One summer I worked at a packaging plant in Moline and our little corner of one of the warehouses was devoted to packaging Caterpillar parts–from tiny nuts by the hundreds to great big breakdrums.
As far as jobs go, it sucked, as you can imagine. But since I was just there for the summer, the pay was good and when we were working 60 hour weeks, the time and a half was very, very nice.
The place had three groups of people working there. The students, like me, who were just looking for some quick cash. We made the most, because we had no benefits. Then there were folks who’d been working there for years. One woman, who made us call her Granny, had emerged from her bedroom one late evening just in time to see her husband’s brains escape out the back of his head onto the wall. He had waited until one of the planes that shook their house was overhead, so that she wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise from the gun. After work, she took her paychecks down to the river and threw them away at the casinos.
There were Mexicans who were there illegally, who were making even less than the fulltimers. In the Quad Cities (ADM, supermarket to the world, I’m looking at you) there were a lot of industries that would hire illegal workers and then, when the workers started to pick up English or when the unions would finally get someone in there who was bilingual, the industries would throw up their hands in mock surprise at all the undocumented workers they’d “accidentally” employed and make a big show on the news about having them shipped back to Mexico.
One of the Mexican women I worked with told me that it wasn’t that big a deal, that a lot of families had money socked away to get folks back up here in such circumstances. Another contended that the planes never actually left Illinois and after the cameras left, everyone was let off the plane and told to look for work someplace else. Obviously, I don’t know if either of those things were true, and if they were, I don’t know if they still are.
But my favorite person working there was a guy I’ll call the Kindly Satanist. He was about my age at the time, twenty, and was a kind of scrawny, gangly dude, with straight, stringy black hair parted severely down the middle, and he had these beautiful long nails that were always painted black or purple or silver, which would slow him down considerably when he had to separate a big box of washers down into 300 small boxes of washers, because that’s not a job that keeps your nails in one piece.
And he had all these Mexican death magazines–I’m sure they must have a name, but I don’t know it–which were filled with pictures of murder victims and suicides and car accidents and other grisly things you hoped he wouldn’t be looking at when you were eating lunch.
And, of course, he’d talk all the time about his dark lord, Satan.
Now, if you know anything about Satanists, you know that they fall into a few types and that very few of those types actually worship Satan. Most of them owe at least a little to Alistair Crowley, who said, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and are less concerned with whether there’s a Satan and more concerned about challenging religious and social conventions.
But folks who actually worship Satan, and not just as part of their rock & roll theatrics? Those are rarer than hen’s teeth. But that was this dude.
So, he was very excited to be paired up with the minister’s daughter, and then disappointed when I wasn’t shocked or appalled or outraged by him.
And so, after a few weeks of trying and failing to cause me to faint from shock, he confessed to me that his greatest disappointment in life was that he was a terrible Satanist. He wanted to be outrageously evil, but it was a lot of work and he just couldn’t keep up with it all and work at this place and go to college.
He also regularly drove Granny home.