#937: The Boy / The Worker

June 6th, 2018

A boy of maybe 12 or 13 grabbed a handful of penis-shaped salt and pepper shakers and set them by the Virgin Mary.

He wasn’t leaving them there, just needed them elsewhere for a moment so he could organize the mugs shaped like individual tits. The breast mugs, the veiny, erect novelty ceramic shakers, the Mother of God and a few mugs shaped like butts were all manufactured out of the same tan-brown ceramic, laid out on a folding table in a parking lot by a child in the early morning of the Swap-O-Rama so his family could sell them under the watchful eyes of a 20-foot high fiberglass cow advertising the┬áRancho Santa Maria grocery store, albeit with the horns and part of the head missing.

Tits and asses organized, the boy grabbed the penis shakers from the Virgin’s side to continue his arrangement.

He was a slightly chubby kid with short-cropped hair and an innocent, overworked face. It was the face of a kid who knows Saturday means early mornings, work, helping his family, tired eyes too young for a rousing cup of coffee from one of the tit-mugs decorated with phrases like Chupale (which means “Suck it”), La Chingona (which either means a badass woman or, as Google Translate declares, just the word “Fucking”) or “llegale mi lechita” (which has a secondary meaning so filthy the program that just output “fucking” won’t say what “little milk” implies).

The boy arranged the shakers among the religious statues and truly daunting cock vases with care. Display is important at the swap. To differentiate. To draw attention and get the family money. There were three other tables in the parking lot just selling this same tan-brown collection of ceramics.

Everything’s available at the Back of the Yards swap. Everything. Care needs to be made to establish that that does not just mean “a lot of things.” It means the swap is a place where a man walks by clutching a new pair of shoes and a toilet seat.

On a brisk spring morning where the clouds lightened but no blue broke through, the boy straightened to inspect his work. Not admire, of course. That takes seconds he didn’t have. The shoppers were arriving in the parking lot and he was behind. Sales to make, hands to shake. A day of work selling the blood of the lamb and the tit mugs. The shoppers were there and the cocks weren’t ready.

The boy worked efficiently and silently in his family’s cordoned section of the lot. He was one of dozens, maybe a hundred or more display-makers arranging and setting up across the parking area. The early patrons had already done their first wander through Swap-O-Rama’s equally overwhelming indoor areas. Now potential clientele were making their ways out of doors. Time to arrange tables and see if they can lure.

Rare coins by Chicago collectable spoons. Bikes — nice bikes — next to car cleaner spray and spinner rims. Generators next to lawnmowers next to wrenches next to open containers of spices and nuts. Meat grinders next to big-eye baby statues of the Jesus next to rolling papers and pipes next to a bong that’s hooked to a gas mask next to tamale presses. Clothes. Toys. Outdoor lighting. Gas grills.

A man spit polished a line of silver and bright red washing machines. Next to him along the chain link fence separating swap from sprawling train yard a man blasted “Car Wash” and other super hits of the ’70s to lure attention toward his collection of nuts, seeds, candy and Converse sneakers. Along the rushing road marking the swap’s east end, a man sold DVDs of bootleg rodeo videos with a few mixed in of illegal dog fights. No one seemed to care.

The men working the train yard to the north lackidaisically gestured that spurs are clear waving with a distracted hand that yeah pull ‘er back pull ‘er back ok that’s enough stop as carless engines followed suit. Horns blasted the air at intervals that seemed random to an outside, but I’m sure made sense to them. Work vests and hard hats. The laughter and back slaps of men working together.

These sights, these sounds were the stage setting for a little boy at work. He sold offensive ceramics on a Saturday morning. He didn’t smile or frown, just blinked at the early morning sun.

See another scene from the Back of the Yards swap

And an aging barber from nearby Canaryville

Buy tickets for the Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

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