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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF YVONNE DENNISON by Ernest DeSchoening

Trembling with shame and rage, I hang up the phone. I have barely put down the receiver when it rings again. Thank you speed-dial. Nerves ajangle, I snatch it back up. “What!?”, I’m afraid I screech. “I just wanted to hear for the last time how a cornered fucking deadbeat answers the phone.”, the snide voice at the other end says. Paul, I think this one is. One of a trio: Peter, Paul, and Larry. They call on an average of once a week (that’s each) to harass me about my unpaid---and by-now unpayable---student loan. My GSL. Guaranteed Student Loan. “Guaranteed”: they got that right. For life. Bankruptcy isn’t permitted on one of those. So I’ll be paying off the loan’s balance’s with my life’s. This despite the fact that I’ve already repaid the principle more than twice over. “I haven’t got the money! I told you already. I keep on telling you!” I’m in tears now. You’d think I’d get used to this. I’d give years off my life to get used to this. I probably already have so given those years; only I’m not getting used to any of it. “It’s not my problem. Not anymore. Wachovia’s sold your account off to OHC. They’ll be in touch soon. Real soon.” “Sold to who?” I blink back tears, actually feel myself grow curious. Like the brand name of the vise the sadist is squeezing your tit in matters. “That big-ass mega-corporation, OHC. ‘Organic Harvest, Corp.’ Believe me, you will settle with them.” A nasty little half-snort, half-snicker. “How? You can’t get blood from a stone.” Paul sighs. “Yvonne and her little cliches. You’d be surprised what they can get out of you, Ms. Dennison. You will be surprised.” The line goes dead. Welcome to GSL Hell. An old rerun of “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood” is on TV now. (I keep it on for the noise, you know.) Can you say, “waking nightmare”, Mr. Rodgers? Good, I thought you could. Now can you live it? No, I didn’t think you could. But I do…Think so, didn’t think so. I didn’t think any of this either when I took out those loans twelve years ago. Back then, in 2013, it had all sounded so simple and convenient.. Go to school to be an optician I heard. Take out a GSL for two years at that pricey school in Seattle they said.. Interest rates are low, they said. It’s in the bank’s self-interest to help you get a career and build back the economy. Since the average starting salary of an optician was around forty grand, you can pay it all back in just seven or so years. They said. Maybe less. After all, with a GSL there’s no penalty for early repayment. Maybe a little more, but OK. You’re young. So it’s all laid out for you. Just reach out and take what’s offered. Though, even then, in that last year before graduation, one small hitch started to emerge. An optician works out of an office, right? So early on in my last year, during school vacations, I started scouting locations for a practice. Billings and Bozeman mostly. Close to my mom in Big Timber, but big enough towns to make me a living. There were plenty of offices and the rent didn’t seem to be too bad. Only, until your business establishes itself, paying even that reasonble amount of rent might prove to be a real problem. So I checked around with a few older opticians---guys close enough to retirement to be straight with me, and still young enough to (I hoped) be interested in taking on a junior partner. It turned out that none of them needed a partner: one and all said business was too sluggish. But, as for the office, their advice was all the same. Do what they had done fresh out of school. Get a bank loan for the first year or so’s office rent. Then, as business grew, pay it back off. Piece of cake they agreed. Easy. Easy back when they were just starting out, that is. With the banks now, it was all the same story. “We’d like to help you. You’ve got good earning potential. But, well, you’re also carrying quite a load of student loan debt. So sorry, but…” A classic Catch-22, huh? You know. You can’t be an optician till you finish school. And you can’t finish school without a GSL. But then, having finished school, you can’t open an office without a bank loan. And you can’t get that bank loan because you already have too many student loans. The loans that made it possible for you to be able to open up that office in the first place. If only you didn’t have that pricey optician’s degree your loans paid for, you could qualify for that office loan easy. Only you couldn’t open an optician’s office bacause you don’t have the degree---oh hell and damn. I’m putting all this so stupidly! Even so, I was like twenty-two then. Young an’ dumb an’ full of come, like guys say. Yeah, that last one too. Enough come anyway to have the baby early on in my second to the last semester. Little Anne Dorah who lives with my mother now because…never mind. More money troubles. And she’s not so little either. Almost twelve. Yeah so, I had the baby but no marriage ever came off. Actually, to tell truth, it was never on. Shoot, when I was little I watched all those “Murphy Brown” re-runs on cable. I knew from like real early on you could be a single mom, a good mom, and a career woman. Easy. Doable anyway. I mean there it was. Right there on TV. Proof more positive than numbers and reasons could ever be. All of that was what made Wal-Mart such a godsend. They made my career doable. They hire optometrists and opticians as in-store staff. For that big optical department of theirs. So right there: a job for me and no office fee. Dream come true, right? That was their recruiter’s big selling point at the on-campus intyerviews. No office rental. Start up your career for free at Wal-Mart. Pay off your student loans. Get launched in your profession, then strike out on your own later. Strike out. Good choice of words. They never tell you up-front that, as in-house staff, your salary is pretty much fixed for life. $12.00 an hour to start. Just shy of $20.00 after ten years if you get the raises. Since 2019, there have been no raises. I’m at $14.50 an hour. That’s not a whole lot more than one of those cashiers bagging groceries just a few feet outside the optical department door. Only, since you’ve got those big student loans to pay off, it actually is liable to work out to a bit less than that check out girl takes home. Oh sure, you can afford the minimum loan payments. But if you only make minimum payments, the loan principle goes down real real slow. And let’s face it. You can only make even