The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Isaiah 50:4
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The Little Wretches: VIDEOS


(The Little Wretches)
January 7, 2018
Robert Andrew Wagner



Mr. Chirumbole had this big dump truck. Everybody Americanized his name to Crumble, like, “That’s how the cookie crumbles,” but everybody called him Franco Harris, like the football player and Franco’s Italian Army. I think his first name was Francis, like Saint Francis, which turned into Frank, which turned into Franco. I called him Mister C.


Mister C owned an apartment building in a part of town that became a ghetto. When he sold the apartment building, he kept the garage. That’s where he kept his dump truck and all his construction tools. Five-thirty in the morning, sometimes earlier, he’d be getting his dump truck and heading off to do some little job somewhere in the ‘hood, little jobs, patching a sidewalk, rebuilding a wall, reinforcing a crumbling set of concrete steps. Jobs like that. 


When he was younger, he did big jobs. Entire city streets, he’s the guy who laid the sidewalks. He had the mind of an engineer. He’s the one who could look at the situation and know what needed to be done. But now, it’s little jobs—patching cracks, plugging holes, reinforcing saggy walls.


What is he, I think he might be eighty-seven years old. I know this because I saw him jump down from like the fourth rung of a ladder, this was last summer. He was doing brick work on this house I bought. The wall was sagging like it was going to fall off the side of the house. He had a plank across two big steel barrels, and the ladder on top of the plank, and he’s up the ladder, removing the sagging bricks and handing them down do this other old guy who’s standing on one of the barrels, and he’s handing them to me, then I’m stacking them up in a pile. When Mr. C. comes down to take a break, he hops off the ladder and he says, “Not bad for fifty-six.” 


And I thought, no, not bad at all for fifty six. Then the other guy looks over at me and says, “He’s pulling your leg. He’s not fifty-six. He’s eighty-six.”


His kids want him to quit. They’re afraid he’s going to get robbed or carjacked. Or that he’ll end up running somebody over with his dump truck. You should see this guy drive. He really shouldn’t be out on the road with that big truck. But he won’t hear of it. He works every day. Started with absolutely nothing. Built up his business, worked every day, made a fortune. But the problem with guys who start with nothing is that they’re always afraid they’ll end up with nothing. So they never stop working. 


And fact is, they like to work. It’s a habit. It’s the only thing he can do that gives him any satisfaction. “Quit? Why, you think I’m too old? What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?” When he’s not working, he’s thinking of all the money he would be making if he was working. And what’s he gonna do with all that money? Go to Wendy’s and have a hamburger with his brother. Simple pleasures. 


His wife is gone. His kids are gone. I mean, they check up on him. But what is he going to do besides work?  


“Dad, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I hope you don’t plan on trying to work. Please don’t go out in that rain.” 


Oooh. Nothing worse than a rainy day for an old cement worker.


IT’S RAINING (words and music: Robert A. Wagner)

Is it raining?  I can’t tell.  It sounds like its raining.  Yep, it’s raining.

It’s really coming down out there.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.


I woke up, It was raining.

I guess there’s always work to do around the house.

I think I heard it start, I woke up to thunder

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.


I hope the lids are on the garbage cans

And all the upstairs windows have been closed.

It’s really coming down out there.

And the bald spot on the lawn where the dog’s chain used to be it’s a pool of mud.

Lord, I miss that dog.


Is it a chill-in-your-bones rain?

Will it soak right through your shoes till your socks get wet?

I think I heard it start, I woke up to thunder.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.


Somewhere in the closet, There’s a box of paint-by-numbers sets

Your mother planned to do when she got time.

There wasn’t time enough for her to stick around and tell you

But there’s time enough for you to change your mind.


Close up the shop.  It’s raining.

Call off the job.  It’s raining.

Cancel the war.  It’s raining.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.

God forbid you’d have to change your precious plans.