NEW TO “WMDs”? START FROM THE BEGINNING!
In theory, the job these four were to do was easy. One man drives the truck towing the tar pot, one man walks in front of the truck blowing out cracks in the road, and two men follow filling the newly blown cracks with tar. Oftentimes, theories are inconceivably wrong. Instructions for setting a DVD clock sound easy all the same. The sum of them could put tar in cracks like Picasso. All of their DVD players read 12:00 blinking intermittently.
Jep opened the door of his truck. The air conditioner did what it could to hold the line from the heat of the morning but inevitably lost – instantly. “Nave, what time is it?” Jep winced, sweating profusely.
“Six-thirty, we’re right on time.”
“I know,” Jep replied miserably. “It’s only six-thirty and it must be 90 degrees already. You know how hot it’s going to be at noon.”
Nave knew. He preferred not to think about the inevitable. It was May and unseasonably hot. They were in the middle of nowhere. The road they were about to ascend was a massive hill.
“Hey Jep,” Nave said.
“You know how you said you were putting on weight and wanted to lose a few pounds?”
“Well, that’s one big hill we have to walk up. It’s at least two miles. Not to mention it’ll be 150 degrees behind that damn melting pot.”
“And it’s going to be an awful two miles!”
The work would get done. It wasn’t the work that Jep disliked. It was the lack of significance of the work. He filled cracks on roadways and he knew it. He also knew that he wasn’t changing the world, and this bothered him. What bothered him more was his increasing waistline, and this labor was sure to be the perfect remedy. And so the starving children of the world could wait.
“You know what my problem is Nave?”
Jep waved his arms to Scooter and Tommy, motioning them over, who, in the meantime, had taken up a wrestling match on the shoulder of the road.
“What’s up Skip?” the two called back dusting themselves off, Ronnie donning flecks of crimson at his elbows.
“Have a question I want to bring to the table, you damn Hulksters,” Jep spoke, the two now standing in front of him panting. “Ok…it’s no secret I’ve been gaining weight.”
“Uhh…sure…what’s the big deal, not getting laid huh?” said Scooter innocently.
“That’s not what I’m saying.” It wasn’t about sex for Jep; it was sincerely about pride in his appearance. “Hear me out. Would you three consider yourselves alcoholics?”
“With that said, could you stop drinking tomorrow? Without…without weaning yourselves off. Just simply stop.”
The three friends stood looking at each other, smiling wicked smiles. They had all tried. They had all trembled and, shortly following their alcohol sabbaticals, they drank again. Of the three, Scooter had lasted the longest, making it seven days. This was, however, unintentional. In fact, he had been drinking more than usual, however, he had been unwittingly drinking non-alcoholic beer. He simply thought he had become completely immune to the effects of booze. Meanwhile, his withdrawal was bad to the point of hallucination. This was not atypical.
In perfect harmony the three replied, “No.” It was a beautiful note that world-class tenors would covet. It was beautiful because of its truth. Honesty has an incomparable pitch.
“Ok,” Jep continued, “and I enjoy food. If I were a food addict, the only way off the junk would be to just quit. An alcoholic can cut back until he’s dry, but I have to quit the foods I like completely, or else be fat evermore. Of all the overindulgences, food is the cruelest mistress.”
Tommy laughed wildly, lighting a cigarette and taking another tug from his flask, “That’s funny,” he said, “ridiculous too. We all have our damn habits and it’s pointless to try and rationalize them. If I like something, I’m going to do it and there’s no sense in trying to side-step it.”
Nave rested his leathery hand on the massive left shoulder of Tommy, “Well, Tommy, you’re trying to justify your problem, which means you’re denying the fact that you’re a damn alcoholic. The way I see it, justification is just a form of denial.”
Scooter seemed lost as Jep nodded in agreement. Nave took his hand from Tommy’s shoulder, running it through his own hair.
“I drink too much,” Nave went on, “and I hate that about myself. Am I going to stop? Not this day or the next. It’s going to kill me, but at least I know it. What’s say we get this day started, eh boys?”
