Garret Manning worked diligently on a transformer above Route 2 trying to repair the power line. The bucket of his cherry-picker sat forty-feet up, at a sixty-degree angle, to the right of the troubled area. With his heavy work gloves he commanded the wrench and tightened another bolt of the damaged wire. There had been a lot of outages over the past few months and Manning seemed to be the one dispatched to repair it all. The region had suffered more than its fair share of violent storms since the winter broke and the weather had been blamed for the downed power lines.
Fuck me if I don’t develop some incurable disease, or my dick drops off from all this electromagnetic bullshit. Manning had known quite a few of the old-timers who had bitched and moaned over hazardous work conditions like this, causing a variety of ailments. “Gave me the cancer don’t-cha-know?” Some were still wagging their gums about it to this day, to anyone who’d listen. Others, who weren’t yet grave-side, as they say, let the rhythmic beeps and the gentle push of oxygen through tubes by their hospital beds do the talking for them. And for what? So the fuckers have power for their lap tops, their big screen LCDs, their fucking microwaves. Can’t they go one minute without checking the torrents to see if the porn they’re download is complete? It gives me a fuckin’ headache.
And this year, especially, had been brutal. In his six years on the job he’d never worked in so much rainy slop and today seemed like it would be no different as again dark clouds had moved in to block out the sun. A siren bellowed from below and drew his attention to an ambulance snaking its way along the roads with lights flashing. The sound cut through the heaviness and seemed to pierce Manning’s ears in a high-pitched buzzing.
On its way to Martin City or perhaps Whitefish General with some idiot, he thought. Caught an arm in the grinding tines of a hay-bailer, swerved to miss a deer and hit a tree....fuckin’ tourists. Or some cheep asshole trying to rewire his own electrical I’ll bet. He’d seen that enough times over the years. Just found the unfortunate bastard next to the air-conditioner, stiff as a fucking coon that’s been lying roadside stinking for three days. Yup, out here if you die, could be quite some time before anyone found you.
He knew Len Grimsby over at the Ranger station in Glacier National Park who had told him he’d found the remains of a hiker once. “Some college kid out of Madison, just him and his back-pack. Off to see the world. Half mas-tee-cated by bears and what not,” Len had said, while he chomped on a corn-beef sandwich. “And what was left had to be picked up with a shovel. Fit nice’n tidy into a garbage bag though, maggots and all, but really stunk up the back of my truck.”
As the ambulance drifted from view a light drizzle began to fall. In the distance thunder rumbled making Manning wince. Fuck not again. Can’t get any work done on this muthafucka. Then he realized, No, not thunder. A passing jet somewhere up above the clouds.
The sound faded, but added to a growing sensation in his ears, a slight pressure, as if his brain was slowly increasing in size and searching for a way out through his aural cavity.
Manning dropped the wrench and removed his gloves. He shoved a finger into his right ear and wiggled it back and forth as if the simple gesture would miraculously cause the sensation to subside. See all you old-timers. You just need to give your brain a good scratchin’ every fourth electrical tower, or so. Works like a charm. But the miracle cure did not help. It only seemed to intensify the problem.
The rain started to fall with monotonous regularity causing the sound to sizzle in his ear drums. It seemed to add a sense of nausea to the pressure and Manning felt an insatiable urge to get down. Piss on this. I’ll just tell them it was thunder I heard and call it a day. Get something for this fuckin’ headache, stop by Jesse’s bar for a cold one, then home to the wife and kids. Just have to tighten a few bolts and done anyway. Just tighten the line.....which line?
Manning couldn’t remember...not like him. Sure he’d misplaced the car keys, forgot to stop for milk, been late to pick up his son from Little League, but who hadn’t? It had never happened at work before and definitely not around an active power-line.
The ringing in his ears intensified. Fuck this! I’m getting down!
Manning turned to the bucket control levels. They all looked the same to him. He couldn’t remember which lever took the bucket lower. What the fuck? I’ve done this a million times. Why can’t I remember which fuckin’ lever to push?
Every drop of rain splashing off his hardhat felt like an explosion in his mind. He started to panic. I need to get down from here right the fuck now! The middle lever! That’s it! That’s the one!
He pushed the middle lever. The bucket ascended. No, not that one.
The pain in his ears was becoming unbearable. He began to push all the levers. The bucket of the cherry picker began to pitch and weave; jerking lower, then higher, side-to-side, finally into the live power lines. Instinctively he put his bare hands up. He felt the heavy wire crush his chest and the electric surge of thousands of kilowatts coarse through his body. He never even realized he bit through his tongue, or felt the flesh of his feet melt into pools in his boots.