those minimum payments regularly if you live in a world where kids don’t get sick, cars don’t break down, teeth don’t need fillings, water pipes don’t break---hey, you make the list. I don’t live in that world. No one I know does. As for “striking out on your own”…HOW? You ever notice all those little private-practice opticians and optical shops have pretty much gone the way of mom’n pop corner markets, little burger joints, and the dinosaurs? Big chains like Wal-Mart undersell them and send a lot of good people straight on into “early retirement.” That’s an Obama-era euphemism for chronic and terminal unemployment. Turkey hot dogs with Ramen noodles for dinner and clothes picked up at the Goodwill. That’s your Golden Years. It’s getting to be the same now with dentists, doctors, lawyers, teachers. Cops? They were privatized long ago. Look at the rent-a-cops they turned the already-hated TSA into. Yeah…everybody a temp or working at Wal-Mart, which comes to the same thing. Wal-Mart. Your one stop shop for all of life. Beyond even. Out on the West Coast, they’re already putting funeral parlors in some of the bigger stores. I kid you not. So, like I was saying…Sick kids. Car bills. Plus rent, food and gas all keep going up despite the government’s published numbers demonstrating how there’s no inflation. That means every month just a little less spendable income. So, yeah. I fell behind in my loan payments. Got deferments and still fell behind. Got appendicitis and…So, yes. Yes, yes, yes, goddamned yes. I defaulted. Default: among other things, means that now when the time comes, I won’t be allowed to renew my optician’s license. That’s right. I won’t be allowed to do the job my loan qualifies me for because I can’t pay the loan that made the job possible. It’s no crime to be poor? Yeah. It’s worse. In prison, they at least feed and house you. Free doctor too. Pay how much? They want $31,000 this year. On my take-home salary of $24,000. You do the math, if you really need to. And I needn’t worry about not being allowed to renew my license. Wal-Mart has already told me that if I’m subject to one more garnishment, I lose my job straight off. “Failure to abide by expected professional standards.” That’s what they call it when you can’t make bricks without straw. So that means I lost the jobthat…Oh shit. I still have the loan. Like forever. It’s guaranteed. It’s days like today that I’m both glad that I was raised Mormon and regret it. Glad because, with my crisis-a-month lifestyle, I could very easily get started on a tailspin drinking problem. Regret because, with my crisis a month lifestyle, a drinking problem sounds only half as bad and maybe twice as manageable as my loan dependency. Seriously, how much worse could it get? I don’t go to church that much. Even after a decade plus at Wal-Mart I have to work most Sundays. Asking for a little slack there is just to show yourself a slacker. My manager made that up and he’s inordinately proud of the maxim. Like any retard who has worked there two months couldn’t have told him. It’s in the atmosphere at that place. Anyhow, I don’t go to church much. But I still read the Bible. The Book of Mormon, too. I really need to read it now. I reach up to my top bookshelf, and---

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

You maybe heard your grandma say that so-and-so had a knock like a bill collector, right? Whoever is at my door now does. Really. And---surprise, surprise---I’m just dead certain this has everything to do with my loan. Fine. Take my damn TV. It’s worth a good $20 in any pawnshop. I’ll throw in the pair of dirty socks on top, too. The knock comes again before I’ve covered half the ten foot distance to the trailer’s front door. “Coming, coming! Jesus H. Chri---“ I start to let whoever it is in and the frosted plastic screen door is yanked right out of my hand. “You got something to say!?” The stentorian voice seems to come out of nowhere (the Heavens?) because I swear, I do not see so much as a twitch in a jaw muscle. Three men with (unmoving) rock jaws. Square heads under black caps emblazoned “Homeland Security.” Incongruously, though, on their muscle-stuffed, jet-black tees is lettered “Organic Harvest, Corp.” in garish yellow. Another government function privatized? Or a private interestr rendered governmental? “Who the hel---“, I start to demand. (My dad always said I was spunky.) “We do the asking. Are you Yvonne Dennison?” A jaw moves this time. That of the foremost badged beefcake slab. Presumably the leader. “The name’s right there on the mailbox.” “Is that you? This will go a lot more smoothly if you cooperate.” “’More smoothly’ means no taser.” This from the goofy-grinning blond babboon on the leader’s left. “OK, OK. I’m me. Who are you?” “Come with us please.” “Not until you’ve told me why, where, and with whom.” “Let’s just taze the bitch.” Blond beast, again. Like I said, your basic babboon, but his fangs are too yellow for any simmian. The leader ignores him and starts reciting from some official script he must’ve glanced through on his way over here. “Yvonne Claire Dennison, on or about 17 May did you receive via e-mail official notification of a default judgement for loan delinquincy rendered against you? Said judgement was given in Homeland Judicial Region Nine, in the matter of Wachovia vs. Dennison.” “No, I never did. I moved around that time. ‘On or about’ that time. I still don’t have internet. Still can’t afford internet.” “She’s lying, Boss.” This from the leader’s right rear. A soulful-looking black man. His voice almost apologetic. Leader isn’t listening. He’s playing out this scene from some strict legalist’s kabuki theater. Reality and circumstancial relevance are neither expected nor welcome. The words must be well recited, that is all. “Then you are similarly unaware that a further summary judgement for contempt of court was rendered against you, en absentia, in that same venue on that same 17 May?” Just when you really do hit bottom, someone up there flushes and down that unseen drain you go. I still have enough anger to snap back, “If I didn’t know about the first one, how on earth could I know about the second? Besides, how could a judge find me in contempt that very same day? They never even gave me a chance to compl---“ “You’ll come with us now, Ms. Dennison.” ‘Just a minute. I still hav---“ I don’t recall that the leader said a word, made a gesture. What sign there was, if any, must’ve been a cue more subtle. But before shooting on down that aforesaid drain, I get to find out what a taser feels like.

