Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Howard and I Have a Fight

"Good morning Sir Barrett!!" resonated Howard's awfully energetic voice at about 7:35am today, as he saluted and passed me before I had the chance to respond. He was wearing his blue cape, which I have trouble taking seriously, and wearing a T-shirt that he designed himself, which has the skull-and-cross-bones (or poisonous symbol) with a big red circle and diagonal line through it. He says it's his "pledge to health and safety" but I just call it his "anti-poison" symbol. "I see that Howard's at full throttle again" said Andy, and grinned widely.

Howard was running around like usual, more marching I suppose, puffing out his chest and exuding a full-of-himself mode. I had just poured myself a coffee and I wasn't ready to start up the jackhammer for a little while (Boss D gives us time to wake up before we wake everyone else up with our noise at around quarter to eight). Howard obviously had a fire in his belly and wanted to be the big trailblazer. I suppose that in his mind he had important matters to deal with, and couldn't fritter his time away sitting with the actually employed crew.

Boss D said:
"I guess I'll have you go up with him. Make sure he doesn't get tangled in the power cables this time, and I guess I'll get you guys to fill those patches on the eighth floor." "OK" I said. I couldn't fight it. I was going to have to supervise Howard again.

First we walked around getting things all set up: untying the ropes from the swing-stage that are attached to the roof, mixing some cement, and hooking the jack-hammers up to the air compressor. I did most of it, but Howard would blend in, while he whistled to the tune of "Little Cabin in the Woods".

There was a can of paint that someone else left out. I was about to pack it away but the lid wouldn't fit properly and Howard put his hand on my shoulder (which tends to piss me off) and said:
"No, no, no, Barrett, this simply won't do. Let me see that. You've got it all wrong." I got up and gave him the screwdriver so that he could bend the clamps onto the bucket. Even though it frustrates me, there's no point trying to resist Howard's aid when he decides to take over. "This lid has something peculiar about it. It is all too wrong for this bucket entirely! This is balderdash! Let me tell you something my son: women are very much like buckets." (groan. Another analogy!) Howard picked up another lid that I didn't see and started fastening it. "Rather, a man is like a bucket, and women are like lids." "But buckets are more vaginal than lids are." I argued. "I am not talking privates you pervert! This is not a Freudian psychoanalysis, I am trying to give you an important lesson! What I mean is, that every bucket has its proper lid. Every man has his proper woman, every head has a hat, hand a glove, belt a buckle...you see my point. A man may have to search across the seas to find his her, or stretch his every ligament, or if he is someone suited to idleness, his unworthy soul may be so lucky as to stumble across the girl next door. On the other hand, he may go years without slaying the proverbial dragon, devoting his studies to her arts, writing encomiums, holding fast, and beating his breast for the love of some damsel, BUT!" And when he said "BUT!" his volume rose and he punctuated it with a pause and with his finger pointing at the sky, "...But! When he finds that one woman, she will be a perfect fit."

"Do you believe that Howard? That there is the one and only one perfect fit?" "Well, there may be others that can be banged into place if you intent on forcing them, and there may be those synthetically designed to fit if.." "Howard, just answer the question!" "Yes, I believe in true love." Wow! Howard never talked like this! I didn't think "love" was in his vocabulary. Before Pamphilia, the most romantic thing Howard had ever done was play chess with his maid. I had to push it a bit further. "Is Pamphilia the lid to your bucket?" I asked. Howard turned beet red, but when I looked into his eyes, I thought I saw them glisten with happiness. "She is."

So that was Howard's idea of how love worked.

