Misunderstanding Life

 

I

It was a cool fall day and Ohio State was a two-touchdown favorite over Illinois, but the game wasn’t working out as planned. With only five minutes left on the clock, they were behind by ten points to a has-been team that shouldn’t have been allowed to play Division I football. Despite the gloom falling over all Ohio State fans that Saturday afternoon, Gary Collins was convinced they would pull it off with what he called their two-minute offense. His son, David wasn’t so sure, so he went to the kitchen to get another round of beers; he didn’t personally like Pabst, but his dad was paying so—what the hell. He returned just as Ohio State fumbled at midfield, which set his father into a rage.

“Goddamnit!” Gary exclaimed as he opened the beer and swigged it as if this act would change the course of NCAA football history. David didn’t think it was a good idea for his dad to get so excited at his age; he was sixty-four and had high blood pressure, which he took pills for. He tried to keep Gary from having a heart attack until the end of the game, not that it helped much.

When the clock wound down and Ohio State lost by ten points, Gary downed what was left of his bear and exclaimed, “Those pussy motherfuckers must be using steroids. There’s no way in hell that piece-of-shit team could beat us without cheating!”

David played along with his father’s latest conspiracy theory and tried to sound upbeat as he replied, “You’re probably right, Dad, but no one will ever prove it because the whole college football industry is corrupt.” He shrugged helplessly as Gary turned to him and nodded as if his suspicions had been confirmed by David’s words.

“Goddamn right,” he said as he went to the kitchen for another cheap beer.

By the time Gary returned, David had thought of a way to bring up the reason for his visit to watch a football game—he didn’t like college football much. He imagined putting himself in Gary’s shoes as he said, “Sometimes I wished I’d gone to college; then I wouldn’t be laid off from the plant and unable to find a job. There are lots of jobs for store clerks and for college-educated people, but nothing as a machinist…” He let his words hang in the air, hoping his dad would understand his predicament.

Gary knew that his son was looking for financial help but there was nothing he could do so, instead of admitting the truth, he retorted, “I told you to apply where I work. They just hired a guy last week.”

“You’re right. They did hire a guy last week, which filled the only position they had available; besides, the job was for a layout man—he sets up the robots that do the heavy work. I’m a machinist. They’re not looking for machinists and neither is anyone else.”

Gary knew this was the case and he was lucky to have a steady job himself. Where had all the manufacturing jobs gone? He knew the answer: the goddamn Chinese took them all, working for a fraction of the pay of a hard-working American. He hated the Chinese.

To console his son, and himself, Gary got a joint from the wooden box he kept on the coffee table and lit it up, sharing it with David, until his wife entered the living room. She was aghast for a reason he didn’t understand.

“What the hell are you doing, Gary?” she exclaimed. “Didn’t you read the letter they sent you from work? They do random drug tests now and anyone who fails will be fired and lose their retirement. It’s illegal in Ohio.”

Gary scoffed. “That’s bullshit. They’re too cheap to waste money on drug testing. It’s nothing more than a scare tactic.”

His wife shook her head skeptically and said, “Dinner’s ready.”

II

The letter about drug testing wasn’t a scare tactic, partly due to Gary’s contribution to the problem of drug use in the workplace. He thought of his job as fabricating and constructing steel frames for special applications, which is what his company did for its business, but it had never occurred to him that he wasn’t just a freelance fabricator. Over the ten years he’d worked at Brinkman Manufacturing, he had forgotten key elements of the designs he was tasked to fabricate because he was under the influence at work, thus creating beautiful structures that didn’t match the technical specifications of the customer. Unable to prove his negligence, or link it to his suspected marijuana use, the foreman had progressively relegated Gary to less-critical positions. In fact, when the letter arrived, he worked outside, away from the main building and in all weather, doing routine plant upgrades.  Gary assumed this was because the foreman didn’t like him, and it was a constant source of stress at work and at home, which caused him to get high even more often.

The Monday after the humiliation of Ohio State at the hands of Illinois was just another workweek to Gary, until he was met by his foreman and told to report to Human Resources for drug testing. He wasn’t concerned because he hadn’t smoked any marijuana since Saturday, so he complied with that asshole’s instructions, knowing that the marijuana would have been flushed out of his system by now—just like alcohol.

Unknown to Gary, his foreman actually appreciated his fabrication skills; thus, it was difficult for him to call Gary to his office two days later and face him with a sad look on his tired face. Gary took a seat across the metal desk, thinking he was going to be given meaningful work again, and looked at the red stapler sitting next to a framed picture, which Gary couldn’t see from his vantage point.

