CNF by Kevin Brennan
I know a man who will do things for you. Things you don’t want to do.
I know a man who will get down and dirty. He’ll gird up for it, he’ll suit himself in hazmat skin. He’ll strap on goggles. He’ll tape his pant legs to his rubber boots. He’ll glove himself like an industrial surgeon. He will don a serious vented N95 before throwing you a confident thumbs up.
I know a man who’ll pop the top on that septic tank, lower his ladder in like a big-league dipstick, and head-figure how many feet of effluent and sludge he’s contending with. He won’t think twice before descending up to his waist in your waste. He will do it with elan. He will not utter syllables of disgust. He’s here to do the one thing, and that’s what he’ll do. He’ll cut those roots out of there, he’ll bag them up for you, he’ll thrust his arm into the intake pipe to make sure it’s clear, and he’ll do the outflow too, since he’s down there.
I know a man who’s seventy years old, if not older, who did a tour in Vietnam and nearly died, though not from enemy fire. He almost stepped on a “three-step” snake in the jungle, named that because you won’t live three steps after the bite. Dodged a bullet there, he’ll tell you, gesturing with his root saw.
You’ll want to stand there and watch, out of raw curiosity, but something about his dignity tells you to let him work alone.
And I know a man who will drag that fifty-pound bag of roots out to his truck, hoisting it into the bed, still bedecked in his white Tyvek suit, his goggles now specked with matter, his boots sodden. And he’ll stand aside and hose himself down with your garden hose until it’s safe to strip off his gear and toss everything into another bag. He will mist himself in Windex and pour liters of hand sanitizer over his hands and forearms, dry himself with paper towels, secure his ladder, and ask you for one thousand dollars.
It’s an honor to give it to him. He’s earned it.
I know a man who’s worth every dime of that cool grand.
Here. Take his card. He’ll do things for you. Things you don’t want to do.
Kevin Brennan is the author of eight novels, including Parts Unknown (William Morrow/HarperCollins), Yesterday Road, and, coming in April 2023, Three for a Girl. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Berkeley Fiction Review, Mid-American Review, The Decadent Review, Sledgehammer, 3rd Wednesday, Tiny Molecules, Flash Boulevard, Fictive Dream, Atlas and Alice, LEON Literary Review, MoonPark Review, Mantis, Atticus Review, and others. A Best Microfiction nominee, he’s also the editor of The Disappointed Housewife, a literary magazine for writers of offbeat and idiosyncratic fiction, poetry, and essays. Kevin lives with his wife in California’s Sierra foothills.