Cletus and Zeke had been humping drywall on a refurb of old buildings in Hopkinsville's historic downtown. Use of an elevator or a cherrypicker was not possible because of the tight proximity of other buildings and overhead electrical wires.
So it was back to the old fashioned, hand-carry up stairwells. And it was a right bastard, too. The stairs were narrow and steep and screwed their way up through the floors with many sharp, right turns.
This was the kind of work that kept Cletus and Zeke going. Hard physical work where machines could not replace humans.
One morning Cletus and Zeke showed up at the job site and it was closed off with crime scene tape.
"What's up?" Zeke asked the patrolman who was guarding the entrance.
"Suicide-murder." the cop said. "A messy one."
"Who was it?" Cletus asked.
"Looked like a couple of lovers got caught by the husband. He wasted them and then shot himself." the cop said.
Zeke looked at his watch. "Is it going to be much longer? We got work to do."
A detective coming out of the building was shaking his head. He overheard Zeke's question. "Gonna be a hellova long time. We can't figure out how to get the bodies out."
Both Cletus and Zeke's eyebrows rose in an unasked question.
"Three stiffs. Third floor. Every one of them is over four hundred pounds. Dunno how we are going to get them down." the detective said.
The EMTs trickled out after him. One was an anemic girl in her early twenties. She was so slender as to approach transparency. The other EMT was an older guy who was wearing braces on his knees and was wincing like he had just thrown out his back.
Cletus cleared his throat. "Me and Zeke will get them down for $200 a stiff."
"Lemme call the Sheriff." was the detective's response.
After five minutes the detective asked, "Will you do it for $100 each, cash?"
Cletus said, "Done."
The EMTs ratchet strapped each stiff, in turn, to their stretcher.
Cletus strapped on his Carhartt tool belt with the optional harness. He cinched on the double belts so tight that the back was in hard contact with the rear of his pelvis.
Cletus and Zeke each hoisted their end of the stretcher with Cletus in the lead. At the start of the stairs, Cletus planted the ends of the handles in the tool pockets to either side of his belt. Then, slowly walking down the stairs with the weight of the stretcher loading straight into his hips and thence into his thighs and down, onto the stairs. He only used his hands to ensure the handles did not twist out of the tool pockets.
Cletus was blowing pretty hard after they unloaded the third stiff at the bottom of the three flights. "Well," he said "that could have been worse."
The detective was smoking a cigarette while waiting for the stiffs to get settled into the ambulance. Cops are notorious cynics.
"How could it have been worse?" the detective asked, derisively.
"Could-a been yesterday." Zeke said.
"And why would that would have been worse?" the detective asked.
"There would-a been four stiffs to hump down the stairs and I wouldn't have had Cletus here to help." Zeke said.
Cletus gave Zeke a VERY dirty look.