The Last Haul


my grandfather was my first employer.
he worked as a landscaper and yard man
for home owners along the Oakland Hills
Piedmont, Berkeley. I was with him

every summer between late grade school
and Jr high. his drove a muscular

Ford truck carpeted with spilled malts and holes
candy wrappers, Styrofoam bowls for
Big Macs. A xylophone of empty Dr
Pepper bottles would solo at

every sharp right and Stop Sign
where granddad would chant the letters


as a corrective prayer while stirring
the trucks gears like he’d use a whip on a mule

What I remember most is the
last haul we made together.

We carried a load of dry rotting two
-by-fours and tree limbs out to the
facility in Richmond. we drove
along a silent Saturday back-

street. On one side of us the freeways’
11 ft high sound wall & on the
other, block after block of sleepy gray
business offices. We drove slow because –

Well, there was no choice. The engine couldn’t
keep up with freeway traffic. So he drove

watchful, patient. Yet, I didn’t flinch when
he impulsively parked outside a
quiet office building with black windows

& vanished.

I got out, following him

to back of the truck & saw deep in the
load a bright orange flame tonguing the stacks
of dry plywood and branches. He began

yanking wood off the truck, pulling long
2×4’s & tree limbs off the cab & onto
The ground.

I helped
in my turning back

& forth from truck to wood pile I noticed

three car lengths behind us,

a police car /

a fire truck arrived long before granddad
& I had finished unloading the wood
or figured out what we’d do about it.

Part of his rusted fender fissured
spitting sparks into the load mere inches
behind us Granddad said the dump wouldn’t
take anything burned or wet. So, we

reloaded the charred wood carefully
hiding its new nature. We drove the
contraband to the dump, unloaded it
faster than we’d unloaded anything

we don’t get caught. we drive home returning
on the same road only this time in a
silent grace more eloquent than even
he could deliver as a preacher from

the dais in his church.

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