Anywhere Ah Wonts To

The first construction project I ever worked on was a Sears store in Sacramento, California. It was a big job, and I was one of a dozen or so laborers on the project. Our foreman was this huge Jamaican guy named Bethel Lee. He was at least six and a half feet tall, and weighed probably three-fifty; one of those gentle giants, though; a really nice guy and everyone liked him. But when he got angry, he could look ferocious and intimidating.

I’d only been there a few days, and one day a bunch of us were eating lunch in one of the more finished rooms of the store. It was an office or something, and wasn’t but about twelve feet by fifteen feet. There were about ten guys in the room, sitting on the concrete floor with our backs to the wall, and our legs stretched out into the middle of the room. I was sitting just to the right of the door as you came into the room.

Big Bertha—that was Bethel’s nickname—came to the door opening and stood there, surveying the room. He went around the room, kind of half smiling, half glaring at each guy in turn; it was kind of unnerving. I was the last one his eyes fell upon, and when he looked down at me, I felt like I was looking up at a tall building. His smile got bigger, but, at the same time, somehow, his face became more menacing, as he looked down at me.

“Cholly,” he said, in a voice as deep as the ocean; his dark eyes were twinkling in either merriment or murderous intent, and I had no idea which one. “You know where’s ah eats ma lunch?”

I swallowed hard and said, “No sir.” I was wondering if he wanted my place, and had already decided he could have it, if that were the case. “Where do you eat your lunch?”

His eyes fairly sparkled and his grin got so wide it seemed to fill the room then he said, “Anywhere ah wonts to.”

There was a few seconds of silence, then everyone in the room—except me—burst into laughter. I just smiled up at Big Bertha with a thank-you-for-sparing-my-life-today weak smile.

I guess that was Big Bertha’s way of welcoming the new guy.


  1. ken said

    Do you remember the one about berta and the belt with his bibb overalls?

    • No, don’t recall that one, but hum a few bars, and I’ll see what I can do.
      I do remember one about your buddy coming over from Moab for the summer though, and how we all used to laugh about that little green Pinto heading east every Friday afternoon. Something about a ranch y’all liked to go to??

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