By the time the shock of the shock has worn off ( it was awesome) and I’m able to take an interest again in my surroundings, we’ve nearly arrived. Wherever it is we’re going. I find myself seated between the leader and the blond bastard who was so eager to---and got to---taser me. We’re wedged in the back seat. Meanwhile, that soulful black guy is driving this likewise black SUV. Vaguely now, I begin to recall being frog marched and stuffed inside. The rig sports top-mounted police flashers and has “Homeland Security” white-lettered on the hood. On each door, though, is the gold cornucopia logo of Organic Harvest, Corp. I ponder on that. Call me old-fashioned, but even now in 2025, isn’t it just plain odd for a food products business to be branching out into law enforcement? Yeah, yeah. I know. That kind of “innovation” and diversification has been a prominent feature of the economic landscape since before I was even born. Back then, sometime, General Electric boomed when chemical engineer-turned CEO Jack Welch scrapped that costly R&D department and plunged the firm into the financial derivatives market in a big way. Those years too were when cartoon king Disney bought its first pro-hockey team and started opening English schools in Asia. Diversification. What’s in a name? Anymore, nothing. Or too much. Which comes to the same thing. No one is allowed to have a clue. That’s the whole point. I’ve still got the taser-trembles and am shaking like an aspen leaf in an earthquake. But I’m also still spunky. Or, like my dad said when I wore thin his never thick patience, plain stupid. I sit up straight and demand, “Hey, I’m conscious now. Aren’t you guys supposed to read me my rights. Taser Tom, as I’ve dubbed him, starts to fidget ominously, fumbling at something on his off-side belt. But the leader holds up a restraining hand and his underling subsides, grumbling under his breath. Looking over at me, the leader asks, faintly amused, “Read you your rights? Why?” “Well you know. Even what with the New Patriot Act, that’s still part of the protocol. Ceremony. Whichever.” “But who ever said you were under arrest, Yvonne?” He actually manages to look surprised and ventures a smile at once shy and fleeting. Like the doctor telling you that, why no, that suspicious lump isn’t a tumor and perish the thought of cancer. “You did mention a contempt of court judgement. A default for default judgement, too.” “This is true. But arrests are for the regular police. No one is interested in locking you up.” He chuckles, though not very reassuringly. “Locking you up means that we would have to pay to feed and keep you. That isn’t on the menu. You’re supposed to---are going to---be paying us. What we’re carrying out now is just a processing incarceration.” “A whatizzit?” “A processing incarceration. P.I., for short. It’s the first overt step in your FLR.” “OK, you’ll have to go slow here. Maybe it’s all that electricity in my brain, but I’m getting confused by this new nomenclature flash flood. It’s acronym soup to me.” Leader smiles benevolently. Like Uncle helping his favorite niece with that nasty old spelling homework. “I guess we are throwing quite a bit at you. ‘FLR’ means ‘Final Loan Resolution.’” Resolution? Good luck with that. I’m broke, remember? That’s why I’m here. Unemployed too, just as soon as you people hit me with another garnishment. And even if you don’t, I lose my license when expires and I try to renew. That’s month after next, in case anyone’s holding his breath. So, broke and there’s not a damn thing I can do. That’s why I’m in ‘contempt’ of that court. There’s not a single solitary thing I can do to obey.” And while Taser Tommy rolls his eyes, the Leader is slowly shaking his head and beaming down on me. Just like Spencer Tracy as Father Whatshisname in Boys Town “Yvonne, Yvonne, Yvonne,” he croons. “We are all of us worth so much more than we’ve been misled into believing. The worst self-limiting behavior of all is to forget our fundamental worth.It’s inalienable…almost.” From the front seat, in a gospel singer’s baritone, the soulful-eyed driver gently booms, “Boss here say we all precious.” Somehow that goes far to reassure me. As if Old Man River had just spoken. “Precious, Yvonne.”, the leader echoes. Even Taser Tom adds his mite to this emergent love feast. He grunts grudgingly, “Yep. That’s guaranteed.” And, as we pass under a large Organic Harvest sign arching over the gateway to a compound topped with concertina wire, I can only puzzle and try to nurse fledgling hope. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

The inprocessing turns out fully as incongruous as the earlier behavior of the black-shirt badge-bearers (Storm Counselors? Gau-facilitators?): nasty with a strong undercurrent of nice. Or maybe vice-versa. It fluctuates. In any case, the procedure was unlike any arrest or suchlike I had ever seen on TV. No strip search, no fingerprinting, no questioning. Just a cursory quick ID check and filling in a few forms. Plus a change from street clothes into a baggy robin’s-egg blue coverall, something like a surgical scrub suit. The ambience of the whole intake area somewhere between that of an alkie rehab center (I know:visits to Dad) and a chilly chain hotel. Impersonal but hardly traumatic. Oh, there is one annoying touch: everywhere the motto, “People Are Precious.” Which is reassuring and it’s nice to even let yourself believe it might be true…but what does the sentiment have to do with debt collection? No answers are forthcoming and I’m soon off to the holding area. Or, as a sign beside the door chipperly informs me, the “Guest Waiting Room.” Inside, that place is a trifle more ominous. The vast, mostly empty, room looks like a prison mess hall, or maybe a mental institution’s. The chairs and tables are bolted to the floor, and everything is antiseptically white. I blink against the glare that even the soft flourescent lighting makes. As my eyes adjust, I see on a more hopeful note, a large coffee urn with heaping baskets of sugar and Half ‘n Half ranged alongside. No place can be truly evil if they give you free coffee, right? Looking around, I mark but two other occupants in the room. Both like me, clothed in the same light blue scrub suit-cum-convict-dungarees. Each sits in an opposite corner by the hall’s back wall. They look like book ends, flanking---what else?---the place’s motto painted on the rear wall in royal blue with scarlet trim: “Organic Harvest---Where People Are Precious.” Revising my earlier assessment, I decide that after a while (starting, say, right now) that sentiment could actually begin to grate on one. With nothing to do and no idea how long I’ll be doing it, I amble over to the urn for a coffee. It’s your basic boil and burn all day institutional brew, tar with overtones of pitch and an asphalt aftertaste. But with a decade of Wal-Mart break rooms behind me, I’m not fastidious. I do however add extra sugar and creamer. Lots of creamer, trying to make a whole out of Half ‘n Half. I’m just opening a third mini-tub of the stuff when a voice comes from back behind me. “Careful. If you use too much creamer, it gets added to your loan’s unpaid principle.” I turn. One of the room’s other two occupants. Up close, I see he’s a burly Hispanic guy. Once strong and chiseled, but just starting to run to fat and worry lines. Ten years ago, he must’ve looked a lot like the late Junior Seau, a Chargers linebacker my dad was a big fan of. Probably he looked friendly then, too. Now he’s got a fierce, defiant veneer, with tremors of morose and give-up and quit eating their way into his frame. Despite all, though, I see he’s trying to be pleasant. “Say what?”, I ask, hoping I didn’t hear him right. “Use too much creamer, sugar too, and it goes on your loan past due. At present rate of interest needless to add.” He’s deadpan. After this forenoon, I’m ready to swallow anything. “No shit?” A weak grin from Seau, Sr. “Pure shit.” Somehow, I could just kiss him for that. The joke and the fact it turnbed out to be a joke. Hell, I’m only thirty-three. He’s probably just this side of forty. I can see where, under other conditions, I might find him handsome. If they’d just pay him back. You know, put the man back in. Debt does that to guys. “Hey, after what went on earlier today, my sense of credulity is gaping open wide enough to…to…” “To strain at neither a gnat nor a camel? I know how you mean. I’ve been here two days. It doesn’t get any better. All the surreality gone routine leaves your credulity with permanent stretch marks. My name’s Hernandez. Manuel Hernandez. ‘Doctor’, if you prefer. As in history Ph.D., not Em Dee.” “Yvonne Dennison. As in optician. As in broke, too.” “Didn’t they tell you, Yvonne?” Hernandez tries for irony, but there’s no hiding the faint leitmotiv of hope in his tone. “No one alive is really ‘broke.’ We’re each of us ‘more valuable than we give ourselves credit for.’ That’s why we’re here. I tell you, once I get out of here, I’m going to write a book. I’ve already been making notes” “Oh?” “A History of Debt, I’ll call it. From the Old Testament’s ‘Year of Jubilee”---that’s what they called debt forgiveness---to English debtor’s prisons. From the nigh no-fault bankruptcy of the 70’s and 80’s---includingGSL debt---to…to…well, to here. This. Today.” “Um…”, I glance around at the mute walls and soundproofed ceiling. “What is this? Here? Do you know yet?” Hernandez isn’t listening. He’s lost in reminiscence. “Look at me. My grandparents swam the Rio Grande to pick sugar beets all the way from McAllen north to the Canadian border, almost. My parents too, when they were younger. Me, I was the anchor baby. Born late one beet season up near Richey here in Montana. Get an education everyone told me. Don’t pick no damn beets if you can help it. “Hey, I was a smart kid. So I did what they said. That smartness, plus my ‘people of color’ surname, opened doors all the way to the Ivy League. Only even a scholarship doesn’t quite cover everything. So yeah, come time for grad school, I took out those loans. Not a lot---at least the people pushing the loans said it wasn’t. Not to them, huh? “Only, you know, those two, three loans add up. Especially when the inrterest kicks in, then resets after a few years. But I wasn’t worried. I was a Princeton Ph.D. That plus an Affrimative Action poster child, almost. I thought it would be so…that I could…” He trails off. “Write your own ticket?” “Maybe. At worst, I just sort of assumed that there’d be a ticket to write. Maybe economy class, if need be. I figured wrong. Turns out, I’m a one-fer.” “What’s a one-fer?” Truly, this has been the field day for new nomenclature, hasn’t it? “Universities very much prefer to hire two-fers. Wins ‘em lots of Affirmative Action brownie points with the government. Also lets them write up glowing blurbs about ‘pluralism’ and ‘diversity’ in their catalogues and web sites. Pluralism and diversity: what intelligence and courage were to the Victorians. Virtues the society just couldn’t get enough of” “I think I’m getting the drift. A ‘two-fer’ would be---“ “Someone who’s, say, black and a woman. Or Native American and blind. Even better, a blind Eskimo woman.” “I guess trump is a blind, Eskimo, lesbian.” He grins, “Who’s a bed-wetter. A five-fer! Yeah, you see. Me, I was---am---just a straight Hispanic male. So that wins the college who hires me just a few of them brownie points.” “Pun intended, I take it?” “Brownie as in brown? You got it.” “So why didn’t you…um…” Hernandez laughs drily, like it pains him. Which it probably does. “Oh, I did. Believe me, I did. Only I got outed. That was during my year at Cal-Fullerton. This swishy little grad student kept coming on to me and I just couldn’t fake an interest. Couldn’t even flirt with the fruit. At least not convincingly. So I lost that temporary appointment just half-way into the first semester.” “Fired for not fucking a student? That must have been be a scream.” “Damn straight. Which was the whole root of the trouble: straight.” “Still you’d think that being, like you said an Affirmative Action poster child, would get you something.” “It won’t. At least not enough beat down and back off those loan wolves. Temping. That’s the university faculty of the future. Future? It’s already arrived. Tenure is terminal. Right now, 75% of all university faculty here in the U.S. are temps. One year appointments with, very rarely, a chance for a one year renewal. No benefits and no pension. Hell, some schools even give you a teaching load just light enough so that you’re not covered by insurance even during your short stay there. The bottom line is that temps save the school money and colleges are now businesses. Same as hospitals and the media. Churches soon to follow. Thank you all the way to Hell’s Ten Rings, Ayn Rand.” “Is Hernandez rehearsing for you that paradox of his? ‘What happens when the irresistable force meets the ivory tower?’” A mocking, nasal tone from behind the historian’s heaping bulk. “Oh shit.”, mutters the disconsolate doctorate. Still, he shifts his burgeoning self to one side to permit the room’s only other occupant to join our colloquoy. This turns out to be a little white guy with straight, thinning sandy hair and a prim set to his receding jawline. He could be twenty-five; he might run all the way to forty. The timelessness of the nonentity. He nods to me and holds out a hand. “Hello, Ms…..?” “Dennison.”, I supply. The little twerp’s handshake matches his appearance. Firmly flaccid, clammy, and prefunctory. “My name is Matthew Coster. I’m sure Herna---Doctor---Hernandez here has been telling you how something people like himself call ‘the system’ has wronged him.”, the little man launches into what seems a rehearsed presentation. Apparently he and Hernandez have been bored enough to have fallen already into a settled routine of bickering. In how long did Manny say? Less than forty-eight hours? “No, Coster. I say it’s wronging a lot of us and not just myself. It’s hurt you a lot more than it has me. You praise this whole exploitive set-up.” “I don’t know that I’d call it ‘exploitation.’ Or rather, on the contrary, I do know. And I don’t call it ‘exploitation. You see---“ “When bankers make loans they know borrowers cannot repay, that is just plain wrong, and I---“ “The system wrongs no one!”, the little man interrupts. “There are certain dislocations, yes. But there also always remain expedients. The financial ‘system’, as you call it, is far from perfect. But it is perfecting, self-perfecting.” Hernandez can only snort in reply, so mighty mite Matt presses home his point. “Its adjustments ever tend to greater and greater efficiency. This faith in its fundamental soundness is what brought me here.And that same tendency to efficiency is what brought you here too, both of you. Involuntary as your presence seems to be.” I can only stare as the import sinks home. “You came here---“ “Mr. Coster placed his own pecker on the chopping block, Yvonne.”, Dr. Hernandez confirms. “That is a highly distasteful way to put it.”, Matt Coster sniffs. “But, yes. When I learned of this corporation’s loan settlement program, I volunteered at once. Fully thirty-eight percent of the people coming here do, you know. And that proportion keeps growing. Those who, like myself, can see the profound truth in Organic Harvest’s dictum, ‘People are America’s most important commodity.” ‘I warned you earlier, Coster. Now I’ve had eee-fucking-nuff.” Hernandez closes in on Matt Coster, clearly bent on making this physical. Briefly physical: the much smaller man won’t stand a chance. I just manage to insinuate myself between the two of them as Coster stands fear-glued to the spot. Facing Hernandez, I turn on whatever girly charm I’ve got left. “Guys, guys! C’mon, no fighting. Could either of you just tell me what is this place? That ‘program’ Matt just mentioned. And what is Organic Harvest---a food company, right?---well, what is a food company doing in the debt collection business. Not exactly core competency, is it? Even in the 21st. century, I mean.” It’s both men’s turn to stare now. Matt recovers first and speaks. “Organic Harvest? A food company?!” I hear mirth begin to bubble up. Hernandez’ mouth corner is twitching. But it’s even money whether he’ll laugh or cry. He forces himself to enunciate slowly and carefully. “They’re not a food company, Yvonne. Think. ‘Organic.’ As in organs. Bodily organs. ‘Harvest.’ As in…well, you work it out.” It all begins then to dawn on dumb little me. But I don’t dare speak. Matt softens and curbs his Schadenfreude. “I know this must come to you as a shock, Ms. Denni---Yvonne. They don’t tell everyone…Certain cases. Why I don’t know. But Hernandez is telling you the truth. That’s why---“ a deep breath---“---that’s why people are precious. Organic Harvest---“ “---harvests organs.”, I finish for him in a hoarse whisper. The details of my debt repayment plan are becoming clearer with each passing moment. “That’s how we pay our debts.”, Matt Coster adds gently. “It’s guaranteed.”, Hernandez concludes with all finality. .

