Every morning, Sean’s lunch cooler and coffee thermos sat, waiting for him on the linoleum kitchen counter. Today, there was a small piece of white paper, folded in half, one corner tucked neatly under the dented green metal thermos. Sean opened the note and began to read:

Dear Sean,

Thank you for all you have done to support this family for the last 30 years. Good luck at the union hall today.

Love, Claire

The operating engineer, with his salt and pepper goatee and yellow hard hat, looked out at the men from behind his dark wraparound sunglasses. “Good morning, ladies,” he said between puffs of cigarette smoke as he swung open the bright orange metal gate of the hoist car.

Tommy and Mikey started up the hoist ramp, shoulder to shoulder with the other construction workers, until the hoist car was packed with workers. An old radio hung by a piece of wire from the roof of the hoist; a song by Aerosmith was playing. “Dream on. Dream on.” More men pushed on to the already crowded car, with the last man screaming “cock to ass, cock to ass.” The hoist jerked at first and it seemed like it wasn’t moving. But then it started upward to the 22nd floor.

“Yo, Tommy, I can smell the beer coming off of you mo,” Mikey whispered and pushed a pack of gum into Tommy’s hand.


“Okay, Sean. Just sign here. And here,” the union secretary said, pointing to two Xs. Sean put on an old, bent pair of gold-colored eyeglasses and signed the papers. “It takes about two weeks for the union to process retirement papers,” the secretary said. “Oh, I almost forgot, Sean; Dominick said he wants to speak with you before you leave. He’s in his office, down the hall.”

“Sean Delaney.” Dominick placed his coffee cup down on his desk and stood up. “They don’t make them like you anymore. You got a retirement plan, Sean? You gotta have a plan.”

“I’ll take the wife out for lunches, do some fishing, watch after the grandkids, and go home to Galway once a year.”

“Spoken like a true gentleman,” Dominick said. “We’re all gonna miss you, Sean.” Dominick shook Sean’s rough hand.


“The usual breakfast order, Tommy?” the apprentice on the job site asked, writing the coffee order with a pencil on a piece of cardboard.

“Not today, kid,” Tommy said.

“I’m not really open, yet, Tommy,” Cindy said, standing in the dim light and looking at Tommy through the upside-down barstools lined up on the bar. An old man was mopping the floors.

“A pint of Bud,” Tommy said, as if he hadn’t heard anything Cindy had said. The dishwasher, holding a clean set of glasses, swung open the kitchen door.

“Rough night, Tommy,” Cindy said as she saw Tommy’s face in some of the light that had escaped from the bright kitchen.

“Yeah, rough night, Cindy.”

Cindy came back with the beer and placed the pint on the bar. “Pay me at lunch, Tommy. The register’s not open yet.” Tommy pulled off his hard hat and placed it on the bar and drank the cold beer in three gulps.

“Where you been, Sean,” Mikey said.

“Down at the union hall. I put my papers in this morning,” Sean said.

“Good. It’s about time an old fuck like you retires,” Mikey said, laughing.

“I’ve forgotten more about carpentry then you’ll ever know, you little ginny prick.” Sean smiled. “Hey, where’s Tommy? I want to tell him the good news.”

“He’s gone for the cure,” Mikey said.

“Oh,” Sean said, and he tightened his tool belt and started rolling up the sleeves of his red flannel shirt.