Big Dan at Work and at Home
by John Rossi
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
“Well, if he feels that way, how come he’s always gawking at me?”
“I don’t know, Maybe it’s because you’re so approachable and all,” Kenny said wryly. “You know, he looks down the aisle as he walks past and thinks to say good morning but notices you’re too busy roughing up some smartass kid. I mean can you blame him for not coming over to say hi to the six-foot tall, three-hundred pound beast who is throwing people around the aisle?”
Now Dan genuinely felt stupid. He looked away from Kenny, embarrassed by his own actions. Kenny was right, of course, he was acting like a goon. He looked back to begin apologizing when they both heard the crash. It was immediately followed by the sound of a man screaming. They both looked at each other for a moment before they began to run in the direction of the accident.
Kenny stopped only a second after he started as he watched Dan move with such speed that he was down the aisle and gone almost as soon as he’d begun to run. He had never seen anyone move that fast in his life.
When Dan got to the front of the warehouse, the situation was instantly apparent. One forklift was on its side having obviously just been hit by the other forklift that was backing away from it. Who should be getting off the offending lift other than the smartass kid. Now Dan wondered if he was going to regret not kicking the punk’s ass. What was worse was that someone was on the tipped lift, and they were yelling in pain.
Dan ran over while his many co-workers started to panic. Some of the other associates began to scream in fear at seeing one of their own hurt. Don Dougan, the warehouse mechanic, began screaming at the kid to get the hell off the lift. Al, the pick line supervisor, was already at the driver’s side, seeing what he could do. Dan didn’t hesitate any longer. He ran over and saw that it was Pete Hall who was on the downed lift and his arm was pinned between the forklift’s cage and the floor.
Pete cried out in pain and holding his arm at the elbow. Al was telling him not to move. Dan began screaming for everybody to get out of the way so he could lift the cage off Pete’s arm. The kid was yelling something about having to move the lift to get to a jack, which seemed to be the case, since Pete had barely pulled away from the spot where his equipment was parked every morning.
The problem was that all the forklifts were still mostly parked on the wall and, surrounding them, were several electronic pallet jacks. At least one of the jacks was going to have to be moved to get a forklift free, since the one the kid had hit Pete with was now blocked by the tipped forklift.
Pete was pleading for someone to help him.
Al tried to keep him calm.
Everybody was yelling.
Dan stopped thinking.
He moved over to the lift where Pete was pinned. Al tried to say something to him, but Dan ignored him, grabbed the cage and then lifted. While many of the workers looked on, the forklift quickly and evenly began to rise. Dan knew the roll cage would not hold up the total weight of the fork truck, and it wouldn’t be safe to hold up the lift by it. As he lifted the truck, he crouched down and worked his way closer to it, pushing it upright as he did so.
Dan only took moments to get the forklift back on its wheels while everyone looked on in stunned silence. They were all veterans of the warehousing industry, some of them for decades. They all knew what they had just seen. One man had lifted upright a forklift that weighed thousands of pounds, and with barely any effort.
Even Pete looked up in silent awe, holding his wounded arm.
“Well don’t just stand there, help the man!” Dan scolded them all.
Several of the nearby co-workers scrambled to assist Pete back to his feet. Al and several others put him onto a Cushman cart then immediately began to drive him to the front entrance while several others called nine-one-one on their cell phones.
Kenny and Don Dougan were among those few who stayed. Dougan approached him with a mystified expression that clearly indicated he was at a loss for words. Kenny asked, “Are you OK?”
“Yeah,” Dan told them, “fine.”
“How did you do that?!”
Dan had no idea how to react. His mind flew through possibilities that could reasonably explain what had just happened. Funny enough, all he could think of was an episode of the Incredible Hulk he had seen when he was a kid. He grew frustrated with himself over the fact that in a moment as weird as this an old episode of the Hulk was the best he could come up with.
Rather than answer, he asked: “Don, how much does a four-wheel lift like this weigh? A little over a ton?”
Don instantly answered, “Three tons with the battery, it weighs over nine thousand pounds....”
“Jesus Christ,” Kenny said, “are you sure you’re all right, Dan? I mean, you just lifted over three tons. You really should see a doctor.”
“No, I’m good; it’s Pete we have to worry about. I feel fine.”
“You feel okay now, but what if this is like a car accident?” Kenny pressed. “What if you feel okay now, but you blew out a disc in your back or something?”
“I’m fine,” Dan repeated. “It was adrenaline, just adrenaline. You hear stories about people lifting cars off of loved ones and other crazy things like that. Stuff like this has happened before, just look it up.”
“Nine thousand pounds worth of adrenaline?!” Don asked.
“Well, I don’t think my heart could pump quite that much,” Dan countered.
“I really think you should go to the doctor, too,” Kenny kept insisting.
“I’m fine,” Dan repeated in agitation.
“Whatever you are, it’s not fine,” Kenny challenged. “You nearly beat the hell out of some kid and then you lift up a three-ton forklift without breaking a sweat! Whatever is going on today, Dan, enough is enough. I want you to take the rest of the day off. I’ll put in PTO for you. Go home, relax and, if your back starts to hurt, go see a doctor right away. If you don’t fill out paperwork on this and something is wrong, worker’s comp won’t—”
“I’m fine,” Dan snapped, “and I’m not going to see the doctor!”
At this point it became apparent that the one other person who had gotten close to Dan was the punk he had nearly clobbered only minutes age. He was hiding behind Don like a frightened child might hide behind a parent during a particularly severe thunderstorm. Dan took exception to the kid gawking at him. “What are you looking at?” he barked.