“Gary,” the foreman began in his usual voice, which sounded as if he has something important to say but didn’t know quite how to word it. “Did you get the letter from HR about the drug-testing program?”

“Sure.”

The hated foreman pursed his lips and nodded incredulously before saying, “You failed the drug test. The letter was sent out a month ago so that anyone who had been using marijuana for recreational purposes would have plenty of time to stop using it and pass the drug screening. Why didn’t you do that?”

Gary was confused by this question, so he gave his well-rehearsed response. “I don’t use drugs. It’s a mistake, probably by that Chinese woman who labelled my urine sample. You know how they are. They can’t read English.” He was certain this disclaimer would work, even though it had never worked in the past.

“It’s not a mistake, at least not by the lab technician. It takes several weeks for THC to clear out of your bloodstream; unfortunately, because of this constraint on the testing procedure, we don’t know if someone is getting high on the weekend or just before coming to work, even though no one is under the influence twelve hours after using marijuana. You’ve made a number of errors over the last few years that weren’t caused by a lack of skill. You have misread the technical drawings and produced worthless steel structures that didn’t meet the customers’ specifications.”

“Weeks?” was the weak reply. Gary hadn’t heard anything after that sentence had been uttered.

The foreman shook his thin head and said, “THC isn’t like alcohol. It’s a completely different drug. You were clean on alcohol, amphetamines, opioids, and crystal meth, as well as half a dozen other illegal substances that affect job performance.”

It began to dawn on Gary that his job might be at stake. “I still think it’s a mistake, but I’ll go through a rehab program and take the test again.” He shrugged dismissively, certain that it would all work out. He’d been through alcohol and drug abuse programs before.

The foreman’s response caused Gary’s head and chest to merge into a single organ, which sent a wave of mind-numbing pain to course through his bloodstream.

“Brinkman Manufacturing has no obligation to offer a drug-rehab program to employees who fail the drug test and we couldn’t afford it anyway. You’re only one of four employees who failed, and you were given ample opportunity to meet the standardized criteria. You chose not to take advantage of this opportunity to get your career back on track.” The foreman disliked this part of his job, especially with someone as skilled as Gary Collins.

Gary’s mind was numb, and he couldn’t think of a response.

The foreman continued, “Brinkman Manufacturing is a small enterprise that cannot afford the costs of correcting poor work performance caused of drug use—”

Gary head exploded. “You son-of-bitch! You always wanted to get rid of me because I had better ways of doing things than you. This is nothing more than jealousy. I’ll sue your sorry ass, and Brinkman Manufacturing too, for age discrimination…” He ran out of words after this brief outburst, which gave his foreman an opportunity to respond.

Rubbing his forehead as if he had a headache, the man Gary hated more than anyone said, “I have enjoyed working with you most of the time, Gary, but I have been given the unpleasant task of telling you that you can no longer work for Brinkman. I fought to get you a month’s severance pay and a man with your skill should have no problem finding a position suited to your talent and social preferences in the current job market.”

Still without thinking, Gary had no difficulty acting out his frustration. He lunged toward his foreman with his hands ready to choke this asshole but was prevented from executing such action by the bulk of the desk that separated them, which he half-climbed on as he expressed his frustration, which was rapidly becoming uncontrollable anger.

“You fucking asshole!” he shouted as his momentum was stopped by the effort required to climb over the desk and reach his prey, who had backed up and gotten to his feet.

“Don’t make me call the police, Gary. Everything that has happened was of your own doing. Why do you think you’re working on facility maintenance?”

Gary backed off the desk and, feeling nothing more than a desire to kill this man who was his enemy, answered, “Because of you, you fucking asshole!”

The foreman was slowly shaking his head as he calmly responded, while keeping the desk between him and Gary, “We all have to accept responsibility for our actions, Gary, even if we have difficulty making decisions. Like I said, with your skills you can find suitable employment, and you can count on me for an honest reference for any future employers; you are very skilled at your work and I wish you could have remained with Brinkman, but my hands are tied. I’m only a foreman.”

The fury in Gary’s eyes decreased before he turned towards the door and left slowly with his head held low. It really bothered his foreman to see a man with so much talent fired over something as mundane as marijuana use; Gary was the best fabricator he’d ever worked with and it was a shame to fire him. But policy was made at a level of management above the foreman and it didn’t include drug rehabilitation programs.

