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Cave Canem: A Special Section

when the wind blows off Lake Michigan you know you don’t have far to go. steel is made there.

the day-turn gang passes the four-to-twelve horde in locker rooms in a high speed changing of the guard. everyone knows what the other is about to go through.

inside, it’s hot everywhere but laziness will get you fired sleepiness will get you killed.

your first day you are frightened by the noisy mechanics of overhead derricks ground-level cranes and speeding forklifts. when the blast-furnace doors open you realize that those Sunday morning Flash Gordon episodes prepared you for the shoveling.

silently you thank your father when one of his primadonna-brickmason-buddies tries to send you off to find a “sky-hook.” you’d heard about that joke at the dinner table. you would not be its next victim.

old heads tell you to blow your nose and if you’re not too young drink some whiskey to wash down the airborne residue. some of it flickers like party glitter in the sunlight. it will make it to your lungs. [End Page 988]

you know that men who care get thirty years of grit under their nails so sons won’t have to. you know you’ll only be there three months to make spendin money because you are the boy of one who does.

not as many make that rust-belt money as before. the billboard on the highway to college said it all: “the threat is real from foreign steel.” when you come home, hundreds of friends you left behind end their sentences with ‘laid-off.’

after-hours joints thrive on long green. weeds now compete with boards over what will block an entrance best. no need for a place to party when you can’t afford the liquor.

you understand why dad’s sleep is so deep and noisy when he gets it why playin was so difficult when you asked.

mills use natural resources to make hard product.

steel is made there too.

Brandon D. Johnson

Brandon D. Johnson is author of The Strangers Between and Man Burns Ant. Originally from Gary, Indiana, he received the JD degree from the Antioch School of Law.

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