“No drilling and blasting, either.” This time the toothpick moved emphatically from the left side of his mouth to the right.
“Can you dig a hole and bury it?” Junior asked.
“It’s not ours. It’s Palumbo’s. It’s yours.” We all stared at the boulder,
which stared back. It was bigger than us, big enough to gobble us all up
and spit us out like Ryan’s toothpick. We got in our transports and left.
Nobody wanted the boulder. The only one left was Brown & Lambrecht, who we rarely saw. Gilbert saw them once in a while at monthly
meetings where all the Resident Engineers got together to discuss the
overall progress of the thirteen miles of new Interstate. Our section was
two and a half miles. I suspected Junior would want to go to the next
meeting and demand that Brown & Lambrecht move their boulder. But
that didn’t happen. Instead, Junior got more and more pushy with Ryan
and Lopat. Junior’s batch plant stood on the rise waiting to produce fly-ash concrete. Its aggregate piles got stacked. Cement trucks showed up
and parked their trailers with Type II cement. He was getting antsy to
pave. Every morning it was “Good afternoon” to Lopat when we met in
the trailer, suggesting that Lopat had already wasted half a day. And at
least once a day he called Gilbert to complain that Ryan did not grade
close enough. Gilbert would tell Junior this was not his problem: it was
Junior’s problem or Ryan’s. The call ended with Junior reminding Gilbert to keep checking compaction on Lopat’s sewers because he didn’t
want the trenches to settle, not ever. To our south, the boulder overlooked all of this, watching us bicker and parse words.
Within a week, Junior was paving. He started at 63rd and Hobson, or,
at least, where the old intersection had stood before it got finally wiped
out, and headed south on the southbound lanes. He had O’Malley run
the trimming while Lopat and I sat watching. The logical thing would
have been for Junior to pave to the job limit and then turn around on
the northbound lanes and pave them. He didn’t do that, though; the
boulder was in his way. But he got ready to pave northbound up to it.
Then the pavement prep stopped, allowing room on the end of our job
for the boulder to stay where it was. This puzzled everyone. What was
he planning? Why hadn’t we pushed the boulder back where Brown &
Lambrecht got it from? It was a mystery. When we asked him, his answers were equivocal. “There’s a place for everything, and everything’s
in its place,” was one answer. “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no
lies,” was another.