Saturday, October 30, 2010

What guys are thinking

Cheryl is in the backyard with the two teenagers collecting the fall leaves and putting them in tall brown bags. Cheryl is using a leaf blower that also sucks them up into an attached sack. Joe is looking out from the sliding glass door thinking to himself “that thing is useless”. The teenagers, Cheryl and Joes kids, are using rakes while bickering with each other (Joe Jr. and Amber) at the same time Cheryl bickers with both. “Shut up”, “no you shut up”, “both of you shut up’, that kind of thing.

The day before Cheryl and Joe were at the hardware store shopping for kitchen cabinet door knobs because Cheryl wants ones that are more ornate. In Joe’s mind this is silly, “who cares what the handles look like” also “another project for me to do”. They settle on the type and look of the new handles which was easier than Joe anticipated and collect the amount they need which are individually rapped in plastic in a draw tray . They need 18 but the store has 16. “Go ask the guy if they have some in the back” Cheryl orders which Joe does and thinks “nothing is f---en easy” and then “why can‘t she do it?” It would’ve been better, in Joe’s mind, if they went to the big warehouse store, but Angelo’s hardware, according to Cheryl has much better selection when it comes to aesthetic hardware “like she f--en knows” is Joe’s thought.

Joe comes back and Cheryl is looking at a display of gardening power tools. One item in particular is the blower/vacuum with attached bag. It’s made of black plastic with an orange trigger. “Crap” in Joe thinks. “This is really cool” Cheryl says “and really light, hold this” Joe takes it “yea it is light”. “It beats raking, we could blow it in piles and then vacuum it up and put it into those bags you hate.” This is a point of contention with Joe. Their backyard ends at a wooded area and every year Joe would rake the leaves onto a blue tarp and drag it into the woods. Cheryl thinks it’s easier to put the leaves into bags and this causes a small argument especially when Cheryl the year before brought a stack of bags “on sale” and Joe didn’t bother using them. “Still fixated with those stupid bags” is Joe’s internal reaction but he doesn’t want to rehash the argument but he does say “what do you mean ‘we’ I’m the guy that does all the work”. “That’s okay with this I can do it all by myself while you replace the knobs” Cheryl says. “Lets see how long that lasts, ten minutes into the thing you’ll see how useless this fancy tool is and I’ll have to finish it after I install these dumb white knobs with flowers on them” is what Joe could only think of saying but dare dare dare not say. “I don’t think this has enough power” Joe does say to which Cheryl retorts “Oh right, like you need a lot of power to blow a leaf, besides it’s electric.”

“What’s that got to do with it?” Joe asks which puts an agitated look on Cheryl’s face. “Never mind, when you’re done with the cabinets you could do the leaves yourself and break your back dragging them in the woods.” Thinking fast Joe says “Well, what do I know, they sell it and people do buy it, how bad could it be?”

Now Joe is done installing the new knobs and he’s watching Cheryl vacuum a pile of leaves while the two teens are puttsing around with a rake. As Joe thought the cool new tool takes more time and effort than it’s worth, too underpowered. When not vacuuming the leaves Cheryl blows them forward and in the air attempting to coral them into a pile, the teens with the rakes are more effective. But Cheryl looks proud and industrious to which Joe feels “thinking that it’s better is every bit as good as it being, even if it isn’t, what’s the difference.” He then smiles.

It’s evening. Dinner was made and eaten. Teens are upstairs on their computers and phones and Joe is watching television. A news magazine program was on and it detailed a story where a wife was having an affair with a prosecutor and they conspired to put the husband in prison with an elaborate scheme. Joe thought to himself “how could you do such a thing?” and “what goes on in people’s minds?”.

Cheryl joins him on the couch, her head on his shoulder, hand on his chest. His arm around her. “I’m beat” she says. “You should be, that useless toy you were using made more work than you thought” no, he didn’t say this, of course, but he did say “that thing worked pretty good after all.”.
“Didn’t it, and you thought it wouldn’t smarty.”
“You were right”
“Of course I was right, I’m always right.”
Joe thought, what a good kid. “You’re a good kid” he says. Then they kissed.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One sided affair

Karen called in sick. It's Monday, 11am and she's still in bed when her cell phone rings. It sits on the end table on a charger. She opens her eyes and looks at it then reaches over to see who it is. Its Dave. She flips it open presses the button to answer.
“Hello.”
“Hey you what's up.” Karen puts her guard up. She hasn't spoken to Dave in 10 days, the longest stretch of time since they've been seeing each other, now 8 months. “Sleeping.”
“Not working today?'
“No, called in.”
“Oh.” There's a pause of silence. Dave is trying to size up her mood. He knows she's upset with him. He breaks the silence. “You feeling alright.”
“Yea.” Another pause. Her guard is holding. She wants to end the call, make a real stance. Dave is a bad idea, she knows it, her friends know it. “Well I won't bother you then, I'll let you rest.”
“Why did you call.” Her guard is weakening.
“Just to say hi, see how your doing.”
“I'm alright.” She's not. She misses him and hates herself for it. He's like a bad drug that gives her emotional highs along with the guilty, self-loathing hangover.
“Well, I'll let you go then.” Another pause. She won't say goodbye and end it, the silence tells Dave that she's clinging. “You wanna talk.” he asks.
“About what?”
“I don't know, about...”
she interrupts “You lied to me about your separation, you lied about where your living...”
“I didn't lie.”
“Oh bullshit Dave, common.”
“I didn't, when I told you I was moving out it was true.”
“You said you were MOVED out not GOING to move out.”
“Alright, whatever, you have your version I have mine. I don't want to fight.”
“You still home?”
“Physically or emotionally?”
“Goodbye.” She hangs up abruptly. On the other end Dave smiles then thinks to himself “That was a dumb thing to say”

Karen is with her friend Jenna that evening. They're at Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant/sports bar. They sit at the bar. It's quiet, no one else is there but the bartender. “Dave called this morning.”
“What did that jerk have to say.”
“Same bullshit, I just hung up on him.”
“Good for you.”
“He must think I'm stupid or something.”
“Well you have to just move on, you know he's a bastard scumbag cheat.” Karen wants to be convinced this is true, emotions overwhelm her reasoning. He can't be that bad, he has a heart somewhere, she thinks, looking at her wine glass, caressing the side. “What are you thinking right now” Jenna asks.
“Nothing. I mean, I know he's everything you say but...”
“No no no. Don't go there.”
“I knowww.”
“What, tell me what you were going to say?”
“Okay, your right, I get it. But I think that he, you know looks at me as the 'other woman'” putting quotation fingers up as she says this “but at the same time I think that he didn't expect that he would like me.”
“Karen?” Jenna says in a sigh.
“No let me finish, and so because...Okay let me start again, he's a bad person for one. But I think in being a bad person he realizes that he doesn't have to be that way and part of me thinks that he wants to start over again.”
“You mean leave his wife and go with you?”
“Well, maybe.”
“Okay for one thing I don't think that a guy who leaves his wife for another woman is someone who is a bad person mending his ways. That's not what people do in order to be a good person.”
“Alright, I agree with that ninety percent of the time...”
“Oh, here we go...”
“No hear me out, I think with Dave, with his situation he got married to the wrong abusive woman and I think that because he has a heart doesn't want to break it off like that, I don't know, does this make sense?”
“You know what I think?'
“What, tell me because, I really don't know what to think...” Karen's voice is cracking, she slips into tears “...because I really love him..” now crying “...and I can't think that this can't be real.” The two embrace.

