The Parasites

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Life on state benefits, with surprises.

Submitted: October 30, 2011

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Submitted: October 30, 2011

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THE PARASITES

 

Carl received the news of the bankruptcy of his business with the resignation of one who is either old or an experienced businessman. Life had been very generous to him. During his childhood and his youth he had lacked nothing. To make sure that everything would continue in the same way, Carl had married Liz, the daughter of a business partner of his father. The wedding was viewed as a good thing by all those involved. The two spoilt young things didn’t take long in frittering away the family money. Carl’s father placed him in one of the offices in order to keep an eye on him, and then Liz got pregnant. It was the first of four children.

 

When the fourth and last of Carl and Liz’s children was born their grandparents were no longer alive, so the couple decided to separate and spend all the money they inherited as they pleased. Liz did nothing and the only vice she had was to buy herself a bottle of sherry once in a while and keep it hidden in a wardrobe in her bedroom.

 

Carl had had a lot of girl friends but at the time of the bankruptcy he had been living with Muriel for ten years. He hardly ever saw his family but at times they got together to go to a restaurant for dinner, or go to the theatre or to the cinema. Carl never invited them to the house for reasons of delicacy and because Muriel was the owner and he didn’t want to spoil such a good thing with family problems.

Carl still had the car and a small amount of money which he gave to Muriel to keep for him in case the whole business collapsed. When he split up with Liz, Carl became independent and without taking the advice of anyone else into account he invested in new machines and technicians to manage them. At the beginning all went well but as he didn’t reinvest in the latest technology the business went down.

If it hadn’t been for Muriel he wouldn’t have had anywhere to live, who knows what would have happened to him. The post brought him the final sentence of the bankruptcy in a large envelope and how to claim benefits in a smaller one. Carl had no interest in the bankruptcy, what had happened to him was just bad luck. He now had a prospectus of how to claim the benefits from the state. There were all kinds of conditions, the majority of which didn’t affect Carl because he was divorced, no children still at school, and because he was sixty years old.

He carefully filled out the forms and at the same time thought about whether there was a way to get more money. How am I going to keep the car going on this money? He thought. The problem of how to keep Muriel didn’t enter his head. Carl was not silly in his choice of women. The practical before the sexual: but the opposite, no.

 

Muriel was rather fed up with Carl and was only waiting for the day when he would be gone for good. He was a burden for her, but now with the bankruptcy she felt bad about putting him out on the street. She often thought to herself, he lives here with no effort on his part. I am to blame, I should have thrown him out some time ago or married him.

The envelope with the duly completed forms was en route to the Job Centre. How long would he have to wait for an answer? Carl went for a walk every day, it was his only exercise, and as petrol was so expensive he had no solution other than to walk.

 

For one whole week his nerves were so bad that Muriel let him have sex in order to calm him down. They had put it to one side some time ago. Carl felt much better and commented to Muriel, “ Know what? I’d got used to the idea that I’d come to the end of the journey.”

Muriel didn’t answer him, she went to see if the desired envelope had arrived.

 

In the mornings Carl worked in the garden organising the plants, lawns, and trees. After lunch Muriel turned on the television to entertain him, and that way she was able to go out with her friends. She thought that if he didn’t do something soon she would go off bang.

Fortunately for everyone the envelope arrived. Hands shaking and his nerves on edge he opened it. He almost had a heart attack. “I’ve only got enough to eat with. How am I going to keep the car going?”

Muriel said nothing. She wasn’t going to get much from Carl’s unemployment benefit.

“The payments office is ten kilometres from here. I’ll have to go by car, and so I’ll spend the money in getting there and coming back.”

“Don’t be so silly, go by bus. What are they going to think if they see you arrive by car? The bus will give the appearance of being more economical.”

 

Thursday was ‘pay’ day, and his first day as benefits earner. Carl dressed up. It was his first appearance since the bankruptcy and he wanted to keep up the appearance of doing well. Muriel wished him good luck and stayed to watch him walk with his fancy walking stick (which was quite unnecessary) to the bus stop.

The office was situated in a tall glass and cement building. In the entrance there was a list of the names of the departments and the floor they were on. Where he had to go was on the second floor. The lift was large and fast and as hostile as the façade and the entrance. In spite of his air of the elegant, sophisticated man of the world, Carl was unable to avoid a sense of loss of heart.

