Kris: “Merry Christmas, Murphy. Still got your job?”
Kris: “What?!? What the [deleted] happened?? I haven’t seen any departmental closure or dismissal notices, and the furloughs are only a threat, against which the union is screaming. And rightly so, I might add …”
Murphy: “I’m not waiting for notices. I just got back from getting my stuff out of what used to be my office. I stuck my resignation letter on the office door. If the university’s accountants can’t figure out what’s happened on their own, they can ask the janitor. Wait. No, they can’t!”
Kris: “Uh …”
Murphy: “They sacked the custodial staff months ago. The so-called service they hired to do the building cleaning won’t show up again until after New Year’s. Not that there’s much cleaning to do, since the building last saw students last April. Apart from the mess I left them.”
Kris: “What did you do? Take all your records and dump them in a pile on the floor?”
Murphy: “No, but I should have. I dumped this instead.”
Kris: “These scraps you’re showing me?”
Murphy: “Yeah. They’re proof positive that everything I’ve done in thirty-five years committed (dammit) to tertiary education is totally [deleted] worthless!!”
Kris: “Ow? You want to tell me what this was, besides evidence that you really lost your religion over it?”
Murphy: “They’re the residue of glossy pamphlets spewing anti-vaxx propaganda lies. They were plastered all over the windshields in the parking lot at Costco yesterday. And the morons behind the broadsides were all over the road, blocking traffic, at our Speaker’s Corner while I was trying to get my ass home from Costco. And people were honking their horns and shouting approvalat them! I came this close to plowing my car through them. Which was my first hint that I’m done.
“Then I came home and did some research. Whatever that is any more, no one seems to know or care about any searches that don’t confirm their own stupid prejudices. And I discovered that, after millions of hours and billions of dollars spent in a panicked effort to save us from ourselves, only 44% of our citizens are prepared to take the COVID vaccines that this massive effort has produced. The rest are screaming about ‘their freedoms.’ That’s when I decided that my career is o-ver, and my efforts, and those of this university and every other institution of higher trash in these Untied States, has amounted to, at best, exactly nothing. So now my office is empty, and I am staying home.”
Kris: “What about your pension situation?
Murphy: “I quit. What pension?”
Kris: “But what are you going to do?”
Murphy: “Who cares?”
Kris: “I do. I’m calling your physician.”
Murphy: “Good luck with that.”
Kris: “Oh. Right. It’s Christmas.”
Murphy: “That’s not the half of it. Medicos get the same whiff of this that I’m getting, they’re downing tools. If this is what university education begets, we can do without universities. Or modern medicine. Since what the people want is to cure themselves by screaming, let ’em do so. Maybe as they die, someone can play them the witch doctor song and they can perish to the tune of Oo-ee-oo-aa-aa.”
Over on the Magic Zuckerberg Profit and Lawsuit Generator, Quilly (Dame Amoeba) related yet another heartwarming tale of Hawaiian native wildlife and how to cope with it (on this occasion, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba used his fist instead of shoes), and mused, with help from her fans, that maybe she should assemble such tales into a book and peddle it. Came the response, “Definitely! I would be one to pick up the book and read shorts like this for inspiration. Just me being able to get a look at happenings in daily life versus listening to the garbage news on TV, ha! Bringing real life and love back! I need to read more!!”
The man of the house strode noisily into the porch of the small red brick place that he shared with his wife and three children, closed the outside door behind him, and stamped the first snow of the season off his overshoes before removing them. He set them beside the door to the kitchen, and, through the kitchen, the rest of the house. It was late on a Tuesday afternoon, two weeks before Christmas, and he was coming home from his job as an accountant’s clerk at the local factory.
He threw open the inside door, with “I’m home!” on the tip of his tongue, but what shot through his lips was “Ooooff!”, as his seven-year-old daughter launched at him and drove her blonde-haired head into his solar plexus. Behind her, his sons, 9 and 11, waited their turn for hugs, and behind them, their nanny, a tallish middle-aged woman with somewhat unsymmetrical facial features, and thin to the point of emaciation. Her workday, like his, was at its end, and she was dressed for outdoors, for braving the oncoming winter. Despite the commotion of excited children, the man and the nanny managed to connect.
“The roast, she will be excellent.” Her eyes were moist.
“Thank you for helping to prepare it. I would have you dine with us, but I know where you must be and when. There will be plenty left in the morning, and we will make sure you get your share. If any of us needs it, it is you.”
“Thank you, sir. Maze …” She darted out the door, hiding her face.
His wife, a far-too-young victim of crippling arthritis, hobbled forward. They embraced, as they always did when he returned home from work, as firmly as they dared. They separated, but the look of love remained in their eyes – in her case, despite the pain she endured. Then, “You must be hungry. Nanny has set the table, and the side dishes are ready. The roast itself waits for you.”
The man nodded, called to the children. “Hungry?” None said ‘no’. “Wash up, then”, their father continued, “and by the time you’re done, the roast will be carved and ready for you.”
