A Blog Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
One of the occasional “extra” posts, mostly reprinted, that I upload here from time to time, to help fill the space between “Remake Chronicles” posts. This was originally posted on Unca Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion in 2008, and is also available in different forms on my Facebook site and on my Harper Collins author site. I have edited the essay slightly for this republication. I am aware that some people have been vocal about opining that I must have made this up, that it cannot possibly be true. I swear to you, these events occurred exactly as related. My astonishment is palpable and still entirely justified.
In 1995 the company I worked for at the time decided to move its main corporate office from Larchmont, New York, to Boca Raton, Florida. I was one of the employees offered an opportunity to move with it. Circumstances made keeping the job a better option than staying in New York, so I agreed to make the move, finding an apartment and arranging for a professional moving company to ship my belongings. I brought everything I could carry with me in my car, and spent 10 nights in a barren apartment sleeping on an air mattress while I waited for my things to arrive.
On the day the truck arrived, I took the afternoon off so I could meet the moving men, whom I had never met before, at my apartment in Fort Lauderdale.
The first thing that happened is that the truck got lost and arrived three hours late. The driver had to call me three times to get directions—at one point reporting a current location some 45 minutes farther away than any I had directed him to — but he ultimately zeroed in on the correct address, and I ran down to the apartment complex parking lot to meet the two guys with the truck.
I must now tell you that though I’d never met the two guys in the truck, I recognized them at once.
They were both clad in overalls. The shirts underneath were neat button-downs, and they were wearing thin black ties and brimmed painter’s caps.
The driver was a chubby guy on the wrong side of 260 pounds. He wore a hat and had a little moustache. He was tremendously exasperated over getting lost for so long, a circumstance he blamed on his assistant, whom he had foolishly placed in charge of reading the map.
He asked me if my apartment was on the ground floor. I told him no, it was on the second floor, up a flight of exterior stairs. He rolled his eyes with exasperation. “Well, I’m sorry,” I said, “It is.”
His coworker was his physical opposite: a very thin man with protruding ears and a broad, amiable smile, charming in its sincerity but simple-minded in its affect. He may have been borderline retarded. I liked him at once, without speaking a word to him.
The two men went to the back of the truck and rolled up the gate, revealing an expanse of boxes and padded furniture. The fat man ordered the thin man to get up there and start handing him boxes. This, the thin man did. He moved so industriously, in fact, that he handed the boxes to the fat man faster than the fat man could stack them on the ground. At one point he put one heavy box on top of another that the fat man was already holding, almost causing the fat man to fall over. The fat man let out a pained “Whoufff!” The thin man apologized, without full comprehension of his trespass.
I objected: “Wouldn’t it be easier to take the big furniture items first, so you won’t have to maneuver them around the boxes that are already in the apartment?”
The thin man and fat man looked at each other. This was a great idea.
They spent several minutes putting the boxes already unloaded back into the truck.
Now the two started carrying furniture out from the parking lot, through an arched gateway, into the apartment complex and to the wing that contained my empty apartment. Once inside t\hey beheld the stairway, two sets of six risers with a bend in the middle, leading up to the second floor walkway where my apartment sat. It was going to be hard to maneuver some of the bigger pieces, a combined cabinet and bookcase, up that obstacle course, but it had to be done. The fat man said to the skinny one, “You pull and I push.”
The thin man struggled mightily with his burden. The effort this took was so hard on him that his legs wobbled like liquid, slipping against the risers as he struggled for purchase. The smile, however, the eye contact with me as he shared that unwavering smile, never left him. It was like he was putting on a show, with me as audience.
After a heroic effort, they reached the first turnaround. The cabinet/bookcase got wedged against the railing, and would not go any further. The fat man said that he needed to get above it, so he could guide its movement past the bend. “Bring it back down!” he ordered.
The thin man started to comply.
I said, “Excuse me, this is silly. Why don’t you just go up the other stairway on the other side of the building, cross over on the walkway, and meet him here?”
The fat man took this as a capital idea. He went around to the other end of the building. Simultaneously, the thin man climbed down the stairs on the outside of the railing, so he could push from the bottom. The fat man arrived at the top of the stairs, did a double take when he saw that the thin man on the ground, and gave me another exasperated look, a look that communicated, again, the message, “See what I have to deal with?”
They managed to get the big item up the stairs with only two or three minor mishaps, each of them involving minor physical injury to the fat man. This involved the cabinet being dropped on the fat man’s foot, the cabinet jamming the fat man’s hand against the railing, the cabinet crushing the fat man against the wall. Each time the fat man let out a horrified yelp, and each time the skinny man apologized, each time with blinking that established a total dearth of comprehension.
The two men reached the second floor railing with the heavy items, breathing heavily from all the effort. I asked them if they’d like some water before they continued. They both allowed as how it had been a long drive and how they would like to use my bathroom. I opened the door for them. The skinny man started to enter. The fat man stopped him by blocking his way with his arm, pointed at his own chest to establish that he took precedence.
He marched through the door.
Would you believe me if I told you that he tripped at the threshold and went flying?
We skip their bathroom break. They did their business, brought the cabinet into my bedroom with several additional physical insults to the fat man and at least one spat where the fat man cried out in frustration, “Why don’t you do something to help me?”
The skinny man went back to the truck and returned with the frame supports of my bed. He said, “Where do you want this, mister?”
I’m afraid I stared at him for a moment. This was a one bedroom apartment. An idiot could surmise where the bed would go. I said, “The bedroom.”
He took the frame into the bedroom. A few minutes later he returned from the truck with the mattress and asked me, “What about this?”
The fat man rolled his eyes again. I said, “On the bed frame.” The skinny man brought my mattress into the bedroom.
With all the furniture moved, it was now time to get those boxes. A word about how I labeled my boxes. There were 28 boxes. I had wanted to make sure that none were missed, so I wrote on each one of them with thick magic marker, in letters several inches tall. They were all labeled something like, Castro Box 1 of 28. Or 2 of 28. Or 3 of 28. Et cetera. The skinny man asked me, “How many boxes do you have?” Again I stared, and said, “28.” The fat man rolled his eyes yet again. The thin man went and started getting the boxes, one at a time, in order, actually moving them in the pile on the truck so he could deliver them numerically. I will note again, for the record, that his big broad smile—never showing teeth, but still an upward curve of his lips—remained on his face during all 28 box trips, none of which the fat guy helped him with.
There were no further disasters as the rest of my items entered the apartment. I signed for the delivery and tipped them. The skinny guy reached for the money, but the fat guy pushed him aside and took it all. I thanked them.
The fat guy said, “Service with a smile.” He actually said that.
The skinny guy smiled at me again as the pair went down the stairs. For the first time, he took off his own hat and scratched his head. His hair was, I must report, short on the sides but stood upright when the hat was removed. It was, I swear to God, bright orange red. The only color it could have been.
Feeling like a man in a dream, followed them out, standing there as they drove away.
The first thing I said when they were safely out of sight was an awestruck, “My God, They Actually Exist.”
And since then I have always wondered how often they were recognized.
August 21, 2008