The corridors were not made of glass and cement but were replaced by an aluminium decor. He found the office, opened the door and went in.

Behind a glass wall there was a civil servant, attending to a lady. The queue was not very long and Carl had time to study the other people. There was no one who could be classified as poor. This was the first surprise. The older people were well-dressed and among the women there was one young. From her make-up and her clothes she had to be an actress or a model. Of course, someone without a fixed job. Standing up near the young woman was a very elegant man, he looked like a businessman. He was most likely an actor too or something similar.

There was a constant rhythm to the disappearance of the queue in front of Carl. His turn arrived. He handed in the envelope and the civil servant said, “Sign here, please. Cheque or cash?”

“Cash, please. Thank you.”

“Next, please.”

 

Carl now the receiver of benefits went directly to a chocolate shop and bought a large box of truffles. Later on near the bus stop he went into a wine shop and bought a bottle of wine.

“At this rate you won’t have money for the weekend and I don’t feel like giving you any extra.” Muriel warned him on receiving the presents.

“Don’t you worry. We’ll think of how we can take advantage and get more.”

“You and your ideas.” Muriel wanted to yell at him Sell the car! But she desisted.

 

Carl’s second visit to the cement and glass castle (as he had nickname it) was not so sordid as the first time, and he went with a certain amount of enthusiasm. They were all there in their posts even the same civil servant at the counter. The waste paper baskets, the ash trays, the ladies speaking in low tones who from time to time gazed around them to see if anyone was eavesdropping on their conversations. The young lady with the made-up face, the gentleman. Carl looked at the clock on the wall, it was the same time.

“Good morning, cold isn’t it?” Carl had not spoken directly to anyone but he just wanted to make contact.

Silence.

The ladies hadn’t heard him, they continued talking. The girl and the man stared at him for a minute.

“It isn’t cold here, there’s central heating,” said the man.

The artist without being aware of the interruption in her conversation continued, “I’ve been told that next week we are going on a tour of the provinces.”

“We shan’t be seeing each other in a long time,” said the man.

“Not until I find myself unemployed once again,” the young woman replied.

“Have you got the list of towns and theatres where you are going to appear?”

“Yes, first we’re going up north and then some more performances along the coast and then home.”

The man then said, “I hope a job turns up for me soon. It’s difficult to keep up a decent life style, and my dogs are not prepared to eat anything but the best meat. Poor me, I don’t know how I can bear it all.”

Meanwhile the queue was getting shorter. First it was the man’s turn, but he gave it to the girl.

Carl had listened in on this conversation. More than likely they had known each other for a long time. I am new here and I don’t know anyone here yet. He thought.

When Carl left the office he saw the man and the artist getting into a very flashy car. The woman was driving. The red sports car started up and passed right in front of him in the direction of the exit, where it waited for the right moment to make an entrance into the never ending traffic. Carl thought, I’m going to come in my car. I’m not the only unemployed person with a car, and I’m tired of waiting for buses that don’t keep to a timetable.

 

Muriel received her weekly gift without making a comment, knowing it would be useless to do so. Reality had not caught up with Carl yet, he was still a wealthy man. How could she tell him that he was living off her? No, no, she couldn’t. Reality would kill Carl. Since the bankruptcy Carl was living more and more in a world of fantasy far removed from his real situation. Muriel helped him exist making him believe that he was good in bed and that the unemployment benefit was enough to cover the usual whims and fancies.

 

Carl’s family was up to date with the changes in his life. The bankruptcy had taken away the piggy bank into which they had never put a penny. The bankruptcy was Carl’s fault and they left him to look after himself as best he could. As a father, Carl was a disaster but he never forget his financial obligations to them.

 

Carl wanted to buy some shoes. He was in the sixth month on benefits. He had seen some shoes in his usual shop. The money he received that morning didn’t reach the price on the ticket. He went back home.

“Muriel, I don’t like asking you for money but I’ve seen some shoes that I’d like to buy and the benefits money isn’t enough.”

It was the moment to tell him a few home truths or hand him a bill. Muriel did neither of the two. “You’ll have to learn to live on less money. Can’t you look for a cheaper pair of shoes?”