Then we went up and started punching out holes in the concrete slabs with our hammers. I was expecting disaster but Howard was actually pretty good. He drilled in deep within moments. He caught me gawking and didn't even stop but smiled and winked while continuing to hammer with an almost unsettling expertise. After awhile he stopped and wiped his forehead. "I've never seen you jackhammer Howard." I commented. Then I got some explanation: "Yes, it reminds me of Istanbul in '99. I was just passing through on my way to sea, visiting the historic sites where the greatest sultans lived. I walked on the same stones as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Howsoever, I suppose you could say that I was part of a special emergency crew that formed to deal with things after they became such a dreadful mess." Howard had never told me about being in Turkey. What was he doing there? What does this have to do with jack-hammering? "Yes, after the earthquake hit, they were desperate for those of us skilled enough to rescue the victims that were trapped. It was a horrid affair, and quite terrifying. I was saved by sheer accident, but it seemed like divine intervention that I was handed a jackhammer at just the critical moment, by the hand of Turk. The man had the hammer, but wasn't in the position to use it. I must admit I didn't even know what it was at first, but I knew there was serious business at hand. There was one Howard who wasn't going to let those poor people down. I picked it up fairly quickly, considering that I was under acute pressure. As I was digging through the mess, I pulled away the rubble, and soon enough I saw a hand waving. I pulled a woman out and she was badly hurt, but she was conscious enough to scream out in pain. What amazed me was that she was still holding her cat!" "Wow Howard! That's quite a story!" I had to admit it. It was. "But why did the man just happen to have a jack-hammer and just happen to give it to you." It seemed a little too strange and spontaneous to be true. "Well, actually, he was a construction worker working on a building just like this one here. Then the buidling started to shake and it toppled over and a bronze statue fell on his head and he was killed." "Oh, that's too bad. I see. So it wasn't as if you were part of the Red Crescent Society sent on an official mission to help save lives?" "No, not exactly." "No? So you just happened to be strolling in Turkey when you stole a jack-hammer off of a dead man in an earthquake, which you then figured out was a jack-hammer, which you then you used to break people out of the carnage with?" "That is correct," answered Howard matter-of-factly. "I also saved a cat!" He added, seeming very proud, but as it turns out I was pretty sure that I didn't recall Howard being an emergency worker sent to Turkey for that reason. He's just lucky. He gets thrown into everything.

Then it was lunch time and we lowered ourselves to the ground to head over to the break room. Howard and Boss D talked about explosives again. D was in the military and Howard was asking him about using phosphorous in bombs to give them a glow like incendiaries. Boss D got talking about napalm and dynamite, demonstrating the effect of their destruction with large gestures and yelling "BLAM! BOOM!!!" after every mention of a bomb, just to make sure we understood that they were that powerful. I went outside to read and take a lie-down on the 'sleeping grass.'

After lunch we went up to throw cement into the holes that we had chipped out with our instruments of demolition. We took balls of cement and threw them as hard as we could to get them packed tightly into the holes in the slabs. Even though the balls wouldn't travel more than a metre from my hand into the cracks, Howard still felt it necessary to rate each of my throws, saying: "Good sidewinder. Ah! Excellent curve-ball!" and so on. I don't know how he does it, but he was sincerely engaged. Then he got into critiquing me with things like: "that pitch was a little off." or "Now, don't give the batter too much advantage. I think if this were baseball you wouldn't be playing for the major leagues." "Yeah, well if this were baseball, you wouldn't even be on the field."

After awhile we got into our own work and things were going smoothly for awhile, until I looked over and Howard was standing in front of one of the patches with his eyes rolled up in his head and his hands caressing the mud lightly. I could see that he had deviated slightly from our priority, which was to repair the structural damage of the balcony, and had instead decided to do some of his own sculpting. His hands rested on what appeared to be some of the finest breasts I had seen in awhile. "Howard! What the hell are you doing!?" Howard shook out of his reverie and cleared his throat, "Nothing, nothing at all." Then I asked him about Pamphilia, what she was up to, how the rallies were going. He said she was distressed lately that she was not pretty enough for him, which was "absolutely ridiculous" he said. "She is worried that she doesn't look like Jessica Simpson, that her hair is too long, or too short, or that her skin isn't fair enough. I cannot tell her often enough how beautiful she is, how I adore her almond eyes, and how she doesn't need to worry about me pandering to the likes of other women. She makes me coo." "That's nice. So do you see marriage in your future?" "HA!" Said Howard. This "HA!" seemed like him downplaying the consideration in his own mind. "I see pelicans and mulberries in my future! This is not a time to be talking of marriage! We are both very busy!"

