I have known Crane for five days. Crane is his real name and he owns a farm in Bowen, Australia. Goondeloo is the real name of the farm which is surrounded by endless patties of capsicums (or peppers for the rest of the world).
Crane wears black sunglasses, rugby shorts, (loose Spandex) a gas attendant’s blue button up with a natural V-neck because it is missing the top three buttons (and the bottom one). And his sewn nametag “Crane” is not enough to shift the focus from his enormous gut which is more hairy than his chest or the every-other inch of his body covered by dirt and gray body hair. Add a wrinkled and tobacco stained face and mouth (and a bush safari hat) and you have Sir Crane of Goondeloo Farms.
I pick capsicums for Crane—bending over nine hours a day and filling every pore in my body with rotten pepper guts and cowshit. The work is surprisingly relaxing and surrounded by gorgeous bush desert and mountains with circling Birds of Paradise and the occasional hawk. In normal circumstance I would take this job as an opportunity to tighten my abs—to firm my glutes and up my shine with grit, sun and the local sea salt—but a 300lb dirty farmer with a tangy accent starring at your ass all day making sure you can handle the hard work is not normal/for me.
The days are long and suck, but today was a new sort of uncomfortable. While finishing a story in my head about the honest and physical benefits of “bending over” and being “on your knees” Crane sketched toward me and said it again “Jordan, talk if you want, but stay bent over, you came here to work, g’dammit.” This we agreed on: I came to work, g’dammit. He then leaned back sticking his hips out and whistling like a chubby Santa Clause/grease monkey pissing with no hands. I ignore him for the first five minutes until his shrinking mammoth shadow closes in and disappears—close enough for a kiss—and says “Stay on your knees, if that’s how you like it.”
As his shadow hovers again I finished filling my thirty liter bucket and moved quickly to work near the French guys (usually a poor choice).
I understand everybody has a little gay in them and we find is amusing to crack jokes and avoid the obvious truth the thoughts occur. And I understand Crane has it too, and he probably has never heard of Freud, doesn’t care, and will continue to live his wifeless life claiming his work has always been more important. This is okay, and I can’t blame him. But we are not buddies from school (as if this is an excuse) and starring at a young boy’s ass for six out of eight hours a day is harassment.
After two more hours of burning skin, evaporating sweat and dirty hands bent over pulling at top speed—chafing my palms with pepper juice and mud—I finish a new story in my head. It’s about Crane. He takes me out to the pub for my hard work and follows me to the toilet each time to keep the conversation going. A couple two or seven shots and six beers later we make for the pisser but this time Crane stares down my junk like a warm meat pie and makes a go for it. The story ends in court as Goondeloo Farms and Jordan Antonucci settle on $20,000 for convicted sexual assault.
I liked the story and was happy to write the anvil meeting its pound as the truck beeped twice to end the day. I was smiling until Crane crept up and slapped me on the ass to ask if I was working tomorrow. I was, and tried to maintain a dirty face with clean thought façade when answering. He knew I worked tomorrow and continued over my voice absorbing the well-picked field “I can give it to you (pausing to cough up a lung) off if you want. You worked hard today and could use a drink. The beers are on me.”
Confused, thirsty and poor I accepted with no hesitation. “As long as you’re buying.”