There was nothing glorious about the work Jim was doing. Face shadowed by a red bandana stained with years of exhalation, he chipped at the pipe above him, scraping off the sediment of years of town sewage. Jim hadn’t intended to become a shit scraper—or “sewer technician” as Lacey preferred him to say—but when she’d gotten pregnant at 19, Jim knew this work would get him what he needed.
One unforeseen advantage of this solitary, odiferous work was that Jim could spend his hours in the company of his headlamp’s focused beam, illuminating and unearthing his words until they were as crisp and tangible as the steel around him. Emerging from the mole’s life, Jim would slug his gear into the bed of his truck and dive for his pocket-spiral in the glove compartment. In terse, methodic hand-letters, Jim would lay down the flora of his mind, a pastoral epic elevating his small-town’s quotidian to the sublime.