watched gravel trucks roll in until around nine o’clock with coarse and
fine aggregate for our concrete. Junior said as long as I was here, he
wouldn’t have to keep a laborer there to sign load tickets for the gravel;
I could do it.
I felt useful. That’s what I’d really wanted, to be part of something. I’d
joined Palumbo to build roads. I was eyed warily because I came from
another contractor that was better than Palumbo, a highly regarded
bridge builder. But I had only done estimating for them, an office function. Everyone was waiting for me to prove myself.
My first two years had given me no chance. Since the Tollway had not
bought all the land for the roadway, my project was in limbo. I sat at a
back table for the Christmas party. I was not invited to Tom’s Steakhouse
in Melrose Park to join their other superintendents at their annual bash
in June. I was a question mark.
About an hour after it got dark, the last gravel truck showed up and
told me he was the last load. I signed his ticket and went in the trailer.
O’Malley and Lopat showed up. At midnight I took the pickup truck
down the grade to where the boulder sat. O’Malley parked his and got
on a roller. Lopat started the end loader.
It was a wonderfully cool autumn night, with a breeze coming out of
the south. We drove on the shoulder past Jackson, under the 63rd Street
bridge and on to the south end of the job. The boulder loomed ahead of
us, looking staggeringly large. We all got out of our vehicles and took
a look around. Above us on both sides were suburban houses behind
fences, most with their lights out. They might hear our equipment but
would have no idea we were paying someone back. The breeze blew fresh
and clean from down south, where the new road intersected with I- 55.
We looked that way and saw a tiny light. It was a truck like mine. In
front of it was a large shadow, a big thing that was a concrete paving
machine parked half a mile south.
“They started paving,” O’Malley said. “I didn’t think they were that
far along. That truck belongs to their sawcutter. He’s cutting in joints
over the dowel bars after today’s pave.”
“Think he’ll hear us or see us?” Lopat said.
“Nah,” answered O’Malley. “He’s tied up.”
We had one truck with its headlights focused on our work, not the
three we had imagined. The work went slower than we’d thought. Lopat
brought around the smallish end loader, a Cat 977, and started pushing