Of course, people can deal with any shock. “Trauma’s for whiners.”, like my dad used to say. He knew. Dad spent more than a decade in Afghanistan on National Guard deployment after deployment after deployment. Hell, I know. Since college, my life has been a series of shocks, mostly financial. So now I don’t get hysterical or even cry. I do, however, wander off to a far corner to curl up and ponder. By rights---did post-Patriot Act Americans still have any left---by rights, I should be outraged. My dad would have been. But then he was the last of a breed. “The dinosaur breed.”, he’d joke. A sometime logger, trucker, and seismic juggie, he read Tolstoi in his spare time and the Old Testament prophets all the time. The former to boost “the self respect that is a man’s as a man”; the latter “to give me the balls to act on that self-respect.” (Which balls he found sorely missing in Tolstoi’s---read “any”---brand of pacifism.) When the U.S., donning the black stocking mask of “NATO”, attacked Libya in 2011, Dad actually e-mailed Obama, asking to be put on the ‘Do Not Fly” list. “I’m no friend to any country that borrows money from its powerful enemies to fight wars against weaker ones it can’t beat anyway. Then borrows more money to start new wars against people who aren’t even attacking us.” For this missive he was cashiered from the National Guard, losing twenty-one years’ pension rights. He was also arrested two years later at Great Falls International Airport for kicking up such an unholy ruckus when he found out that his name was not on the DNF list as requested by himself. The government had let him down again. Hell hath no fury like a man whose enmity is scorned. (After that arrest, to be sure, his name was added. So I guess that’s a happy ending. Of sorts.) But, and forgive the meandering, I’m not my dad. In fact, sitting here this moment, I see the logic of what’s about to happen. I certainly see the expediency. Banks loan money. They have to get that back somehow. Get back that original sum plus enough over and above to give them an incentive to go on lending. And…well this with the organ-taking does offer a way out for those like me who can’t possibly pay. Better to enter life halt and mained than dead broke, eh? Somehow, though, it’s hard to twist those words into a new Beatitude. Little Matt sidles on over to me after a decent interval. He seems almost apolegetic now, like the neighbor’s dog that comes slinking to you with wagging tail and bowed head, after it’s nipped you enough to draw blood. “Ms. Dennison, I just---“ “It’s Yvonne.” However we wound up here, we’re all in this together, right? Without all those extreneous body parts, we can draw even closer together. Right again? I guess. Anyway, I decide to play nice. “Yvonne, I’m sorry. I know this is hard for you. I guess, earlier, I just assumed you more or less knew…Trust me, though. I’ve talked to our guar---counselors. It won’t be so bad. It’s not like anyone is going to die. You just have to have faith.” “Faith? In what? I mean I believe in God. But He seems kind of far off just now.” “Faith in what, you ask. I guess that depends on the individual. I mean,” he laughs nervously, “how could two or more share a faith? That’d be absurd. People are each too different. Unique, in fact. We dare not promiscuously share Gods or creeds. But as for me, I see this, here, as an opportunity.” Out of the corner of my eye, I mark Hernandez strolling silently nearer. “An opportunity, Matt? For what?” “We’re spriritual beings, Yvonne. Spiritual beings having a human experience.” “Oh shit, the Gospel according to Hallmark.” “Hear me out. Please. We’re spiritual beings. The loss of…of, call it ‘bodily integrity’ can help us to see that. To foster growth in spiritual awareness. You lose a body part---or two---but you become so much more spiritually whole. It’s easy for a volunteer like me to attain to this insight, but even someone like you---“ “---can become ‘more whole?’ So I guess in your church, the Virgin Mary has been replaced by Marie Antoinette. That guillotine gave her quite a spiritual lesson, didn’t it? And ‘one worthy by all men to be received?’” “Yvonne, don’t be like that!” Matt looks like he could just conceivably start to blubber. “Matt, yeah sure. This organ harvesting thing makes a kind of harsh economic sense. It may even give me, you, Hernandez a second chance of sorts. But that’s no reason to go getting all smug and ‘spiritual’ about this being cut up. Sliced and diced to pay off Lord know who, to get out of a bind we were shunted into. That isn’t what any of us thought we were signing on for. None of us. Not even volunteers like you!” “Yvonne, you’re going about this all wrong. Please listen. Resisting evil, even if only in your thoughts, just goes to increase the sum total of such evil in the world. Resistance of any kind feeds evil. That is why faith, deep personal faith is become the most vital commodity in our time. No churches, no creeds, no gatherings. Just a deep personal faith, each person in her own God.” From back of me booms a baritone with a faint Hispanic accent. “’If thy neighbor cut off one cheek, let him lop off the other.’? The left nut along with the right? Is that how it goes, Coster? Say what you will about old Jean-Paul Sartre: a drinking, drugging, womanizing Commie catamite. He at least kept both his balls as well as the clarity to say, ‘I hate victims who admire their executioners.’” “Hernandez!”, Matt shrills, “No one is getting executed here! The only---“ “Do you think for one moment that, if it’d pay off a debt past due, these ghouls wouldn’t stoop to murder? They’d probably even have an antiseptic, cutsie little tag for it. ‘Terminating an account’, or some damn thing.” “I don’t know that I’d exactly call that murde---“ This time, I’m already standing between the two men, so all I have to do to forestall violence is hold out both arms straight, thus sparing Matt Coster what could have been this early afternoon’s second beating. Not that I’m philosophically opposed to violent solutions for at least some knotty problems (like Matt’s attitude). But, Heaven help us, schools condition we middle-class kids to wimping out (a.k.a., “nonviolent conflict resolution.”) I almost regret my reflexive intervention here. But I don’t give it over, even as Hernandez tries to mesmerize me with machismo and mine own feminine charm falters. A little retarded when it comes to picking up on the import of visual cues, Matt pipes up from behind my left shoulder. “Lucky for you she’s here, Hernandez. You damage my cornea, bruise a kidney and the cost comes---“ a nasty snigger---“---out of your hide.” Both men now retire into their respective corners to sulk. And I submerge once more into numbness. Call what happens next a re-take on the Stockholm Syndrome. But I begin to see a ray of…can I call it hope? I mean, OK, so I lose what? A cornea? A slice off my liver? A