[from Slime Line: Adventures In Fish Processing]

His name was Duane but he insisted we call him "Boots." He had an unusual habit of speaking of himself in the third person plural: "Boots are tired today," he would say. "Boots are going to the store to get some chewing tobacco." He sometimes also referred to things as "boots." I was once cooking pasta and he said, "Look at those boots cooking. Those boots smell good. I got to eat some boots."

Boots was from the far Southeast of Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachians at the border with West Virginia. He had been a machinist for twenty years and had never seen a paycheck of more than $300. He had a thick beard and black eyes and tobacco-darkened teeth.

Boots worked down in the ship holds pitching fish into buckets. He regularly asked for different sized buckets to be sent down and then refused them and sent them back up. Then he would ask for them again. None of the crane operators wanted to work with him. Boots was thin and nervous and when agitated he tensed himself and walked quickly in circles.

In the break room Boots spoke regularly of two topics: guns and fly fishing. He said he had twenty thousand dollars of flies he had tied that he stored in his room. He went fly fishing every day after work. He had with him hundreds of pictures of fish he had caught over the years.

It agitated Boots greatly that the government had taken away his guns. Because of a felony weapons conviction he was barred from owning them. A felon needed to keep his record clean for ten years to again purchase guns legally. Ten years was too long, Boots argued. There was certain to be some sort of criminal conviction. A DUI and assault charge had each caused his ten year waiting period to reset. "How are Boots going to defend himself when shit falls apart," he wondered. It was a gross injustice.

On this day Boots was telling me about taking HGH. His boss at the machine shop didn't know if he liked Boots on HGH or off it. He did a lot of work very quickly, but also liked to pick up heavy things and throw them around. Because he was always picking things up the HGH had made him very big. I doubted it until he showed me a picture of himself in a tank top, his arms swollen and tattoo covered. Boots then started to talk about guns and I looked for a way to change the subject.

Just then Big Head Corey walked by us.

"Boots, take a look at how big that guy's head is."

Big Head Corey stood at the vending machine gazing into it. Then he slowly lowered his head so that it rested on his left shoulder.

"The head is so large he rests it on his shoulder. The neck can't support it."

Boots stared at him. "That's the largest head Boots have ever seen."

"His mother stocks those vending machines. They say Corey is the product of incest."

"Oh, incest," he spit tobacco into his cup. "We got incest in Ohio. We got a lot of it."

"But just look at how large that head is. Its all out of proportion to the body."

"It is a large head," said Boots. But Boots was no longer distracted. He talked to me about fly fishing until break ended.

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