4. Did you ever have a paper route?

No. But there was that time I delivered an astro jump to what I’m pretty sure was an orgy.

Allow me to back up.

Summer after high school, I got a job delivering astro jumps, aka “bouncy castles”. The job interview consisted of two questions: “Do you have a driver’s license?” and “Do you have a truck?” Since my answers to both was “yeah” I was hired.

My boss’ name was Jim and he explained what a sweet gig delivering astro jumps is. “You show up at 7. Load up your truck. Make your deliveries. Then you get the rest of the day off until the evening. Then go pick ’em up. You get to sit out the heat, which is pretty sweet, right? You can have a beer or whatever. Wait, hold up, how old are you?”

“18,” I said.

He shrugged. “So you can have a couple Sprites or somethin’. Anyway, I’ll go out with you the first time, show you the ropes.”

The night before my first day, I felt nervous. It would be my first time doing honest-to-God physical labor and I worried I’d look like a wuss. I saw the jumpers on my interview. Imagine big blue plastic bales of rolled hay. And the other drivers all wore Dickies and Oakley shades, while I wore pop punk t-shirts and had to stop every now and then to wipe sweat off my glasses.

My dad gave me some advice. “Look, just ask clear questions, do everything he’s doing. And if you fuck up, its not that big a deal. You’ll learn a lot. First days are always interesting.

Next day, Jim and I loaded up two trucks full of deliveries–an assorted variety of cartoon-themed inflatable play houses, generators and industrial fans, cotton candy machines with corresponding syrups, extension cords, power strips, and a clipboard full of paperwork. Throughout the day I lifted heavy layers of stitched-together tarps, spat on my hands to prevent callouses, and grimaced as the radio played nothing by Tal Bachman and Five For Fighting.

My t-shirt slick and my glasses streaked with salty dribbles of sweat, I felt good. I could do this job.

The last stop took us away from town. Way away. We had one jumper and fan to drop off. Our trucks jostled from pot hole to pot hole down an unpaved dirt road that twisted through a canyon.

We came to to the wooden fence bordering the property and navigated our trucks underneath the quaint wooden archway that served as an entry point.

A few old horses chewed whatever-horses-chew as we surveyed the landscape. “This is weird,” Jim said, breathing the words into the heavy, manure-scented air.

From the garage, we heard a chirpy, perky voice. “Hello! Are you guys here with the jumper.” She was a petite blonde woman, in a tank top and bathing suit underneath. She was maybe mid-30s, although parts of her body were, quite clearly, much younger than that.

All the destinations we’d been to so far had certain touchstones: lots of cheap plastic toys strewn about the set-up spot that had to be cleared away; stacks of colorful plastic plates and cups the size and portion for young children; banners and streamers exuberantly emblazoned with the words “Happy birthday.”

This place had none of those things. No toys, no bikes, no cake, no generic bargain-priced soda in two-liter bottles, no decorations, and absolutely no kids. My boss was right–this place was weird.

I flipped the jumper off the truck, popped it onto the dolly, and wheeled it into the backyard. The back of the house stood in contrast to the rustic front. Instead of horses and dirt and desert vegetation, there was a glistening pool, patio furniture, and well-kept Italian-style stonework. It was less cowboy chic and more Playboy grotto.

It would be a great place for a kids pool party, except for the fact that there were no kids. Instead, three more adults, each displaying sculpted and tanned bodies, sat around a table casually sipping beers.

Once we found a decent spot to set up, I flipped the switch on the jumper and it expanded. It wasn’t a cartoon-themed one–it could best be described as a slide, red and inviting.

“Now, we’re okay to keep this overnight, right?” the woman asked.

“Sure,” Jim said. He drew out the “sh” sound as though his faith in the “customer is always right” ethos was starting to waiver.

We got in our trucks and were halfway back through the archway when Jim’s truck stopped, which meant mine stopped, which meant we were both out again, walking back to the grotto.

“Everything okay?” the woman asked.

“Yeah…” my boss said, “just wanted to make sure you understand the cleaning policy in regards to these jumpers. Don’t want to come back tomorrow and find anything left in there… or stains or whatever.”

The woman giggled and said, “We’ll clean it real good, I promise.”

As we drove off, I thought how my dad was right: first days are always interesting.


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