The clock read noon, with Scooter behind the wheel of the truck singing away to some awful pop song on the radio about heartbreak or being in love. This type of music spoke to him because it was simple. The sun had fastened itself in the center of the sky, a deadly piercing eye supervising the labor as it always had. At least it painted the summer foliage a brilliant green, the trees thriving, rising ever upward yearning to be in the garden of God. Tommy jogged lightly in front of the truck, his air hose in hand, expertly dusting the cracks awaiting their tar. Given his size, passersby were led to believe that Tommy himself was pulling the truck and tar pot up the never-ending hill. He was glistening with sweat, yet still managed to maintain his grin – his trademark.
Nave and Jep jogged behind the melting pot. Held in their hands were large metal rods with small disks at the ends. One hand held the pipe while the other turned the valve releasing the boiling tar into the cracks. Connected to the rods were large black hoses which were connected to the tar pot itself. The tar was thick, black, boiling, and awaiting its arrival to its new home on the road. The tar was as dark and black as water wasn’t and as void of life giving as water was, save the cracks on the road. To a crack in the road, the tar was its soul mate. The tar would flow into the crack, repairing the wound left by years of trotting. When filled, the crack was complete again. To look at the crack, the repair was obvious, but nonetheless it was filled and functional. Incidentally, the tar simply had nothing better to do.
Rising ever upward along the hill as the sun turned the sweat on their clothes into large white patches of salt, Jep turned to Nave. He spoke morbidly, “This hill is horrible. This heat is horrible. I’m not the macabre type, but this genuinely feels like we are repairing the road to hell.”
Nave chuckled, flashing a smile in agreement, his toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth. “What you’re saying is that the road to hell is maintained by the hands of man,” he replied.
“I guess so,” Jep shot back, reaching across the lane filling another lonely crack.
“Aren’t we just a couple of walking, talking metaphors then?” Nave laughed. “In other words, we are building our own road to hell. I always figured I’m doing that anyway, this may as well be the literal manifestation.”
Nave thought about this for a moment, and then another. The sweat continued rolling down the lengths of their bodies. With each passing second, the sun seemed to grow hotter.
“Well, it’s definitely hot enough to be hell. Never pictured it being so green though. Doubt there’s a breeze either, however slight it may be,” said Jep. The breeze was in fact so slight that a speck of pollen would have trouble making its engagement with the flower of its dreams.
“You know what this reminds me of, Jep?” said Nave, flailing his arms back and forth, filling the sea of lonely cracks. “You know the story of Sisyphus?”
“I think so, but remind me again,” Jep replied.
“This guy was a real bastard in life, killing and deceiving people. Then he defies the gods. As his punishment, he’s forced to push a boulder up a huge hill. Every time he’s near the top, the boulder would roll back down. For eternity he’s forced to do this.”
Jep laughed, “I see the similarities. Are we similar bastards? I can’t really recall defying any god lately. I can only hope this hill doesn’t go on forever, and when we do finish, I’d never like to see this hill again.”
“Well we are on it brother, and I can tell you I haven’t always been the best to people. I don’t believe in God, maybe that’s my defiance,” Nave said in a concerned voice.
“I don’t think he was punished for being godless,” Jep replied. “You said yourself that he deliberately defied the gods. I’d say he was punished for both defiance and leaving a trail of victims. In a sense he was playing God himself.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Nave said, sweat falling from his temples, “but he sure found out he wasn’t a god. He wound up being a victim of them.”
“Sounds about right, but only as a punishment. So I wouldn’t exactly call him a victim.”
“We were victims once,” said Nave somberly, thinking of the women who had hurt them.
“And you’ve had a lot of victims too, Nave.”
“So maybe this is Hell, Jep. So God has the final say. Who the hell is judging him?”
Jep, hanging his tar pipe in its holster, turned to Nave, “Not to sound cliché, but only God knows. Not to mention this is the top of the hill buddy, we’re done. Probably never see this hill again. So I suppose your fate isn’t sealed today. Not bad, escaping hell by one o’clock on a Friday.”
Nave laughed. It was Friday, which meant a reprieve for the time being. Slapping Jep on the back, he said, “True enough, Jep. True enough.”