Pigs, Acorns and Blue Neckties

“We are the mighty pig herd held captive by inert acorns,”

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“We are the mighty pig herd held captive by inert acorns,”

“I hate when you take on the epic like voice.  You sound like a 1940s-silver screen flop.”

“We grunt and we rumble but we are hindered by our own…our own…what?”

“Could you be serious, we have about three minutes before all the guys in silk, blue, ties are in here.”

“We grunt and we rumble and we are hindered by our own want to snuffle.  How’s that?”

“Sickening.”

“We’re going to get fired you know that.”

“Well yes, if you decide to tell them that we are pigs held hostage…”

“Captive, get it straight, I said captive.”

“Okay, captive.  If you tell them we are pigs held captive by acorns that’s pretty much a shoe in for a firing.”

“How in debt are you?”

“Well, there are still the student loans.”

“You’ve been out for six years.”

“College is like a mortgage.”

“College is an acorn.”

“Well, I just broke my ankle on it.”

“Listen, this is not our fault.”

“No, it is my fault.  I should have stayed in Indiana, bought those 15 acres down the road from my Mom and Dad, married and made something of that coffee shop down on the main street.”

“You can still do that.”

“I told everyone I’d be a VP in human resources in this mega corporation.”

“But it’s a classic, a classic 1940s silver screen flop.  You go off a cocky, arrogant know-it-all and come back a humble but more likable gentleman farmer and weirdo bohemian coffee coinsurer.  Indiana would love that and you can marry me.”

“I’m not a homosexual Gary, I’m not going to marry you.”

“But what will you do without me?”

“Stop being called a pig for one thing.”

“Ah, here they come.  Oh, my, you’re right.”

“About what?”

“They all have some shade of blue necktie on.  That’s bad, that’s very bad.  That means they’ve read the benefit’s package we’ve put together.  They have actual knowledge.”

“Gary, that’s why we sent them the report.”

“Yes, but that means we won’t even get to stay for the coffee break.  There’s usually a coffee break in this meeting, good coffee breaks and that was my one consolation to getting fired today.”

“Well if I can scrape enough money together maybe they’ll let me come back next year as the coffee vendor.”

“Hey, I hadn’t thought of that – truly.  Now there is an idea.  See we can still stay together.  I’ll be your PR and benefits guy.  You can snuffle around for money and real-estate.”

“Well, the only options for two idiot guys who tell their upper management team that the Great Society, is dead and employee accountability needs to resurface in the company will probably not only be receiving pink slips today but also have to face the long lonely world of self-employment.”

“Fifteen acres and a coffee shop huh?”

“Yup.”

“Well, here’s to crushed acorns.”

“Skinny pigs.”

“And no neckties.”

 

BLINK

He looked at me with hate and disdain but with the sure notion that he was on top, untouchable. I felt for him, I did because even as I sat there I pictured him being hit by a bus or a meteorite connecting with his skull. No, I wasn’t wishing wistfully, I just knew that people who reveled in their perceived high places, tumbled down off their self-made pedestals suddenly and violently.

“You are a tiresome little man.”

He looked at me with hate and disdain but with the sure notion that he was on top, untouchable.  I felt for him, I did because even as I sat there I pictured him being hit by a bus or a meteorite connecting with his skull.  No, I wasn’t wishing wistfully, I just knew that people who reveled in their perceived high places, tumbled down off their self-made pedestals suddenly and violently.

When I was sixteen I was beautiful.  I went to a small high school in Washington state.  I was on the cheerleading squad and had not failed in being elected to the pageantry of homecoming.  I was asked out by different guys on the football team, basketball team and baseball team.  I had a summer job at my uncle’s little ice cream parlor and I raked in the tips during the summer months, cleaning tables and talking to the tourists.

While being raped one summer evening at the age of 16, the idea went through my head that I had been nice to all who knew me in a condescending sort of way.  As the air left my lungs while he flung me around like a rag doll, I had small visions of myself unaware that I was predictable, unimaginative, safe for people who wanted no personal challenges.

I felt the pain of being hit, slapped, choked and eventually violated in a way that made me wonder at the man’s rage, over someone like me.  His anger toward me was pathetic, deplorable, despicable and criminal.  I was also terrified, cold, in enormous pain and for the first time inarticulate outside the sobs and cries I uttered while going through my ordeal.

I saw in his face the power he felt in his strength and his ability to cause me pain.  I saw too that he felt himself untouchable.  When the switch blade bloomed out of his throat in a surprisingly clean and gleaming silver I could only look at it in a senseless stupor.  The man who had caused me such pain and humiliation had a look of dumb blankness on his face, then terror.  When his blood started to pulse out of his mouth to the beat of his heart I had sense enough to squirm out beneath him.

