My Father's First Job, 1958
Joseph M. Faria

"This is piecework, boy," the Boss said. "You know what piecework is, don't you?"

The young man, Pedro, shook his head.

"The more pieces you make, the more money you make. You know what money is, don't you, boy?"

Pedro nodded.

"So don't gum it up for the other workers. You understand?"

Pedro nodded again and followed the Boss out to the assembly line. A force of twelve workers sat, or stood at different stations at the conveyer belt. The belt moved in a wide oval manner with a steady stream of sneakers in all stages of development.

"We make sneakers here, boy. You know what a sneaker is, don't you?"

"Yes," Pedro said.

"We make the best sneaker in America. Right, Gladys?"

A middle aged woman looked up, wiped sweat from her forehead, and with a strained smile said, "Sure boss."

The boss walked up to Paul. Paul was short, fat, and wore a grim face. He was sweating profusely. Beads clung to his upper lip.

"Paul, I want you to meet Pedro."

Paul grunted, shot a short stubbly hand out, but Pedro was not quick enough to grasp it.

"Paul, I want you to teach him how to put soles up."

"He's a greenhorn, for christsakes," Paul said.

"I need him up to speed ASAP," the boss said, and then he turned to Pedro and gave him a swift handshake. "Welcome to America, boy."

First published: May, 2003