Carl was furious, “What are you talking about? Are you insinuating that I must buy cheaper shoes simply because you are too mean to give me a little help? When I think how well I have treated you. This is something to see!” He shut the door with a bang and took the car out of the garage and left.

He returned in the afternoon with the new shoes, “There are some people who appreciate me.”

Muriel couldn’t stop thinking about the person who would never get the lent money back.

 

Slowly things got worse. Every time a rise in the benefit was announced Carl was happy until the government found a reason for not putting up the benefits. Boxes of chocolates and drinks got fewer and fewer. Carl spent all the money on himself, saying to Muriel, “I promise you that next week I’ll buy you some earrings or a handbag.”

Muriel didn’t want presents nor whims she only wanted Carl to get some common sense.

 

“Good morning,” Carl greeted everybody.

“Good morning,” the elegant and somewhat mysterious man was now known to him. He had been a model for a perfume company. Sometimes he made a small appearance in an ad. But, like all the rest, he was waiting for better luck.

“Good morning,” the young actress had come back from the three month tour of the provinces two months ago. She had been offered other work but according to her, she preferred to get the benefits than work below her possibilities. Carl and the other man agreed with her.

The queue went disappearing at the normal rate. Carl was thinking about what he was going to buy. The three benefits mates used to go for a drink together, in spite of the time, to a discreet, dark place. Muriel knew nothing about these visits and Carl didn’t have the slightest intention of telling her.

 

“Good morning, cheque or cash?”

Carl had the suspicion that he was in the middle of a joke. Norbert, his youngest son. What was he doing there? “Good morning, cash, please.”

Norbert gave him the money, “Goodbye, Dad.”

Carl turned down the drink and stayed at the entrance of the building, sitting on a bench waiting for Norbert to come out. Carl’s head kept going round and round in circles. How was it possible?

“How is it possible that you are working here? You told me you were going to study history. What happened to history?”

“There isn’t any work. I’m lucky to have got this job.”

“But, Norbert, you’re an office worker and a civil servant!”

“Dad, I know. You can’t say anything. You’ve blown a fortune and now you get a benefit from the state.”

“You get paid by the state, too. We both live at the cost of the state. Is anybody working?”

“It’s not a joke. You shouldn’t be in this situation and you well know it. Who are you to give sermons?”

“I’ve spent a lot, but I’ve earned a lot too. On the other hand you have studied only to end up as an office worker. I’ll tell you one thing, Norbert, we are useless in a world created by useless politicians. Don’t think that because you are behind the counter that you are better than those of us who are on the other side. No, we are all the same, useless.”

“Don’t speak to me like that. You’ve never been a good businessman nor a good father.”

“At least you’ve said what you’ve been thinking all along. Now that I’m ruined and practically in the street you have the nerve to speak to me like a man. I’m very grateful. But emotional scenes between fathers and children have never interested me. See you next Thursday. Can you lend me something?”

“You’ve got a nerve. I can’t, and I don’t want to.”

“I’m your father. You yourself said so.”

“Unfortunately. Goodbye.”

“You can’t blame me for trying.”

 

Norbert was at his post for many Thursdays following that one. The ladies, the young actress, and the elegant man, all went to get their money.

Norbert searched in the files for his father’s information, but it wasn’t there. What did it mean? I’ll ask the secretary.

“We remove the file if there’s a change of address, find a job, or die.”

“How can I find out what’s happened?”

“What’s the name?”

Norbert gave his father’s name. The woman dialled a number and asked several questions to someone in another part of the ‘castle’.

She turned to Norbert, “ He died. Someone rang to inform us. Did you know him?”

“Yes, I did. Thanks for your help. Goodbye.”

 

Muriel gave him a cup of coffee and a drop of whisky.

“Norbert, it’s better like this. He was living in hell. He was incapable of seeing what he had been and what he had to be.”

“Did he say anything about me?”

“About you? Why? He hadn’t seen you in quite a while. He hadn’t spoken about his family for a long time.”

“How did he survive? The benefit was small, and he was well-dressed.”

“It’s better you leave and not ask any more questions.”

 

Norbert went back to his office and asked to be moved to a department where he had nothing to do with the public.


© Copyright 2017 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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