To this day, I do not know who killed him.  The police asked if I had done it, just to say they did their job I’m sure.

The recovery was long because no one believed me when I said I wasn’t afraid; the dark didn’t disturb me nor did strange men.  I went back to working at my uncle’s ice cream parlor the next year but I stopped cheerleading and did not accept the homecoming honors; the idea seemed somehow too small, too narrow in scope.

“You really are tiresome.”

“You need three forms of identity and three letters that are addressed to your house, they cannot be personal letters.”

“I lost my driver’s license, I didn’t commit a crime.”

“Those are the rules, and I’ll thank you for not insulting me.”

“Are these rules implemented to protect me or to protect little Nazis like you.”

“Next!  Number 312, please.”

His voice was high and strident and I knew that I had been dismissed.  A shadow, a low thundering movement that chilled my back seemed to brighten the air like lightening in the stagnate room, which housed the bureau of motor vehicles.

“Don’t kill him,” I whispered under my breath.

The little man behind the counter refused to look my way but blinked and peered for number 312.

 

Ice in Chicago

The sleet and the snow outside merged into an icy, shellac gray. When stepping into the sloppy mess it went invisible for a moment, then slid away into the next pedestrian’s shoe or boot, with a squish, and a slush, and a grimace of acceptance.

The sleet and the snow outside merged into an icy, shellac gray.  When stepping into the sloppy mess it went invisible for a moment, then slid away into the next pedestrian’s shoe or boot, with a squish, and a slush, and a grimace of acceptance.  The air was intensely cold and I knew that as the wind picked up, slicing over Lake Michigan, no amount of salt or chemical upon the sidewalks would keep the sloshy, miserable mess from freezing and turning treacherous.

I stomped upon the already sodden matt at the door, chiding myself for agreeing to come out on this freezing cold day. Chicago was never a safe city but to compound, the issue was the weather.

The smell of coffee in the agreed upon coffee shop helped, who wouldn’t put their head down and seek warmth?

The coffee shop was new to me, located near DePaul University.  It was a quick bus ride over but even that had its hazards this time of year.  The bus was near to capacity and I felt for a brief moment that I had walked into a doctor’s office waiting room when I boarded.  There were the red noses, the sniffles, the solemn, miserable-eyed stares from just about everyone.  A small child in a red knit hat sat upon his mother’s lap, his mouth open, a yellowing crust hardening below his nose.  I thought of turning and returning to my nice warm apartment.  Instead, I slowed my forward momentum, looking around at those who wouldn’t make eye contact and grabbed a rope.  I refused to think of who had gripped that bastion of public transportation before me.

I hung on as the bus swayed and jolted while we parka-padded humanity kept time to the momentum of Chicago ruts, potholes and traffic as best we could.

On a fine day, I would have walked, actually even on a cold day — but the thought of ice stopped me.  I walked through snow, no problem, rain, that could be pleasant, ice in Chicago, was another story.

Feeling as if half the battle was over after the bus ride, I walked up to the coffee house counter and a young man came forward. I gave a glance around, the place looked clean and the young man across the counter looked healthy.

“I’ll just have a cup of your house and that scone over there — do you make them here?”

“No, we purchase all of our baked goods from a specialized bakery here in Chicago.”  He spoke to me as he poured my coffee and warmed my scone, telling me, via a well-memorized script,  that the baker used only non-GMO flour and fresh ingredients, he even handed me a flyer about the place.  I took it but never read it.

I sat down as far away from the door as I could possibly negotiate and waited. He said he would arrive at around 6:15 or 6:30, depending on how transportation went.  I understood that.  The CTS was usually pretty good — but the weather was a factor.  I looked down at my coffee and scone. I was hungry but not for what was before me.  I understood, our first meeting really couldn’t be for dinner, a coffee shop would make a better excuse for both of us if we took an immediate dislike to each other, he could even glance in and keep walking.

I took a bite of the chalky white scone before me and thought, now would be a good time for him to walk through the door as I fought the dry pastry in my mouth.  I grabbed the coffee hoping that would help me dissolve the mess and felt the inevitable scald on my tongue. I swallowed hard, sat back and tried to blink the tears out of my eyes, thinking that any moment he would walk through the door.

He didn’t.

Actually, I was able to finish the scone, get my free refill and lose myself in the novel I was reading on my smartphone.

When I looked up I was the only one left in the coffee shop and the night was dark.  I got up pulled my bag up to my shoulder and placed my coffee cup and plate into a plastic tub near the counter.

It was 7:15.

The young man behind the counter gave me a small sympathetic smile as if to say — “he stood you up.”

I smiled down at my now dry shoes.  I then walked to the door and opened it to the cold and icy sidewalk and thought window shopping can be cold work in Chicago.  It was a sort of consolation.