Posted by: tlnemethy | August 30, 2012

Naknek Day 13

Today would come to be known as Lucky 13, the day I learned I was flying out of King Salmon airport on the next wave of cleared workers. I only worked about four hours total today, mainly cleaning the processing room until the metal gleamed and the cogs inside the machinery ran free of salmon slime. We scrubbed under the conveyor belts and the netting of the metal slide belts, the drip trays and the walls. I’m sure someone cleaned the bathroom across the way as I’d been tasked with that at one point previously.

We were told to look busy; whether or not we could still find dirty patches we still scrubbed away at the metal until the Brillo pads and sponges disintegrated under our fingertips. I personally cleaned beneath the conveyor belts, the handrails, the inner blades and mechanisms of the heavy machinery until I wished we were back to pulling bones. The novelty had worn off and everyone was lagging, bored and wanting the sleep freedom afforded. I watched as workers drifted off the lines, sneaking to secluded corners of the plant for a nap before clocking out or blatantly clocking out before our due.

I manned the hose after it’d been deemed time to wrap up the cleaning and clock out. Utah was below the risers, her hard hat bobbing and weaving around the metal beams and supports. I tried to avoid spraying her directly in the face, but the metal just ricocheted the water and the rivets made it spread in its attack at all who stayed oblivious. I waved her across the spray a few times, changing its course at the last few moments to send pink slime sliding in globs over the edges of the walkways and out from the grates.  I know I still managed a few direct hits though, and for that I could only wave my hand and shrug apologetically. I’d definitely gotten doused a few times myself and once its in your hood you know the true sense of cold.

When even my hosing was becoming erratic we were sent to clock out indefinitely, a process that was both annoying and exciting. I followed the crowd to lunch and found another blue sign posted with departing groups of people. My name was on it and I walked away smiling. Civilization was so near. I missed not smelling of salmon, not having such a rigid schedule, and not crying when I put my boots on. But I would miss it all soon enough I suppose.

No one on C shift went back to work that night. There was just nothing to do. And when it came time for me to go to sleep in preparation for my last day of work I slid my feet over the railing in my loft and let them dangle, sliding into an awkward A-frame version of the fetal position. I was just drifting off when there was a knock on the door and one of my roommates answered it. “We need Tori’s card.”

I blearily recognized my name and shifted so I was sitting on the ladder overlooking the door. “What?”My two supervisors were at the foot of the ladder with a clipboard. “We need your card. You’ve finished working here.” One of them climbed partially up the ladder and held out his hand for my swipe card.

“I’m not done working yet. I have one more day.” I’m not sure why I was so belligerent, but I apparently really wanted those last few hours. Besides, that shift would be my chance to say goodbye to everyone. They just shook their heads and waited. “Plans have changed.”

I tried to disentangle the card necklace from around my throat, eventually ripping some hair stragglers out in the process. My room key was also on the necklace and I tried to pry the knot open, but my tweezer hand was acting up and I couldn’t. “Got a knife? I need to cut it off.” I dropped the necklace down into the waiting hands and waited for the last piece of my work experience to end abruptly with the cutting of a string. I felt like that mythology where the sisters control the length of a person’s life by cutting his life thread. My Naknek life thread was soiled and emanating a fishy odor, but it was tough and wiry enough to put up the semblance of a fight. In the end though, it cut and I officially no longer worked at the fish processing plant.  The Fates, that’s what they were called. The Fates had made their will known.

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