Days go by then weeks. There is no contact between Karen and Dave. Karen is feeling better about it. She misses him less and less and is accustomed to his absence. There were nights when she was tempted to call but didn't. Days after her breakdown she was in a state of mourning over the split. One particular evening when she couldn't sleep she broke down in tears and when she stopped sobbing thought that she would get over it and move on. The thought made her even sadder, not only was the relationship over but the love will soon leave her as well, this made her cry in a way that her voice stuttered and then couldn't breathe with her stomach tightening, mouth opened wide.

Then months go by and there is no contact. Karen thinks about the relationship rarely. She is almost embarrassed about the whole thing. Her attitude is that she is stronger because of it. She doesn't hate Dave. Not in a delusional sense, she didn't invent him, she was fooled by him. Its his fault that he was a manipulator but the fault lies within her for falling for him. She gathers this and other insights reading articles and books. She's surprised that there is a large industry of information that have to do with what she went through. She feels reformed thanks to the material. When she speaks about the affair it's in a self-deprecating manner as though a confession. “But you have to move on and realize that you're better then that. You have to first respect yourself, that's important, if you can't do that there is nothing.” She is filled with advise about relationships and self realization, her friends are a little annoyed with it but are far more relieved that there is no more Dave. It's a good trade-off. Jenna after a while comes to the conclusion that she hasn't really moved on thinking that if it were over, the constant talk about it being over and how “happy” she is means it isn't fully finished because there is reference to it. There should be none, then it's over.

Saturday morning almost a full nine months since the phone call she had with Dave, Karen receives a
letter. It's from Dave. A small sized envelope with addresses written in blue pen. She opens the letter.

“Karen

Hey, how are you. This isn't what you think. I'm not trying to rekindle anything or torment you in any. You haven't heard from me in a long time and there is a reason for it. I'm dying. I found out shortly after the last time we spoke. You probably think I should have told you sooner or something but the truth is I wasn't what you thought of me. Maybe you come to know this by now, I hope you do, but in reality I'm just what people call a creep. I know that you loved me, that was my goal. It kept you where I wanted you. I could've called you and in all probability would have if I wasn't sick and further messed up your life. I don't want to die and in fact I'm really scared about it. As much as I don't want to die I think maybe it was for a reason. I feel guilty about what I've done to you and other people. I don't look for forgiveness I just want to some way make things right. You have a lot to offer someone and I know you'll make someone happy. If I may give you some advice I would say don't trust so easily, love so blindly. I can't believe how much I relished the thought of confusing you and manipulating your emotions. Want to know something that is sick and evil. I used to brag about it with my friends. Some of them were in the same kind of situation. Can you imagine? My greatest guilt is what I've done to my wife. I never told her about my affairs (no, contrary to what I told you, you weren't unique.) and I don't think I will, what good would that do? But I have to live (well I guess now die) knowing that I was not a good person. Maybe this is a step towards redemption or part of me getting closer to God. Please don't try to contact me for I won't answer. I'm sorry.

-Dave.”

Karen is stunned. Although the truth is out her emotions are rekindled. Instead of reaffirming what everyone she knew was telling her and she had resolved to believe, she starts to backtrack “Maybe he did love me after all. Why would he write to tell me this if he didn't care about me?” “I knew there was something there.” “He put on an act to himself and his friends, he loved me but he was in denial.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The new life support

Donna was on the phone with her father talking of plans for the new babies room with colors and curtains. It was a Saturday morning. Her husband Mike and their 6 year old son Eric were up early to fish in the pond at the local park it was sunny and perfect.
"We were thinking of a neutral color, we don't want pink or blue because that would be too common, you know if it's a girl and the room were blue it wouldn't look right and if it were pink and it was still a girl we would have to change it because pink is so ugly, I think."
"That's a good idea, just make it neutral who's going to notice as time goes by."
"I still want it to be color not just white."
"Right."
"So when Mike comes back we're going to the paint store and get some paint, I don't want to get the curtains yet untlil I see the actual colors on the wall that would give me a better idea on what to get."
"Well it all sounds good."
"Yea, it does. Is Mom around."
"Sure I'll get her. Nancy! She's coming, okay honey talk to you later."
"Bye Dad."
"Donna?"
"Hi Mom."
"Hi honey, how do you feel?"
"Okay, not bad actually feel better then with Eric."
"Oh that's good"
Donna went on to converse with her mother for a while about plans and complaints until a ring at the door interrupted.
"Someone’s at the door, got to go."
"Okay dear you take care of yourself."
"I will."
Off the phone out of the kitchen and towards the front door. Curious moment, hardly ever anyone at the front door unexpectedly.
She opens the door to two policemen. Her heart races, she's surprised. They ask to come in and they do. This is bad, what is this? They give her the news, striking her like a steak in her heart. Her husband and son were in a horrible car accident and are in the hospital. Donna nearly faints. The policemen help her to a chair in the foyer near the door and she lets out a loud cry. Pleading with them, "Are they all right are they all right please tell me?"
"They've been taken to Memorial we can drive you there."
At the hospital she is still with the policemen at the waiting room. A doctor comes out after what seems like a very long and anxious time, but really minutes.
"Mrs. Myers"
"Please tell me they're okay."
"They are both in critical condition, they've had some head trauma. Right now we're keeping them stable and we're going to have to wait and see, I can't promise anything.."
Donna passes out at the news.

Donna awakens in a hospital bed. Her parents are at her side.
"Hi Mom, Dad. Where am I"
"Your at Memorial Donna."
"What happened, why..."
"Everything is all right honey, you passed out."
"Where's Eric."
"He's here too, you remember anything."
"No, not really."
Donna's parents explain about the accident and that she was taken to the hospital and passed out and while she was out, had the baby prematurely and the baby was fine, a girl. Mike and Eric were okay too. Everyone was intact.
"Oh my God." Donna says with her hand over her mouth. Relieved. She does remember.
"Where are they?"
"We'll let them know your awake then we'll take you to see the baby."
"Oh my God. Please I want to see them, all of them."
Donna's mother leaves the room to summon Mike and Eric.
"What do you remember honey."
"Not much."
"Do you remember being in the hospital."
"Not really, I do remember that Mike and Eric were in an accident."
"Do you remember what the doctor said."
"What doctor, why are you asking?"
"Never mind just get some rest. Oh there is a bit of bad news I think I should tell you."
"What?"
"Your sense of touch won't be the same, can you feel the bed, the pillow, blanket right now?"
"Yea, why? What did the doctors say."
"Well they said you may have trouble, it's nothing, if you can feel things now then I guess it's okay then."
Mike enters the room. He has a head bandage, he's okay. They embrace tearfully. Eric then enters. All okay. Later on she's taken to the maternity window and she watches her new baby. All is well again.
And they all leave together two days later. Mike and Eric fully clothed no bumps or bruises with baby Angela.

