Industrial Worker Book Reveiw: 8 Hours to Work, 8 Hours to Sleep, 8 Hours to Read

Two-Up

Eric Miles Williamson

Two-Up, By Eric Miles WilliamsonThis month, Eric Miles Williamson is in Oakland, city of his birth, accepting the PEN/Oakland Award. He is also stomping the grounds he once walked, taking pictures, gathering stories on the Occupy movement and riots. Excerpted below is a section of his novel "Two-Up" (Texas Review Press, $16.95). "Two-Up" is the story of gunite workers in Oakland and their attempts at survival in a world of hard labor. In the novel, as in his first book "East Bay Grease" and his most recent "Welcome to Oakland", Williamson shows that fiction is one of our best resources to look into labor, its problems and its effects on man.

Citizens sleep in the doorways of hotels. Porno tabloids with blacked-out organs. Flickering and buzzing streetlights that do not draw clouds of insects. Bums and whores and junkies and fat men in suits and teenagers wearing tye-dye teeshirts and listening to headphones. Old men in alleys drinking bottles of Scotch. Dildo candelabras arrayed in store windows. Carol Doda's blinking red neon nipples. Businessmen and silk secretaries. "A swollen liver," Broadstreet says.

A swollen liver filled with blood and bile and pus and gunite and ready to burst and splatter the world. It's a plugged-up hose ready to explode and wipe out the mottled human crew.

Broadstreet laughs. "Two-up," he says. "Two-up all the way."

Two-up all the way. Because there won't be any survivors. No castaway popping up like a rubber buoy from beneath the wreckage. No one will remain to tell the tale. No one will survive to mourn the dead.

Broadstreet says, "No one."

The one-eyed dove hops closer to Broadstreet and hops onto his shoe and perches. Broadstreet reaches down and scoots his finger beneath its talons and the one-eyed dove tightens its grip around Broadstreet's index finger. He lifts it and sets it on his shoulder and Broadstreet walks.

 "It won't stop," Broadstreet says.

The world is a construction site. A construction site that keeps getting demolished and rebuilt. A hardhatted firebird rising from the debris box, and the skyscrapers and the warehouses and the apartment buildings and the hotels and the Marina district mansions are fully equipped gangboxes, provisions, flesh and bone and blood and human electricity synapsing like tiny dynamos to keep the mortal machine feeding off itself, to keep it whirring into the sunsets and sunrises of industry.

God is alive, and He's in His penthouse of a heaven jerking Himself silly because He doesn't have a partner to spew his divine jism on, and every He tugs His heavenly pud, it's an act of hate, of contempt, of mockery. He's trying to destroy us, and as fast as He's tugging we're building, hammering and sawing and shooting and pouring and welding and smelting and forging. As fast as He's tugging we're tying iron and mixing concrete and Huntzing so it doesn't crack. And some day it damn sure is going to crack.

"Not now," Broadstreet says.

Not now. Not now while the cars and buses and subway trains and battleships and jet airplanes push forward, not while they clatter toward their destinations, not while they burn and smolder. Not now. Not now while miles of dick and, Broadstreet says, "Miles of cunt," go unused in fear of disease, in fear of infidelity, in fear of submission in fear of boredom. It's a construction site, and the site has no inspector. No regulations. No building code.

"Scabs," Broadstreet says.

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