Philadelphia, 2013 by Linh Dinh
John is 46 but looks twenty years younger, with not a single white hair or whisker. His grungy style also suspends him in early adulthood. His mom was a registered nurse, then secretary at a garage. His dad sold car parts and drove a mail truck from Philly to Harrisburg in the evening. "I'm not doing as well as my parents, but I'm not trying as hard either," John confided as he sat in McGlinchey's, a pint of Rolling Rock in front of him. It was late afternoon, and the place was still quiet, with the jukebox interfering only intermittently. On four televisions, golf balls sailed or skated around cups.
We're so passive, we're doomed! We watch our rights being systematically stripped away with barely an eye roll, and with each passing day, we are becoming poorer, with our wages steadily decreasing and more of us on food stamps than ever. While fixated on sports, singing contests and network news, we're being lowered into our degradation. NSA, FBI, Homeland Security and CIA spooks shadow us for evidence of rebellion and espy nada. After inconsequential Occupy and Tea Party twitches, all is quiet. Those sign waving assemblies merely served a carthatic function, and even wore us out, without threatening the status quo at all. Too easily, they funneled our discontent into the Democratic vs. Republican sewage, with too many of us excited to line up, again, to rubber stamp our defeat.
Underemployed and malnourished even, John is ahead of the curve in our collective stumble towards destitution. A maverick screwup, he's a pioneer of sort, a Neil Armstrong, so let's examine this man a bit more closely. Three days a week, John scrubs and mops at this lowlife bar, and each day, he also goes to Shelley's house to twice walk the dog. In between, he can relax on his boss' couch and stare at the TV.
"Yo, John, how much do you make a week?"
"I can't see how you make enough to eat!"
"I don't eat that much. I drink beer, and I get my beer here for free. This is also food, you know."
"How much do they give you?"
"Two pints! That's not enough! How can you stop at two pints? Once I have had two pints, I must drink more. Why won't they give you four pints, at least?"
"Maybe you can say something to Shelley about that. You can be my lawyer!"
"I already told you, man, I don't eat that much. I haven't eaten in days! Actually, yesterday, I had three ounces of spaghetti."
"You count your ounces?!"