Back at Donna's parents house her father is on the phone with Gerry, Donna's brother.
"The baby's name is Angela."
"Angela?" Gerry says in confusion.
"Yea."
"How did you come up with that name?"
"She did."
"Amazing"
"Why, she can function just like anyone else."
"I guess she could. Why not."
"You can contact her."
"How?"
"I can arrange that."

At home Donna receives a call from Gerry.
"Hi Don, heard the good news."
"Hi Gerry I was about to call."
"Everyone okay?"
"Everyone's fine, can you believe what I just went through."
"I know, we were worried for awhile there."
"Are you still in New York?"
"Uh, yea. Why?" This is a surprise. After a week of touch and go, life and death, wouldn't Gerry be on his way to Connecticut at some point?
"Well Dad said not to bother that things were improving and that I should wait till you were home and I could take Jen and the kids."
"Oh, okay. Well we're home come on down."
"Sure, maybe this weekend."
"Great, see you then."
"Absolutely."
"Alright then." Words said on the phone just when the conversation comes to a close but Gerry interrupts the moment.
"So how do you feel."
"I'm okay dummy I told, you."
"It's good to hear from you"
"Aw, thank you. Were you worried."
"Yes." Gerry's voice is on the verge of tears and Donna senses it.
"Hey, it's okay."
"I know."
"Are you alright?" There is a long pause. "Gerry? Hey, geez I never heard you so emotional before."
"I'm happy for you, so happy.'
"Thanks Gerry, we're all okay."
"I know."
"Then shape up will ya, your making me cry."
"I'm fine kido. I'll see if we can make it this weekend."
"You better."
"I love you."
"I love you too, now get off my phone you sorry sap."

And life goes on. Mike, Eric, Angela and Donna. And life is good. Mike becomes promoted then starts his own firm and is very successful. Donna doesn't have to work. She just raises the children. All in good health. Eric does well in school no more problems with math, he seems to get it but miraculously his penmanship is near perfect, out of the blue he writes flawlessly as thought the summer of Angela's birth something had come to him. Angela grows and is a terrific baby then toddler. In the meantime Donna is feeling less close to Mike as time goes by. Then even less close to her own children. She finds herself confiding more and more with her Dad who seems to call more often, more so then before Angela was born seeming very curious, too curious about her detachments with her family.

It's a summer morning. Mike is up at 6:00, goes to the bathroom, showers, brushes his teeth, kisses Donna then leaves. Donna looks at the clock. It's 6:23. The next morning same thing, 6:23 out of the room after a kiss. Every morming 6:23. Odd. Saturday, 8:00 then 8:23 out the door to golf, home at 12:42. The next Saturday, 12:42. At 12:43 Donna takes a call, it's her Dad.
"Hi Dad"
"Hi Pumpkin."
"What's up."
"Nothing I want to know what's up with you?"
Donna is suspicious. It seems he always knows that something is troubling her. She won't tell him what's on her mind this time.
"Everything’s okay Dad, can I talk to Mom?"
"Sure, everything’s okay then?"
"Dad, what's wrong."
"Nothing. Why?"
"Nothing. Put Mom on the phone."
"Hi dear how are you?"
"Okay Mom, can we go out for lunch."
"Sure that'll be fun when."
"Today."
They arrange the plans. Mike will be home with the children and she will pick up her Mom and go out to lunch. It's sunny, warm. Donna drives through the suburbs to the main road. She looks at the cars and the people in them. Normal. The homes are normal. Everyone’s grass is cut, flawless. She picks up her mother who asks about the children, they're okay just like they were Thursday when she asked. It doesn't sound sincere anymore. She looks at her Mom looking out onto the road staring straight ahead. She stairs at her between looking at the road and she doesn't seem to notice. She then asks. "Mike go golfing today?"
"Yea, yea he went golfing."
"That's good."
"No he didn't go golfing."
"Oh, well that's fine."
"Why?"
Her mother turns to her saying nothing. Donna is a little frightened by this.
"Well, it's good to take a break." Still staring at Donna with eyes as though a robot, nothing behind them. Then she smiles and looks at the road again.
"You know Mom, I just remembered I have to attend a meeting could we do this another time?"
"Sure, anything the matter?"
"No, nothing."
"What meeting?"
Donna has to make something up really fast.
"A neighborhood club meeting for the kids."
"Oh?"
"Can I take a rain check?"
"Sure."
She drops off her mother and drives home. Not feeling well. A bit scared but not knowing of what, even frightened. She drives up to her home and enters the door to find Gerry in the living room.
"What are you doing here, where's your car?"
"We have to talk."
"About what Gerry, tell me, I'm a little frightened and I don't know why, where is Mike and the kids."
"Have a seat."
"Just tell me what's wrong, this is so strange so unreal tell me everything is okay."
They sit in the living room, Donna on the couch Gerry right next to her.
"Remember the accident."
"What about it Gerry."
"Well, I don't know where to start, how to say this..."
"Say what, come on your scaring me."
"None of this, all of this that you see is not real."
"How can this...what are you talking about??"
When Donna passed out at the hospital she went into labor with major complications. It left her in a comma in which she never recovered, her husband and son died from the accident but she did have a baby girl which Gerry is now caring for. In a vegatative state for many months her father had found out about a technology in which Donna's brain would be hard wired, so to speak, to a computer program which would let her go on with her life, a false life, only she wouldn't know about it. Her father and Gerry would monitor her life. All television and radio news would be piped into the program. Her father and Gerry would communicate with her on the phone and if need be enter the program themselves as Gerry is doing now. Donna has caught up to the program and became suspicious. Now Gerry is explaining it all to Donna. Now her father has entered the room. Donna is crying. "Why? Why didn't you just let me die this is so cruel."
"We did it for you Donna." her father says as he moves to her to console her. Donna quickly gets up not wanting to be consoled.
"No no no, this isn't fair. It's cruel."
Her father looks to Gerry.
"We have to start over again."
"What do you mean all over again." Donna asks.
Gerry explains. "Well every time you managed to suspect something we start over again and try to cover the flaws in the program. Look, I wasn't fine with this."
"I can't believe this, none of this is real, none of it? Mike the kids, all gone."
"Gerry we have to go you shouldn't have done this."
"What are we going to do Dad, she's not a machine."
"What would you have me do she's my daughter."
"I'm right here you don't have to talk about me as though I'm not here."
"She has a right to know, this isn't right?"
Gerry stands. All three are standing in the living room.
"Lets turn it off." Gerry says.
"Wait." Donna says abruptly.
"What are you going to do, I have to know."
"We don't know honey, I don't know, I don't know anymore." Her father says in despair. "We thought we can give you a life, it was the only alternative we had. We just thought you can live a natural life. We just didn't figure you would notice.
"And you guys were watching my every move. My whole life like it was a game on the computer."
"Tell us what to do Donna."
"I don't want to die. But I don't want to live as a vegetable or without my family." Now crying realizing her family is gone. " What about Angela is she dead too?"
"She's with me Don, her name is Rachael."
"Gerry, could you pull the plug or something."
"No. Not while you have brain activity, not while your still in there somewhere."
"Can I see my daughter."
"You can."
It is quiet now. Just the sound of Donna sobbing, trying to pull herself together.
"No. I don't want to. I do but...tell me what you would have to do with the program." she asks.
"We can make it less perfect, give the character...uh, your family more dimension." Her father says, hopefully, optimistic.
"I think you ought to have the dignity to know this time Donna." Gerry says.
"What would happen?" Donna asks.
"We'll erase from your memory everything to the time where you suspect something is wrong, about the time of you monitoring Mike's schedule then let it play. You won't know anything happened."
"How long will it take."
"Some weeks, maybe months." her father says.
She pulls herself together and speaks in a normal tone, not crying. "What will happen with me, suppose something happens to you guys, what happens to my life."
"It just goes on and on, we don't have to do anything really. The only thing that's real is Gerry and myself."
"What about Mom?"
Gerry and father look at each other and Gerry says quickly "She's okay with it, she sometimes would not want to be, you know, real and that could complicate things."
"Whew. This is a lot to take in."
"What do you want us to do?" Gerry asks.
"Run it. Please don't let me find out, don't let things be so perfect don’t be greedy I can take a little hardship in my life, my son doesn‘t have to have perfect grades, I want problems, challenges even some pain. I have no other choice I guess. I don't want to lay there in your world mindless, I guess if I die then I die. How long do the doctors say I have to live?"
"We don't know that, no one does." Her father say.
"Then do it. I can‘t believe this. My father and brother are my Gods"
Gerry and her Dad vanish. Then everything vanishes. Donna finds herself in bed. The alarm goes off. It's 6:00am. Mike isn't up. She nudges him. He finally gets up and trips on his way to the bathroom. "You alright?" she asks.
"I'm okay just fell." he laughs. She falls back to sleep.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Intersection