III

Gary received a month’s severance pay, just like his asshole foreman had promised, but it wasn’t enough to pay for his wife’s medication for her thyroid condition, much less his doctor’s visits for his circulatory problems because they had lost their health insurance. He asked around for jobs but there was no way in hell he was going to use his ex-foreman as a reference because he was certain that son-of-a-bitch had gotten him fired. He knew he was in trouble when his wife made their predicament clear one day during dinner.

“What are we going to do, Gary?” she asked with a distraught look. “Your severance pay will take care of things for a little while, until your unemployment starts, but you have to find a job. From what I see on TV, unemployment is so low that it should be no problem for you to find a new job.”

He felt the same overpowering sensation of drowning he had felt when his foreman at Brinkman Manufacturing had fired him as he replied, as calmly as he could, “Are you ready to move to North Dakota? I could make a hundred-thousand a year there.” His weak but functional prefrontal cortex was trying to help him.

She shook her head.

“How about West Texas? It’s not as much money but the work would last longer.”

She shook her head again.

“I could join the union and go to work in either Virginia or Mississippi, working on warships for the Navy. Those jobs would last several years.”

She shook her head again and replied, “I can’t leave my family, Gary, and you know it. Mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dad isn’t much better off. I have to take care of them.”

The pressure in his head increased until he thought it would explode as he had a thought. “How about if I take a job in Houston for eighty-thousand, working on oil platforms, and we bring your parents down to join us? You could care for them and we’d be set because this oil rig maintenance is a long-term contract.” He looked at her hopefully but was disappointed with her response.

“I don’t think we should move them. They’ve lived in Dayton all their lives. What would that do to them?” She was shaking her head emphatically as she spoke.

Gary’s head was now in the process of exploding, but it was a slow and painful process, which reduced his already limited ability to think. He stood up and exclaimed, “They’re old people and they are in the process of dying. Goddamn! They can die anywhere, and we’ll bury them here in Dayton and, in the meantime, we can take care of them. We can’t take care of them if we remain here because there are no jobs other than minimum wage, which would barely pay our mortgage. Don’t you understand?”

His wife, who had kept him from becoming homeless for thirty years, shook her head even more strongly as she replied in a calm voice, “They have a right to live out their days where they grew up. I won’t drag them to North Dakota or Texas just because it’s convenient.”

Slowly, neurons in Gary’s prefrontal cortex, which hadn’t done much work throughout his life, began to fire in unison. He had an idea.

“Why don’t I go to North Dakota and work as much overtime as they’ll let me? I’ll be making more than a hundred-thousand a year, which will allow us to pay off the house, and you can stay here and take care of your parents. And there will even be enough money to help David out until he finds another job.” He was certain this was the solution to all of their problems.

Her head shook even more emphatically than before as she answered, “No, Gary, because that would be equivalent to giving up. This is our home and it’s where we should be living. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.”

Gary was unable to transform his suggestion into a plan of action that would save his family from annihilation, so he nodded as his entire body burned with a flame that he was unable to comprehend. To alleviate his anguish, he smoked an entire joint by himself and waited until his wife had gone to bed before going outside to the garage and checking on his car, a 1995 Mustang he drag-raced in NHRA’s Super Gas class.

IV

Gary had been out of work for two weeks and was getting half of his previous pay from unemployment, which would last six months, when he realized he didn’t have health insurance any more. That was a problem because, even though he was in excellent shape after spending two hours every day at the gym lifting weights and jogging on the treadmill for twenty years, he had high blood pressure and a problem with his thyroid gland. And he had a doctor’s appointment coming up. He didn’t know how he could afford it; and then there was his wife’s diabetes, which required frequent visits to her doctor and expensive medication. He didn’t know what to do until he got a call from a friend who had retired to Florida.

He answered reluctantly and, after exchanging greetings, Ralph pressed Gary to admit that he had been fired and couldn’t find a job. Gary could feel the tension building as he explained, in answer to Ralph’s query about his employment opportunities, that his wife didn’t want to move or even for him to leave Dayton for an extended period of time. When Ralph insisted that Gary should take one of those out-of-state jobs over his wife’s objections, he felt the pressure in his head building until he couldn’t think, so he didn’t, instead lashing out.

“Why don’t you mind your own business, Ralph! I can take care of myself and my family without your help. Just back off!”

“Okay, Gary, but I’ve been unemployed before and I know what it’s like, especially with medical conditions like you and Nancy have. Did you at least keep your medical insurance?”

