Discovering an odd scholarship opportunity, hosted by Global Lift Equipment, I set to work compiling a—I hope humorous—short story about a forklift. I chose the 2011 Taylor – Model TX4-300 for my protagonist.
I figured I would give it one more go. Getting my arms under the load, I eased in closer. I was just starting to feel the encroachments of retirement, the weight of the last 7 years building up, getting a little too much for my arms to carry. There were still a few years left in me though, and I’d be scrap before I let these young lifts outpace me.
But this one load. I mean, I’m no warehouse drone: My arms go out almost sixty inches, and I can carry upwards of 26,000 lbs. But this one load, it was like she was bolted down, like I was trying to pick up the whole useless planet.
She wouldn’t even talk to me.
It was after lunch when I came around; the boss wanted her shipped off immediately. I asked her how her lunch had gone, and she just stared at me. It made it awkward, you know. Ever try picking up a crate that wouldn’t talk to you? It’s weird. I can take the rough with the smooth—and in this job you have to—but the way she stared, it was more glaring, hateful. I didn’t even know the dame, or even what was in her.
The boss had caught me already, shouting I’d be next if I didn’t get a move on. So I tried again. It wasn’t that she was heavy. I could lift her, but I couldn’t.
“What is your problem?” I finally asked.
She rolled her eyes.
“Listen, just let me—”
“No one’s stopping you, bub,” she finally spoke.
I tried again, but—have you ever had a sinking feeling, kind of like bugs in your radiator? It took the strength right out of me. I remember my grandad, a big diesel engine with a chip in his exhaust pipe, he would mock most things like that. What were astrological tires to him, or tread reading? All scams and bunk. But he always said to trust your radiator. I don’t know. Maybe it was that grandad believed it when he could trust nothing else. Said it was his radiator saved him in the war.
I knew something was up.
“What’s inside you?” I finally asked.
Her eyes darted back and forth, and she said, “Nothing.”
I don’t know what made me do it. Hardly thought about it. I’m not even sure why, but it seemed easier than taking her to the loading zone. Backing up, I lifted my fork to match her height. Slowly, I moved in.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“What’s inside you?” I returned.
I came closer.
“Stop,” she shouted.
“What’s inside?” I continued.
“Nothing,” she said, stressing each syllable.
The prongs of my fork made contact, and she started to tip. I could hear my boss shouting, but somehow it didn’t matter. I trusted my radiator.
She fell, and tumbling out of her—well, it turned out to be the laundered remains of our pension.
“You big red oaf!” she shouted.