Jan 03, 2021

Contemporary American Fiction

Jimmy Bob, lived on the thirteenth floor of Abercrombie and Flinch Building. Bob James, lived in the basement of the same building. Jimmy lived in the penthouse, having access to a rooftop with apocalyptic views of the city.  Bob lived next to a boiler that was heard to be possessed.  They shared one thing in common: noise. 

The route of Santana Gomez, included the 4 AM dumpster pick up, and subsequent emptying of refuse from the dumpsters of the Flinch building, where it was meant to disappear into the unknown, and be forgotten. 

Santana, although nearing retirement, had no stock in Waste Management, but a retirement dream that allowed him the future emotional security of living his last days in the comfort of someplace warmer, perhaps the south side of Chicago. 

The night shift, consisting of sanitation engineers, had one lessen to teach, which was, that they were unappreciated. Because of their inability to blend into everyday life, as there was none at 4 AM, they received more than their share of indecent suggestions which did little to improve their dispositions.

Although Santana believed in being a good Christian when possible, he himself preferred the status, of an agnostic. It seemed to fit his life style, and his ability to judge people solely on the evidence they themselves provided.  He witnessed the depravity that had infiltrated the cities, and the unseen civic response to disease and ephemeral interruption into lives, that not only did not care, but objected to having the wherewithal to do something about it.

Jimmy Bob, being a man schooled in the amenities afforded the affluent, considered hiring a lawyer to prevent dumpsters from being emptied before 8 AM and after the 9 PM, his cocktail hour. Jimmy was notorious for being austere. His family used the word cheap, but for the telling of this story I will stay with the more socially accepted terms used by the majority of those who are, of a similar persuasion.

Jimmy decided to hold a tenant meeting. They would decide with Jimmy’s assurance, to petition the city to change its present procedures to afford those that believed sleeping until 10 Am, and on special occasions, noon, the inalienable right to sleep undisturbed. 

Two of the three residents that attended, believed their actions would change nothing, the other, most assuredly did. Their previous attempt to have the lap dance academy on the third floor shut down, ended in the business expanding to now include the entire third floor, and having its own designated elevator that only permitted access with a special code. It caused the wariness in the building to become pervasive. 

Bob James agreed that for things to change in a city, where, who you knew, meant more than what you knew, they would have to take matters into their own hands.

Jimmy having recently spent a night in the city jail on a trumped up DWI charge, was in no mood to entertain suggestions that would result in a repeat of that unforgettable night. He personally would take up a collection from tenants, hire a rights lawyer, and have the problem brought to the attention of the city council.

Bob knew that would be a waste of money, and only Jimmy would benefit from the influx of local news reporters on their first assignment, looking to make a name for themselves, but ending up doing little to advance the cause of justice. 

He recommended they begin to revert back to the previous summers tactics, illusive insurgence. Police had overstepped their reach, it was reported by local media, by going into neighborhoods previously determined by them, unsafe, and attempting to stop the protest setting of dumpster fires. 

Jimmy could see no relevance in starting fires in dumpsters, as that would only be doing the work of those whose mode of operation they wished to change, and in the process, fouling the air which needed no further elemental injections to be unbreathable.

Santana, the third member at the meeting found both plans to lack a certain originality. He, having been a sanitation engineer for all but the first sixteen years of his life, had learned much from what had been discarded, in favor of something newer, more contemporary, different. Not necessarily better, more efficient, or appealing, from a boutique point of view; just different. It was the planning committees attempt to remain on the cutting edge, of what needed to be accepted and promoted as progress, if gentrification was to continue to change the look and mood of certain undesirable neighborhoods, and the communities that caused them to be labeled as such.

Santana had been successful at keeping his means of livelihood undetected by tenants of the building, as well as members of the community. They all assumed he dealt in antiquities harvested from elderly residents in need, as their apartment buildings were being considered for renovation, allowing them to enter the new era of planned obsolescence and subsequent rent hikes.

Santana, in his usual unassuming way, suggested that laws were meant to keep peace and stability in communities. They were also, he added, with just a dash of sarcasm, “Meant to be broken.” Santana was firm believer in the Chaos Movement, founded by breadline participants of the 1930’s. Their philosophy consisted primarily of suggesting and endorsing differing solutions to a problem, and then stepping back and watching the chaos develop. A tried-and-true concept used around the world, but particularly affective in nations where arrogance and greed were inherent in the primary governing ethos. 

The concept had worked well over the years. In the 1950’s the mayor of Chicago was elected by an influx of newly recruited voters, the dead, which were claimed to have little else to do, but vote. Having a lifetime of experience, who better to inject a new direction into a society than those who lived with and through, their own mistakes. The election controversy, in keeping with chaos theory, placed the emphasis on who voted, taking the pressure and notoriety off, who was voted for.

Santana suggest in his coy manner, they consider his options.

He realized that he had the perfect combination of chaos at his command. Jimmy’s arrogance was unrivaled, and Bob’s tendency towards violence provided the making of an institutional conundrum not only plausible, but desirable. 

“What we need to do is create an illusion of chaos, which can be done easily with Jimmy’s access to funding, and Bob’s expertise in destruction. We need to create what was magnified into reality during the Gulf War. The bomb, finding its way into that smoke stack of an unidentified but predetermined Iraqi nuclear fission factory, exploded in the imaginations of the people. We had not won a war in over fifty years, and this one aggressive act tattooed an image on the psyche of America. It pulled us from our couches, and into the streets in search of Iraqi terrorists, or anyone that looked like they might be Iraqi. And I of all people, would know.

The beauty of the incitement was that it was caused by imagery, which no one would take credit for, even though there was no criminal penalties associated with it. 

"I know,” offered Santana, “your first inclination is to say that we are not a part of a conservative movement. I would suggest, if it will not be regarded as being overtly foreword, that this may just be a solution to all our problems.” Santana was banking on the fact that neither understood the philosophy behind conservatism, or of his retirement plans.

Santana realized his plot would not result in any positive changes in the weeks before his retirement to South Chicago, but it would alleviate the immediate tension which always resulted in an activity that brought condemnation, instead of concrete changes. He was too old for concrete changes, but also just wanted to be left to the mundane routine he had developed over the years as a sanitation engineer, day dreaming. His vision of an antiquity business would be in actuality, a front for a money laundering scheme. His dreams never failed to amaze him. 

Santana hadn’t paid taxes in over thirty years and didn’t want two idiots who believed they could change city hall, blowing up his last opportunity to disappear into the Taj Ma Hall of his dreams. He had just submitted his bid for the Shangri la Hotel, in which, because of his prudent investments, he would be the singular resident. He had already seen to the route changes for the dumpster pickups. He, being involved with, and president of the Sanitation Engineers Union, had relevant advantages.

Jimmy and Bob were given six months for distributing seditious materials and films depicting the garbage strikes of the eighties. The materials being the impetus, it was claimed, for renewed interest in urban insurrection. Bob was on the cover of, “Another Time Magazine,” a guide to outdoor survival in the city.

Jimmy was run over by a garbage truck driven by Santana’s estranged illegitimate son, B. B. It was deemed an unavoidable accident, as the smoke from burning dumpsters had limited visibility.

Santana escaped to Shangri la, where he wrote a book on insurrection. It is on the NYT best seller list. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

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