Post War Heat
Murray W. Dunlap
anning himself with the classifieds and greasy with sweat, Sweets stopped at the cargo train tracks to catch his breath before scuffling to the main gate of the Alabama Dry Docks. The guard gave Sweets directions to the employment office, and Sweets, who already knew the way, carefully chose a path through rusting piles of scrap and long, dark shadows cast by cranes. Sweets repeated his qualifications quietly over and over through thick, swollen lips.
"Hey look, ole Sweets gonna try again!" Wishbone, along with several other welders, shouted at Sweets from a cracked oil tanker prop, a cloud of thinning steam, sparks, and soot rising from the acetylene torch into the searing heat.
Sweets kept on, eyes focused forward, until stopping again at the backdoor of the office. He straightened his brown striped tie, put his elbow-patched jacket on--covering as many sweat stains as possible, and before going in, gave a good rub to the rooster foot in his pocket.
Hours later, Sweets emerged from the building, the lines inside mazing unemployed workers around like rats, and sat down outside the door. Sweets had exited through the same door he entered, unable to stand the gripes congregating on the front steps. Same shit as always, ain't no work fo a niggah! Already beginning to sweat again, Sweets turned as Wishbone, blackened with soot, came and sat beside him.
"Who knows, Sweets, maybe we'll have another war," Wishbone said. "You go home now and get outta dis goddamn heat."
First published: August 1999