The children dashed off to the washroom. Their father picked up the oven mitts and retrieved the beef – a task that his wife could no longer accomplish. Her visits to the factory’s hospital had proven mostly fruitless. He set the hot platter in its place at the center of the table, and began the ritual of carving it. His children came to the table, one by one, while the carving was being done, and, as usual, the children marveled at the speed and precision with which Father cut the slices, and the theatricality with which he wielded the whetstone and the knife.
At last all was ready. Father, mother, and children sat at the table and bowed heads. For thirty seconds, with the food steaming and pushing pleasing odors at them, none moved, none spoke. They saw no need for words, for Scripture assured them that God already knew their hearts and their wishes, and would fulfill their needs and their dreams in His own good time. And when the thirty seconds were up, the roast, and the potatoes, and the turnips, and the beets, and the beans were quickly sacrificed. With the man of the house serving his wife, and guarding Nanny’s portion against the hungry hordes.
When the meal was complete, the man of the house organized the clean-up party. His wife, too disabled to participate, withdrew to the bedroom. Her husband and the children gathered and stored the leftovers, drew hot water for the dishes, and set up the assembly line: wash, dry, put away.
Then came children’s time. The man of the house listened to stories; exclaimed over the quality of pictures drawn, some of which could actually be interpreted; helped with homework; refereed disputes within the home and gave advice about dealing with disputes at school. Some nights, his wife’s mobility level was high enough, and her pain level low enough, for her to join in. This was not one of those nights.
Finally, child by child, Father proclaimed “Bedtime!” As always, to choruses of “I’m not tired!” To which he responded as his wife had done while she was whole and handled at least her share of the parenting: “Maybe you’re not tired, but I am tired, and therefore you are going to bed!” Years of loving firmness had cut the wheedling to a minimum, and none of the children was yet old enough for hormones to take fragments of resentment and flame them into open rebellion. At maybe 15 minutes past the appointed time, sons and daughter were in their beds and asleep, or near enough.
When the elder son was blessed and good nighted, the man of the house slumped his shoulders, blew out a blast of air, passed a hand over his forehead. He was weary, but he knew that he was nowhere near done for the night. He went into their bedroom, kissed his wife, who was already undressed, in bed, and half asleep. “Are you coming to bed?”
“Not yet”, the man answered ruefully. “I have an hour’s worth of paperwork that I must get done tonight.”
“You’re a good man”, she responded, sitting up slightly. He grunted. “No, really”, came the retort. “All the things you do for me, all the things you do for Nanny, for the community. I am lucky to have you, and I love you. And they work you too damned hard. When are they going to give you any rest?”
He shrugged. She snorted. “Well, I will be asleep in a few minutes. Kiss me. And try not to stay up too late!”
“I won’t.” He kissed her, watched as she rolled over in bed. In two minutes, pretty much on schedule, she was asleep, very faintly snoring. He kissed her cheek, one last time, and then left the bedroom, moving to the corner of the sitting room that served as his after-hours office, with a small table, chair, and lamp.
He set his ledgers before him, set about translating them into the one-page report that he needed to make to his superiors in the accounting office, due first thing in the morning. Ledgers that told him about the supply chain and whether production was receiving enough materials to meet quotas. About the workforce, and whether it was working efficiently enough to produce, on time and under budget, the goods for which the company had supplies, for which it had an insatiable demand. About the turnover in that workforce. The constant turnover. The steady stream, even a torrent, of workers leaving, and the steady stream, even a torrent, of replacements. Most of his work, every night, was to tally, correctly, the turnover, and supply, for each instance, an explanation, a rationale.
His stomach abruptly soured. The wind had shifted, and the stench from the crematoria wafted through the village, down his chimney, into his makeshift office. He sighed. “Cost of doing business“, he thought to himself. “Hope the wind changes again soon.”
“In 2017, 40 percent of 14-year-olds in Germany did not know what Auschwitz was. In 2018, 41 percent of USA adults, and 66 percent of millennials, did not know what Auschwitz was, while 22 percent said they had never heard of the Holocaust. Also in 2018, a similar situation was reported for Europe as a whole.” – Wikipedia (paraphrased)
“Thanks for coming out and looking over my orchard, Clem. I’m tearing my hair out here.”
“Sorry, Fred, couldn’t tell.”
“Why, thank y …”
“You didn’t have no hair to pull out nohow.”
“You’re also old enough to know better. Or that’s what I thought. I might still have some if it weren’t for the oranges!”
“Hm. What oranges?”
“Precisely! I can grow grapefruit, pomelos, lemons, kumquats, limes, any kind of citrus you care to name. I could probably grow truthms, even in this climate! But oranges, forget it. Valencias, navels, mandarins, clementines. Doesn’t matter. They all die! Why? I have no clue.”
“Surprised at you, Fred. Answer’s as plain as the nose on your face.”
“That’s two …”
“Get over it. See them hedges and windbreaks you’ve got all over this place? Chop ’em down. Get rid of ’em.”
“Replant ’em with something else. Cost you a few years of wind damage, but hey, you won’t get oranges any other way.”
“Well, you’d better learn up. You ain’t gonna get fruit off of trees with no self esteem. And oranges ain’t gonna get none of that, not while you’ve got all these Murraya bushes standing there and beating on them all of the time.”