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The General Contractor by Pamela Langley

Dexter wears full-bib black overalls, stiff as cement. They barely crease when he reaches for his tape measure, stumpy thumb smudging the heavy block carriage. He arcs the measure toward the far wall, a hissing slinky tossed to an inaccurate stop.

Smoking on a break he chews at his cheeks like a cow with cud, and tells me he’s been married five miserable times. He taps his cigarette and digs at the dirt wistfully with his shoe-toe. “You’ll see,” he says.

His boom box station plays songs like “Running Bear Loves Little White Dove,”
and “Oh, Donna,” and after hours of silence he mutters that this is the music he likes best.

It takes him a full day tearing at a wall to relocate an outlet—parts and equipment scattered like munitions across the floor. “There’s no money in this anymore,” he complains, “and I’m constantly dealing with assholes.”

Dexter hates plumbing and woodwork, changes to the plan, and the customer service department at Home Depot.

He lives with his daughter and her damn cat. When you ask how old his daughter is he dives into his toolbox, muttering thirty or thirty-two, which is a guess. What do you expect, he snaps, her mother kept her a secret till the day she croaked.

He won’t buy a KIA since he served in Korea, and wonders who would buy a car indicating killed-in-action. The only good thing about the nineteen-sixties, he says, was the sexual revolution. He’s all about free love.

His feet follow his basket-belly as he shuffles to load up his V-10 Ford 250 and calls it a day.

On the drive home he grinds his jaw, wipes his sandy eyes, and searches for love songs on the oldies station—reaching for the radio knobs through the constriction of his full bib-overalls.

He hums Motown for a moment, then swears out loud when he notes the gas gauge has dipped way below empty.

Pamela Langley feels there are excruciating snapshot moments that beg to be captured—she’s collecting these as she encounters them. She’s had several short works published in Marylhurst University’s M Review, has guest blogged here and there over the years, is a judge for a monthly short story contest, and is working on a collection titled No More Black Shoe.