When Jason Conrad was 7 year old he was sitting on a step outside his front door and watched a motorcyclist drive by and strike a van at an intersection. The cyclist smashed into the driver side door with machine and body collapsing on the ground knocking out the van driver . The crash scene was silent for a moment when a woman shouted “oh my God”. Jason watched a crowd gather then police, ambulance then clean-up crew. At night in his bedroom his father had come home and he could hear his mother telling him about the accident and how the cyclist had died. Jason didn't realize this had happened. With this new information he now recollected at the memory of the body laying on the pavement thinking to himself “Thats what death looks like..” The thought had frightened him and he couldn't sleep thinking about it. He got up from his bed to look out the window which faced the front of the apartment house. He looked at the intersection where the accident happened with the street light shinning on the spot as though it were on a stage. As he looked at the spot a black crow flew onto the street and he could see the bird pluck up a small noticeable piece of material with quick motion and fly away.

It was to be Jason's clearest memory in his early life. During a bout with the flu in his teens Jason had a lucid dream of running towards the intersection while a sea of black crows littered the street and when arriving would swarm and attack him. It was a dream which stayed in his memory as the accident itself had.

From the time of birth until graduation from high school Jason had few friends and was relatively quiet. In high school he kept his hair long wore black hard rock tee-shirts and smoked pot. He was part of a small group of like minded teens that were not rebellious as their hippie predecessors but drank and indulged in drugs just the same. His daily routine wasn't much different then his fathers in that once the day was over the rest of the time was spent in front of the television with nothing much said. His father would drink beer until bed time, occasionally becoming drunk or at least noticeably so. Jason would sneak out to smoke marijuana. On weekends Jason would spend time in his room equipped with television and a frequently loud stereo, sometimes with his best friend Carl Hunter. Carl may have been every bit a bonehead as Jason but was much more personable. He would always strike a conversation with Jason's mother before disappearing with Jason in his room. One afternoon after the two had gotten high Carl asked him about a poorly made drawing of a black bird that hung on his wall. A drawing Jason had made while impaired falsely thinking that he was inspired beyond his talents.
“What the hell is that dude.” Carl asked mockingly knowing that Jason had drawn it.
“That's my curse”
“What??” now laughing. “You gotta stop doing drugs man.”
“Ever wonder why I am the way I am?” Jason asked Carl sitting on a desk chair.
“No, you get stoned get drunk and now you're a stoner who likes to rock...and draw black birds.”
This made Jason laugh. “The reason why I'm the way I am, I think is because I saw death, man.” Jason said trying to be serious.
“And?”
“And what?”
“Dude what does that have to do with drawing stupid black birds and being cursed?”
This made Jason stop and think.
“The reason the way I'm the way I am is because I saw death when I was young and it was a curse.”
“I didn't see death, I'm no different from you?” Carl said.
“We're all different man.” Jason said shaking his head.
“Alright, what your saying is that because you saw death you're all fucked up, right?”
Thinking for a moment Jason then answered “Right”.
“But I didn't see death.”
Now Jason was stumped. He couldn't answer.
“Jay, your saying that you're cursed. That means since I didn't see death but do the same things you do, I'm a bigger asshole then you because I have no excuses, at least your cursed.”
Jason smiled and breathed a laugh. He then got up and snatched the drawing off the wall.
“I gotta stop smoking. Lets go out.”

After Jason had graduated from high school he worked at jobs with low pay and then landed a job with the towns park department. His pay was still low but he had benefits which made up for it.
Jason was by this time 23. It was also at this time when the morning paper carried the story of Carl's untimely death in a car accident. The two hadn't seen much of each other after high school. Carl had gone away to college in New Jersey and lived there afterwards. Jason was sad about the news. He had fallen into the habit of drinking with his work buddies after work and then drinking without them. After Carl had past away Jason wasn't just drinking after work but getting heavily drunk. It was around this time Jason was in the bar on a week day night. Jason was sitting two stools away from Irene, a fifty something regular who Jason knew as she did him. They watched television when Jason struck a conversation. “So how the hell are ya Irene.”
“Not much Jay. Not much. How about you.?”
“I'm okay considering.”
“That's good.”
“My best friend died” Jason said.
“How did he die?”
“Car accident.”
“Oh.”
“Here in town?” Irene asked.
“No, New Jersey.”
“That sucks.”
“When did this happen?”
Jason has to think looking at the ceiling. “Three months ago now.”
Irene then remembers Jason mentioning this before but she doesn't bother with it.
“He cured me of my curse.”
“Oh really.”
“Well it wasn't really a curse but I thought it was and he set me straight.”
Irene doesn't respond. Jason is drunk.
“Do you believe in curses?” Jason asks.
“No, I don't know what a curse is.”
Jason thinks about the answer. “You know what I don't know what a curse is either come to think of it.” Then Jason's eyes are fixed on his beer. He hiccups then says in a low voice not meaning for Irene to hear. “I'm just an asshole.”

Jason walks home which is not more then a mile. Since his mission is to get drunk he chooses a bar within walking distance. In his small old apartment Jason retires into bed. In a dream Jason finds himself at the intersection of the motorcycle accident. He's standing on the corner and Carl is with him but on the sidewalk. “This is where it happened.” Jason says to Carl as he stands in the street pointing at the exact spot. Jason dreams about his old apartment house along with the intersection quite often. Sometimes in his dream he is convinced he is actually there, not dreaming. This is one such dream and he mentions this to Carl. “I'm always dreaming about this spot and my old home over there. I'm finally here.”
“What about the stupid black bird.” Carl asks.
Jason looks to the sky and can see a bird flying against a Grey sky.
“There goes one.”
Jason looks to the ground to see if there is anything that would cause the bird to land, but being convinced he wasn't dreaming thought foolish about it. Jason then walked towards his old apartment. Since in his mind he was actually there, he thought he could look things over. He then realized that Carl was dead and he shouldn't be there behind him. He walks quicker towards his apartment. Then he wakes up startled and now a bit afraid of being alone, he falls back to sleep.

Jason's drinking moderated as the years went by. He gained weight, held on to the long hair and grew a beard. When his parents passed on he moved into the their home. It was the home of his teenage years and kept his old bedroom. There was a stretch of years when he had a girlfriend, Gene. They would spend their Saturday afternoons in a bar, where they met, and for a while she moved in with him. They had dated for a hand full of years and when she had moved in they broke up after about two months. They were essentially drinking buddies that fought viciously when they lived together.

As Jason turned 55 he retired from the park department. His retirement income wasn't much but it was enough to keep him high in front of a television most of the time. When Jason received his monthly stipend he would leave the confines of his home to visit a local bar. Bill Martin the bartender had been a co-worker in the park department and was also retired. Jason hadn't been in to see Bill for almost a year when he appeared one afternoon. Bill noticed that Jason had lost a lot of weight, he didn't look healthy. At first there was small talk between the two and then Jason became drunker then usual. When Bill's shift was done it was early evening and he drove Jason home. In the car Jason told him that he was sick. “Looks like I may be checking out Billy.”
“That bad?”
“Yea. Pretty much.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“You live and then you die.” Jason said, resigned to his fate.
“You know what I always wanted to do but never got around to it.” Jason asks.
“What?”
“Ride a motorcycle.”
“Why didn't you?
“I'm afraid of crows.” Jason laughs “I'm just kidding. I had no compuction, is that a word, compunction? Anyway I have no desire to ride a motorcycle. Just wanted to tell a joke.” Bill doesn't get it. “I never wanted to do anything Bill. Now that I'm going to die I guess I succeeded.”
Bill wants to say something, but how do you cheer up a dying man. Bill helped Jason to his home. The next day he would be dead. When Bill attended the wake he sat listening a woman talking in back of him. “He was spooked by crows and motorcycles and he wouldn't tell me why. He would talk about it when he was drunk blaming his fear for something, I could never figure it out.” Then she laughed softly and said “He would be real serious and then say 'or maybe I'm just an asshole.' then he would laugh.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Husbandry Of Despair

Eddie has more money then he knows what to do with it. He has mastered his market. A market that in his first year has garnered more cash then his performance writing mortgages. That is a lot to say. At 27 he owns his own mortgage company comprising of 5 agents situated in a plush office on route 7 a busy four lane road. Eddie is restless. His day is a constant hustle on the phone brimming with confidence and optimism that inspires his other agents to perform. And perform they do which makes Eddie more successful.

One year ago Eddie and his young wife Mariah attended thanksgiving dinner at Mariah's mothers home. Eddie was sure to keep inventory of all in attendance. Mariah's two brothers, cousins and uncles. No one matched Eddie's success and he knows it. He won't boast or carry himself in an arrogant fashion as much as he would love to. It's a temptation that is not easy for him to keep in check so his modesty oozes with intentional insincerity. When Mariah's brother Roger lamented about working the next day or he won't get payed Eddie chimed in "I heard that, I wish I could take a day off sit around do nothing watch TV." Mariah knew that Eddie not only doesn't waste time but abhors it and often ridicules it in others. No one picked up on it but Mariah. She knows that Eddie was throwing a slight at Roger.

After the meal Mariah's other brother Danny walks out to smoke. Somewhat of an enigma to Eddie, quiet unpretentious and in spite of his modest career as a truck driver for a road paving company Danny is smartly dressed with Kaki like dress pants casual shoes that are fashionable and a sweater of top shelf quality, isn't it Polo? Eddie doesn't smoke but likes to have one on some occasions and walks outside to bum a cigarette from Danny.
"Dude can I bum one"
"'Absolutely"
"So what’s going on dude?" If anything Eddie is friendly and will always broach a conversation.
"Not too much still hauling asphalt."
"Cool."
Small talk about day to day life. Danny is not terribly interested in talking about his but will answer questions. If Eddie is sizing up Danny for his own personal inventory Danny is also doing the same to Eddie but Danny has something up his sleeve and sees an opportunity.
"Dude you think you have a way I could get rid of some doe." This is a surprise question for Eddie, but it's business right up his alley. "You kidding, dude whatever you want to do definitely."
They set a time for both to meet the next day at Eddie's office.

Back in the house the family is cutting pies and cakes and serving coffee and Mariah has an announcement. "Okay guys I want you all to be the first to know, come here my smoky husband I want you besides me when I make this announcement. Okay here goes. I just heard from my doctor yesterday that we are expecting our first baby."
An elated moment for the family especially for Mariah's mother and father. Now Eddie and Mariah could spend their money on something other than his and hers BMWs' every six months.

On the way home Eddie and Mariah are smitten and happily making plans about small renovations and room colors. The conversation ends then Eddie asks:
"Your brother Danny does alright at Mustofs' paving huh?"
"I guess. He drives a truck, he's single."
"I'm suppose to meet him tomorrow, he wants to invest."
"Oh? Hum. He was always the smart one. Maybe he wants to buy a house."
"Maybe." Eddie doesn't mention the get-rid-of-a-lot-of-money part. Probably doesn't mean much anyway. Maybe he wants to renovate a home, to Eddie what could he have five six grand? It's not Eddie money but he'll humor him.

Danny drives up to Eddie's office. His vehicle is a full size American pick-up lifted from the ground four wheel drive shinny black chrome wheels. Eddie sees him coming out his truck from his desk. He greets him at the door. Eddie sits at his desk and Danny on the other side.
"Think we can talk in private Ed?"
"Sure, lets go in the conference room. Annie hold my calls." Not that there would be many of them at five in the afternoon Friday after Thanksgiving, but an executive touch for Danny's sake.
"So what ya got for me Dan."
"Well I got some money and I don't know where to go with it."
"Cool, you want to get a house maybe."
"I don't know I was hoping you'd tell me."
"What kind of money?"
"Alright before I tell you anything you got to promise it doesn't leave here."
"Okay. What's this all about?"
"I have about fifty g's. For now."
"For now? I'd say you got some doe. Do you mind me asking you how you got a hold of fifty. Fifty?? Dude, whatever your doing I want in on it."
"Well I wasn't looking at that angle."
"Alright, lets get something clear. You got fifty, right?"
"With more on the way."
Eddie laughs then goes on. "Okay your sittin large and getting larger, the big big question is, um, well let me put it this way, is it tax uh, did you pay, is it after taxes?"
"No."
"Okay, that could be a problem."
"I know. There's nothing you could do?"
"Didn't say there was nothing I could do Danny boy just said we have to be smart here, you can't just lay down all that wood without getting into trouble."
"I know that."
"Let me think. Do you want to, uh, clean the money or do you want it to grow what do you have in mind?"
"You tell me."
"Have to think about this one. Don't worry we'll do something believe me. What's your gig dude you gotta tell me if we're going to be in business."
"I guess I could tell you. A friend of mine is a pharmacist, he gets all the goods you name it vics' fucking oxys' downers on and on he also get Viagra, Cialis all that shit. So I know some guys at work who like that shit and I'm talking to my buddy and he says we could supply that stuff, you know a little on the side and so I start selling some pain killers to guys and then they know people and you know the business gets bigger little by little and so my buddy says that we could really kick it in gear because he could make some kind of deal with the distributor and so stuff gets sent in larger qualities at this other location, not the pharmacy. So now we have major supply and I start branching off big time. I got guys under me who are selling, I don't meet any users, they do and so now we got a real good thing going."
"Dude, no shit."
"Yea. But this can't leave this room."
"Come on, dude..."
"No I mean it."
"Look on my babies..."
"I don't care, swear on anything, you can't say nothing."
"Look if we're going to do something of course."

And that was the start of Eddies new cash cow. Money that was made by Danny was filtered to a real estate investor and in a somewhat complicated arrangement Danny was made a partner by being a contractor of sorts and when enough clean money was available Danny became a legitimate partner with the investor till Danny became an investor himself. A perfect and savvy move it was to go to Eddie. Eddie got his cuts as Danny's relationship with the investor grew. Danny cleaned money coming in growing it when it was and gradually did more and more legitimate business. As he was busy making money in real estate he gradually did less of the pill pushing. The business of the pills was still going strong but now Eddie was in the fold. Eddie was now a partner with Danny's pharmacist buddy and took over what Danny was doing and was able to grow the operation many times over in sophistication and organization.


It was at a bachelor party of one of Eddie's loan originators. A bit over done. A large hall was rented, gambling tables were set up blackjack, craps, poker tables with a healthy rake all very profitable for the groom the usual Eddie touch since he arrange it all. Danny is playing poker. By now he knows a good many of the people in attendance. At poker he watch's Eddie and his buddies. He knows they're not quite right. A little too stupid. Later on a limo takes the groom and a select few including Eddie back to the office. Danny is invited but takes his own truck. At the office are three women scantily clothed for the occasion. Music, booze and something else in the conference room. Whatever it was Eddie was going to it and so were the other originators of the office along with the women sometimes with the women. All closed door behind them. Danny is quiet. He's not comfortable, just wants to make an appearance but he doesn't like what he is seeing.
Fuckin gluttony. Kids out of control." He thinks to himself about Eddie. "I hope he's not out of control with the shit he's selling." Danny makes his way out his visit is over he finds Eddie to say goodbye.
"Dude I'm on my way out dude."
"Nah bullshit where you going?"
Eddie is drunk but his eyes are red and so he's more than drunk. Up close Danny confirms it to himself.
"You alright?"
"You have no idea."
"I think I do."
"Dude your the man, no, your the fucking fucking man."
He says this with his arm around him. "When I say your the man, dude your not going anywhere come on do a shot with me get your ass over here."
"No I want to catch some more poker don't want to get too messed up."
"Alright, dude I'm going to come over later and take all your money show you how fucked up I am."
"Whatever, you working tomorrow."
"Everyday day night 28 fucking 9 dude."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
And he means it. He wouldn't care about Eddie but he's his sister's husband. He wants to make sure this isn't a problem. He was in the business he knows problem and now he's feeling some responsibility.

It's the next day Saturday afternoon Danny drives by the office. Eddie isn't in the office. No one is. Could be nothing. Monday Danny drives to the office late afternoon. He sees Eddies car. He drives besides it goes into the office but it's locked and no one is there. He goes back to his truck and looks at Eddies car. It's dirty. Inside it's a mess with white paper and folders on the seats, in the back is a child seat with papers on it. As he drives away he notices the back tire has a small donut tire. Now he's worried. Too many signs. Where is he?

As time goes by Eddie is missing from family events and when he is present is not the same. As time goes by Mariah throws Eddy out of the house and Danny loses contact with him. He learns from his parents and real estate partner that Eddie got messed up on drugs, lost his business and then his family. It's been two years since the stag and Danny is working on a new construction home he's building, sweeping the floors when he receives a call on his cell. Its Eddie.
"Where you been?"
"Fucked up dude."
"I know. You disappeared from everything no one knows where you are you don't visit your kid, what the fuck dude."
There's nothing but quiet.
"You there?"
"Yea I'm here, what can I say."
"You in town?"
"Yea, can you help me out."
"What do need?"
"Everything."
"Where are you?"
"Sharing a room in the south end."
"In town?"
"Yea."
He tells Danny where he is. Its a one bedroom apartment. A mess. Socks paper strewn about on matted carpet. A couch, living room chair, coffee table, TV and nothing else. Its hot. A window has a fan inserted that is useless. The coffee table is full of ashes beer bottles an open beige paper that once wrapped a sandwich maybe a grinder. Eddie is sitting on the couch.
"Where you been."
"Gone. I lost it all, everything."
"What happened."
"Started doing shit."
"I heard."
"Started doing some pills for fun then stronger pills, oxys' everything. Then none of that was strong enough went to heroine then finally crack."
"No."
"Yea. Now here I am. Getting thrown out any day now. I don't know what to do." His eyes start to well up with tears. Then repeats loudly "I don't know what to do!" Looking at Danny with eyes of desperation. Nothing Danny has ever seen. It was frightening."
"Okay, alright calm down."
"What am I going to doo!" He puts his hands over his eyes crying. "What am I going to do oh God help me noo."
Danny gets up. Looks over the mess. Thinks to himself. "This is my fault. My fault."
"Alright Ed get up come on."
"Where we going?"
"Get you cleaned up."
He gets up. Wipes his face with his sleeve then the bottom of his shirt. "I need to pack."
"No you don't. Your not keeping anything from this life." Eddie looks at him. "Your right." They walk to the door. Before they leave Danny tells Eddie. "Take a look at this place one last time. You want it?"
"Come on Dan. I got work to do."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Out of care-state

The radio news goes on suddenly early morning in Trinden and Maylas bedroom waking them. A local story is a follow-up of a previous item:

"Parents don't know and neither do friends, but Life District officials are at a loss as to where an eight year obtained care-adverse candy which she was caught eating at a Life District office."

