In Defense of Self, Part Three
Five days ago, Jack was on his way to an important meeting that would have helped him, and his wife could finally move ahead with their plans for a house and one day children. Sally had an idea that mapped out their lives from the wedding to retirement. A seemingly benign life with little surprises. That is until that morning. The building where Jack worked rented out offices to whoever could pay. This meant they would have short term tenants. One of them was a candidate running for office. He was running a divisive campaign that excluded as much as it included. Social media and the political call for push back and physical response helped create a protest outside the office. Jack didn’t want to be involved in any of the protests. He just wanted to get to work. As he entered, the protest blocked his way. A person pushed him, and soon he was being pushed around and around.
Over the last three days, Jack replayed the events. In some, he can see the person go for their gun; in another, he shot first. Jack can feel the lack of weight on his hip from where his gun should be. When Jack was first starting, he would go into problematic areas for his work, sending him to scout for new locations. To many, what they saw was a wealthy-looking man looking to gentrify them out of their neighborhoods. It was hard to argue. He knew that some people would lose their homes. The company he worked for would either buy properties where the homeowners were under with their mortgages or sell them mortgages; they could never pay back. One day, Jack was cornered by an angry man wanting a pound of flesh. He lost his family home to Jack’s company and brought a gun to show his displeasure. He left with sixty dollars and ten years in jail. Within a year, Jack had his carry concealed license and his gun. He also had a new Job.
His brother-in-law Pat brought him some food on the first night, but that was two days ago. Jack watched as the national guard was setting up a barricade around the ruins of his office building. The shooting was no longer the story. Most were talking about an attack on a candidate for office while the others called it an attack on LGBTQ+ rights. A makeshift shrine was erected to the person he shot. Some of the media called this person him while others said her. Jack couldn’t remember seeing a face, and the person he shot seemed ten-foot-tall. In his dreams, it’s a ten-year-old girl with white face paint. She’s holding a red rose that has an inner light that glows a vibrant red. Every time he pulls his gun and shoots, and every time the rose’s light goes out. In another dream, he sees a sea of faceless people screaming and throwing rocks. In that dream, he is shot. Just outside of his motel room, he can hear people all day and night. Most of the motels in the area filled up as the protest turned into a riot. A parking lot filled people who would kill him if they knew he was there. The room didn’t have a refrigerator, and the cooler was out of ice. Jack was out of food.
A blockade of a sort was formed around the motel. A group known for violent protesting had taken over every available room and were keeping others from even trying to rent. Jack watched as a man trying to deliver a pizza to a room was stopped, searched, and bullied until he left the pizza. Jack could smell the pepperoni and grease. The man that ordered the pizza came out angry, demanding his food. Jack couldn’t hear what was said, but the man's demeanor changed, and soon, he was gone without his pizza. The people that blocked the delivery man’s way tossed the pizza in the trash. An hour later, one of the protestors brought a pizza from the same place to the same room, but a few minutes later, he left the room with his bags and left the motel.
Jack’s phone rang. Pat said, “say, Jack……. I can’t come over there right now with all the heat. Also, I can’t represent you anymore. It would be a conflict of interest.” Jack asked, “what are you talking about?” He could hear Pat’s breath and the sounds of a television. Pat said, “I’m not under any legal obligation to answer you but as your friend I…… I can’t represent you and Sally. That is, I can’t represent you in the divorce.” Jack pulled the ancient receiver away from his mouth and looked at it. Pat said, “look, Jack, what you did is costing her customers, and in any new start-up, customers are important…… She has to take care of herself, and part of that is not dealing with the problems you caused.” Jack looked at the door. Pat said, “she paid for another night, but after that, you need to get out of the motel. Sally feels its only right if she gets the apartment and bank accounts, so we emptied all the joint accounts. You have about fifteen-thousand dollars in an old account she wants you to sign over to her. As soon as you can, call her, and we can arrange to pick the money up.” Jack asked, “how can she do that? what’s going on?” Pat said, “also, I spoke with your employer. They wanted me to tell you they are terminating your contract. I made sure the severance check was coming to Sally.” Pat disconnected the call.
Lost it All
With his back pay and the savings, Sally took nearly ninety-five-thousand dollars. This doesn’t count the apartment, the two cars, the value of her floral shop, and the IRA. Jack thought it over and wondered if, like everything else in their lives, did she plan an exit strategy just in case the marriage ended. Everything was gone. His life ended with the first shot. He lost his wife, best friend, home, job, good name, and reputation. He had fifteen thousand in an account along with some money he was saving for an anniversary trip to Paris. It took him two years of saving and, most of all, hiding his savings from Sally. This was going to be the one surprise she never saw coming.
Leaving the Safety of the Motel
Pat had brought him some clothing he bought in Wal-Mart. The sizes were about two sizes too big, a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt with an anarchist logo, a green hoodie, and a pair of black hiking boots. Jack couldn’t remember the last time he wore jeans. He had five days without shaving with a scraggly reddish beard with just a hint of white. With the hoodie and the beard, he looked like a very different man. If he waited, he would be escorted off the property, maybe by police. The bank would be open in the morning. Once he was in a better place, he could go looking for answers. All he had to do was go and get the money. To do that, he would have to get out of the motel. Jack stripped and put on the jeans, shirt, and hoodie. He took the belt from his suit. Staring into the mirror, he saw someone he didn’t know. The sun was starting to rise, and all the other guests were gone. Trying to look like he fit in, Jack slowly walked down the steps and away from the motel.
© 2019 Michael Collins aka Lakemoron