You know how it is. You keep doing the day-by-day because that's what you do, that's what's familiar. It's what you're good at. It's your little life, but by god it's all yours.
You're just going on, living your life. It's not much, but it's your life.
Everyday ... it might not be much, but at least it's your own goddamn life. You own it. Or, so you think...
Imagine the day you wake up as usual, and then suddenly your life has turned into a Country song. One with many sad, sordid verses.
My first clue was when I went into work, and was nearly immediately called into my boss's office. I reported and he began talking about the deep ditch the economy had recently rolled into. I knew; I watched t.v. The deep ditch was the start of a mass grave.
The severance package was generous, but still I was flummoxed. I'd been a forklift jockey in the warehouse for ten years. Fresh out of college, I'd stumbled upon a summer job that became permanent. I was still Baby Bob to my co-workers. They'd all come to work fresh out of high school, Class of Before-I-was-born. They were a crusty cadre.
I gave my boss a last gasp. "I understand last hired--first fired. But still! Every day I move ten-times the product as any of them."
He looked at me. "Like I don't know. Won't be the first time Seniority sucked. But I don't make the rules. I just make fun of them. But I do have to abide by them."
He supplied me with an enthusiastic Letter of Reference. And a final check generous enough I was glad I'd kept my cool and hadn't gone all Johnny Paycheck on the dude. Otherwise he might've given me the other check, straight hours owed and not a spit of severance, and some lie about how all my unused sick-days hadn't actually accrued over the years.
Me? I was out of a job. I grabbed my stuff and went out to my car. I could've sat out there for ten or twenty minutes shedding tears, but I thought it best to remove myself from temptation. It would've been just as easy an outcome for me to sit there and stew, deciding to come back with a gun. Just kidding!
I drove home. Go to work; home by 10:30. I tried to remember if my wife, Fran, had any special schedule that day. I was sort of starting to hoping about drowning my sorrows by waking her up, and then et cetera
But then I returned home and everything changed even more. The front door was wide open. Inside our little rental house, not only was my wife gone, but so was most of the good stuff we owned.
In the kitchen, there was a note. On top of one of the built-in counters. Usually such notes are left on the kitchen table. But that table and all its chairs were gone. Just like the old goddamn fridge.
The note spoke swiftly about how she and my best friend Al had run off together. Divorce papers forthcoming. The funny thing was that I didn't have a best friend named Al. Why would I be best friends with a guy who'd steal my wife? I was disappointed to learn my renter's insurance didn't cover loss of spouse.
It was then that I realized I was naked in my apartment. Generally by now my dog would be so happy to see me he'd be humping my leg until I kicked him off and away.
I'd had the dog when we married, and she'd always hated it, so I knew no way would she have stolen it. The door was open, and that dog loved to run. But he always stayed nearby.
So there I was, striding up and down the street, wishing I hadn't been so impetuous in naming the damn dog. "Dickwad, c'mere Dickwad--there's a good boy!"
The dog was across the street, investigating various bushes, when he rebounded at my call. Dickwad ran across the street without looking first. A battered pickup came screaming down our street. The truck braked after hitting the dog just long enough for the body to fly up off the bumper, over the cab, and then Dickwad landed in the bed of the truck.
Tires squealed. Not only was my dog dead, but his body had been unknowingly spirited away. As dark as things were getting, I tried to look on any bright side I could. At least I didn't have to spend the next hour with a shovel in the backyard. The dead Dickwad was someone else's problem now.
Then the repo dudes showed up with their tow truck. I thought I owned the piece of junk, but apparently Fran had used it as collateral for a PayDay loan. The repo guys acted like they'd watched a lot of that famous Repo series on t.v. They wanted to know if I was gonna get tough. I reached in my pockets, then winged the keys smack at his forehead. I'd thought about clearing out my stuff. But it was just the couple crappy CDs I kept in the car. The trash I kept meaning to clear out. Shoved under the driver's seat was a brown bag I hoped they didn't discover for awhile. The tuna salad sandwich for my unneeded work lunch. And a couple hardboiled eggs that had to have cracked when I angrily shove the whole under the seat.
