Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some days you dig


He was outside when the phone rang, thereby not having to feel the clinch of his gut at the bbrringg, bbrringg, bbrringg sound of it. He didn’t have to suppress the irritation at who it might be since the bounds of his old life had melted. When he was a witness to the lit telephone screen, Caller ID was useful. And when he was not, the insistent callers always left a message.

He knew all the numbers by heart now: the bank, the collection agencies, the mortgage company. Their unwavering diatribes threatening or wheedling or oily.

Jeff was less interested in their repetitive words than he was in where they got them. They were so boringly similar maybe there was a series of pamphlets being passed around from one company to the next. If so, who wrote the scripts? Was there a company that specialized these days in writing badgering dialogues for them all? One size fits all with inter changeable verbs and convenient blanks awaiting gender, name, amount owed, and dire consequences available. He’d be happy to apply for that job.

Two years ago Jeff had been the head of advertizing at a prestigious company. His snappy patter was the best in the building until the company (apparently not quite as prestigious as claimed) rolled over like a gut-shot dog and died.

Too bad, Jeff thought, for all his lowly co-workers. He felt secure in his reputation and the impressive Capital Letters (including punctuation) following his name and believed that the stench of the dead dog would not affect him.

But as the weeks turned into months and his peers at other (still alive) prestigious companies stopped taking his calls much less returning them he distainfully applied for unemployment benefits. He considered it a momentary lapse of his fortunes.

When six months had gone by and he had been turned down for every imaginable job he had applied for, he rationalized those meager checks as his due. After all, he had paid outrageous amounts into the social security fund all his working life.

Two years later, he’d exhausted not only his benefits but his arrogant attitude and was reduced to flinching at the phone and trying to find something to do to keep himself sane.

He’d begun the trench in the back yard to dig up a leaking water line, but though the repairs had long since been accomplished, he kept on digging. He found great satisfaction in the depth and length of each day’s excavations, and realized the added bonus of a weary body’s capability to sleep.

He’d also discovered the subtle art of contemplation, simply by resting his overlapped hands on the top of the shovel handle to support his chin. No wonder guys on road crews did it all the time. It was a vantage point that allowed him to appreciate the half acre of dirt he owned free and clear, the fact he couldn’t be fired, and the realization that he could keep on digging trenches to his hearts content until the shovel broke, or he dropped dead, or the fucking recession ended.

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