless Diego put that trap there for Tommy.
“Everything gets back to normal. Some new kid fills in for Chris. Life goes on. Tommy, well, he keeps on being Tommy. Now, Frank, he lives in the same neighborhood as Diego, and he tells me -- one night we’re having beers at this sweet spot on Lincoln -- he tells me he’s seen Diego going into this Santeria shop. You know what that is? It’s like Mexican voodoo. I mean, I don’t think it’s just Mexican, but it’s like Mexican voodoo. You know what I’m saying. They cut off chicken heads and put curses on people, talk to the dead, and blood magic whatever. It is what it is.
“Frank tells me this, and I’m like, ‘And what?’ He goes, ‘I’m just telling you what I saw.’ I figure a man’s business is his own. Who gives a fuck if Diego is looking for lottery numbers in chicken guts or what all people do at some Santeria. Maybe he’s got a dead grandma he really misses, or some ex- put a curse on him. I don’t know. I don’t give a fuck. My only worry is if he’s holding up his end of the couch when we’re carrying it. However, it’s not too long after that -- and I didn’t really consider what Frank told me at the time -- Tommy starts getting a little twitchy.
“He gets to complaining about not being able to sleep. Says he's been having these wicked nightmares about being hacked to pieces with machetes by these vicious looking motherfuckers. Tells me they look like people who skinned their own faces, and they chase him down just to hack him. Says he can even feel the cuts after he wakes up.
“This story is getting to be longer than I expected, so I’ll try to tighten things up.
“These nightmares really get to Tommy. He can’t sleep, even starts avoiding it to be honest. Tells me he’s smoking meth to keep from having to sleep. Soon as I hear that, I figure that explains the nightmares and what happens next. See, Tommy starts seeing these people with skinned faces on the street. He thinks something out of a bad dream is actually stalking him. Tommy also says sometimes he comes home and there’s blood on the walls. Blood splattered all over the place, and no matter how much he cleans it the blood always comes back. He’s hearing voices whispering in his apartment. However, none of this sounds weird when you know a guy is smoking crank. I chalk it all up to the meth. And in a way, I feel bad for the guy. I don’t know why he’s doing meth, but I know it’s fucking up his life.
“Anyway, Tommy ended up throwing himself out a window. Didn’t kill himself. He only fell like two, two and a half stories. Fucked him up but didn’t kill him. He told the cops he was just trying to get away from these guys with machetes and no skin on their faces. You can imagine what the cops thought. They put him in a psyche ward straight away. I can’t say much about what’s happened to him since then. I know he’s still there cuz I ran into his sister about a month ago. Sounds like he’s gotten better, hasn’t seen anything in a while, but Tommy’s too scared to leave. He thinks the minute he steps outside he’s fucked.
“And I didn’t think anything of it all -- a man goes crazy -- it’s sad but it happens. Didn’t think a thing till a short while after Tommy got sent to the whacko basket I’m talking to Diego and ask, ‘You hear about Tommy?’ D. smiles at me. He looks me in the eye, says, ‘I know all about it,’ and winks at me. I’m like that was weird but whatever. Diego didn’t like Tommy, so he’s probably happy to see his life all fucked. Then I remembered what Frank told me about the Santeria shop.
“I mean, I’m not sayin’, but I’m sayin’. Who knows? Right? Shit can get weird. Alls I’m sayin’, really, is that thing you pulled with the water balloon fulla mustard, that was hilarious, but it was Diego you hit with it.
“Speaking of el diablo. Here he comes… what up Diego?”
“Sup. You the new guy?”
“Yeah. Yeah, but I quit.”