Strolling through the house, at first I thought a bulb was burned out. After a couple more switches, I gathered the power was turned off. Just then the landlord stepped in the opened front door. Apparently we were three months in arrears. He apologized, saying he'd called first, but it was no longer a working number. I wondered what the result would be if I decided to take a nice hot shower.
But this was all impossible! Fran was always punctual in paying the bills. She was good at that stuff. I didn't have to be the one to balance the checkbook.
I found where the checkbook was always kept. I showed him the register. There clearly was the amount and date for the latest monthly. He was the one to move his finger back down the line of the entry to the payee column. Fran was never a concerted liar. I quickly flipped and learned that every bill for the past three months she'd written an exact check, payable to Cash. The ledger showed a decent enough balance, but I bet that had changed an hour or two ago.
I looked at the guy. He was a good guy. "I'll be gone in the morning. Do you have a business card or something?" He did, and I took it from him. "The minute I get an address or number on the bitch, you'll be the first to know. Take her to court; I'll be your witness."
"Least I can do, since you didn't get my signature on the lease."
Then some guys walked in. They were heavies from the Rent-a-Crap Center. They took the sofa, big chairs, and the fucking bedroom set. They wanted the flatscreen and other electronics, but Fran was now wanted for theft. I got a business card from them, too.
I'd had shitty credit when we met due to my student loans. My name was on nothing.
Finally I was left alone. I tried to think of where I could go stay for awhile, even just a night or two. I hated the idea of crashing with my folks. I liked a bed, not a sleeping bag; plus, I doubted you could get away more than one night pitching a tent on your parents' double-plot. It seemed logical to me, especially given the extra space of the two empty plots beside them that they'd bought for me and my sister. It was Family Land, like a country retreat, though no doubt the cemetery association would take a differing view.
I was left with two small bags and barely enough cash to hop the city bus down to the Greyhound station and afford a further ticket. I bought it, and then called my sister in the destination several hours away from the payphone. I got her answering machine; pled my case, then boarded the bus.
It'd been about four years since my sister had gotten transferred back from the coast to the small town a few hours away. Like many small towns at the time, they'd cleared some cornfields and built the emptiness of a future industrial park. Her new town got lucky. She landed there because she had a great job with a logistics company that took advantage of the cheap land and tax credits to build a huge new warehouse.
I knew that much, despite all my efforts. I prided myself on being a good big brother to Jill. Moreso, I wanted to be the cool uncle to my niece. Which I had been until they originally moved to the coast, shortly after I got married. But I'd only driven up there for long visits twice in the time they'd been back. But then, we had plenty of space at our house; Jill had driven down with Steffi only once.
I got off the goddamn bus and snagged my two bags. While I'd been in this town twice before, I'd been in my own car, and hadn't detoured to see the bleak old downtown.
It wasn't that the bus station was located in a dangerous part of town--it was located in an entirely dead part of town. All around were nothing but abandoned several-story buildings that hadn't quite managed yet to collapse in on themselves.
I was a tough guy. I went inside with my stuff long enough to pee into a toilet that was anchored to the planet. Then I went back out onto the asphalt, with my bags in my hands.
I was standing on a lonely planet. I had a nice severance check in my pocket; maybe I could find a bank willing to cash it. Maybe lose the percent to one of those Payday Loan places. That way I could buy a ticket on a different bus going somewhere else.
It was too late for any of those transactions. All that would have to happen tomorrow. Which left me scrambling for a hole to crawl into for the night. I tried to remember if there were any nearby underpasses that would fit my budget.
The thought of spending a night like that, after the day I'd been through, had me wondering why I was still alive, still allowing myself that perversion.
.... There is more of this story ...