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113 As he had promised, George Roberts reported at the pickle factory promptly at eight the next day. Andy was waiting for him, hoping he was sober. “Well, I’m here, Andy. Here, just like I said I would be.” George had a three-day growth of mostly gray whiskers that gathered in clumps around his jaw line. As they shook hands, Andy took his breath—and smelled cigarettes, but no alcohol. He remembered that George was a heavy smoker. “Remember, George, no drinking, and no smoking in the building. You got to smoke outside.” “I got it, Andy,” he said as he touched his long, thin finger to the side of his head. “Got it right here. Remember from last time I worked here. Remember about the smoking. Yup, I remember that. Remember that good. Old mind is still there, Andy. Brain still works.” “Want you to work on the sorter with Agnes. You remember Agnes, don’t you?” Agnes Swarsinski was scraping dirt off the wooden sorter bars. “Hey there, George,” she said. “How the hell are ya?” 15 George Roberts “I’m good Agnes. Feelin’ good. Took the cure, you know. Over at Oshkosh.” “Hope it works out for you, George.” “Workin’ out fine, Agnes. Workin’ out fine so far. Things are comin’ back together. Comin’ back together for me.” “Meet Quarter Mile Sweet, George. He’s new this year,” Andy said. “Jeez, what the hell happened to your eye?” “Got into a little misunderstanding,” Quarter Mile said. “How’d the other fellow look?” George asked, grinning. He didn’t put two and two together and figure out the reason he had a job might be because of a fight that Quarter Mile had been in. “This is Preacher,” Andy said. “He’s also new here this year. Preacher’s the pastor over at the Church of the Holy Redeemed.” “Well, I’m sure pleased to meet a man of the cloth. Sure pleased.” George shook the preacher’s hand. “’Spect you’re keepin’ down the swearin’ around this place. Sure as hell been a problem durin’ past summers. Sure has.” “So pleased the Lord has saved you from the devil’s drink,” Preacher said. “Yup, he sure as hell did,” George replied, smiling. “Let’s go see Helen,” Andy said. “Get your payroll stuff straight. Got your Social Security card with you?” “Nope, but I know the number. Got it right up here, Andy.” Once more he tapped on the side of his head. “How are you, George?” Helen asked by way of a greeting. “Doin’ fine, Helen. Doin’ fine. Things gettin’ better. Gettin’ better everyday. How about you, Helen? How you doin’? Heard you’ve had some tough sleddin’. Tough sleddin’ without a man around. Woman needs a man.” Helen rolled her eyes. 114 George Roberts 115 George Roberts “Here, fill this out,” she said, handing a piece of paper and a pencil to George. “Yup, I’ll fill ’er out, fill ’er out right now.” George sat down at the side of the desk and scratched some basic information about himself on the standard H. H. Harlow employment form. “What do I write on this line, Helen? Asks about my last permanent job and why I left. What do I say here? Reason was I was drunk and they fired me. Do I write that down? Don’t sound right to put that down. I ain’t drunk now. Ain’t drunk now, am I, Helen?” “No, you don’t appear to be.” Helen smiled when she said it. “Well, I ain’t. I took the cure over at Oshkosh. Place where they help guys like me give up drinkin’. You know about the cure over at Oshkosh, Helen?” “I’ve heard of it.” “You don’t ever want to go there. Helluva place for a human being. One helluva place. But it works, Helen. You quit drinkin’.” Looking at George’s employment file, Helen suggested, “Why don’t you just write, ‘Left employment at Link Lake Sawmill after twenty-five years.’” “I’ll do that, Helen. That’s what I’ll write. Won’t be lying, will I, Helen?” “No, you won’t be lying, George.” George slowly wrote the words on the employment form. “Well, here she is, Helen. All filled out like you wanted. Even remembered to sign my John Henry on the bottom. Signed it right there, place where it says to sign.” “Hope things get better for you, George...


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MARC Record
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