kidney, even. Look at what I gain: time. Outside even making regular payments, my loan would be with me well past menopause. All that red ink tainting and staining what were to have been my Golden Years. Now, after how long? A couple two, three weeks for surgery, I can return to life and the world in reasonably good health and no incubus fastened around my income’s neck. Hold just one job and no more moonlighting. My daughter can move back in from my mom’s. I can afford a better car soon. One that actually runs with something approaching regularity. I must’ve actually started to smile. I hear someone clear his throat with a rough rasping like an Aztec idol shifted by an earth tremor. Hernandez stands some feet off, too casually looking the other way. Then a calculated casual glance in my direction. Our eyes meet and he gently, almost imperceptibly, shakes his head. He knows my thoughts. And how not? Doubtless they are his too. These or thoughts very much like them. Proof, I guess, that extreme conditions do effect that much sought after commodity: a true meeting of minds. Which, I find, is not necessarily a happy event. Guiltily I drop my gaze and turn my face away. And, as soon as I am shut of those assaying agate eyes, my earlier cautious joy comes trickling back. A second chance! I sit very still and dare not look either Hernandez’ or Coster’s way. The former’s disapprobation is worse anathema to me than the latter’s approval. In fact though, and speaking objectively, the latter is far the more insidious. For Coster wants to take my sheer and selfish animal joy and distill a theology from it, a code for life. I have yet enough shame to own my own shameless acquiescance to be shameful. So no exculpatory theories please. I just want to hunker down here and savor my reprieve-to-be in all gratefully greedy shame.I’d give my right arm to---well, no. I’ll be parting with enough of me as it is, shortly. While I am turning all this over with thinkings half-formless, the door at the far end bangs open and a guard---his breast badge says “Confinement Counselor”---strides two paces inside. He glances at a clipboard and barks out. “Hernamdez! Assessment interview! You too, Coster.” With that all three troop out, their steps silent on the hard rubber floor. I’m left alone here in icy isolation with just the tiny warm spark of hope. Time. I get time back. This must’ve been how some…some king’s or caliph’s courtesan-designate felt long ago. Plucked out of the gutter on dishonorable terms. But, having spent long enough in that gutter, those terms came garbed in all the etheral robes that swathe a genuine miracle.

Less than an hour later, both men return. Matt Coster struts in like a bantam rooster and he’s almost crowing. “Free at last! Free at last! And for a good cause, too. Such a worthy cause. There’s a reason for everything, I say. And I firmly believe that. No coincidences if only you look closely enough. But first, you must---absolutely must---let go. Surrender…” Forty-five or so minutes ago, all this nonsense would’ve been so many red flags to bruising bull Hernandez. Yet, huge as he is, I almost fail to even notice him as he slinks in and after Matt Coster. Almost like the little man’s shadow, insubstantial and wavering. Looked at directly, Hernandez seems somehow so much smaller too. Is it the slouching shoulders? The painfully shortened steps? And those angry Aztec features of his look half eroded away by…a smile, wan and timid. He loooks relieved, yes. But so much lesser because of it. “Some people are lost through ‘getting saved’.” Dad said that. When he was young and before he turned Mormon, Dad dreamed of being a preacher. He said it was that thought there that stopped him cold. That you destroy some people by “saving” them. Hernandez looks to be one of those. Still out of some instinct for sympathy, I start to move his way. But Matt Coster intercepts me en route and Hernandez doesn’t even try to hinder him. So, making the best of a threesome, I have to direct my query at both. “So…uh, guys. What did they say? I mean how does this work?” (Not eloquent of me? OK, just what are the etiquette and euphemisms for asking somebody what body parts they have to, er…part with?) “Points.”, Matt Coster chimes. “It’s all about points. Very precise and not a shadow of ambiguity.” “Points? What for? My lender never mentioned points. My collector---my collectors---either.” Matt Coster continues, scarcely skipping a beat for my interruption. “I don’t really understand it either. But then it’s not me who needs to. And Organic Haqrvest is here to process our debts, not instruct us. But it seems that they multiply how much you are in default by for how long, divide that figure by something called a ‘reduction constant’ and plot it against a chart of current organ demand variables. Me, I’ve got forty-eight points. So I’ve got to---I get to--- give liver.” “Your liver! My God…” I almost faint, but Hernandez, recovering his manhood a little, steps up catching me lithely as my knees start to buckle. “I said ‘liver’, not my whole liver.”, Matt Coster explains hastily. “Only forty percent for transplant. I hear you can live with as little as ten percent, so I’m still well to the good. And Hernandez here,” he nodds rapidly and giggles archly, “well, ask him. You’ll see.” Hernandez is still wrestling with what’s left inside him and trying to smile bravely. He almost succeeds, but the effort it takes renders the whole exercise cost ineffective. “What is it Hernan---Manuel?” “I think maybe they gave me your loan settlement plan.” No, Manny. Don’t try to grin. Please. “How’s that again?” “I have to give a cornea. I only had twenty-two points. In the twenties, that’s an eye. According to their charts, you know. You’ve got no option. It’s all those damn points, graphs, and tables.” His face develops a sudden tic as he talks. He looks like he wants to weep, too. “Well that isn’t too bad, is it? Losing a cornea is less trouble than losing a liver. Even half a liver, give or take.” “Take. Only take. Always and only take! And, no. Giving up an eye is worse. It is for me anyway. Maybe lots worse. Look at me. Three-hundred and twenty pounds; two-sixty when I’m in fighting trim. I have a whole bathtub of liver. I could service an A.A. transplant convention. But a cornea…” “Yeah? I’m still not getting this.” “I’m a history prof, remember? The operation will leave me blind in one eye. With a thirty to forty percent chance of subsequent sympathetic blindness in the other eye within three to five years. A blind prof? Difficult. Damn difficult.” “But with Affirm---“ “Once you’ve been processed through Organic Harvest, any resulting condition is excluded from Affirmative Action consideration. Like in the Army, they don’t give Purple Hearts and pensions for self-inflicted wounds.” “Didn’t you try explaining them how you need your eyes?” “I told you already! It’s all points! They’ve got their tables, charts, and graphs. And all of those might as well be carved on stone tablets and not just pixels generated on-screen.” Matt decides that this is a good moment to make a show of solidarity in suffering. “Manny, don’t fight it. I know this is all hard, but don’t fight it. It’s like Jesus said. Or maybe that was the Dalai Lama. Someone wise and caring and unconditionally compassionate. ‘You don’t get what you want; you get what you need.’ Besides, think of what compassion we are permitted to show, sacrificing a living part of ourselves to help others. It was self-interest that brought us here; it is selfless sacrifice that’s getting us out. For an instant, but only that briefest of instants, I see Hernandez’ eyes flash. Then they go blank, like a computer monitor suddenly unplugged. His jaws work mechanically and finally he says woodenly, “Help others? Matt, do you know where our organs go?” “Well, not precisely, no…” I add, “Me either. I’m the babe in the woods here, remember?” “I was doing rsearch for that book about indebtedness when Organic Harvest’s surgical Schutzstaffel came calling. The organs taken are transplanted, make no mistake. Transplanted into recipients who buy them at auction on e-Bay! E-Bay! Mostly rich fucks, needless to add. Purchasing at prices enough to repay your loans five times over. Truly Organic Harvest is a laborer worthy of its hire, huh? Yeah, we’re being raffled piecemeal to old misers, alkie ex-ballplayers, and crackhead rockers. All jumping the queue the regular hospitals still put would-be recipients in.” “And this is legal?” Naïve little Yvonne, nearly a quarter century after America opted for a government of expediency, not of men. (The laws finished a distant third.) Hernandez shakes his head in pity. “It’s a force much more powerful than law, Yvonne. It is being done. Why change the laws if you have official collusion in simply not enforcing them? Remember too, eighty percent of law enforcement has been privatized now. Who pays the watchman also tells him what to watch and how closely.” “OK Manny, OK. I’m a terrible what do you call it? Are we still citizens?” “The new word is ‘Homeland Habitant.’ Citizens have rights. Duties too, which we forgot sometime in the latter 20th Century. Habitants? They just occupy sod. As long as they behave, a vertical occupation is permitted. For hard cases, there’s the horizontal option” “OK, then I’ve really gotten out of touch with current affairs. So tell me, doesn’t anyone complain?” “Sure. A lot of people do. But this is still a democracy. You know what that means, don’t you?” “I thought I did. Something tells me there’s a new wrinkle I’m not going to like.” “In a democracy, you’re perfectly free to say what you want. And the government is perfectly free to ignore you. All the more effectively when you factor in corporate control of the media. Look at the great dictators, Stalin. Mao Zi Dong. They could’ve done as they wished with even greater impunity and killed no one. How? By mastering the art of democracy: tolerating dissent while utterly ignoring it.” “Oh come on, Hernandez! What about organized protests? People won’t take all this lying down. They can’t!” “What with the 2011 Trespass Law (1) assembly is permitted only at government discretion. Everyome can still protest. Only you can’t assemble together to do it. Plus who really protests anymore? With any vehemence, I mean. Are you that naïve that you never noticed? The past three generations of Americans have been reared on gentle Gandhi, meek Martin Luther King, and His Nirvananess, the Dalai Lama. Oh yeah, and the Jesus whose sole teaching was apparently not to cast the first stone. With bowelderlized caricatures like these, who could remember what it was homestly to oppose anything anymore? Let alone fight, if push came to shoot? Who recalls that sometimes it is the good man’s duty to strike back and to strike back hard. No. Matt Coster over there in the corner is the face of the future.” Hernandez falls silent some long seconds. Then, with a faint show of his earlier spirit, he half-grins. “Maybe losing this eye is a good thing. A one-eyed man like me can be king among blind men like him. And when I finally do go blind, well then I won’t have to look anymore.” The door at the hall’s far end bangs open again. With surprise I see it’s Taser Tom carrying clipboard this time. “Dennison! Let’s go.”

After a lengthy excursion through Organic Harvest’s labyrinthine halls, passages, and corridors, Taser Tom at last deposits me in an office. There a chipper little receptionist takes charge of me and leads me to a small blue office cubicle in a landscape of such. Inside is seated a bored-looking entry-level professional type. He’s wearing a cornflower-blue Arrow shirt (with fashionable white collar and cuffs.) A sea green silk tie sets this ensemble off. He could be a car-salesman, a lawyer, a stylish accountant, or a dental student. Call him the generic “young professional.” (He’d probably like that. Roll over and let you scratch his tummy while he licked your hand. Or, more likely, your boots if you had the pull to get him an executive parking space..) He looks up at me as if pleasantly surprised and cocks his head slightly to one side. (Now there’s a mirror-practiced move, if ever I saw one. Probably he got it from one of those schmooze your way to success DVD’s.) He reminds me of a young and totally insincere take on the late Patrick Swayze. “Yvonne!”, he carols. Apparently my coming here like this was an unexpected but totally welcome drop-in surprise. You’d swear I was his older sis’s cute college roommate passing through town. I notice, though, that he neither rises from his chair nor shakes my hand. Which means that either he does this charade dozens of times a day or it’s a subtle strategy to define our relationship. Or both. OK, so I’m whale shit. Fair’s fair, I guess. Arrow-shirt here has a face on him that looks like a porpoise’s ass. He nods to a chair, almost curtly and I sit. Good girl. His smile fades a little, however. “I’ve been looking over your file here, Ms. Dennison. Interesting. Very interesting.” “The Bourne Bankruptcy. It’s a real page-turner.” Sarcastic of me, I know. But hope tugging at the leash makes short my patience. “Beg pardon?” Arrow-shirts and humor. The two just don’t go together. Dress codes are the death of saving spontaneity. “Never mind. We were just coming up to the denoument of this drama.” He senses my faint mockery but lets it slide. Tres executif of him. (Is that the French?) Instead he tries the smile again. (The poised professional’s one.) “You do have some problems here, don’t you?” Said in that same gently bantering tone your Vidal sassoon stylist uses on one of your bad hair days. (Not that I’ve been to a stylist in years, or Vidal Sassoon ever. It just sounded like a catty and clever remark. A defense mechanism of mine.) “Problems? Me? Obviously.” I feel like