It’s so rare I get to show up a smart guy who’s my friend too, that I jumped at the opportunity from heaven when buddy said he didn’t get out and vote in the election last week.
‘So what’s all this about being so smart then?’ I said to his face.
‘Yeah, damn it,’ he said, ‘I was really aching to get out and get my word in, but geez if the last couple of days haven’t been hazardous enough.’
So I asked him to tell me the deal.
The whole affair hinged on a couple of complete unforeseeables that, added up, fell down into place like sheer stupid luck, unconnected, but by the power of mathematics, wearisome.
‘Happy New Year!’ he said, ‘this is my story.’
First he was sitting around one day, reading a book, probably, and out of the blue the phone rang.
‘Just a fluke of nature,’ he said, ‘and not foreseeable in the least. My mother’s only friend went down with a case of coming undone at the seams and they took her away to the hospital. Poor lady has a twelve year old daughter, and though my ma offered and asked to take care of the girl, the services came and took her away. But she also has a cat and nowhere to put it into, so I took it on, as mother has the fear of animals and viruses. So I got the cat, and you know, the thing is just adorable, but I must admit I know nothing of how to care for animals, the sphere of my knowledges being limited to politics, and I felt obliged to keep it entertained like any old guest. So after they brought it by, I was spending my time rolling around with it on the floor; I went to the store and bought a ball of yarn, and I’ve been rolling around throwing the ball of yarn at it, and basically we’ve been having a grand old time. Despite the wounds on my face and arms, we have bonded famously and I call him little cat face, and it’s great. Eventually I had to go to work and do my thing there though, and poor cat face, as any guest could be expected to, got bored. So when I got home I found he had eaten everything made of material, and scratched the walls up to boot, and I had a long night stitching up my business suits and making the place liveable again.’
‘That’s all interesting and good,’ I said, impatient to be right after all, ‘but I don’t see how it kept you away from the polling booths.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘seeing as your culture is one inclined to impatience and punch lines I can forgive you, but if you just let me go, I’ll lead you on to the end.’
‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘A couple of days later another thing happened that was just a complete fluke too, and not an everyday occurrence. While I was snoring in my bed for the night, dreaming of all the slurpees my modest wages bring me after the loan payments have gone through, I found myself awoken by the telephone with another urgent bad call from my mother. This time a robber had cracked in and broken the window by her backdoor, and made haste with her purse. She had no documents and didn’t know how she would recover her peace of mind, or convince other people she was who she said. I managed to calm her down enough to make out her words and promised to stop by and help her talk to the police. I did just that, and said “thank you” to the officer, and was about to leave when my mother asked me to give her the cat for company and to feel protected.
‘“The usual collocation is guard dog, mother,” I said, ‘but if it will help with the tears, I guess you can have him.”
‘So shattered as I was at losing my new companion who understood me so well, I took the cat over to my mother’s and said farewell.
‘I have to admit I was feeling a little down, but I still had all my destroyed furniture to look at and remember him by, and there’s no use getting down every day.
‘Then the coup de grace struck me right off. You know I’m really in love with the modern world, I’m not a student any more, and I see no point in protesting against the new technologies; I love spaceships and TVs and online banking, but I couldn’t get into my account. So I ran in to the bank and asked them what the problem was and they told me they had sealed my account on account of my suspicious activities.
‘“And what’s so suspicious about loving the modern world?!” I said.
‘“Well,” they said, “it’s the way you gave all your money to a stranger by email.”
‘Then they asked me to stop crying, because they would find who had taken it, maybe, and that’s why they had stopped my activities.
‘“But if you had really been itching to close me down, why couldn’t you have done it before they took all the 944 dollars I’d managed to save by pinching pennies together and rubbing dimes? Or let me live my life in peace with the money stashed under my bed, instead of insisting with your buddies in the government that I have to have the money deposited directly or else I’m not a real person?”
‘But unfortunately there aren’t answers to everything, and though the sum may be laughable on big banking streets, it’s gonna take me 14 years to get that much saved again from working all day long at the library, and by night at the bakery.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘as they say, super, but I’m damned if I can see the connections or how the election is to blame.’
‘Yeah, damn it, what connections are there in life? And nobody here is blaming anyone, except maybe the laws of probability. It’s nothing. It’s only something because last year the lady at the bank with the black hair, you know I love the dark hair, said a document concerning my student loan had been lost and she had promptly given my case over to the agency for delinquent payment makers. And that’s fine, hold on, I’m not going on and on about it, though I might feel entitled to – they never even said, “Mister, hey buddy, we’re terribly sorry,” and I’m by nature inclined to the politeness of the British. No, that’s not the point, and I’m not getting my legs all bent out of shape by it. There’s no use in pointing fingers all day long. It’s just this, if you want your plot line filled in and clear: the random events all met on Election Day. I was walking right up the steps to the polling station, feeling the whole importance of the day, and preparing myself mentally to savour the check mark beside my favorite candidate’s name when mother called again saying the cat was going berserk for lack of tender caresses and cat feed, “and come quick,” she said, “I don’t think I can hold him much longer.” So I had to run to my friend and borrow a couple of bucks for cat food. After that I had to run back into work and explain to the boss how I was using my specially granted voting time caring for cats and he wouldn’t let me go again. He got it into his head that I’m something of a slacker, and truth be told he’s quite justified – nobody here’s pointing any fingers at the boss, it’s just dumb luck. After work I was making my way back towards the polling booths when I remembered I hadn’t eaten since being given the bad news at the bank about my losses, a couple days earlier, and I suddenly felt an unearthly heaviness in my limbs. I looked up at the steps to the polling booths, and felt the quarters in my pocket left over from buying the cat food, and suddenly it was like nothing in life mattered a dime – it was the strangest feeling, and one I’ve experienced only rarely. I have no idea where it came out of, and as I looked up and thought about all things political, I just couldn’t justify the effort up the steps to my hungry legs. At that I turned away, mystified and a little concerned at myself, and full of hope the feeling was fleeting. I stopped in at the supermarket and bought a loaf of the whitest bread I could see and forced it down post haste.’
‘And the feeling,’ I said, ‘what about the feeling? Did it leave you alone after the white bread?’‘You know, buddy,’ he said, ‘I haven’t had time to pay attention to it, I’ve been preoccupied, as they say, with worrying about getting some cash together before the end of the month to make the loan payments, and if there’s enough left over, maybe the rent. On top of this I’m a little worried lest the money disappear from my account the minute I put it in there, so I can’t say for certain what’s up with the feeling, but I’ll definitely look into it again as soon as it becomes feasible.’