That’s why they pay us

photoLast year I bought the materials needed to repair the concrete around our bulkhead that is crumbling in a few places. I suspect this is a back-door entrance for mice into our house. I then threw a blue tarp over the bulkhead, weighed it down with a few old bricks, and procrastinated the task for several months. Yesterday, I re-started.

This morning I went into the backyard to inspect if the first layer of Quikrete® had dried. I kneeled and touched it. My peripheral vision noticed the immobile, five-inch long slug, and I jumped up, disgusted. I stood back; I stared at and then photographed it. (Note: you can click on the image and see the full-sized beauty.)

I was both fascinated and repelled. I remembered some work I did the summer before college, when I took on lots of odd jobs to make money: child care, house painting, and landscaping. Neighbors hired me to clean out and mulch under their deck, which was built only about three feet off the ground, so I had to crawl on my hands and knees in that dark wet space for hours. Enough light seeped through the spaces between floorboards and lattice on the sides that I could spot broken cement blocks that had been discarded there, and I spread around huge double handfuls, one after another, of the spruce mulch. Occasionally under my dungareed knees I felt a pop. Only when I got out to the light did I see the mucus-y smear and realize how many slugs I was sharing the space with. I forced myself to finish the job, shuddering when I felt the pop and pressing on. I liked the smell of mulch — still do — and had my pride to consider.

This is what work is sometimes, isn’t it? We accept the big task with enthusiasm or at least willingness, and then the hours and days present us with the actual nature of the work: the dirt, bent back, slug slime, and belief that we were made for better things or at least great praise and compensation for our dedicated labor. All work has some of this, even art. I don’t love everything I do, and I don’t believe that old lie: Do what you love, the money will follow it. But I am satisfied when the mulch has been laid down and the broken bricks thrown out. I can at least say, “Someone had to do it, and that person was me.”

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