Moving Bricks

How does it feel to push a wheelbarrow of bricks uphill on a dirt road in the rainy season?

First you find the pile and load up your cart, surprised at the unit economics. These aren’t dainty colonial playthings to be tossed around and glued together. No, these are homemade monsters—each heavier than a bowling ball—compact and cracking.

You grunt and struggle to palm two at a time. Maybe 10 bricks will make a decent starting run. (You contemplate 15, of course, but decide on 10. It’s a manageable load to get the hang of it.)

On this first trip, you stop many times. Every few feet is a body-lurching battle that demands a reprieve. On second thought, you resolve to load no more than 8 going forward.

You shift your hands all the way up the handlebars to get a firm purchase, sacrificing leverage for security and maximum stability. All your forward and upward momentum is angled directly against the hill’s incline.

You inch forward on your tiptoes, a slow-motion sprint, calf muscles bulging and straining as you pant to oxygenate each laborious step forward. You are pushing a dumptruck full of water at an altitude noticeably higher than Denver.

You notice how the rough edges mutually erode dusty flakes in the cart as it tumbles over little valleys and stones in the dirt. Each bump is magnified tenfold by the weight of gravity upon the single squeaking wheel.

One of your new phobias is simply “the danger zone.” Your feet lose purchase on that infernal slope where gravel gives way under your biting toes. It’s not your life that’s flashing before you, no, it’s an image of the bloody chin-smacking that awaits on the rusty edge hanging just beneath. That horrible reverse guillotine which you will surely, painfully, survive.

What the hell is going on here? You have to do this. It is your task for the morning. If it isn’t done quickly, the sun will scorch your path and make everything more tiresome. If it isn’t done heavily, the lighter loads will never end. And let’s be honest here, 6 or even 4 bricks are almost as tiresome as 8.

A gulp of water. Gloves, hiking boots. All good decisions. Extra grip on the ground and handles.

The wheel. What if we grease it? But no, there is enough weight and flying dirt that the oil will surely be pressed out. The metal axel is already worn smooth. The cart moves just fine when it’s empty, downhill. The wheel is not the issue.

Another load—oh look, a grub worm! Uncovered, huge, pulsing slowly as it winds its way back into the earth. Oddly, you feel some kinship with the creature, shying away from the sudden sunlight. You cover it with a brick chip. You know what it’s like to face discomfort, and you know you couldn’t do it without a full night’s sleep either.

Back to pushing. Push your body, push the cart. Up the slope. Focus on form, stride by stride. Tense elbows bent, ready for dips. Breathe level and easy, mind moving forward. Embrace the trip; power through.

It’s almost as if the bricks don’t matter at all.

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