This time the punk just turned and ran.
* * *
Dan was in the locker room putting his box cutter, gloves and pens away as he was preparing to leave. The warehouse was eerily quiet as he closed the small, locker door. At this time during the day, the place was usually alive with the sound of equipment honking and associates calling to each other across the floor. It unnerved him to hear it like this. It just didn’t feel right. What was worse was the way some of his co-workers had stared at him as he left. They were people he respected. People he liked. People he had worked with for over ten years. When he was walking to the locker room, he could see something in their eyes that really bothered him: fear.
Suddenly he felt it. The creepy tension of being watched tingled up his spine.
He looked over and saw Larry at the door of the locker room. He struggled to control his anger at first, but then he noticed Larry holding something odd. Something he recognized. It was a flannel jacket very much like the one he was wearing now.
Larry’s wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose just barely managing to call attention away from his thick, curly grey hair. That hair had been bright red once but, after the shooting, its color had faded.
Kenny’s words came back to him and he calmed himself. He strode over to Larry to finally confront him.
Before Dan could say anything it was Larry who spoke. “I never thanked you,” he said contritely. “I’m sorry, Dan, I should’ve thanked you a long time ago.”
Once more Dan found himself confounded. “Thanked me for what?”.
“For pushing me out of the way that day,” Larry stated flatly. “If you hadn’t, I’d be dead.”
Dan didn’t remember doing that. The moment forced Dan to try to recall what he could about that day nine years ago, and the only thing that came back to him was waking up in his bed the next morning.
“I pushed you...,” he asked with uncertainty. “Larry, are you sure?”
“As sure as I breathe,” Larry answered. “My wife would be without a husband and my daughters without a father if you hadn’t. You know, Dan, you are the toughest bastard I have ever seen. I still see that moment in my dreams. I thought you were dead. The way you got back up like that, like you hadn’t even been hurt. Darren saw you get up all covered in blood and took off like he’d seen a ghost. If you hadn’t scared him off like that, there’s no telling what else he would have done.”
Dan stood there dumbfounded. The only thing he could say was, “I don’t remember that.”
“I do,” Larry replied. “Darren was so scared he wouldn’t stop even when the cops chased him. That’s why he drove off the bridge at Pedrickton Road. They say when they pulled him out of the drink and finally got him out of the car, he was a white as a sheet. That’s why he was the only one to die that day.”
Dan couldn’t think of anything to say. It bothered him to his core that he had no recollection of any of this. He didn’t know what to say or how to react. Larry approached him and offered him the flannel jacket.
“I held on to it for all these years. You took it off when I asked you if you were okay. You just kind of stared at it for a while,.” Larry recounted. “It was dripping with blood, and so were you. You just dropped it and walked out the door, like nothing had happened. I washed it for you, but I couldn’t get the blood stains out.”
Dan looked at the jacket, and his heart skipped a beat. He thought he had lost it and, in a way, he had. It was his grandfather’s. It was the last jacket he had worn before he died. The thought that he’d lost it had wounded him for years. He had been wearing it that day. Dan finally took the jacket and looked back to Larry and managed to offer softly, “Thanks.”
The two men, who had faced death together here in this very room nine years before, stood and stared at each other. Dan was lost; nothing made any sense to him anymore.
Finally Larry broke the silence. He reached out and jocularly slapped Dan on his massive shoulder. “You’re a good guy, Dan,” And then Larry grinned. It was the first time in nine years Dan had seem him smile. With that, Larry turned and walked out of the locker room back into the warehouse, leaving Dan alone.
Dan looked around. He had almost completely forgotten that this was a far as Darren had made it into the building that day he tried to kill Larry. He had always wondered why Darren had never tried to hurt anybody else. There were a lot of people in the warehouse who did not like him, and the feeling had been mutual. Larry had been the one who caught him stealing from the inventory, so it made sense that Daren would come looking for him. Darren knew the building, he knew everybody’s routines and he knew when Larry was likely to be alone in the locker room at the end of the day. If Larry’s story was true, Dan finally understood what had happened, but how could any of it be true? No one gets shot and then just walks away. There would be blood, a trip to the hospital, medical records.
There would be scars. Dan touched his hand to his chest where the scars he couldn’t recall having earned seemed to tell a story he couldn’t remember.
He tucked the jacket tightly under his arm and made for the parking lot to leave. He jumped off the top of the short flight of metal stairs just outside the door and landed seven feet down the steps without flinching when he hit the parking lot asphalt. That’s when he felt it, the nagging, inexplicable little headache that he seemed to get sometimes at the end of the day when he left. He looked over to see the old, Italian lady and the young Gothwoman who ran the food truck that always made several stops a day at the warehouse. He had always thought they were a strange pair, and for whatever reason he never liked them. He never understood why.
They were in their usual spot in the parking lot talking to some of his other co-workers. The old lady locked eyes with him and began to make her way over. His co-workers: Jim, Dave, and Charley all watched her approach but didn’t come near. Her stooped posture and the hair net she was wearing made him think of the old lunch aides back at elementary school.
“I hear you saved someone else’s life today,” the old lady said in a nasally voice. He couldn’t tell whether she was asking or telling. What was more important was that he was pretty damn sure Larry had never told anybody what he had just told him. How could he? They would have locked him away in the loony bin. How did she know?
No, his mind screamed, I will not endure any more weird crap today from anybody else. I’m done.
“Gotta go,” he said indignantly as he turned and left.
The old lady walked back towards the food truck with a quizzical expression. The young Goth woman watched Dan leave.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by John Rossi