Help Wanted

by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith


So much depends upon:
a light bulb filling up with water
a man running sideways in circles on the floor
an unopened can of peas being stuffed in a dead turkey


From: The Lazy Arms Office Building
Under Construction

To: Mr. Big Cheese
Enterprising Enterprises, Inc.

Dear Sir,

In regards to the hefty insurance claims made to our parent company on June 7 this year, all I can say is the injuries were real and were reported by me in good faith and without embellishment. I was just doing my job and felt our company owed these men recompense for their injuries, as they were injuries that occurred while they were working for Enterprising Enterprises.

Now suddenly, I’m being questioned as to why I chose the men I hired and why I didn’t supervise them vigorously. About the only thing I can say in my defense is that I’ve hired more than three hundred workmen on this particular project, and for the most part there have been no previous complaints either about their workmanship or their behavior.

If it is determined that hiring the three men in question turns our to have been a mistake, I still maintain that my hiring practices have been proven by percentages... and I’d like to point out, I followed all the procedures laid down in the covenants and practices of the housing authority.

Here is the chronological series of events just as they happened.

  1. I placed an ad in the Sunday paper, asking for experienced paper hangers.

  2. Monday morning I hired a dozen men and broke them up into four teams and started them working on the offices on the seventh floor.

  3. I came back at 4:00 pm and went from suite to suite to examine the work performed and I paid off the first three crews. All of them were going to be invited back the next day because all the work seemed adequate and there was more work to perform on the other floors. As it turns out, I was in for a bit of disappointment when I entered the last room.

At first I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to get into the room. I had to push with all my strength to make the door open. Huge strips of wallpaper were holding the door closed. Some of the strips were running left to right which made no sense at all.

Just a quick look around the room made me realize something was amiss. The desk and chairs were wallpapered to the walls and the windows were wallpapered and the coat-rack was tangled up with the light fixture on the ceiling and there was a pile of broken ladders and ruined scaffolding all over the place.

There was so much damage it took me a while to locate the three men involved. All were injured. All were on the floor. Two were unconscious and the other one was just barely conscious, moaning and frightened.

I ran and knelt by the first victim, the big guy, the heavy one. I helped him sit upright. “Are you all right?” I asked.

He told me he couldn’t see.

I asked him why he couldn’t see, and he said it was because he had his eyes closed.

When he opened his eyes I asked him if he’d been attacked. He said, “no more than usual” and I thought maybe he was still delirious. This was the heavy one. The bald one. He was the one who’d been so confident earlier.

When I’d first laid out the job they were supposed to do, I remember I asked him if he knew how to handle papering walls when encountering a light switch or maybe a heating vent or turning an outside corner... And this was the man who said, “certainly,” and “you’ve got nothing to worry about, guvner,” and “I’ll be okay with the outside corner, it’s betting on an inside straight that I can’t handle.” I think that’s why I hired him and his friends, because he was so confident.

Maybe he really couldn’t see. I’m not a doctor, but it looked like he had two detached retinas. Also he’d been slapped. Hard. I could see the imprint of somebody’s hand on the side of his face. The front of his right shoe was nailed to the floor, luckily all three nails had missed his toes.

I tried to make him sit up against the desk, and as soon as he leaned against one of the drawers and the drawer slid in, another drawer slid out and hit him in the back of the head. I left him slumped over and went to the next injured man.

He had long black hair, cut with an economy of edge. Like a bowl had been placed over his head, and the hair that stood out was the hair that got trimmed. I gave the man a drink of water.

For some reason known only to the mind recovering its Earthly placement he took his fingertips and placed them alongside his eyes and tried to make himself look Japanese by giving his eyes the shape of almonds. “Tank you, velly much.” he said, with an ill-suited accent. When he let his fingers drop away he looked very disoriented.

I tried a few simple questions so I could gauge his awareness. “What state is Springfield in?”

“Infrastructure decay” was his answer.

“What does a navigator do?” I asked.

“A navigator crawls in a swamp... until it becomes a suitcase.”

I felt I owed him the truth. “You’re very badly hurt.” I said.

He didn’t like that assessment. His face took on the look of a man who’d just had his nipple removed via cheese-grater. “I’ll murder those guys.” he said. “Remind me to murder those guys.”

He looked so earnest. He looked so determined. He deserved to obtain some measure of restitution. “I’ll make a note of it.” I said.

As is often the case with senseless gang violence, the one least able to defend himself was the one who sustained the most damage. The smallest of the group I found face down in the corner. He was wearing the same white workclothes as his two friends, his right foot was lodged deep in a bucket of wallpaper paste, he had a big squeegee stuck in his back pocket.

I turned him over very gingerly. There were bruises and cuts and three staples were planted in his forehead. There were burns to his face and they appeared to have been placed there on purpose by someone wielding a hot iron, like someone had been busily pressing shirts or pants and then decided to do this damage to the poor man’s face and so there were twenty different triangle-shaped burns on his cheeks and chin and brow. These burns didn’t appear recent and perhaps indicated a history of prolonged abuse.

I looked at the man and felt tears moving down my cheeks. He wasn’t handsome or young. His nose was a little big and his hair unruly; he may have been less than bright, but he deserved better than this.

Along with all the wanton vandalism there was one scrap of paper that I thought might require further investigation. Sitting in the middle of the room was a yellow sheet of paper. I picked it up, It was a flier from L & H Handymen. They may have assaulted the crew I left on the seventh floor.

I’ve worked with them before and had to fire them because they destroyed a piano. One of them swore he’d get even. Their names are Laurel and Hardy. I don’t know their last names.

As for the whereabouts of the trio right now, I can’t say. All I remember is I had them all standing and by the door and then one of them started describing his family to me. He said he had a brother five feet tall and a sister four feet six inches tall and a cousin four foot three inches tall, all the time using his hand to describe the heights he was mentioning and then suddenly the lights went out on me.

That pretty much concludes my report except for the following.

References as supplied (all were contacted and favorable)

name address phone
Doctor Howard The Los Arms Medical Facility UB 6-247
Doctor Fine The Los Arms Medical Facility UB 6-247
Doctor Howard The Los Arms Medical Facility UB 6-247

list of observed injuries

1st victim:

2nd victim:

3rd victim:

Yours truly,

Ralph Underpenny
Construction Foreman
Inequitable Equity Incorporated


Copyright © 2009 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

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