"Are you eating your own shit again, Tubbs? What a worthless jackass!” Tank yells at a closed stall at the end of the locker room. Guys laugh & hoot, preparing to leave or to begin their 8-hour shift.
Tubbs shouts, “Woot! Woot!” from the shitter. “Mwah, mwah, MWAH!” His unlaced workboots show under the door, & an awful rancid odor gives away that Tubbs is taking a shit. Tank has known him since high school. They played on the school football team together. Tubbs was a star running back for the Waterford Warriors years ago.
Tank's locker is unluckily placed next to the shitter Tubbs uses. Tank opens his creaky gray locker door, exposing an array of coat hangers & green uniforms, cream-colored scrunched shower towels, old split belts drooping like stretched brown worms, Old Spice deodorant tubes, various coins, his oddly small toolbox for such a doubly round man, & a dirty makeshift spreading paddle to smooth liquid resin across fiberglass sheets, plus the rank of Tank's twice-boiled sweat, inside the metallic rectangular space. Tank grabs at some old production papers in there. He balls one up. Tank's heels lift. He sends the ball of paper like a basketball over the stall door. “3 points!”
Tubbs yuck-yuck-yucks & bellows, “You fuckin' fucker, Tank!” Tank chuckles, & snuff juice dribbles from his lips. Everybody in the locker room is entertained. Tubbs grunts & farts like a cartoon as he plops out water-splashing turds, egging Tank on with something like a last pooped-out word.
Listening to the banter, Rick booms “NOBODY TALKS TO TANK LIKE THAT & LIVES TO SAY IT AGAIN!”
Nobody's sure about Rick.
There are so many vivid, frightening stories about him. He's an old-timer with a dangerous “fuck-you” reputation. He's been known to snap & crush his helpers, bragging about it afterwards. Rick's locker is beside Tank's. He flings an old workshirt over & into the stall. Tubbs giggles on the toilet, blanketed by the dirty shirt.
“NEXT TIME FUCKER, IT'LL BE MY KNIVES!” Rick pauses. He's screaming. “OR MAYBE GODDAMN TANK'S FAT ASS! HELL, MAYBE I'LL JUST STAND UP ON A BENCH & PISS ON YR FUCKING HEAD!” Everybody laughs after Rick laughs, even a relieved Tubbs. Even Tank.
Before Tank exits the locker room, he spits Copenhagen juice at the graffiti'd stall door. Tank struts around the concrete-block wall like he's a dainty, sexy Betty Boop. He transforms back into his lumbering self carrying a very small toolbox as he enters the sprawl of the mill. The sweet deadly stink of the factory. Its steel-crashing-steel machines like an echoing mechanical vista.
A congregation of employees who wait for the time-clock bell gab like happy ducks in the main aisle. Rick is double Tank's height, but Tank is double Rick's width. Rick talks with his arms & hands to a curious group, as Tank stands there chuckling. Tank's a Rick-approved star for the day, for fucking with Tubbs in the locker room.
Tubbs remains on the pot. He watches brown droplets drip, drip in front of his boots on the chipped concrete floor inside the putrid shadowy stall. Nobody hears Tubbs wipe & giggle.
Ron Androla is the author of Factory Fables (2016), After Satan (2015), Confluence (2015), and many other books.