Friday, September 12, 2014

I write a regular (award winning!) column for a credit magazine, and thought I'd pop in and post the most recent one here. The subject is labor charges by a contractor when ... well, I think you'll get the gist.  Enjoy.

“We got problem,” Grog said.

Trug lifted his eyes to the orangutan shape looming over him.  Trug was squatting on a rock outside of his cave sorting grubs in a sea shell he’d gotten in the nearby bay. He sighed heavily. “Just because we’re cavemen, it doesn’t mean you can’t use proper diction.”

(Actually, this was mostly grunted, but in the interests of story-telling, we’ll use contemporary language.)

Grog frowned, his heavy eyebrows sliding over thick supraorbital ridges like water over the Niagra.  “We gots problem?”

Trug snatched a grub attempting a kamakazi move over the lip of the shell. “No, we have a problem.”

Grog’s mouth dropped open, releasing a small cloud of Crest-not-discovered breath into Earth’s young atmosphere. “How’d you know? I didn’t tell you yet.”

“You just told me we did,” Trug said. Grog’s lips pursed, but before he could say anything, Trug interrupted. “Never mind. Tell me what the problem is.”

“See this?” Grog said. The hairy caveman lifted an arm that had never seen an antiperspirant.

“Agh, put it down!  Put it down!” Trug gasped, eyes watering from the stench. When his eyes cleared of water, he saw what Grog was holding. “A club? What about it?”

“This was supposed to be a crocodile-killing club,” Grog said.

“No, that’s a badger-killing club,” Trug said, after his expert eyes examined the ridged, bumpy club. “Is that why you have that?”  He pointed at Grog’s leg which had a fair sized crocodile clamped onto it.

Grog just grunted, and whacked the crocodile between the eyes. The big lizard snarled and bit down harder. “Krunk tell me this crocodile club,” Grog said, grimacing.

Trug closed his eyes. Krunk was a caveman from up the river who made the clubs that Trug sold to the caveman. He wasn’t supposed to deal directly with Trug’s customers, but once in awhile he did, and almost every time it caused a problem. So Trug tried to keep the talented clubmaker away from the paying customer.

“I want money back,” Grog said.

Trug sighed again. “You didn’t pay me money. We haven’t invented money yet, remember?  You gave me three pelts for this.”

“That’s right. Okay, I want my pelts back.”

“We do have a pelts-back guaranty, but wouldn’t you rather we do an exchange?” Trug said, always a salesman first.

Grog frowned. “You do that?”

Trug showed nearly carnivore incisors in a smile, which probably back then wouldn’t have appeared as scary as if it were seen today. “Sure, hand me the club.”

Grog smacked the crocodile again, which stubbornly held on, and then handed it over. In a moment, Trug was back with a larger club. “Here you go. And because of my vendor’s mistake, I won’t charge any more for the larger club.”

“Well. That’s okay, but what about labor charges?”

Trug frowned. “What do you mean?”

Grog gestured to two other cavemen who were holding the crocodile’s back legs. “These guys?  I hired them to help me carry the crocodile after I clobbered it. They aren’t cheap and the job is taking way longer than it’s supposed to. I shouldn’t have to bear that expense.”

Trug sighed again. “Look, I’m just the distributor.”

It was Grog’s turn to frown. “You’re a car part?”

“No, we haven’t invented cars yet, though we did invent the wheel. No, I’m a distributor, meaning I sell what others make. If the problem was the manufacturer’s fault, we have to go to them for that.”

“You mean Krunk?”

“Yep. Let’s go talk to him. If you have a labor charge, it’s better to get you and the manufacturer together rather than both of you blaming me. That way you can sort it out.”

Grog nodded. “Sound good to me.” Using his new club, he klonked the crocodile over the head. His two cavemen dragged it away and Grog followed Trug down the path near the river to where Krunk was outside his cave, working on a spear.

“We have another labor charge,” Trug said when Krunk looked up.

A wary look flitted over Krunk’s face. “Do we have to resolve it the normal way?”

“Yep,” Trug said. “I’ve always found that it’s easier for you two just to bang out problems directly.”

“Fine with me,” Krunk said.

“Me, too,” Grog said.

Trug handed them each a club and backed away.

(Yep, this is how you handle labor charges.  If you enjoyed this story, you may enjoy my full length novel, Bonk & Hedz, a caveman … and woman… story, available on Kindle and Amazon)