A tale of irresistible forces meeting immovable objects in the shadows tiny minds.
|He didn’t know anyone there, or even where exactly in Pennsylvania he was other than outside of an eatery in West Newton with his new business associate and old friend, Dutch. Typical of backwaters of the Commonwealth, the buildings on Main Street were built in the late 1800’s, the few randomly parked cars, are old, a hop skip and a jump away from the scrapyard sedans or new not paid off yet pick-up trucks. Christian Roy, a legend in his own mind, listened to the conversation casually smoking, paying attention to the what’s, the who’s and the where’s. The half dozen of the other men engaged in a pseudo-intellectual conversational farce over the economic functioning of the ‘commonwealth’ states versus the ‘incorporated’ states. What he knew, that they didn’t, is in context, the two words are synonyms, that any historical differences and there were centuries ago, meant nothing in current usage. When asked, he quietly replied he really didn’t know enough about economics to have an opinion. Dutch shot him a questioning sideway glance, that wasn’t lost on the others, and hence encouraged them to press the issue.
“Well,” Roy answered after a long thoughtful pause, punctuated by an equally long drag on his cigarette. “I think it don’t matter. Money talks, bullshit walks. Commonwealth economics is in practice the same as incorporated state economics.”
“Well,” a man known as Bob Gisellehorst asked. “The incorporated states are doing better that the commonwealth states because…”
Roy after the first few sentences heard ‘yadda-yadda-yadda, Pennsyl-tucky’. He lit another cigarette, counted to three and replied casually. “I think you’re mixing apples and oranges. The Commonwealth of Pa. has a legislature and executive branch that make decisions based on their policy and the other states do the same. The different economic result comes from that…It don’t matter if it’s a commonwealth state or an incorporate state, the results are the same.”
Gisellehorst stood there stunned, but not mentally frozen, as the four other card-carrying members of the Rogue’s Gallery exuded perplexity. This difference Roy noted and figure Gisellehorst had two brain cells or maybe more producing wattage. The others, seemingly, didn’t. Dutch for his part grinned at the result, as he expected that from Roy. Then Gisellehorst struct, sharply, citing facts, figures and tossed about a few nickel and dime words, all of which impressed Roy, but typically, ended the query with a veiled challenge, ‘So you think you’re smarter than that?’
“Never said I was smart,” Roy answered with a certain steel in his voice. He then flicked his cigarette into the street and shot it with his finger, saying bang as it bounced across the asphalt. “But I make the claim of being far from stupid. Well, I agree there’s a technical difference between ‘commonwealth’ and ‘incorporated’ but at the end of the day I still pay taxes, I still have money in my wallet and still have to work for it…”
Dutch grinned ear to ear, apparently Gisellehorst didn’t lose too many debates with the peanut gallery. Before any other words of knowledgeable curiosity arrived, the man of the hour, the reason everyone is standing around outside of a low-end pizza shop in corn popping nowhere arrived. His two door four-passenger sedan from sometime in the last decade, early last decade, chugged to a parking space across the street and out wallows Wally Walrus. Naturally, the corpulent and dirty man of the hour made a beeline for the front door amid applause of snarky accolades. Roy wasn’t impressed if anything he couldn’t believe he wasted his time on the endeavor.
Once sitting around a clean enough table, a harried waitress passed out menus and returned to service a pick-up order. Roy casually scanned the menu as Wally Walrus whose real name is Barney, began running his mouth about his backyard mechanics business, joking with Rocco and Austin. When the waitress returned, Roy completed his mental notes on who is who and the results didn’t look promising. When it came to Roy, he casually handed the menu back saying with a mild smile, ‘I’ll have the Veggie wrap, Buttercup.’
Barney looked at him with a sense of disgust, barked, “Veggie wrap? You a vegetarian?”
“Naw, just wanted something different,” Roy replied forming a not to complimentary idea of who and what he looked at.
“I eat meat,” Barney replied.
“Yeah, so what…”
“So why you eating rabbit food?” Barney went on, leaning back. “You a tree hugger too?”
“No, I’m eating rabbit food because I like trying different things, and unlike some people I don’t like being constipated…” Roy shot back.
Rocco giggled slightly.
“What ‘a you do? I got a mechanics business out of my back yard…” he went on smarmily.
“I drive a fork truck for Floreffe Metals…”
“Never heard of them,” Barney quipped predictably. “Fork truck…Not much skill there.”