“No. I got it through my employer,” Gary mumbled.

Ralph’s tone turned upbeat as he replied, “No problem. Just go to the ACA website and sign up for health insurance.”

Gary was confused. “What’s the ACA?” He didn’t like the sound of it.

“The Affordable Care Act; it makes affordable health insurance available to everyone, especially people like you.”

“I never heard of it.”

Ralph scoffed and replied, “Obama care. Does that ring a bell?”

Gary had heard about that on the radio. It was a socialist program implemented by that communist, Obama, and his libtard pals in congress. Still, it was worth looking into, especially since the Democrats had increased his taxes to pay for it. He reluctantly went to his computer and, with Ralph’s assistance, tried to join; but it was too confusing, so Ralph had to walk him through the entire procedure, which took two hours. By the end of the ordeal, Gary’s head was about to explode, but he had insurance for only a dollar a month.

Two weeks later, Gary was able to go to his doctor and get his prescriptions refilled; and all at no cost, so maybe Obama care wasn’t so bad after all. It worked for his wife as well. Everything was fine until his unemployment benefits ran out and he had to live on Social Security, which Ralph had helped him figure out in time for the benefits to start within a few weeks of unemployment ending. Why was everything the government did so goddamn complicated? He knew why because he’d heard about the communist plot to undermine America by liberals like Obama, even if he had benefited from their conspiracy. That was what he had been warned about by Rush Limbaugh: they were trying to weaken the resolve of Americans to be strong by handing out small favors in a time of need—Gary knew firsthand that this was true. He convinced himself that he was taking advantage of the socialists, but he would never support them. At any rate, he had to live on thirteen-hundred dollars per month; he didn’t see any way he could pull that off. His mortgage was six-hundred dollars.

He had to get some relief from all this bullshit, so he went out to the garage and smoked half a joint; then, he had the bright idea of taking his race car for a short spin before he would be forced to sell it. It seemed like a good idea because it had a stock body and looked like a regular car, even if it had a highly modified engine with nine-inch-wide slicks. Who cared if it wasn’t registered? He wasn’t driving to the grocery store and no one would see him in his quiet suburban neighborhood. And, even if it had no mufflers, it wasn’t much louder than the pieces of shit that punks were driving every day.

He turned the ignition key and the seven-hundred-horsepower motor jumped to life, rattling the walls of the garage. He hadn’t recalled the exhaust sounding so loud before, but it didn’t matter because he was only going for a short drive to blow off steam. He crept forward into the bright September day and pulled onto the narrow street in front of his house, before laying a little rubber down just to heat up the racing slicks. The tension drained from his shoulders and his head stopped pounding as he drove to a country road less than a mile from his house, where they used to race at night when he was young—it felt like yesterday, although it had been forty years since those days.

With the engine idling at a fifteen-hundred rpm, Gary looked down the straight two-lane road, surrounded by corn fields ready to be harvested, and decided that it was a fine day to do a quick run. He hadn’t done that in years, since he’d gotten a ticket from an asshole state trooper, instead limiting his testing to the race track on weekends. He looked past the bulging hood scoop that covered the supercharger to see a clear road, at least for the quarter mile he would need. Then, he did his burn out, heating the tires up by letting them spin on the asphalt for only a second before lining up with a telephone pole. He imagined the staging light coming on and waited for the amber lights to flash simultaneously. Visualizing these events, he timed his start for the imaginary green light, and hit it.

The sensation of being pushed back in his seat erased the anxiety of the last six months, as the Mustang launched down the road in a blue haze of burning rubber. When the odometer indicated he had travelled a quarter-mile, Gary let up on the throttle and started braking, at more than one-hundred-thirty mph, less than ten seconds after burning out. He pulled onto the shoulder and prepared to turn around and head home, feeling like his old self when he saw blue lights heading toward him from behind. He shut off the engine and removed his license from his wallet in preparation for one more bad thing. It seemed that everyone was out to get him.

Gary wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or concerned when the sheriff deputy approached his car. It was Howard Handel, who was ten years younger than Gary, but a fan of drag racing. In fact, he had joined his older brother when they guys would all go racing on this very road back in the seventies. Howie, as he was called back then, had loved it and he was still a racing fan, coming to see how Gary was doing in the pits many times over the years. He hoped Howard’s memory was as good as his as the short, wiry man stopped at the driver’s window.

