Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Walking Away - Chapter 3: Making a Break For It

Jack had gotten packed for the most part. Where he was going he didn’t want a lot of things and in case the neighbors had called the police, he wanted to be gone to avoid any questions. He just wanted to get the heck out of Dodge. He owned a small Honda Civic which kind of limited what he could take but he had thrown in his backpack and camping gear along with a duffel of clothes and a ice chest of some lunch meat, cheese, bread and the few cans of soda that has survived the first shot through the refrigerator door. As it was, he was still going to have to pick some shot out of the lunchmeat.

He went back into the house to take care of some business before leaving but forgot about having destroyed both toilets. So he squatted down in the middle of the living room instead among the broken stereo and television pieces and took a crap. Having not thought to grab a roll of toilet paper he used the cushion off the nearby couch instead. When he was done, he wrote two quick notes, one that said, “Keep my deposit,” which he placed it on the floor beside his business and the other he folded up a stuck in his back pocket for later. “Hope you have a nice day,” he said and strode out to the car and started it up.

When the garage door was open he backed the car out looking but seeing no signs of activity or cop cars waiting. He rolled down the window and tossed the apartment keys and garage door opener outside onto the driveway and drove off. Five minutes later he was south of town heading towards his parents farm.

He wasn’t going to stop because he knew they would just try and discourage him but he loved his folks and wanted to at least leave a note so that they wouldn’t worry. They were done with harvest and might not be home but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He was going to put the note from his pocket into the mailbox at the end of the driveway and leave it at that. He had basically written that he needed some time off and that he would call back once in awhile to check in and see how things were doing. Thank God for long driveways.

As he drove, Jack’s mind returned back to the events of the day. He had been an engineer working for a large company that made computer components to the tune of fifteen million or so a week during the good times. But since Bush had taken office, things had gone to pieces and he like millions of others was now among the ranks of the unemployed. That was part of it.

Last year, another manager within the company had asked Jack to do something that violated his professional ethics and he had refused. Jack’s manager had gone to bat for him and in the end, the other manager went away empty handed. Two months ago, Jack’s manager had gotten promoted within the company and the other manager had then become Jack’s new manager. Rumors had been flying through the office that another round of layoffs would be happening soon which would make it the sixth go-round in as many years. So when his new manager had greeted Jack with the words “can you come to my office so we can talk,” as he had walked to his desk this morning, he wasn’t exactly surprised.

She handed him papers to sign and reminded him of his confidentiality agreements. They were really sorry and were going to give him five weeks of severance pay if he would just sign this form agreeing not to sue. He had signed the paper and said he understood though it wasn’t the bullshit one she was trying to feed him. She was just getting even and that was the way the world went ‘round.

Jack’s manager had escorted him back to his desk to collect his personals, which he put in two boxes that had been waiting there. He gave her the heavy one and carried the other one out of the building with her following him all the way to his car. She had given him a ‘no hard friends’ handshake before going back into the building. He flipper her the bird, loaded the boxes and drove back home via the bar.

It has only been ten o’clock and Jack wasn’t really a drinker but he felt as if he needed one then. A few other co-workers had shown up a little later, also laid off, and joined Jack at the bar. They had laughed it up until three in the afternoon telling each other that they were the lucky ones and those still back at work and employed got the long end of the stick. But now Jack wasn’t so sure. He was pissed. How could they lay him off when he was the last of the machine design engineers? Of the five engineers that he had started with, two had left for other companies and two had gotten laid off in previous go-rounds. He was the last one left and had thought they couldn’t lay him off even if the manager had wanted revenge. Evidently she had been able to blow smoke up someone’s ass because here he was without a job.

It was only on his was home from the bar that he had decided to unplug himself for society’s circuit of life, to take himself out of the loop for a while. He knew a great place in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas where he could camp out for awhile without being bothered. No bills to pay, no job to worry about, just him and millions of acres of mountains, streams and trees to decompress and live truly free for awhile. He didn’t know for how long nor did he even want to think about it, which is why he had left what remained of his worldly possessions back in the apartment with the doors wide open and the keys in the driveway. Everyone could help themselves but nobody probably would. Iowa was just too polite and some neighbor would probably close all the doors and put a note on the door saying they hoped I didn’t mind that they took the liberty of closing my doors. That is if they didn’t noticed or smelled a house full of shot up electronics and slowly flooding carpet.

As he drove south along the rural blacktop it began to rain so Jack turned on the windshield wipers and turned on the radio. He pushed his mind into thinking about where he would spend the night if it continued to rain. Sleeping in a small car at six foot two inches wasn’t something to which he looked forward.

No comments: