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Monday, October 02, 2006

Bad Day (based on a true story in a small Nebraska town)

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Paco goes out to get the mail and comes back with the usual advertising junk and a letter which he flings at me. “Open it up” he says defiantly. I see it’s from the company and we all know what that means. We’re sitting around the dark little room in the shabby old house, me and Reuben and Paco. I rip open one side and unfold the letter as Paco drops down into a ratty old armchair. He knocks over a half empty beer can from last night and looks over at Reuben angrily. “Clean this shit up, Homes!” he says to Reuben, like he’d meant to knock the can over, just to make a point. “So…what’s it say?” he barks at me, like I’m the one to blame.

“You know what it says” I shoot back at him “they fired your ass.” Paco’s a mean-ass tough son of a bitch, and the only way to handle a guy like that is to give it right back to him, otherwise he gots no respect for you. “Fuck me” he yells, jumping up from his chair “those motherfuckers…assholes. I’ll show those sons a bitches” he says, kicking a pair of work boots across the room. Me and Reuben just watch. I mean, what do you expect… like if you don’t ever show up for work, they’re gonna just let you slide and…like, hey come on in whenever you feel like it, no problem. Bullshit, everybody knows that.

“It’s a shitty job anyway” I tell him. “Fuck you!” he yells, right up in my face, with his fists clenched like he’s gonna crack me on the jaw. Then he adds “yeah…you’re right. Who needs that shit. Fuck it.” But that just makes it worse on me and Reuben. It’s bad enough to have to go out into the cold dreary day and go work at the packing plant; but now that they’ve fired Paco, that means we’re gonna end up supporting him too. I mean, it’s just so hard to face that filthy slimy work place day after day, blood and guts everywhere…and all that miserable hard work in such rotten conditions. And so goddamned cold in there too. And then to have somebody living with you who doesn’t have to face that anymore, just makes it that much harder.

“So what’re we gonna do now?” asks Reuben, his fat brown body slouched into the shabby couch, which also serves as his bed in this crappy little rental house. It’s so bleak and miserable outside, barely noon, and now little wisps of snow starting to blow around. “We need to get outta here” says Paco, looking around the tacky little room “man…this aint no kinda life. We oughtta head out to California, where it’s warm, sunny, and nice.” “Yeah” says Reuben “find us some hot girls to keep us warm.” “Hell yeah” I say “why not…nothing holding us here. I mean, they’re gonna shut down the plant anyway, one of these days. What’s the use in sticking around for that.”

And all that’s true enough, too. I mean, anybody who could, had already packed up and moved on. All the hot girls, and people who had some stash saved up. Just the poor remnants left like me and Reuben and Paco, who couldn’t even get far enough ahead to keep up with the rent and utilities. So fuck that shit, let’s just leave all this crap behind us and get the hell outta here. Like maybe starting anew, or something. Man, like a breath of fresh air in all this rotten filth.

I get up and go into the drab little kitchen to get some plastic bags to pack up my clothes and stuff; and then Paco pushes past me and grabs a couple of beers from the fridge and goes back and drops down into his chair. That’s not good. Once he starts drinking in the middle of the day it’s gonna be all downhill from here on. He’s likely gonna get roaring drunk and then go off about something and start yelling and wanna beat the crap outta somebody. Been through that often enough to be sick of it by now. But what can you do. This is a rough neighborhood and better to have somebody like Paco on your side than not. I walk past him and then stop, like maybe he’ll get the message. But he’s got that mean scowl on his face. “What?” I ask him.

“I’m tire of living like shit” he says. “All this fucking garbage everywhere…what good is it?” “Hey” I tell him “it’s gonna get better…it’s gonna be better out west. We’ll get jobs… save up a stash…and go back to Mexico…back home for awhile. It’ll be great; you’ll see.” “Fuck Mexico” he says, like he’s spitting the words out, or spitting on the words “and fuck America. Fuck everybody.” He looks up at me like he’s all worn out and just tired of fighting and running and starting over and all of it. “Who the hell has ever given us anything?” he asks me. “Except shit…just all this same old shit all the time…every fucking place we go. What’s the difference?”

“So what?” I ask him. “What are we gonna do? What can we do? Huh?” “When I leave this fucking town” he says “this shithole…I’m gonna take something with me. I’m gonna take what they owe me.” “Yeah…like what?” I ask. He looks at me and Reuben, then around the crappy little house. “Fuck this shit…fucking worthless junk…just leave it. Let’s just get some stash right now…and then get the hell outta here.” “Like what?” I ask him. He reaches over and grabs an old stained-up pay stub from the cluttered up table and looks it, with all the hours worked and all the deductions taken out for this and that…work clothes, safety equipment, pay advances to get you started and so forth. Then he just shakes his head.

“The bank…where we all go to cash our shitty little paychecks…and they look at us, like we’re so much trash…like little insects, that do all their hard work for them. And all they do is sit around…and count all their money. They got enough, enough for anybody.” “So…you wanna rob the bank…or what?” I ask, like what the hell…I’m all hepped up about just gettin the fuck outta here; and he’s got some crazy idea that’s gonna just foul up everything. “No” he says, looking at me with his hard eyes. “I don’t wanna rob no fucking bank…but that’s what I’m gonna do. ‘Cause I aint gonna live like this anymore. What’s the point?” I look over at Reuben and he’s got that shocked worried look on his face, like Paco’s got this crazy idea in his head, and once he’s set on something there’s nothing you can do to talk him out of it.

Then Paco gets his coat and and goes on out to the car. Me and Reuben follow him for no good reason, but it’s his old beat up car, and if we’re gonna leave, that’s all we got to get us where we wanna go. He starts it up and drives through the dreary little town that’d been our home for the past few months, and some good days and most of them not. And then he turns up the street that leads out to the highway and me thinking maybe it’s gonna be okay, like we’re gonna be gone, and without any problems. I take a deep breath and start to relax and light up a cigarette and then off to the left is this little modern brick building, a branch of the Farmers and Merchants fucking Bank.

Paco eyes the bank and without a word pulls into the lot and parks in the back, where the employees park. Then he gets out and shuts the dented-up door that doesn’t even close right. “Come on” he says to me and Reuben. “No way, man” says Reuben “I aint going in there, man…think about it.” “Shit” says Paco “relax, man, I’m just gonna cash a check I been holding back. Get us some gas money.” I know he’s lying, but what can you do. I’ve never seen him so totally calm and relaxed, like he’s walking to the gallows or something. And maybe if we go with him, he’ll wise up and just laugh it off and leave, and then it’ll be over with.

There’s nobody in the bank, just a couple of girls behind the counter, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. Paco goes up to the window and hands the girl a check that somebody’d given him, and it’s for ten bucks but he’d taken a pen and written over it to make it read a hundred. She looks at it like she’s unsure of what to do, holding the filthy old crumpled-up check in her clean white hands, and looking across her spotlessly clean counter at the dirty raggedy man in front of her. “I can’t cash this” she says, reaching the check out to hand back to him. “Please” he says, in a strangely serene voice, like a religious pilgrim asking for a piece of bread. “I’m sorry” says the girl, shaking her head “I can’t.” “Please” he says again, in the same voice.

The girl seems to sense that the raggedy-looking man isn’t going to go away, or doesn’t understand her, and then the other woman, who’s older and wears glasses comes over to her and looks at the check. She just kinda shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head. “It’s no good” she tells Paco, and then like he doesn’t comprehend her, she raises her voice. “Not good” she says, shaking her head and holding the check up to show him. And all of sudden it all hits me at once, like this is that moment in time when everything you’ve ever done before and everything that comes after is all going to be decided in this one moment. I can feel my knees start to buckle and all the blood leave my face. Like I’m just frozen there watching.

“Please” says Paco “a hundred dollars…that’s all we want…that’s all.” Then younger girl looks like she’s starting to get scared but the older woman doesn’t seem to notice. “It’s no good” she says loudly “no good check.” Then Paco reaches into his pocket and takes out a shiny nickel-plated snub-nosed .38. He holds it gently like it was his wallet or something, and not like a gun at all, and not even pointing it at the two women, just like to make them understand is all. Reuben sees him and calls out “Paco” like he’s pleading with him. And Paco turns to look at him but this guy in a suit comes out from his office, and Paco turns back and the gun fires into the man’s chest.

The sound of the shot is so loud in the little building and surreal like maybe someone had slammed a door shut or a car had backfired on the street, and you wish that was it but it wasn’t, and the man in the suit crumples and falls onto the carpet, almost without a sound. The younger woman puts her hands on the side of her face looking at the man in the suit lying the there on the floor and she starts repeating “oh, oh, oh” over and over again in a rapid voice like she’s hyperventilating and can’t breathe and can’t understand why this had to happen. Paco points the gun at her and asks her to be quiet and then looks at the older woman. “Don’t” she says “please don’t.” “Put all the money…into a bag” he tells her, like he too is just all totally confused about what just happened and that’s all he could think of to say.

The older woman scoops up all the money from the cash drawers and then some from a metal drawer below and looks around and then throws it all into the plastic liner in the little trash can and hands the plastic bag over the counter. Her hands are shaking so badly she can hardly hold the bag, and it almost looks like a cheerleader shaking a pom pom. Paco takes it from her and looks at her meticulously made-up face. “Please…don’t tell anyone” he says. “I won’t” says the woman, so faintly you can barey hear the words.

The three of us leave the building and head quickly for the junky old car. But Reuben stops when we reach it. “I aint gettin in” he says, and starts to back away. Paco aims the gun at Rueben’s head. “Get in” he says “or I’ll kill you right here.” So Reuben gets in the back seat with Paco beside him holding the gun on him and I get in the front and drive away.

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Old Comments

  • The narrative, especially the description of the surroundings and portrayal of their miserable life - it not only is moving but makes you feel one with the characters.The story is really gripping. Congrats! (It’s the kind of stuff good for a novelette!)

    Dr George Karimalil

    Posted by Dr George Karimalil  on  10/03  at  01:16 AM
  • Page 1 of 1 pages

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