Howard displayed no sign of recognition as he said, “I know you don’t street race anymore, Gary, so can you tell me a believable story that will give me an excuse not to write you up for excessive speed, operating an unregistered and uninsured vehicle on a public highway, with illegal tires and no exhaust system?”

Gary turned to face the deputy and, with his voice shaking from frustration, answered, “I have to sell this car because I can’t find a job here in Dayton. I wanted to feel the acceleration one more time and I can’t afford to go to the track.”

Howard stood up suddenly. “Shit! What happened?”

Gary shrugged and said, “I got fired. They didn’t need my services anymore. I would go out of state to work but my wife doesn’t want me to leave because of her health. I’m too old to find a job in town except sweeping floors or some shit like that. And I won’t do that kind of work. I’m too old for that.”

They talked for a couple of minutes and Howard showed no sign of taking out his ticket pad. After a couple of minutes, he slapped his hand against the top of the door and said, “I’m not going to add to your misfortune by writing you up; for one thing, I can’t even write a repair order for a missing muffler for an unregistered vehicle without impounding it and arresting the driver. And there’s no way in hell I’m going to do that. Just take it easy going home…and don’t forget how this last run felt.” He pulled out his phone and, grinning, added, “I got a picture, and, by the way, you were doing one-forty-two through the traps. I’ll email you the photo and the radar result, before I delete it from the system.”

“Thanks, Howard, for understanding. I know it was a stupid thing to do and it won’t happen again. I promise.”

Gary turned around and headed home at a sedate speed, thinking that he had gotten a break for once, before pulling into his garage for the last time.

V

The Mustang sold for half what Gary had wanted but at least it was enough to pay their mortgage for a while. It was looking like they would have to sell the house unless he got a job, so he started doing specialty welding work in his now-empty garage—repairing trailers and commercial trucks, and even bicycles and appliances. The extra money it brought in helped but it wasn’t going to be enough. They were going to have to sell the house and find someplace cheaper to live, but his wife refused to talk about selling the house, insisting that God would take care of them. He didn’t recall her ever being particularly religious, but he figured that everybody had their own way of coping with trouble. Without realizing it, Gary’s way was to blame others for his problems and thus get angry. And he became angrier with every passing day, especially when he took a part-time job in a warehouse.

Between social security, his minimum wage job, and welding on the side, they could stay in their house but there was no extra money. He was living paycheck to paycheck, something he’d never done in his life, and it bothered him.

One day in spring, when the grass had started to recover from the relatively mild winter, he was cutting his grass and trying to think about everything that had happened to him. All his life, people had been holding him back by either getting in the way or plotting against him.

If Gary had been more perspicacious, he would have realized that his current dilemma was because he didn’t take a high-paying job and pay-off his debts while saving for retirement; his problem was that he took any advice anyone gave him (including his wife’s not wanting him to work out of state) because it prevented him from figuring things out on his own. His plight isn’t that uncommon among people his age, who had assumed all their lives that they would have good jobs until they retired to Florida. It wasn’t that someone had intentionally misled him, but more that he didn’t think about the future. This is all redundant of course because he hadn’t followed the analysis even to the point of realizing he might have been sold a fantasy—any problems he had were due to the actions of his neighbors, family, friends, coworkers, and politicians in recent months. There was no long-term in his world. Thus, instead of contemplating these factors, Gary was glaring periodically at his neighbor’s unkempt yard as he pushed his mower.

Cutting the grass was turning out to be more work than it should have been because he had to stop constantly and remove tin cans, balls, and other debris from his lawn, all of which had been tossed there by his wetback neighbor and his three kids. The guy had been living there ten years and still spoke broken English and his wife couldn’t speak at all. Their yard was like a junk yard, with an old car sitting on cinder blocks and a couch in the front yard. Gary had thought of calling INS several times over the years, but his wife had talked him out of it. He had complained to the city many times, but nothing had ever been done about it, other than his neighbor hauling an abandoned car away once and cutting the grass a few times. By the time he finished the front yard, there was a pile of debris just across the property line. He shook his head in disgust and started cutting the grass around his garage. On his first pass, he stopped in shock.

The side of his garage was covered with graffiti. It looked like one of those railroad cars you see with different signs overlapping, as if painted by several different gangs fighting a long-distance turf war with the boxcars serving as message carriers. If it had been nice picture or even recognizable, he probably wouldn’t have reacted as he did, but it was just gibberish. And it was the last straw.

As one might have gathered, Gary’s neighbor had even more difficulty than he in dealing with the world. He also had a poor sense of timing and as little control of his thoughts as Gary himself. As Gary was staring at the side of his garage, he heard a too-familiar voice rattle something off in Spanish before switching to the language of America.

