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Chapter 4: Trouble

After talking with Jane Early, I felt a little confused about the project, about Commissioner Torres, and, especially, about myself. My mother says that my hormones will overpower my brain every time. I wish she hadn’t told me that. It’s no comfort.

I went back to the office and sat down in close proximity to the hero of the ages, Leo Torres. Right there practically beside him, but I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Doing ok?” he asked me suddenly.

I must have felt like a penitent. I confessed. “I went after Jane Early. I felt compelled to talk to her.”

“And you did?”

“Yes. I agree with you about Dr Johns. It won’t work.”

“Oh it works,” he said. “He’s living proof of that. It’s just not practical, but what does ‘practical’ mean when you’re in the middle of a revolution and desperate to try anything and everything?”

“Can I ask you something that’s more important?” I was trying to look practical, not starry-eyed.

“Sure. We can’t take a lot of time about it, but you may as well be satisfied. We’re probably going to be on this project for some time.”

“If this project isn’t a major project,” I began tentatively, picking my way, “as you told the committee and it’s in my transcript, then why are you on it?”

“You mean, why am I not doing something more important?” he asked

“Yes, that.”

“Because I’m not qualified for something more important. Actually, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever been on. I’ve never even had a staff before, let alone department heads with dozens of people under them.”

I insisted, “But you’re a top leader of this revolution. You should be in the center of everything.”

“Oh,” he paused. “This is going to take longer than I thought. But, but it’s ok. We need to have things straight between us.

‘You’re talking about the so-called ‘final offer?’?” he asked.  I nodded.

“Well, for the sake of the official record, I'm not an important revolutionary leader and never was. People think of me as the hero of the final offer, but just between us office-mates and that wall over there, I’m not. What happened that day during the American Textile strike was a big mistake. The revolutionary leadership never intentionally initiated violence and they didn’t mean for me to carry out what I did that day. In the rush of things, I just didn’t understand what we were doing, and I ended up killing several people when it wasn’t really our program. It just happened at a time when other people thought it was a great idea, so they let people think they had planned it and that I had intentionally carried it out.

‘For my part, I liked being a hero at first even though I wasn’t. I especially liked the free booze and the easily-impressed young females. I got way too much of both before my friend, the Chairman, started straightening me out and gave me an actual assignment and a chance to make an actual contribution. That was the thing with Dr Johns. I didn’t do that great on it, by the way, but they don’t have so many people they trust that they can cover everything, so I ended up with this one.

‘And, this is the part I’m actually sort of proud of, I have pretty well stayed away from booze and impressionable young females for over a year.” He slowed down and very deliberately fired this phrase straight into my heart, “Present .. company .. specifically .. included.”

I think I was blushing all the way down into my shoes! I tried to bluster “thank you” as I got up and ran out of the office.

Amarillo is hot, if you haven’t been there. It’s also windy and dry. It’s so bright it hurts your eyes. There are weeds or something that annoys your nose. Outdoors in Amarillo is not a good place to have a cry. Instead, I meandered without thought, like a zombie, like a stupid, awkward, idiotic, impressionable young female!

My feet passed over sun-baked and cracked earth, over sawdust, over hopelessly outgunned little plants with no chance of survival and hardly any green, and around into the colony for the world’s largest collection of drug addicts.

Then I saw some of them. It was my first look at desperate people. A group of them were gathered around a railroad car. About 20? They were shouting and banging on the steel walls. I should have thought to be afraid, but I didn’t. Instead I just watched.

A man in a black suit with a black tie was egging them on, or he seemed to be. Perched on top of a pile of lumber opposite the rail car, he was pouring sweat. I could see chunks of it fly off his face and neck as he waved his arms, pointed at the rabble before him, and bent his knees to make some especially volatile point. He was telling them, “God this” and “Jesus that” but I couldn’t exactly make it out.

The men were pounding and shouting, but I couldn’t tell if they were agreeing with him or trying to drown him out. Another man was standing in the half-opened door of the car.  He wore khakis, top and bottom. He had an automatic weapon and a smirk on his face. I saw, at the bottom of the doorway, another khaki’d arm push a small box close to the edge of the car. The man with the gun kicked it out with his foot, and one of the protesters grabbed it up and ran. The two in the car kept doing that, while I watched, until all of the characters in this insane scene were gone except the one in black and the two in khaki.

“You want a box?” said the man with the gun. The one in black started a new God this and Jesus that tirade. The khaki man then turned in my direction. His tone changed to invitational. “How about you sugar?”

Nobody understands me at all. I turned and ran back to my room.

I was safe in my room, but miserable. Jane Early could read my thoughts exactly. Leo Torres had seen me naked. He even x-rayed me. Even the khaki man and the sweating preacher understood me better than I did.

It was time for introspection and self pity. I wished I had a mirror in my spare little bedroom, but I didn’t. I did, however, have my phone, and my phone has a camera for shooting selfies. I use to use it to put on makeup.

I stripped and used my phone to examine every part of my disgusting body. My knees are particularly ugly today. I tried to have a conversation with the upside-down-bearded-lady, but she was too wise to bother with me, so we just stared at each other.

I’m finished writing. Nobody cares anyway.

I don’t deserve to sleep in a normal bed, so I will lay down backward, with my head down where the smelly feet have been. And that’s how I end my day.


--July Eason, Project Archivist


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