Right.

We worked a bit more, then Howard asked about "that fine European princess" that I visited when he met Pamphilia. "She was a feisty cat. Where is she and why doesn't she send us gizzards anymore?" "She thought you were a jerk Howard. I'm surprised you remember her." It was true. When she met Howard the once, he tried to kiss her hand and she pulled away and told him to leave her apartment. Somehow Howard smoothed things over and they ended up studying together. She liked Howard's rock collection and she showed him how to do a proper dissection on a goat. (This came in handy when Howard needed to do autopsies to find out why his goats weren't producing optimum milk yield for his homemade ice cream). "I always liked her even if she didn't fancy me so much. She was such a bright young lady, and such vigour she had! Why did she leave you? You should have been kinder to her." I didn't really want to talk about it with Howard, but I had a friend who I deeply offended because I got too nosy about a friend of hers, and she told me to stop bothering her after things turned sour. "I tried to be kind, but she took it as meanness. She would get angry when I'd joke around." I explained. Still, I haven't figured out why I made her so angry or why she stopped talking to me. I felt bad because I upset her. Then Howard offered his advice: "It is one thing to joke, but quite another to joke about those who are close to others. That is bogus. I thought perhaps she could have been your 'lid' Barrett. You had feelings for her to that effect, as far as I gather. Did she simply start to acquire more passionate feelings for the rubbish man?" Here he was joking and being all light about the downfall of my relationship with someone I thought was close to me, and he's warning me about doing the same to others! Now Howard was proding. "He's not a garbage man, he's a book salesman." "Yes, Pamphilia said she saw her at the beach the other day, sun-tanning...with an accomplice." I was thinking: "Shut-up Howard!" but he was obviously egging me on. I concluded the conversation by trying to put a lid on it: "Whatever man, it's bunk that she doesn't want to talk, because she was a good friend. Friends 'see through the act, but they still enjoy the show.' I don't know why, but for whatever reason, she was putting on an act with me, or she doesn't enjoy the show anymore, I don't know which, but I wish I could make it up to her. She suddenly abandoned me and I think she's probably just confused, but I hope she's doing well." I do. I want her to be happy, but I also want to be part of it. However, I think too much about hypothetical situations like that. Howard had the nerve to have the last word: "Yes. Hopefully you'll have better luck next time."

Just then, Nate came walking by underneath our stage, yelling "BLAM! BOOM!!" mocking Boss D. Howard took immediate offense and turned around abruptly to yell back at him. "Nathan! That is very rude behaviour! Unacceptable! You could try to show some respect for your elders." Nate looked up for a moment, then, in the same tone as Howard, he said "Howard, you can suck me." To add to his comment, Nate used the hammer that he was carrying to make a masturbatory gesture. This sent Howard into a bit of a rage, and he clenched his teeth and sucked air through them, muttering curses under his breath: "that wretched boy! I will have him in for it one of these days! He will see my wrath!" Apparently Howard is a little more protective of my boss than I expected. I asked Howard why he took things so seriously, and he said "well, it makes a difference whether or not you're going to do things for real or in the mode of a fool. I choose not to be a fool, so that's why I take this job seriously." "But Howard, this isn't even a job for you. You don't even get paid. Why do you come and work here?" "I am the guardian of health and safety. You may choose to think of your livelihood as a game of poker, but I will not endanger my friends." So Howard was here for my benefit!! "But Howard, we already have a health and safety rep: Steve!" Then Howard just shrugged and acted as if that was of no influence. "Others may hold official titles, but father Howard is watching out for you." Father Howard??? Sometimes I don't believe him. "Howard, I don't need you to look out for me. I'm fine. You need to chill out." Sometimes I wish father Howard wasn't watching out for me, but how do you get rid of him? I wanted to ask him why he does the things he does, why he refers to himself in third person, why he doesn't just travel like he usually does, flying by the seat of his pants.