“Yeah, but it’s a legitimate steady paycheck. You ASE certified?” Roy asked, going for the throat.
“ASE?” Austin asked, leaning forward looking Roy over.
“National Institute of Automotive Excellence…ASE. It’s an organization the certifies mechanics. See anybody can say anything, but ASE makes a grease monkey a licensed professional...”
“How you know that?” Barney interrupted wearing a surprised look. His eyes were beady, darting about as if he is caught in a lie.
“I went to trade school. Pittsburgh Machine Technology…Didn’t finish the diesel course needed a job. It got me in the door with Floreffe, they’re an industrial machining shop,” Roy replied leaning forward and grateful he brought his pistol. “They’re over in Washington County…So I guess you don’t leave Westmoreland County that often eh?”
“Allegheny County gets in the way of that,” Rocco chuckled.
Barney shot him a hostile sideways glance.
“Chris lives over in McKeesport. Known him a few…Good guy,” Dutch then volunteered.
“Well, I don’t know him…Why’d you call the waitress Buttercup?” Barney barked leaning forward on his elbows. “I’m a former Marine…”
“Excuse me miss!” Chris spoke louder than normal as he turned around toward the counter in the pizza shop. “Could you explain to my associate why I called you Buttercup?”
The waitress, who seemed to be the least offensive person in the world looked nervously baffled. She then replied, her voice tiny and meek, “Because it’s my name that’s written on my name tag?”
“Thank you,” Chris answered and turned to Barney. “Marine? I was in the Army…Allot of people are veterans.”
“Well once a Marine always a Marine…You know our basic training is tougher than yours because of the amphibious option…” Barney chuckled. “What did you do cook? I still hold to my duty to uphold the constitution, you?”
“If I told you what I did you wouldn’t believe me, and if you did, you’d be afraid of me,” Chris answered, now becoming a bit haughty himself. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table and attempt to peer into Barney’s soul. “As far as basic training goes, I met the same standard you did…While I grant you training is different, it evens out after AIT…The Army’s training doctrine is different. As far as what I did? I’m airborne, aquatic and amphibious qualified as it relates to service. As far as my oath to uphold and protect goes…Another so what. ETS means End Time Served…I served my time honorably and now I do what I want. You want to sit there and tell me, me Mr. Badass Blue Beret SAD-SOG super-killer you’re still a Marine? So, when was that last time you saw your feet fat boy slick?”
After that, Gisellehorst turned the conversation and the hour passed in relative calm. Chris left the same way he arrived, in Dutch’s Chevy Astro van. He watched the headlights disappear into the void, the double yellow lines on the grey ribbon of asphalt coming from nowhere, whipping about and disappearing, he analyzed his experience. He knew it be a minute or two before Dutch asked him what he thought. It wasn’t what to say, but how to say it and that moment came as they shot passed an Allegheny County maintenance begins here sign and the potholes began.
“We’re not getting anywhere,” Chris answered Dutch. “Look at Barney he’s the walking definition of lost. You can make all the excuses you want…Yeah, he’s one of the boys…He’s one of the good guys…But he can’t hold a job, he’s running a hopeless business out of his driveway and can’t manage his time. He showed up to a business meeting late, dirty and with excuses. Take Rocco and Austin, neither of them has driver’s licenses or their own vehicles…A man needs to be mobile. Now Gisellehorst, that’s a man with the big brain…He’s not going out on a limb for anyone, he puts himself first and won’t jeopardize what else he has going on for a high-risk low reward. Take you for example, a good guy. You have your FFL and run a firearms business out of your garage. Not much there, a second job. You’d make more money in pornography. Now I know it’s a never-ending sewer pipe of shit…But it’s about money. We’re here trying to figure out how to conspire into making a fast buck, ill-gotten gains, lucre. What did you say? You started talking about morality this, Jesus that so on and so forth…So why am I here? Got nothing better to do, or any other place to be. Frankly, I’d think it’ll be a miracle if we actually do anything.”
Years down the road he would wonder what the whole point of that minor adventure meant in a spiritual context. Anything the could’ve happened then, to them, didn’t happen. What did transpire is this idea being bantered about and then they’d talk themselves out of it. There wasn’t a point to any of it, none, just a collection of actors on a stage before an empty theater. What he would describe as a conclusion is that they ended up the same place, he ended up the same place, they would’ve been if they never met. So ends this adventure of Christian Roy, a legend in his own mind.