It was a dismal fall day and there were intermittent dashes of rain spitting from the sky. Chuck had only a thin jacket and a pair of new shoes. Two cars passed him, workmates; guys he had worked with for years. “Union brothers,” he mumbled bitterly.
A car stopped. One of the young employees, Del. Nobody talked to Del. He didn’t belong to the union. His type was dangerous to Chuck; employees must unite, act as one, and demonstrate solidarity. If you don’t belong to the union you are an enemy of the union, Chuck thought.
“Can I give you a ride?” Del said.
“Nah,” Chuck said. “That’s okay. I’m fine.”
“It looks to me we’re in for a storm,” Del said. “You better let me give you a ride.”
“I’ll be fine,” Chuck said. “I live way out of your way.”
“All the better to give you a ride,“ Del said. “Besides I’ll enjoy the ride”
“Ya sure?” Chuck said.
“Yeah,” Del said, “hop in.”
Chuck slid in the front seat and Del pulled away.
“I appreciate this,” Chuck said. “I live east on Route 30. It’s about five miles from here.”
“That’s no problem,” Del said. “You’d do the same for me.”
Chuck said nothing. Finally he said, “No I wouldn’t. So if you want to let me out that will be fine.”
“No,” Del said. “I really want to take you home.”
“You know about three or four guys drove by like I wasn’t even there,” Chuck said. “They’re supposed to be my union brothers.”
“Maybe they didn’t see you,” Del said.
“That’s funny,” Chuck said.
“What’s funny,” Del said.
“You’re sticking up for them and they would stab you in the back as soon as look at you,” Chuck said. “I don’t know how you put up with it. Nobody talks to you or wants to work with you. Nobody will take a break or eat lunch with you.”
“Well,” Del said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but I need this job more than I need friends. The union wants a $25 dollar initiation fee and two hours pay a month. I hate to say this, but my back is pretty much against the wall right now, if you know what I mean. The union for now isn’t missing my money, but my kids sure will.”
“But the union fought to get those wages for you and your family,” Chuck said. “And they’ll go to bat for you if…”
“If my car doesn’t start?” Del said.
“But as a union we got to remain in solidarity,” Chuck said.
“It’s a tough decision I had to make,” Del said. “I don’t expect anyone to understand.”
“I’ll be honest with you,” Chuck said. “I don’t understand.”
“That’s okay with me,” Del said. “I want nothing more than people to respect my decision.”
“They never will, you know,” Chuck said.
“I know,” Del said.
“You know I ain’t gonna to talk to you at work,” Chuck said.
“Sure,” Del said, “I understand that, but I know you’re a good man and someday you’ll give me a helping hand when I most need it. It will be quiet and without the notice of others but, I know it will come my way.”
“My house is on the right,’ Chuck said as the rain began to pour.
“Do you need a ride to work tomorrow?” Del said as he pulled into Chuck’s driveway
“I’m not sure,” Chuck said.
Del shook Chuck’s hand and smiled. “Find your own damn way.”
Chuck grinned and winked. “Thanks again.”