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So I was just out of spending five days in the Walker County Jail. Walker County, Georgia, mind you—anyone who knows will tell you there’s a big difference between Georgia and Tennessee jails. My sister bailed me out, loaned me some cash and dumped me off at home. They let me out around three o’clock in the morning and I got home around five. I smelled like stale sweat, dirty hair and a fake wool blanket. I had a jailhouse Kool-Aid stain on my shirt.
My old lady was pissed off and gone. I had no job, the 25 bucks my sister had given me and half a pack of smokes to my name. I needed to come up with some more cash fast, or I’d be right back in the pokey. Georgia won’t leave you alone if you owe them money. I owed them 200 bucks, and in Georgia you pay your fines or your ass goes back to jail until somebody else pays them for you. They seem to enjoy having Tennessee boys down there.
I didn’t have time for a shower. I grabbed a book of matches from a gas station down the road, got the guy working there to call me a cab and waited on the corner there for the driver to come pick me up.
I was heading out to Brainerd, to this day-worker employment place I’d found when I was in a similar spot a while back. I’ve spent my time in those day-worker temporary employment offices waiting on some construction foreman to come by looking for some hands to go clean up a construction site. The work might show up or it might not—you never know. I had my doubts with the drizzling rain falling outside but thought I’d try it anyway.
The cab showed up and drove me across town to Brainerd Road. Somehow my name was still in the computer there at the employment office and the woman behind the desk told me to have a seat and be patient if I wanted to work.
I sat there, stretched out my legs, folded my arms and waited. I knew better than to strike up a conversation with the lady behind the desk. She hummed along to a Jesus radio station playing softly beside her and she had no use for me.
There’s a coffee machine with Styrofoam cups beside it, but I knew better than that, too. If the church lady catches you drinking more than two or three cups of coffee, she’ll laugh at you and tell you she’s going to have to start charging you for it. “Were you up all night last night?” she asks sometimes. Then she straightens out a blanket she has lying over her lap and looks at a picture of her husband scotch-taped to the wall. A little smile might foam out of her mouth when she looks at you and goes back to humming along with the Jesus songs.
All you do is sit around those places reading yesterday’s newspapers and hoping a pick-up truck shows up outside with somebody needing some help. Today’s paper entices you from a table nearby, smelling like ink, unwrinkled and unread. Brand new. But you can’t read it because the church lady hasn’t looked at it yet and she doesn’t want it molested by day-worker’s hands.
I went outside to smoke a cigarette. You can’t stand under the awning over the door to keep out of the rain, though, because the church lady hates cigarettes. At least it was only a drizzling rain. I leaned up against the building and didn’t get too wet.