A short story highlighting the hardships many face in America that stresses the importance of a positive mindset…

by: Frederick Foote

The shrieks, screams, and maniacal laughter of the homeless echo through the empty canyons of downtown after dark.

I’m trapped in my apartment until morning, amid the sounds of fire engines, water trucks, and cleanup crews hosing down the urine-soaked and feces-littered streets.

Last year, my rent went up 20%. This year, it goes up 30%, and I wonder if I will be joining the homeless street revelry in the near future.

But right now, today, I’m concerned with finding new auto insurance. My current insurance company notified me that they will not renew my policy. My insurance broker has found only two companies in the state of California that will issue me insurance at more than twice the cost of my old policy. I can afford one of these policies, if I only eat every other day.

I put on my face mask and step out of my apartment into the thick, smoky air from forest fires in Washington, Oregon, and Canada. I’m grateful that there have been no major forest fires in Northern California this year, so far.

On the good side, my 40-minute freeway commute to work is moving at a steady 15 miles per hour, and I will only be 20 minutes late.

I turn off the news in frustration and anger as the announcer explains that over 30,000 have been killed in the Israeli-Hamas War, and half of these are women and children murdered with weapons made in the USA. “Fuck you, Biden and Netanyahu! I hope you both rot in hell with Hamas.”

I arrive at work in time to catch the tail end of the general staff meeting, where management discloses that layoffs are in the future for about half of us. The upside of this news is that each of us will receive a six-month severance and the company will pay our health insurance for those six months. I think an unplanned vacation is in my future.

I will be using part of that vacation to relieve my sister, Grace, in Florida, who is raising two teenagers and caring for our parents, both in their 90s and struggling with dementia. Grace is having a hell of a time finding affordable home insurance and was thinking about moving out here. But that is her pipe dream and my nightmare.

My ex, Megan, slides into my office and gleefully counts out $500 from the sales of our sports memorabilia after our breakup. This is supposed to be my half of that sale, but I know that she actually received $1,500 for our collection. I don’t have the energy to get angry and fight the issue here in the office, so, I email her and ask for the other $250.

My son, Benson, texts me with a copy of his first-year grades in electrical engineering from UCLA. They are straight A’s. I call him and actually get to talk to the prodigy. Benson is on a full-ride Bill Gates scholarship. I despise monopolistic Microsoft but I’m beyond grateful for the help for my son.

Our unit staff meeting is brief. Anna Yakimoto, our unit supervisor, tells us that she is sure that our entire unit will be on the layoff list and that we should start wrapping up our projects for handoff. She advises us to use the rest of the week to seek employment elsewhere or get high as a kite and float the fuck away. Anna tells us that she has already written recommendation letters for all five of us.

Anna is married but separated, and we have been having a thing for the last few months. In her office, after lunch, Anna tells me she is returning home to Hawaii for good. She is going to run her family business, and she doesn’t invite me to come with her or visit.

I put the word out on my network of family, friends, and co-workers that I’m looking for a job, preferably in a state that I can afford to live in. Within a couple of hours, I get a call from my selfish sister, Tara, who lives in Mexico and works for Intel. Tara refuses to share in the burden of caring for our parents and cares even less for her siblings. Tara gives me a telephone number to call to set up a Zoom employment interview with Intel this week. She also offers to help me set up residence in Mexico if I’m interested.

I get an angry after-lunch visit from Megan, calling me a “Black motherfucker” and tossing $250 on my desk. Anna has security escort Megan out of the building.

It has been a long day. After work. I decide to hang out in my favorite bar rather than face the traffic jam commute. Megan and Anna are there having drinks together. I join them and Megan explains that she used the extra $500 to buy back my father’s Oakland Raider jacket signed by Art Shell and Kenny Stabler. It was going to be a surprise for me. That jacket is me and my dad’s most prized possession. Megan shows me the purchase order and the order cancellation.

Anna invites me to visit her in Hawaii, but she’s not very enthusiastic.

I drive home around 7:00 and successfully avoid the traffic jams, and for some reason, I feel better going home than I did going to work. I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow’s challenges and surprises. I promise myself not to jump to conclusions about things and people so quickly. I’ll be a better me tomorrow.

One reply on “Sisyphus”
  1. says: Kraig Schwartz

    Fred, this is so good, and really reflective of what is going on in the real world of work. How are you?



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