“Stop crowdin’ me!” Bob shouted. Brian skirted back. “Dang. Just relax, Brian. I told ya I know what I’m doing.”
Wrinkles dug into Brian’s dirty forehead, and he wiped the sweat from his eyes. “Well I know that, Bob. I’m just worried is all. I want to make sure you hook up them wires ‘n such.”
Bob wedged a stick of TNT between his teeth and rolled his eyes. He pumped a dirty fist toward Brian, and the small man moved back further. Bob grabbed stick after stick, wedging them into the cracks and holes chipped out in the rock. “Just hold the lantern,” he said, after removing the final stick from his mouth and plugging it into its hole.
“Now are ya sure you—”
“I’m fixin’ to stick a charge into you!” Bob roared. “Boy, I’ve been workin’ for the railway my entire life. I’ve spent more time blowing holes in mountains than you could even dream of. Why in the hell do you think they put me in charge?”
“Because the last fella blew his hands off,” Brian said immediately.
Bob glared and turned back to his job. He began to unroll fuses from a spool nearby. His knobby fingers were covered with mud and grime, and they had a subtle shake. “And hold that damned lantern still! I swear, I may as well be in here by myself with the kinda help you’re offering.”
Brian tried to point a finger at a loosely joined wire. “Bob, Bob, there on the right—”
Bob tossed the materials down and snatched the lantern from Brian’s hand. The shadows inside the dark tunnel swung across their faces, Brian’s full of surprise and Bob’s full of anger. “You just wait outside,” Bob said in a low growl. “I’ve heard just about enough of your mouth.”
Brian thought to plead with him, but the sour look in Bob’s eyes forced the idea out. He put his hands to the sky and slowly back away. A shovel laid haphazardly in his path, and when he stepped on it, it threw his body weight sideways and Brian fell to the ground.
Bob howled with laughter, his voice echoing throughout the darkness. “Watch yer step, boy!”
Brian scrambled to his feet and made his way to the exit. Bob laughed heartily, seeming to get louder and louder as Brian got further away. Finally, he exited into the blinding sun, squinting and holdings his hands over his eyes, and sat with the rest of the workers.
“Bob just about done?” one of them asked.
“I guess so,” said Brian with a sigh. “He kicked me out.”
They nodded. “We heard him laughin’ at ya.”
The minutes dragged on. Occasional curses came from the dark tunnel. Then a ghostly apparition emerged. A man with wild white hair and crazy blue eyes stumbled toward them with the TNT igniter in his hands. He sat down and handed the box to Brian with a horrid smile. “Ready for a boom?” Bob asked.
Brian sighed, and the others took cover. He gave the connections a quick check amid Bob’s jeers, and pushed the lever down. Nothing happened. Brian looked to Bob.
“Well crank it again!” Bob said.
Brian pumped the lever down several times, but nothing triggered. He looked at Bob, careful to hide the smile from his mouth.
Bob stared at the dark tunnel and rubbed at his worn hands. “Well shit-sticks,” he muttered.