The Building

A worker demolishes the old Los Angeles Times building. The new Times building can be seen in the background. 1937.

The half-broken building is a black shadow in the red dawn. The young man climbs the steps and scaffolds, lugs tools up two final ladders. Routine steps and routine fingers, routine hands hold routine positions. Here is his handprint on the dusty brick from yesterday, and the day before and the day before. Here are his boot prints, here are the marks from his jackhammer.

His tools roar. They are hungry. They bite chips and shards from the building. People must pass by below and the sun overhead, men must work by his side. That is the way of jobsites. He smashes, feet firm upon the thing he destroys. He stops for lunch in the middle of the day, and drinks coffee from his thermos. That is the way of working.

A whistle must blow. He climbs down ladders, steps and scaffolds. Other men talk around him, make jokes, light cigarettes. They must, after all. Work must have an end.

Dusk has turned the sky red. The young man sighs. The building looks the same. Surely that whole day, something was accomplished. Days begin and end, in between things become different under power of will. They must. Surely that is the way of working. Nothing can change that.

Up on that dusty brick wall, a handprint fades from sight as the sky fades from red to black.

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