Back to the holes in the slabs. You have to first brush the surfaces with a diluted version of the cement. This is called "slurry," but to get the liquid all the way to the back of the holes, you have to be quite violent with the brush. Slurry often sprays out and you get it all over you, so I was doing it the way I always do, and just 'givin' er'. Then Howard yelled "Stop! What are you doing?! Who are you? Pollock the painter? You have to thrust in a more forward fashion." Then he started doing it, moving his body like he was throwing darts, but it was spraying all over anyway. I took the brush back and said, "like this?" Then I flicked it right in his face. He sputtered and shook. He looked completely shocked. Then, for a moment, I realized I had taken it too far, and he said "well, aren't you a rotten little rodent!" Then he jumped at me. I resisted, but he was flailing and punching in an unpredictable way. I had his head in a hold faster than he could say "Heidegger" and grabbed a mortar-ball and shoved it into his mouth. He picked up a rusty stick of rhebar and did a backhand swing to smash me on my head. The bastard probably could have killed me, but I had my hard-hat on. I was furious! I caught the bungee cord from off of the stage, and I was going to use it to strangle him, but he smacked me again and we both tumbled over on top of each other, like lovers in the heat of the moment. I grabbed a hammer and started hitting his fingers to get them off of me. "Ouch! Ouch! You rogue!" He yelled and then put his fingers in his mouth to suck on them. I bet it stung, but now we were both exhausted. We both lay down and panted for awhile, but then he got up and said: "Take me down from here. I'm not working with you another second." "That's fine!" I said. "No one likes you anyway!" I'm not sure that this is true. Howard can be extremely charismatic at times, but I was totally pissed. We drove down the wall in silence, until we were on the ground and he unhooked himself violently and angrily. "You can sort out this problem Barrett. You won't have any help from me." He said. What did it matter? I had been doing this work for two summers in a row! "Take a hike Howard! Take a hike to Timbuktu, before I knock you there!" What a guy! He threatens to just walk off the job! I didn't even know what to expect next, but he ripped off his harness, and I could see that his lip was bleeding slightly. "I hope you sleep in a bed of brambles." He said, so vehemently that I could see the spit and blood fly together in the air. Then he simply walked off. I was stunned.

I had to work with Boss D for the rest of the day, and Boss D said I looked a little "shaken up" but I said that Howard and I just had an accident involving some falling plywood and he didn't ask too many questions. The whole episode made me think about how it escalated, and how Howard, despite his eccentricities, was actually just a sensitive person deep down inside. I had projected all these feelings I had about him because I feel like so many people misunderstand him and just dismiss him as a weird dude, but that he's always been there for me.

When I got home, there was no Howard. I bet he went to the pool hall to burn off steam. It was such a weird day but I guess they happen every once in awhile. Oh well, he needs to know that people don't appreciate his arrogance. He needs to add some new Howardianisms to his book.

Filed under Howard Wayword

4 Comments:

Blogger joe said...

hmmmm.. this howard, he sounds like he needs a friend. get him a dog. they offer unconditional love. and name it howie! great post! very funny.

10:09 PM  
Blogger iamnasra said...

this seems a long story that I have to give a bit time to read and since Im at the office I might return later

8:45 AM  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

joe -yeah, Howard is definitely in need of a new pet. Unfortunately, I don't know where he went. I think he might have flown the coop. We're looking for him.

iamnasra -Admittedly, this did turn into a rather long post. You may take it in small pieces. It might be more digestible that way and it'll still be here when you come back :)

4:05 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

HILARIOUS POST! some peole are just damn needy! lol.....you really needed to vent! phew...feel better now?

3:08 PM  

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