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“You are too wise for me.” That’s what the lady says.

I don’t believe it. Harvard grad, Phi Beta Kappa, president of her class, is what I hear through da grapevine. Beautiful woman, like foxy. This I know. See her every day goin’ here and there lookin’ all serious. She smile, I bet she light up a room. But, never see that one smile.

I work metal. Wisht I never got in this welding. My friend Bruno, he says, “You make a lotta money.” That’s what he says.

So I go to welding school an’ now I make a lotta money, like Bruno says. But you know, some days it ain’t worth it. Got lotsa scars to prove it. Tough, heavy, hot work. Metal got a way of payin’ you back for tryin’ to change it around, you know, cut pieces off it, mold it, work it hard. That’s what I do. Some days I think metal got a brain an’ it don’t like me. Maybe it do an’ maybe it don’t. All I know’s, payback’s a bitch!

So, picture this! Evelyn, she’s the fine lookin’ lady who just says I’ma wise, not likea wiseguy, the other, the nice one. She says, “You are too wise for me, or maybe, you wiser than me.” Same difference, I guess. I’m thinkin’, this bigwig stops me an’ says somethin’ an’ alls I can see is them gorgeous blue eyes in a pretty face an’ maybe that fine chest, too. I’m a man, you know. Maybe I don’t hear what she says real good, cause, well, I’m a little off my rocker, you know, like shook!

In my head I think, “Where’s this woman come by sayin’ that to me?”

I got no ejication, ‘ceptin’ that school of hard knocks. That I got. So anyway, she stops me an’ says this thing an’ I’m thinkin’, like get aholt of yerself, Joey, what’s comin’ next. That’s me, I’m Joey, Joey Catallano, Joey the Wop, the maintenance guys call me. Don’t bother me none, we get along. I got dirty names for some of them, too. Fact is, they ask me questions alla time. Like maybe they’re stupid or something’, ‘cause this stuff I know is like, so simple, anybody can figger it out. But they still ask and I tell an’ they go away smilin’. Go figure.

Anyways, we all work at this Los Alamos super-secret place out in the desert. They call it the Proving Grounds around here an’ all the high mucky-mucks are doin’ somethin’ strange, workin’ on somethin’ in the big bunker, all hush-hush, an’ nobody tells us workers nothin’. They make like we’re not even here, ‘cept when they want something like weld this or stand this up and put a piece here, you know. Then there’s my boss. He’s some somnobitch, always ridin’ us to get it done quicker.

I tells him, “You can’t rush the weld, boss,” but he don’t want to hear it.

“Do yer job and keep yer mouth shut,” he says.

I don’t wanna argue, so I shut up an’ go about my business. Good thing them high mucky-mucks like my work. Figger I’d be out of here if it was up to my stinkin’ boss, but I keep it in my head.

Now this Evelyn, she foxy an’ smart an’ she’d win a prize anyplace, but she sticks to the straight, know what I mean? She pays no attention to nobody, I don’t think. When she wants somethin’ done, she tells my boss an’ it gets down to me or one of the guys. She asks nice, he don’t.

I remember it’s the first day of fall. No leaves out here, but over in maintenance we got calendars with them naked ladies on ‘em an’ the guys love to pat ‘em on the behind when they go in and out the big doors. So Evelyn, she’s comin’ toward me an’ I’m payin’ no mind, just walkin’ along with my toolbox, cursin’ on all the tools I got to bring. Got to switch hands now an’ then so’s I don’t get one arm longer then the other. I’m on a errand to the tower we’re buildin’ out in the desert there.

Well, anyways, when she gets close, she like steps into my lane. I see her now an’ I move some so we don’t crash. Nobody around, just me an’ her. I’m thinkin’, us blue collars don’t mess with them egghead’s specially them egghead frails. So this woman moves back in my way again an’ this time she shakes me up, ‘cause she stops right in front of me. Well, I can’t do nothin’ else, you know, so I stops, too.

“You’re Joey, right?” she says.

“Uh, yes, Ma’am.”

“I’m Evelyn Travison, one of the project scientists.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I know who you are,” I say.

“You do?” She seems like happy I heard of her, an’ she’s been here near as long as me. How could you not notice a foxy chick like this one? But, I’m thinkin’, she got her nose straight ahead alla time, so it’s just like her not knowin’ others would notice a good lookin’ woman. Believe me, the looks I seen from the guys. I wouldn’t tell her what they was like, not on a bet.

So we’re standin’ in the middle of the desert, nobody around an’ talkin’ like we done it a hundred times before. My head’s in a muddle an’ I got to wait on what this lady wants to say. So anyways, she smiles an’ I like, go head over heels for them pearly whites. Close up this lady’s a real knockout.

“You’ve been here a long time,” she says.

I keep mum ‘cause I don’t think I could say nothin’ without fallin’ over my tongue.

“Joey, call me Evelyn. I’ve heard that you’ve gained quite a reputation around here for giving advice to the other workers.”

“I don’t say nothin’ to nobody if they don’t ask me, Ma’am.”

“Call me Evelyn, it’s okay,” she says back.

“Don’t feel right to do that, Ma’am…but I’ll try Ma’am…I mean, Evelyn.”

“I want us to become friends. Would that be all right with you?”

“I guess so, Ma’am…I mean Evelyn.”

“Why I stopped you way out here is because I have watched you with others. You have a gift, I believe. I have a problem, and I think you can help me with it. Would that be all right with you?”

“I don’t know what you mean about gift, but if I can help, I will.”

“Thank you. I want to meet with you somewhere private and quiet after your shift. Some of the men I have spoken to told me that you know a lot about life and make a lot of sense when you talk to them. I won’t keep you now, but before you go on to your work at the tower, I want you to know that I know very little about life and I have a million questions I’d like to ask you. You see; I never took any time for that, too much studying. I have led what I call a cloistered existence. Now I want to learn of what I haven’t read about in books.”

She finishes in a rush, like it all came spillin’ out. I had to like this pretty lady. And them big words! She didn’t seem to know about what I lernt a long time ago in that school I said somethin’ about. I guess ejication ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Imagine me, teachin’ one of them eggheads. Makes you wonder.

“Okay,” I says.

“That’s great! Meet you at the PX at six. Matter of fact, I’ll buy you dinner. We can get some privacy later on the benches near the water tower.” Evelyn smiles again, a happy smile, an’ see, I’m right, the whole desert lights up.

“Yes, Ma’am.” I forget again. My Mama was poor as dirt an’ I never got ejicated, but she was a saint. She says you be polite to a real lady. This here’s a real lady. I head out to the tower an’ I look back once, like I don’t believe what happened. That Evelyn’s sure a sight goin’ away, too. My tool box don’t weigh nothin’ now an’ for once I can’t wait to get outa my shift an’ get duded up. I got me a date!

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