“What the fuck is all this shit?! I’ll kick that puto gringo’s ass for throwing this shit in our yard!”

A female voice said something in a calmer voice, but in Spanish so Gary didn’t know what she’d said, but he was ready to address Miguel’s challenge with violence if needed. He made his way past the dilapidated travel trailer sitting in the grass next to his garage to take his neighbor up on his offer. Before he made it, he stumbled on something in the grass and bent over to pick it up. It was lucky for him his mower had cleared the heavy piece of steel, which looked like an alternator bracket, because it certainly would have ruined his mower blade.

He stepped out from behind the trailer with the bracket in his hands but, before he could speak, Miguel exclaimed, “Hey! You fucking asshole! What’s all this shit in my yard?”

Gary prevented him from continuing by tossing the heavy bracket so that it struck Miguel in the chest, causing him to stumble backward a step.

Gary wasn’t smiling as he said as calmly as he could under the circumstances, “I was going to ask you the same question. Your kids have apparently been playing spic baseball in my yard all winter. But they don’t clean up after themselves any more than their goddamn parents.” He paused to wave his arms at the garbage and abandoned appliances in the yard before continuing, “I’ve tried to get the city to force you to clean up this mess but, apparently, there’s a hands-off policy towards illegal immigrants in Dayton, and you can’t be touched, at least not by those libtards in city hall.”

He advanced a step towards Miguel, whose wife was pulling at his arm. He pushed her away and stood his ground, as if remaining in his yard defended him from the anger of someone who hated him and his family, but he didn’t say anything.

Gary was willing to accept his challenge. “You said you were going to kick my puto gringo ass. This is your chance, you little wetback motherfucker.” His teeth were clenched as were his fists.

His unintentional ploy worked because Miguel crossed into Gary’s yard as he said something in Spanish that sounded threatening to Gary. Miguel picked up a length of pipe and approached him warily, causing Gary to laugh out loud.

“Trust a spic to bring a weapon to a fist fight. That’s why your people are nothing more than shit! You’re are an uncivilized animal and that’s why everything you touch turns to shit. You fucked up your country and now you want to come and fuck up mine.”

Suddenly, Miguel lunged with the pipe held high. Unknown to his assailant, Gary had a black-belt in Tatami Karate, but he wasn’t going to unleash his skills on Miguel; even as angry as he was, he remembered what he had learned: it was illegal to use his training unless in a life-threatening situation. Miguel was not threatening his life, not with a two-foot section of pipe. Gary stepped aside as he deflected Miguel’s arm and hit his opponent hard in the lumbar with his left fist.

Miguel didn’t go down or let go of the pipe, but he was hurting as he swung again at Gary, this time from down low. Had Gary not been expecting just this response, he would have been caught off-guard and probably had his jaw broken. Instead, he stepped back and then moved in and punched Miguel in the jaw with a right uppercut, sending him sprawling to the ground as the pipe took a separate path under the influence of gravity. Miguel didn’t move because he was unconscious.

When the police arrived, called by Miguel’s wife who couldn’t speak English—apparently the police spoke Spanish, even in Ohio, far from the border—Gary was confronted by a Hispanic male officer and a black female officer, all while the woman was screaming in Spanish. Apparently, the police understood her because they immediately approached Gary in a confrontational manner as the Hispanic officer addressed him.

“She says you assaulted her husband for no reason. What happened here?”

Gary told them the truth, but they didn’t believe him because he was a white guy who disliked illegal immigrants, and they expressed no interest in taking the pipe to check for fingerprints. It was like he had always known: Everyone was out to get him, sooner or later, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was handcuffed and pushed into the rear seat of the police car and taken to jail, where he was fingerprinted, photographed, treated like a criminal, and put in a cell with a couple of black men and another spic like Miguel. He spent the night wondering what had become of America.

2 responses to “Misunderstanding Life”

  1. Tricia Diaz says :

    Sounds like Gary will never truly understand the source of his problems – himself! Interesting character study…but what made Gary think and behave the way he did? Is it the vicious circle of life?

    • timothyrkeen says :

      He was never much of a thinker, which is why he deferred to his wife to make decisions. He is unable to make decisions, or change patterns of behavior he had learned as a child. I think that the “vicious circle of life” is what we observe after we can see an entire life or series of lives in retrospect. Gary is a prisoner of his own subconscious behavior.

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