Tuesday, June 18, 2013

For Me and Mine

What follows is the beginning of my first completed novel. I was reading it, and thinking that I was very proud of it, which was a surprise to me. I figured I'd post it here for your amusement. 

For Me and Mine
by J. Shepard Trott
(c) 2005

Chapter One

            I said, “Are you TNT?”
            He shouted, “The fuck you think?”
            “I have the thing for you.”
            “Put it on the fucking table.”
            His muscles stood out round and hard, his boots were big, and scuffed, and I did not
doubt that he had kicked people with them before.  Still I had a question.
            “Don’t you think I should give it to you inside?”
            “Motherfucker.  This is my block, do what the fuck I say.” 
            I put the package on the plastic table.  I turned and walked off the porch, noticing the
litter: potato chip bags, candy wrappers, soda bottles and hoagie wrappings coiled in every
corner of the sidewalk.  The various young black men, who sat on the steps to the street, looked
at me, withdrawn and disinterested.  I asked myself, “How does a college educated son of the
suburbs end up in this business?  Do I really think I have what it takes?  Just to survive?”

My eyes glazed over the third sheet of columns, item id, subject code, answer key, test id
and state code.  The columns blurred; I put my head down on my hands and waited for five
seconds.  I figured I needed a break.  I stood up and looked across the cubicles, which formed a
maze of lines, little squares, avenues, and dead ends.  I walked slowly to the coffee room and
poured a cup.  I made a face after sipping the coffee, and poured it into the sink.  GuaranCore
provided the coffee free.  I filled my mug with tap water instead.  John, who lived two cubicles
down, walked into the break room. 
“Getting a cup, Sam?  Some company fuel?” 
I nodded. 
“How is the editing going?”
“Thanks for doing them.  I know they’re tedious but GuaranCore needs them done.  I am
trying to get the client manager for Texas to call them for me, we need a meeting.  Honestly, I
don’t know what they do over there.  I mean, this is supposed to be their primary responsibility.”
I looked over his shoulder, at the cubicles.  Maybe I could go talk to Jenny.  Jenny was
our office hot girl, and she and I flirted every so often.  But I did not want to talk to her.  I
wanted to go home and get a drink. 
I trudged back to my cubicle.  The walls of the cubicle were off white; the rug was a
multi-colored gray, ideal for subsuming stains.  The corners of the cubicles were rounded. They
rounded them for safety reasons.  The idea was that if you tripped like a clumsy idiot, and
banged your head, you might get a concussion, but no permanent damage.  They should have left
them sharp.  They should have fixed knives to them.  Then I might fall, and the knife would
penetrate my eyes, and go straight to my brain.  I wouldn’t have to work anymore.  I would be
dead.  It would be like winning the lotto.
I looked back at the third sheet of columns.  I took the skin of my left forearm in my
fingers, and pinched.  I kept pinching harder, and then started twisting.  Then I released, and
looked back at the columns.  Both forearms sported a series of  purple and blue bruises.

Why does this feel so awful, so fucking soul crushing?  I work three, maybe four hours in
a forty hour work week.  I make forty five a year.  Yet I hate this worse than my worst night
waiting tables.  Or the longest practice I ever had, when we showed up still hung-over for a
game, and the next day, he ran us into the ground, so that we threw up again.  Dad, was this your
whole life?  For what?  A Toyota, and then finally the Lexus?  For me Dad?  So I could do it

That was not the whole job.  Sometimes I got to travel.  I got to develop new test
questions for the databases; I would go visit someplace, bumble fuck Arizona, and talk to boring
people trying to pretend they were interesting, and stay in motel rooms where the white walls
had been stained yellow by the years of lonely bachelor’s smoking while they watched cable
pornography.  Then we would go eat out at Sizzler or some other chain restaurant.
            College was great.  I found some professors who were interesting, continued to study the
Then it was over.  I said to myself, “I’ve finished college.  Now I will work in order to be a man,
a good American, like my dad before me.  I will pay rent, phone bill, gas, electric,”  Work wasn’t
like that, it wasn’t becoming a man.  Instead it was like my manhood was being ripped out from
under my pelvis, a dedicking effected not by cutting but by a simple grip and pull- the balls were
next.  I wanted to do something, with who I am- I worked out, because there was no other part of
my day that involved my body, I looked at my massing muscles, and saw artificial.   Muscles
acquired for form’s sake.  Men used to acquire muscles despite themselves, to survive. 
            I didn’t care that I made forty thousand, while the CEO made probably twenty times that. 
I hated that that meant he was better than me.  And it was true, because I was there for only one
reason, and it was money.  If he managed to get more than me, then he was better.  If I hated
myself, I must be a fucking loser.  I hated the cheery way the life employees believed that the
company did not want to get what it could out of them, before spitting them out, even when they
had seen it happen. 
            A few days before that I had gone down to South Street for a few drinks.  I was walking
home, when I saw three black guys walking toward me.  I wasn’t scared, I didn’t cross the street
or anything.  When I went to walk by, one of them says, “Yo, buddy, you got the time?”
            I paused to look at my watch.  I gave them the time.  They had surrounded me. 
            One said, “Give me my money, white boy.”
            I said, “Your money?”
His fist crashed into my face, and I sat down on the pavement.  A big face was up close to
mine, “You think we playin?” I gave my wallet to him.  Then I got kicked in the head and lay
down while they walked away.  I heard one say, “White boy, you a pussy.”  I wished I had a gun. 
I would have killed all three right then.  I should have fought back.  I mean, how bad would they
have hurt me before someone saw it?  At least then I would have had my self respect.  And how
stupid was I to just walk into it?  They were right.  I was a pussy.  I did nothing to make a living,
except for run a few file cabinets in the whole bureaucracy. 
I stayed at work, because of money.  Go ahead, someday, go around, ask people if they
like their job.  Ask them if they think their job has any meaning to them beside producing
money.  They will all say no.  I knew I was supposed to buy a house, though with what I made,
all I could afford would be a house in the ghetto.  I had bills to pay, there was the phone bill, the
cellular phone bill, the car payment, the car insurance, the rent, and the retirement fund, and the
house I wanted to buy.  I had one picked out at 5th and Diamond, so then I could buy marijuana
off my front porch. 
I looked across the cubicles, and I thought, what’s the worse that can happen?  I could be
poor.  I could starve.  Starving would be better.  So I walked out of the office.  I slouched quietly
through the doors, waving at a few co-workers. 
I had a couple of speeches planned for my supervisor, and my boss.  I was going to point
out the repeated incompetence of my supervisor.  I would tell my boss, “Josh is great.  He comes
into my cubicle, and tells me to check his work.  I go onto the server, and what he has given me
is so much shit.  I just delete it and start over.  And you have been paying this motherfucker
twice what I make.” 
Then I was going to tell my boss how they were going to crash and burn with out me, and
lose a couple of good clients.  I was going to criticize how they had compensated me, just as a
business decision. 
Another option was to put a couple questions in the database that ran like this:

You are taking this boring ass test because:
A.  you want to become a slave to the man
B.  you are a fucking idiot
C.  you like taking tests
D. you just decided to stop taking this bull shit test

            People would be quietly taking their test in bumblefuck Arizona, and all the sudden they
would say, “What?  This question is really hard.  I don’t know?  Who is the man anyway?  This
must be a trick question.”  I didn’t do it.  I was scared of going to jail or something. 

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