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There’s Another Lift By The Same Name

“I pledge allegiance to the straight boom lifts of LG Equipment and to the men for whom we reach, one company under the lift god, indestructible, with 360 degree swivel and reliability for all.”

We say the pledge every day before we have lunch. It’s school policy.

I waited in the lunch line for my daily serving of diesel fuel. You would think they would feed us something new every now and then, but the lunch ladies swear it cleans out our insides and gives us energy. My mom never lets me have regular fuel; she says it’s junk food, and it will make me slower. I gulp down my diesel before I even sit down with my friends.

“And how is my favorite Ascender doing today?” Boom has always been the gregarious one of our group.

“I’m feeling a whole lot better after this ‘pick-me-up’!” Boom and I box bump at the pun; it never gets old.

Swivel spins over to our table. “Hey guys, just got the full-body oil treatment in Mr. G’s class, and I feel Swivel-rific!”

I roll my eyes.

“What’s the matter, did somebody have to lift an extra 500 pounds this morning?”

“No. I’ve been lifting 1,000 for two years now; you know I’m at my max.”

“I’m just messing. You seem kind of tense today is all. What’s wrong?”

“Rusty called me a cherry picker in gym, and it took all of my strength not to dump my bricks on his flaky head.”

Cherry picker is a derogatory term. It’s what we call the lifts who don’t have plans for technical school. We joke that they will have to work on a farm and pick fruit from the tall trees. No one has ever called me this before, and it kind of hurt. I haven’t found my passion while most everyone else has known what they wanted to do since they were manufactured.

LG is a private prep school, and I’m a senior this year, so as you might imagine my stress level is over-the-roof. Everyone is asking me what my plans are for the future. We have to go to one or two years of technical school depending on our area of interest.

Swivel’s always had an eye for aesthetics, so she is going to be a painter-lifter. Boom is like a science genius, so he’s going to be an aircraft-inspector-lifter. I’m just Ascender (my friends call me Cender, for short). I have a 135-foot reach, and I can lift more than most guys at school, but I haven’t discovered my passion yet.

“Hey Cender, orange you glad you aren’t rusty?” Boom guffaws as he good-naturedly slaps me on the back. Rusty’s been our arch enemy since pre-lift school. I think he’s always been jealous of my citrus-orange coloring considering he’s had flaky, rusty paint for as long as we can remember. He was left in the rain as a child, and the mechanics could never recover his smoothness.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” I shout as Rusty jabs his hideous box into my side.

“What’s the matter? Cindy-Cender just mad he’s never going to get into tech school? Don’t cry. There’s always cherry-picking.”

“Hey Rusty, aren’t you like 10,000 now? A little late to be graduating, don’t you think?”

At this, Rusty has no response. He’s always been self-conscious of his age. He was held back a few years because he could never pass Anatomy and Maintenance class. I try my best not to let his acerbic comments get to me.

I let my mind go blank, but as I roll through the halls to Honors Repair Manual Literature, a neon green flyer catches my eye. It reads: The annual LG Games. Open to all straight booms with at least 3,000 hours of experience. Be recruited by scouts representing sixteen career fields. Those selected will be generously compensated for their services. Register today!

The odds seem slim, but really, what other choice do I have? I suppose it can’t hurt to try. I mean Rusty’s already bruised any ego I had to start with, so I won’t be too hurt when I don’t get selected. Nevertheless, Mom’s always taught me to do my best.

Three weeks later I can feel the nerves getting to me as my stomach levers tighten up. Mom hands me a couple extra gallons of diesel on the way out the door. “You can never be too hydrated, Cender,” she says.

The LG Games have finally arrived. The lot is crawling with lifts of all sizes and ages. After I get my number, I wander around to wait for further instruction.

“Model 1350SJP, please roll up to station one.” I gulp as I rev my engine. “This is it,” I tell myself, “it’s what you’ve been working so hard for, and now is your chance to make your dreams come true.”

My first task it to lift a set of four 250 pound boulders. “Okay, I can do this. I lifted this everyday in gym class.” I easily raise the boulders high into the air as the scouts frantically scribble on their notepads.

Next, my crane-span is measured: 135 feet, as usual. I’m taken to the weigh station and given an examination to test for smooth running and good health.

“5,210 hours old,” the inspector says as he reads my hour meter. “You have a long life ahead of you, son.”

“Yessir, I’ve been taking good care of myself, too,” I reply.

I go through seven more exercises testing my strength and skill. I feel the familiar lever-tightening in my stomach as I stand in line next to 325 other contestants who are all competing for the 32 spots. My crane slowly lowers as I hear unfamiliar names called: “Crusty, Smoothana, Redhot, Boxer, Bendy, Reacher….” I begin to zone out.

"All you’ll ever be is a cherry-picker. I’ll be working in engineering, and you’ll be stuck picking fruit. Wahahahahaha.” I flinch as I remember Rusty’s acrimonious remarks.

“Ascender.” I swivel around to see if there’s another lift by the same name. No one moves. “Ascender,” the director repeats himself. Shocked, I roll over to the Engineering and Entertainment section I’m directed towards.

I’m going to be building roller coasters! I can’t believe it—a career of fun. Not only that, but the LG Games will be paying me more than any of my other friends will make after technical school.

On my first day of work, my supervisor brings me to a pile of metal. “This is what we use to make the supports. We then calculate the length we’ll need and weld the supports into the roller coaster.”

My insides have never felt so well-greased. The crisp breeze cools off my engine as I hear the laughs of delight coming from the amusement park. I’ve finally found my niche, my passion. I sigh contentedly as I wonder what Rusty could possibly be doing that’s better than this. The thought quickly leaves my mind as I reach for a very familiar-looking oxidized orange scrap of metal. Guess we’ve all found the place where we belong.

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