As the morning becomes brighter both are at the kitchen table.

"Why is it such a big deal, let her have candy." Trinden speaks as he scans the table screen for other news.

"I don't want to have to pay for her care bills later on, do you, it's not fair to others" replies Mayla.

"Ah c'mon, it's just candy ."

"It's the care-adverse type. What if it were cigarettes or fats or carbon made foods? You want to go back to the days when people were dying in the streets? On top of it all they were in the Life District office. Her parents should be detained, you can't put your children out of care-state. Your such a radical, why do you have to look at things so political all the time?"

"Its not like its illegal."

"I know, but try renewing your care-state."

"Hate care-state."

It's the task of Life District to make sure citizens are in care-state. Years ago this meant physically healthy. Care-state is beyond that. It now traces any hint of diseases that may be on the horizon or "disease-mind" or habit forming behavior. Adults are required to go to Life District once a year to renew their care-state card, without it they can't renew their drivers license, denied medical care, fly a plane, a whole host of privileges. Children are to report every six months or they will be denied regular school or association with other children. The eight year old will undoubtedly have to attend "educare" for a two weeks. So care-adverse type candy is a big deal.

That afternoon Trinden is off visiting his parents to help them sort their belongings. They're moving. Off to the desert. If Trinden is "political" his parents are indeed radical. Trinden arrives and his father is cleaning the garage, throwing out stuff in four separate bins one for metal the other plastic, paper and "usable".

"Hi Dad, where do I start?"

"Oh I don't know, look for usable I guess, they're most important, don't want to be fined."

"No chance of you guys changing your mind?"

"No way, been looking forward to it, no more districts, care-card, stupid gender or species ID's, carbon tracking. It would be good to get rid of all that."

"So hot there."

"The only draw back, sick of having to prove I'm healthy, who I am, where or how, the hell with all that, rather toast in the heat and be free."

"Never understood that."

"What, freedom?"

"No, not freedom, I mean what the desert people mean by it. Everyone's free."

"Well in the old days they were free."

"Yea and they were all poor because of medical bills with sickness and bad air."

"Who cares if I'm sick or carbon crazy?"

"We all do because we all have to pay for it. People would be having unnatural foods, relationship, back-alley way tonsillectomies, it will be the old days all over again and hospitals will close again."

"The hospitals closed down because of the care-laws, and people were not questioning their species or sex or whatever, at one time there were animals and people, man and woman, now were all intertwined."

"Well, I kind of know where your coming from, I just feel we should fix it rather then fight it or give up and go to the desert. Just feel your giving up."

The whole notion of what became know as "species identification" started as a lark thirty or so years previous. A group of college students made a mock documentary of a group of people who thought that their birth was a mistake and that they should have been born another animal. The set up was a ward where people were interviewed about their condition along with medical professionals, all actors. Although it was all fake the students didn't let the viewers in on it. Information was given to the public for contact information if they felt they were of the same frame of mind. Sure enough calls came in droves. As time went by it was apparent that it was all a big fraud but that didn't stop the movement. Over time the lark became reality and little by little it spread across the country and the world. Actual group meetings were held so people could act out their species. Discrimination laws soon followed and the notion of animal depiction in brands and labels were soon scrutinized for what became perceived as offensive. A new word specist was invented and taken seriously.

"Have you heard from my grandson, YOUR son?

"Don't start."

"Don't start? He's being trained to evaluate his 'species identification', doesn't bother you?

"It's just a seminar."

"In Life District."

"I know. Look could we just not talk about it?"

It becomes quiet. Just the noise of packing and sorting. Then Trinden asks "When Jack comes home I would appreciate if you don't use the word animal in front of him."

"Don't worry. I won't hurt his feelings"

Trindens son Jack, at the age of 19, started attending species party's. Jack felt that his birth was a mistake in that he should have been born "species-other" but not sure what that other was. He would attend the party and let loose his true self. The last time he renewed his care-state he was required to attend species orientation for a month so Life District could confirm his required designation. It has become a hot point in the family making Trinden "political" and his old fashion parents furious. Mayla is understanding, not quite agreeing with it, she would hope it weren't so, but she is understanding. The word animal is strictly forbidden in the house, she won't tolerate specism going so far as to warn Trinden and his parents that she will report this as care-adverse to Life District.

Football is alive and well. Trinden and his father take a break to watch a game. Max Keeves the extraordinary quarter-back for the Miami Dolmens is playing. Keeves is a mega star, the number one emulated character in artificial life (al) worlds. His team has gone two consecutive undefeated seasons and now four games into the new year his team is 5-0.

"In the old days he would be called a champion." says Trinden’s Dad.

"You think he would've won the old Super Bowl games."

"I don't know, they say he might not have if it were still around if the old game were around maybe players would be better, more driven."

"Well he shouldn't win all those games."

"Nonsense, if they change the scoring rule like they want it will mean the end of football."

"They said that when they got rid of the Super Bowl and the playoffs and it didn't happen."

"Yea but come on, get rid of scoring, what's the point, who cares if...well, I guess everyone cares. Can't have losers can we."

Trinden is up from his seat at half-time. His father is napping. He goes to the kitchen where his mother is emptying the cabinets, packing dishes and cookware.

"I'm going to go Mom."

"Okay dear, you hear from Jack."

"Not since last week."

"How long till he gets out?"

"Another week."

"That's good."

"What do you think he'll do?"

"I don't know, to be honest with you I dread the thought of designation change."

"He spoke to your father before he left you know."

"Oh."

"He didn't want to go to the orientation."

"I thought that was his choice."

"It was, he was just having second thoughts and felt he was committed so he went."

"That's good news, I think."

"Well, we'll see, say hello to Mayla for me."

"I will."

Trinden enters into the living room to see if his father were awake to say goodbye. The game announcer is breaking the news that Max Keeves won't be playing in the second half. He had entered the field with an old Miami Dolphins helmet on as a demonstration which is not only against the standard rules of uniform but specist.

"I don't know what got into him for doing that, but the team has forbidden him from playing." says the announcer.

"The Miami crowd is booing, don't know if their booing Keeves or the team."

"Well as much as they love Keeves I can't see how they could stand by him on this one. I think they're booing Keeves."

"I don't know about that, there are a quite a few of them holding up his number. I think they're upset with the teams decision."

Trinden is in his car listening to the radio and Keeves is giving a press conference. "I am not sorry for what I did, I have told the team I will not be playing as of today, again. The game is not competitive, it's not fun. I'm sorry to my fans only. I will not be reporting to Life District anymore and will renounce my care-state and I will hope that all of Miami or anyone who supports me will renounce it as well and I'm not going to the desert, so...if that is all, I won't be answering any questions."

