The following story is fiction in the sense that it is not based upon one person’s story. However it has elements of truth from many and that lends itself to a certain reality. Take it for what it is worth.
“Men walkin’ ‘long the railroad tracks
Goin’ someplace there’s no goin’ back
Highway patrol choppers comin’ up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest
The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad”
The Ghost of Tom Joad- Bruce Springsteen
It was almost noon, the first Monday of a new spring and the last week of a month he needed to forget. He was three beers and two shots into the day and there was no bartender yelling out last call. The train had left the station and there was no doubt that at some point it was going to go off the tracks.
Deep inside his head he could hear the laughter of the demons he had once overcome. They knew that their jailor was on the verge of giving up. It wouldn’t take much more to push him over the edge and once that happened they would be released from their bondage and set free to do as they will.
This wasn’t what he had planned for. It wasn’t the life he was supposed to lead. This kind of thing didn’t happen to people like him. Educated, hard working upper middle class people who paid their bills and gave back to society. They didn’t get railroaded by the banks. They didn’t have to tell their children that because daddy couldn’t get a job they couldn’t stay in their home.
They didn’t tell their children that daddy had tried his best but that wasn’t good enough. They taught their children that if they worked hard good things would happen. They taught them to hold themselves to high standards and that if they did they would reap the rewards of those efforts.
No, they didn’t tell them that it didn’t work for daddy. They didn’t want them to think that all their time and effort was for nothing, that the system was built upon a lie. But that was the thing of it, the system was the reason that they were losing everything. The system was the reason why the world was collapsing upon them.
It didn’t make any sense when he was sober and far less when he was drunk, but he didn’t care anymore. It was a nightmare that was unending and inescapable. It followed him even when he closed his eyes.
He started to laugh and he knew not why. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe not. Better find out he thought and with that he popped open another bottle. Two gulps later the bottle was sent flying into the mirror in the dining room. The crash of the bottle and the sound of glass breaking were surprisingly pleasant.
He had read about the angry men who burned down their soon to be foreclosed homes or went crazy in public but never understood why. Now he did. He was a very proud man who had been forced to his knees by this. Forced to do things that in the past he never could have imagined doing.
And now he was on the verge of something else. Another swig of whiskey made it easy to envision his standing right on the edge of the precipice. Would he be dragged over the side kicking and screaming or would he choose a different route like the jumpers from 9-11.
He had witnessed more than one person fling themselves into the air and had wondered if they had held out hope that somehow, someway they would survive the fall. Had they prayed for wings or that somehow they would land in the palm of God’s hand. Or had they just resigned themselves for the horrible ending that was coming at them with ridiculous speed.
It didn’t matter, not really. Even though he was drunk he knew that there really wasn’t a comparison between them and him. The one thing that they shared in common was that none of them were in that situation out of their own choice. But they would always been seen as martyrs and he would not.
Damn. The alcohol wouldn’t rob him completely of logic and reason. It wouldn’t make him forget and it wouldn’t make him do the unthinkable, at least not yet.
He sighed deeply and wondered again how it was he found himself walking through hell. And then the demons broke free of their cage. He wanted to fight. He wanted to slam his fist into someone and to feel the rush that would bring.
With a loud roar he sprang to his feet, grabbed his house keys and walked out the door. He knew that there was no way that he could drive so he marched by the car and headed up the street. The local dive bar was the destination.
He had no idea who or what he would find there. Just knew that somewhere in the distance trouble was calling and he wanted to answer. For just a moment he thought that he heard someone saying no, but he shrugged that off and muttered Dad’s Drinking Again Because He Just Doesn’t Care.