Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thorazine Nation

So where's the outrage? Where are the people marching in the streets, thoroughly pissed off and refusing to take it anymore? When did we become such a paralyzed nation that the President of the country cannot stop a company--now on the dole and receiving billions from the federal trough to keep it afloat--that has bankrupted tens of thousands from giving retaining bonuses to keep in its employ the very people who drove the company to its knees? When did the inmates take over the asylum?

My friend Paul says we no longer know what to do. The system has become so depersonalized that we cannot find a culprit. Also, we're too lazy... Most of us will take to the couch and not to the streets, unless there's a Starbucks nearby. There's truth to this. Personally, I no longer have an notion of how to influence the powers that be. Voting has little or no effect, and in any event, it's too slow--events are moving faster than we are.

My friend Christine--who knows how to thump bread to see if its cooked and told me about baby carrots (more later)--thinks it important that the company in question keep a base of employees who know what's going on so as to make things right. This morning's Washington Post agrees with her, as does the company's CEO in an oped piece. I'm just not sure. And, I suppose, since I'm hardly in the position of influencing such events, all I can do is sit back and watch the show. But I do miss the times a few decades back when outrage ran high enough to move people from their TVs and into the streets.

All right, now for the important news. Did you know baby carrots are not baby carrots at all but adult vegetables that have been lathed down to baby size? The agro-industry put one over on us! Now that's upsetting!

Here's installment 74 of Wasted Miracles.

Colin sat up. His stomach heaved and he made a concerted effort not to show it.
“I don’t think you got anything else to puke. It’s all in my van.”
Colin shut out the light with both hands across his eyes. “Sorry, Orin.” His voice sounded very small.
“Yep, so am I.” Orin’s tone was conversational but hid a deep threat. “It’s gonna take weeks for that van to smell normal.”
Orin leaned closer and Colin could smell a trace a salami, sour milk, cheap pipe tobacco. He held his breath. Orin took a turn around the living room, paused, lit his pipe. “Aren’t you the least bit interested in knowing how you got home? I would be.”
Colin’s face was even with Orin’s lap. He didn’t look up.
“Generally,” Orin continued, “I’ve found that it’s a good idea, if you decide to get plowed at a bar, to have some money. You had four dollars and change, mostly pennies. Your tab came to $67.55, without tip. You told the bartender to call me. Do you remember any of this, Colin? No? Well you told him to call me and even gave him my phone number. You know it by heart, I guess, and I should be touched but I’m not.” Orin drew on his pipe, relit it.
“So he called me, the bartender did. Marsha’s staying with your friend Josie’s mother for the night. It wasn’t sage to leave that girl alone yet, so they took her to the ARC earlier today. The upshot of it is, I had to drive here and you know how much I love driving, don’t you. It’s a lot of fun when you don’t have legs.” Orin paused for emphasis, shook his head in disgust.
“So I drove, double-parked, almost got a ticket. Went into the bar, paid your tab--you owe me a hundred bucks. You were in the john. Nice sight, man really looks his best when he’s passed out in a toilet stall with his dick hanging in the bowl. The bartender got you into the van. Then you puked, but hey, no problem! I just drove with the windows open.”
Colin said, “Jesus, Orin. I’m so sorry...”
“Just shut the fuck up, OK? So when I got here, there was this little problem, getting you out of the van. I tried to call Joe but there’s no answer. Came up here, used the key you gave me, called your other friend, Mr. Dioh. His number was on your kitchen counter. Mr. Dioh was kind enough to meet me. He carried your sorry ass from the van. That was nice of him, don’t you think?”
Mamadou came into view. Colin avoided his eyes, said, “Joe?”
Mamadou shook his head.
Colin looked at Orin. “Joe’s dead.”
It took a few seconds for Orin to understand. He said, “What? What?” Then he said, “That’s why you got drunk?” When Colin shrugged, Orin looked momentarily bewildered. “I thought you knew better. Really. I did.”
“It’s my fault.”
“You killed him?”
Colin looked at Mamadou for help. The black man turned away.
“Did you?” Orin was insistent.
“No. But it’s my fault anyway. I dragged him into it, I shouldn’t have. He didn’t know what he was getting into. I didn’t either.”
Mamadou broke in. “Colin is mistaken.”
Mamadou’s description of the night before was brief and to the point. As he went on, Orin’s body seemed to deflate, got smaller in the chair. He listened silently, blowing out clouds of smoke. At the end he threw Colin a disbelieving look, wheeled his chair to the balcony window, gazed outside. “You’ll never cease to amaze me, Colin. I guess that’s why I’ve been your sponsor all these years. It’s been... interesting.”
He drew a deep breath, shoved the still lit pipe into the pocket on the arm of the wheelchair. Smoke seeped out but Orin paid no attention. “So there’re four dead. Three nasties and one good guy. No police, right Mr. Dioh.”
“We were gone before they got there.”
“And it’s a shit neighborhood, cops aren’t gonna pay a lot of attention to a bunch of dealers offing each other. You kinda counted on that, didn’t you?”
Mamadou nodded. “I did.”
Orin looked at them both, then focused on Colin. “Marsha says the girl’s gonna be all right. Physically, anyway. Gonna need a serious detoxing, supervised. Whoever had her pumped some new form of nastiness into her. They’re doing tests. She seems to know what’s going on, at least some of it. Her mother’s a mess, though. Her father came by too. Jesus, what a shithead. Came in, looked at her, shook his head, left. Didn’t say a word.”
Orin reflected on that a bit, wheeled his chair back a couple of feet so it faced Mamadou.
“So you guys committed the perfect crime, it looks like. Congratulations.”
Colin rubbed his eyes with a thumb and index. “Except for Joe.”
Orin nodded. “Right. Except for Joe.”
“I’ve got his stuff. His badge, his ID. He left it here.”

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