he expects me to apologize. But that’d call for friendly feeling. I’m too desperate to feel friendly or be detained by details. Hope is the death of patience. You want the damn pay-off! “Well, that’s why we’re here.” Like Organic Harvest is magnanimously doing me a favor. Gesturing at myself, I almost snap back. “Here’s my pro quo, let’s hear about your quid. Preferably a lot of quid, dollars, whatever.” He ignores the outburst. Puts down my thick file. (Why do we still use paper? All records are digitally stored and generated anyway.) Arrow-shirt then glances around almost conspiratorially as he leans forward. With all the sincerity training videos and rehersal can muster, he says confidentially, “Yvonne, would you like a second chance? That’s what we’re all about here. At Organic Harvest, people are precious.” And, damn me, that voice of his. I’m drawn in. Hope, like love, seduces you away from your better judgement. I fall for the verbal foreplay. “…precious.”, I repeat with bated breath. “Your Number One resource?” Somewhere down deep in my genetic coding, my dad’s genes squeak to me that I should be scorning this obscene irony of corporate cliché become literal truth. But I can’t help myself now. Did I say hope is like love? No. It’s worse. Hope is humanity’s built-in heroin. “Guaranteed!”, Arrow-shirt beams at me in this soul-fuck’s afterglow. For that was the whole point of our little exchange. To see to it that I intenalized the corporate mantra as my own. But why? “Assent of the victim” and all that? (Sartre? Ayn Rand?) Or maybe no conscious conspiracy. Just mindless group-think? “Once an organism gets six legs, there’s no brain anymore.”, like Dad used to say. Like a sports cheer or party slogan. The Army maybe. “Airborne, sir!--- All the way!” “Rangers!---Oooh-Yaaah!” (My dad knew. He washed out of both.) Now that we’re both on-message, Arrow-shirt sits up straight (as, yes, an arrow) with reinvigorated purpose. “OK, so let’s see what we’ve got here.” He glances over a sheet or two in my file, calls up a computer screen, and starts punching numbers into a calculator set beside his PC’s keyboard. “Principle of $70,000...with interest that comes to…compounded at….late penalty…deferment penalty…default penalty…surcharge penalty for deferment…OHHH!” He frowns, looking closely at the screen. “Tell me!” What is it Dr. Welby? I can handle the truth…I pray. “Oh, nothing….we get these sometimes. Let’s see now…sale of loan penalty…post-default interest rate increase penalty compounded at…” All the while Arrow-shirt is punching in the numbers and my heart is in my mouth. Not a good place for it when you’re in a facility devoted to harvesting stray organs. “Ahhhh! There we are.” He punches a last couple of buttons on the calculator like Liszt polishing off one of his Etudes. The calculator isn’t done yet though and goes on whirring for several seconds more, spitting out a longish tape. Arrow tears it off and scans it to the bottom line. “Sixty-two!?...Hmmm, what’s sixty-two mean?” He takes down a plastic laminated print table from the cubicle wall and runs his finger down a column of numbers. Then he traces along the x-axis scanning words printed there. It’s too far away for me to read, but I don’t dare lean forward. “All righty then!”, he casually tosses the chart aside and pivots in his revolving chair to face me. His lips are smiling, but no longer his eyes. (Did they earlier?) For the first time, with my long career of reading classic and trash novels behind me, I know what “hooded eyes” means. “All right?” “Sixty two points is your score, Yvonne. Sixty two is kidneys.” I relax. I mean, sure, losing a kidney is scarcely like clipping a hangnail. You don’t do it everyday. But you do read about it, hear about it among people you know. Pretty regularly, too. “OK, so when is the surgery?” He blinks. Confused? Surprised? Why? “Ummm…probably they can take you today. It’s fairly early afternoon yet, and the OR doesn’t close till six.” Long pause, while he licks his Swayze-esque lips. (They look like a shaved vulva, I think.) “I must say, Yvon---Ms. Dennison---that you’re taking this quite well. Better than anyone I’ve ever seen in your position, in fact.” “Well, why not? My Aunt Carla had a kidney transplant almost fifteen years back. The donor was her brother, my Uncle Tim. Sure, he gets tired easily now. But he still manages to put in a full day at the 7-11 in Miles City. And he’s pushing seventy too. He’s living proof you can get along on just the one.” “Uhhh…Yvonne…what did I just say? About the harvest-target?” “You said a kidney.” “Nooo…Oh, this is embarassing. Thirty two to fifty nine points is a kidney. I said you have sixty-two points. Sixty and over is kidneys. Plural.” I reel. “Kidneys…Both!? But…but…” “Your loan is what we have to call ‘critically non-performing.’ To clear all your accrued debt, Organic Harvest needs both your kidneys. It’s that simple. And that final. Our hands are tied by mathematical formulas. Formulas based on economic law, the law of the market” “But, damn you! “ I’m crying now. “I’ve already paid the loan’s principle twice over.” “That Ms. Den---Yvonne---is irrelevant. Principle is really the least important facet to 21st. Century loans. Principle is now simply the legal basis for accreation. Even interest, as such, is of secondary importance. It’s in the penalties and interest thereon compounded that the real money is now made.” “This isn’t economics here! It’s not even ‘organ harvesting.’ It’s execution goddammit!” “Policy is always and only just policy. Personally I’m sorry. All of us here at Organic Harvest feel your pain. But your loan is so badly non-performing. It’s nearly dead.” I hear a voice from far off. Mine? “Non-performing? Me too…soon. That’s guaranteed….” If only I had heeded, huh? Heeded how precious people are. As they lead me off to the operating room, I’m recalling a story Dad used to read me from the Book of Genesis. About that guy who sold his birthright for what they called, “A mess of pottage.” A bad bargain? That’s guaranteed.

(1) An actual law, already in effect. In late 2011, President Barrack Obama signed into law the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011” (H.R. 347/S.1794). The law bans protests at any location or event the government deems relevant to national security. Since such relevance is solely determined by official fiat, protest is become a privilege not a right. For example, any event attended by persons receiving Secret Service protection are classified as such events. If Chelsea Clinton were attending the Academy Awards, anti-fur protestors could be arrested under the law, even though they were ignorant of Ms. Clinton’s presence and their protest in no way concerned (much less threatened) her.


Submitted: April 14, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Jon Grena. All rights reserved.

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