Trinden turned the radio louder as Keeves was talking leaning forward.

Back home Mayla is watching a screen where a large crowd was demonstrating in the Miami streets in support of Keeves.

"Hi honey, oh my what's going on."

"People started rushing the field and started rioting, they had to suspend the game and now there are demonstrators everywhere."

"Oh boy."

"Really, bunch of dam haters."

"Well, I don't know if they hate..."

"Don't start your political's, he wore a dolphin helmet if that's not hate..."

"Alright alright I get the point."

"You know there's going to be mass infections in Miami if people renounced care-state." Mayla says calmly.

"It'll be like the desert I suppose." Trinden says diplomatically, although relishing the thought.

"That ought to make you happy wouldn't it?"

"Well I can't say I would be happy..."

"Oh bullshit, just this morning you thought it was just fine that the little girl was caught out of care-state."

"She was just eating non-approved candy."

"That's not the point." raising her voice.

"What are you getting so angry about you even said that the people at Life District were assholes."

"Yea and I think the people at motor vehicle are assholes too doesn't mean I want to do away with drivers licenses."

"Alright calm down. Its not like I'm a desert-dweller."

"Well you should be, you should think about it."

Mayla leaves the room in a huff. Trinden remains watching the screen. Miami seems to have sparked demonstrations across the country. As the day moves on people are burning their care-state cards. Others people are worried about quarantine causing them to counter-demonstrate which is causing riots.

Later in the day the president has announced a press conference, the news anchor is on screen. "The president has presumably been interned, we are told, trying to reach a solution through artificial life scenarios at the White House with his aids and will announce his findings. Other news outlets as well as ours have been running al scenarios."

Mayla is in the al room with a helmet on. Al is what television used to be in the old days, people sit at home with helmets on sometimes standing sometimes moving on a stationary platform that allows the user to simulate walking or running in the al fantasy world. The helmet gives the impression of being elsewhere all sights and sounds appear exactly as the real world. The president evidently has "crisis al" that could guide him on different scenarios. He appears on screen.

"Good evening America. As you know Max Keeves has renounced his care-state which has caused demonstrations across the country by elements of society that want a return to political over health and safety. Although he has every right to do so as as other Americans we would hope that he re-considers. I have met with my advisors and have consulted with Life District Director Remis Feznor and are considering all options, Mr Feznor is with me now and I will let him answer your questions."

Feznor comes to the podium and the president steps to his side.

"Good evening, today I have consulted with all local directors of Life District, we do not have a full assessment of care-state status, we feel that those who have been burning or renouncing care-state done so out of mob hysteria, we don't at this time anticipate quarantine measures, we have decided to let the law-givers enact calmness before we could see what it is we are dealing with. As you know care-state has been an important function in our society. Some people have attributed it unfairly to state control, it is not. Everyone has a right to be in care-state as well as care-adverse. But even though you have a right to care-adverse does not give the right to infect those that are not. We, at this time will not for the moment declare mass care-adverse status on the rioters and hoodlums, as I said we will asses the situation as time goes by, any questions?, yes you over there."

"Mr Director, many outlets have been running scenarios in al and a majority of them have alarming results, some have even witnessed desert people coming out to join the rioters..."

"Let me cut you off right there, although we run al, um, sure there can be a scenario as you described, but, we don't run, or make decisions based on al programs.."

"But some al worlds are in active revolt within those worlds and are bastions for revolution in the real world."

"We are aware of some of the more incendiary worlds and are monitoring them closely, look we don't want to push the panic button, sometimes artificial worlds are just an outlet for fantasy and don't always translate in the real world. Next question."

"Are you saying our fantasies in worlds without Life District and care-state are not genuinely desired moods translatable in real life?."

"Now look, there are some al worlds that have their own care-state fantasies within them as you know, the more popular ones have Life Districts, of course they're regulated in behavior-adversity and we're in no way affiliated but they're free to do that and people are comfortable with Life District whether it is in the real world or al, we have actually learned a great deal about artificial Life District policies and practices. But lets get off the subject of al. We implore Max Keeves to stop inciting violence and to urge calm to all his followers..."

"Will Max Keeves be arrested?"

"We don't know where he is."

"Are you looking for him?"

"We don't know where he is?

"But are you looking to arrest him?"

"That is up to the law givers of Miami."

"Are law givers looking for him?"

"That I do not know, he is in a state of care-adverse and we are concerned about infection that doesn't mean he broke any laws, look that's all I have time for."

The news conference breaks up. An anchorman appears on screen. "The national guard in Nevada and California have set up a parameter around the various care-adverse desert communities apparently to ward off suspected scenario from al where desert dwellers march out in open revolt. Governors Ericsson Hummel of California has issued a release saying that he will monitor the border area of the desert and has no plans to enter. There has been no word from desert leaders on their intentions one way or the other. Nevada governor Ward Crenshaw has not commented yet but an aid has stated that they are monitoring the situation.

"Wow" Trinden says to himself as he takes in the news. His phone rings, it's a number he's not familiar with. "Hello."

"Hi Dad"

"Jack is that you?"

"Yea, its, me."

"Wha, what are you doing, how are you."

"Good good, I left orientation."

"Why?"

"Because it's stupid."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, not that it's stupid, but I'm stupid."

"Oh? Where are you now?"

"Going to grandpa and grandma's"

"Your heading there now?"

"Yea, um, I wanted to ask them something before I came home."

"What?"

"I want to go to the desert with them."

"Oh, boy, your Mom's not going to like that, how can you, um, I don't understand, first your species confused and now your, uh, are you care-adverse now?"

"No, well, I don't know for sure, I just left, who cares, it was stupid anyway. I think I spend too much time in al, it gave me dumb ideas about myself."

"I'm relieved, want to talk to Mom."

"Okay."

Mayla is standing near by, she takes the phone.

"Hi honey."

"Hi Mom."

"What's this I hear your going to the desert?"

"Thinking about it, want to ask Grams."

"Shouldn't you be asking us?"

"Was going to but want to run it by them first."

"Whatever happened to your species identity?"

"What about it?"

"Well what are you?"

"I'm a man, a human being."

"You sure?"

"I'm a man Mom a man! not a freaking species, not fantasy world freak I'm a Man in a real world trying to get out of this crap and live as a free man."

"Oh, free, diseased and hateful like the rest of them."

"You got to be kidding me, before it was fine if I was something else, so understanding so tolerant but now that..."

"Don't talk to me like that..."

"I'm a man Mom not a dog a free man live with it!" at that point Jack hung up.

"Well, he's got your politics."

"What did he say?"

"That he wants to live as some sick confused person without care-state, no protection in the desert."

"That's it?"

"Yep." She pauses.

"All because of football. Hope he reconsiders. You could have encouraged him, Mr. Politics."