BLUES FICTION:  my short story “Double Shift”

Aided by mentors and spirits, an orphaned young bluesman comes of age in 1970s Chicago.

Chapter 1 of 7:  Paycheck Blues

“Double shift?” Discontent spread over the black, white and brown faces of Midwest Barrel’s painting crew. Foreman Frank Polowski broke the news Friday afternoon at 4:30. Ttrucks were pulling into the parking lot to pick up finished barrels as the painters were opening their lockers, peeling off aprons and work shirts. They scratched bare arms, wiped eyes and noses watering from the paint fumes. Next Monday through Thursday, they’d have to work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

 “Big order,” was Polowski’s two-word explanation. Maybe he talked more at home, in Polish.

Catharine, a fiftyish Irish woman who ran the paint mixer, ripped the blue kerchief off her brown hair. “Isn’t that against the law?”

“You pay overtime, no?” asked Carlos, the Mexican who ran the conveyor belt. “I  can use more money. My wife will have baby soon.” 

Polowski didn’t reply.

Marcus, the dark skinned young man who stenciled the customers’ company names on the barrels, combed specks of paint out of his bushy Afro and frowned at the foreman. He’d started six months ago, fresh out of high school, and wanted to keep his job. Should he speak?

A  lilting female voice popped into his head. It rose above the downshifting of the trucks outside.

Working sunrise to past sundown? the voice said. Son, we left the plantation back in Mississippi. At least I thought we did.


Read this short story on my Barrelhouse Bonni website blog.

Bonni McKeown

"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years.  She has led classes for young and old on...