Paving went well. Johnny I screamed only once at Huey, the plant
operator: “Less water, Huey!” When I casually mentioned to Johnny to
cut off the trucks as the paving spread reached the south end of the job,
he just fixed me with that cool Mediterranean glare. We paved two lanes
at once and then fell back and scabbed on the third lane. A day after that,
an asphalt crew showed up and placed asphalt on the shoulders. Gilbert
was going crazy, there was so much activity, and he had so few inspectors. Then Junior backed up everything to 63rd Street one more time
for the northbound lanes. The paver finished the last load of mix and
walked south off our job onto Brown & Lambrecht’s subgrade, followed
by the tining rig. The water truck showed up and washed off the equipment, and Junior’s men started taking down string lines as the afternoon
sun faded in a wrinkled sky.
It would take several days to get the northbound lanes ready for concrete, something that irked Junior no end. “We look just as messed up as
them,” he fumed, “them” being Brown & Lambrecht, our neighbor and
competitor in the earthmoving and paving racket. We had never liked
each other, but our animosity had grown deeper in the last two years. It
had to do with the whole contractual business. We, Palumbo, had Ryan
bound to us in a subcontract to move dirt for us. They did the earthmoving that could be done by scrapers, rigs that picked up dirt and later
spread it down, all by themselves. Palumbo, us, had truck dirt because
we owned trucks and Ryan didn’t. Truck dirt was more expensive. Our
keen-eyed estimators had carefully calculated how much truck dirt and
scraper dirt there was on this project. Our bid was based on that. But
lo and behold, several months back we saw Brown & Lambrecht trucks
rolling onto our project with dirt, taking it to Ryan’s compactor. Junior
was pissed at Ryan, pissed at Brown & Lambrecht.
“What are you doing?” Junior had asked Ryan.
“They’re bringing us excess dirt off their job,” Ryan said. “We don’t
have to do anything except compact it.”
“That means Palumbo has more dirt to haul off our job,” Junior said.
“I know,” Ryan said, his toothpick signaling assent as Junior’s crooked
What Ryan did was not illegal. Our contract did not specify whether
he could or could not do this. The contract never really imagined that
Ryan would do such a thing. It hadn’t been done before. It was a violation of whatever the concept of good faith was. Contracts are written