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June 1, 2024

Van Surfing

Will Musgrove

After fifteen-plus years of running coaxial cable through people’s homes, we were let go with one word: expendable. That’s what Jerry called us over the phone this morning before telling us to have the van back by this afternoon. The bastard didn’t even have the guts to say it to our faces. I can picture his bald head bobbling at his plywood desk, his pudgy fingers deleting our names from his spreadsheets as if we had never worked at Infinity Cable, as if we had never existed.

“You guys hiring?” Steve asks the bartender, a half-drunk Budweiser gripped in his hand.

I count the bills taped to the back wall and try to read the words written on them in pen and highlighter. I’ll give this dollar, but I don’t have any fucks to give, one reads, and I wonder how long I can stay sitting on this stool inside Pair-A-Dice, drinking, how long I can have zero fucks to give.

Steve’s cell phone rings. It’s his wife. Sliding off his stool, he answers. He paces next to the jukebox, whispering, his free arm waving as if he’s swatting at invisible insects. There’s only one cable company in town, so we’ll have to do something different. It’ll be easier for Steve to look for another job. A wife and kid at home. Me? Doesn’t matter. Jobs like that are all the same. I’ll get assigned another van. I’ll drive somewhere, drive somewhere else, van hours being like dog years.

A television mounted above the bar shows a beach. Shows palm trees leaning over shoreline toward sun. A surfer, a tan man with shaggy blond hair, plucks a surfboard from the sand like a dandelion. He darts for the water, water like blue Kool-Aid, so blue it looks painted on. With his chest pressed against the surfboard, he paddles. There’s no sound, just subtitles: Nothing but waves, nothing but waves.

“We’ll talk about it when I get home, okay?” Steve says loud enough that I glance at him.  

When I look back at the surfer, he’s gone, swallowed by a giant wave. I chug my beer, suddenly extremely thirsty.

“I have to get home,” Steve says, grabbing my shoulder.

He pays for our tab. Staring at the television, I walk out of the bar backward, watching the wave. I hope, if the surfer drowns, he figures it was worth it. It’s rained. Dirty water fills potholes and darkens the road. Nothing but waves, I think, climbing onto the roof of Jerry’s van, metal sinking under my steel-toe boots.

“What’re you doing?” Steve asks.


No skin in the game, Steve shrugs. He starts the van. We rumble forward. I fall to my knees. Standing back up, I lift my arms for balance. Faster. Faster. Faster. A stop sign zooms past, and I imagine the surfer and the wave becoming one. There’s a speed bump thirty-ish feet ahead. Steve’s not slowing down. It’s okay. Right now, I have zero fucks to give.