Boss on a crew of orchard workers was Martini. I called him that because I failed to understand, a thing Martini said or his true name. We were packing Kiwi Fruit- “Not true is it all fruit any good or look the same”- Quoth Martini.
On a chalkboard explained water stains, skin rub, sunburn, flats, and deformity. The dreaded bug “Greedy Scale” we had to watch out for, the size of the head of a pin, find a Greedy Scale, get paid a dollar more promised Martini.
In a haze of alcohol, he called all us chaps Trevor, easier than learning names like Godfrey or Sven. All the women he called Cracker for the same reason. Deep lined face, from a life looking for Scale, squinting down rows of Kiwi Fruit Vine, and throwing Avocados for his pointer dog to fetch was a pastime.
The dust from the fuzz of the fruit we brushed off crept itchety and rude under my kilt’s belt. There was no point explaining to Martini how this felt. Martini- we reported a large rat in the shed, one night there was screaming coming from the lady’s loo. Three Swedish workers huddled on the toilet seat, what were we to do?, but call upon Martini.
..In shirtsleeves and knowing grin, came Martini. Stout club in hand, part of a branch blown down in a gale the night before. He shifted two canvas sacks piled by the toilet door. Out ran the longest rat I had ever seen, then a smaller one, Martini dispatched both, apparently reporting, though I could not understand him-“Rat, thats’ how it’s done”. Martini-
survived a close call when the great bin of fruit he was hauling with a tractor fell off in a ditch by the road. We stalwart Trevor’s trooped out in the rain, to right the problem’ and fish thirty bushels of mud covered Kiwis from the drain. As we labored in the nasty, cold bog, Martini threw lemons for Raquel, his Pointer dog. Laughing when Raquel pierced the sour lemon with a fang. Seemed rather cruel to me, he had an odd sense oh humor, did Martini.
Martini- paid us cash doled from a paper bag every Tuesday after dinner. Though when drinking he oft paid me twice or not at all, without fail, I got my dollar bonus for every Greedy Scale. In dread of rats my co-workers, went outside at night to wee, one lost her weeks pay in the dark, it was found at dawn, floating in a muddy puddle, and returned dripping wet by Martini.
Picking, grading, packing, strapping pallets, sweeping up the itch dust. Pruning, tying down vines, cold morning dew running up my sleeve, winter grim, Trevor four said in his brief working life he had two bosses called “Fat Jim” But never a Martini, never had a boss like him. And a nice girl, Cracker three, spent a cold day up a tree, she’d been feeding fallen fruit to Martini’s cows and bulls. Treed when naive of bovine greed, she ran out of Kiwi culls from the ground, late back for tea, no where to be found, rescued from the cows by Martini.
“The lowest form of pond life, a nettercap, a scut, were words I overheard as I worked, rude words to describe Martini. Color me as silly as one treed by a cow, I was young and looked deep for the good in everyone as I seek wisdom now. our last day on the job, at coffee time, came the chug of tractor down the row where I had tied down my last vine.
Martini- with a load of watermelon broke one open with his bare hands and gave the chunk to me. I dug in hungrily, face first with a slurp, the cool winter sun was going down. I scarfed the unexpected treat, never had I tasted melon so fresh and sweet bought in town. “Grew them I did”, smiled Martini, “You did a good job wet face Godfrey” It was the last, and longest conversation I ever had with Martini.
And I realized, eventually his wisdom, that he never tried to be anything he simply was not..he was just Martini…