The Joys of Late Stage Capitalism

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Write a story in which a window is broken or found broken.... view prompt

52 comments

American Contemporary Speculative

He threw a larger piece of brick, shattering another pane of glass. 

Who would complain? The warehouse had already been emptied out. 

A company car drove by, slowly, its headlights washing over him. Gordy momentarily felt sheepish, squinting his eyes, hiding the alcohol he’d been drinking behind his back. He reminded himself he was a 55-year-old man, not a 15-year-old. 

The same anger was still there.

Gordy ran a hand over his bald pate. Self-consciously, he pulled his Indiana Pacers jersey down over his middle-aged paunch. 

“What is going on,” a security guard asked, coming to a stop, partially rolling down the driver’s window. It wasn’t a question. “What are you doing.” 

The guard actually shined a small flashlight in Gordy’s face. 

What am I doing, Gordy thought. It was an existential question he wasn’t prepared to address. 

“Nothing,” Gordy replied, jutting his chin out. He sounded like one of his own sons, petulant, willful. 

“You work at RADCO?”

“Used to,” Gordy spat. “Local 84913.”

“Electrical?”

“Machine worker,” Gordy said. He's been more than just a machine worker at RADCO. For over thirty years, Gordy manufactured electrical junction boxes. Ever since the 1960’s, the National Electric Code required boxes for splicing wires or cables together. Even the college-boy engineers from Chicago had come to see Gordy for suggestions on machinery installation and troubleshooting. He'd been the one who spot-checked the company’s manual, adding all the stuff the engineers didn’t know that they didn’t know. Like how the machinery worked differently in Indiana’s seasons, how it glitched in the cold, damp winters and jammed in the hot, muggy summers. Like his father, Gordy also did the maintenance checks and knew how to deal with OSHA and other bureaucratic paperwork. 

“Machine worker,” he repeated, almost quietly. Like his dad.

“Tough break,” the guard commented off-handedly, rolling up the window. 

The company car sped off, leaving Gordy with his broken bricks and 14% proof malt beverage. 

Watching the guard turn into a vacant lot, Gordy muttered to himself, something between a prayer and a curse. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

He had argued with his son last Christmas Eve. 

“Of course your co-workers are in crisis,” his son explained, sanctimoniously, on the precipice of graduating from Indiana State with a masters degree in Economics. “Of course you aren’t going to find suitable replacements. Why would anyone work in this factory town? Your job is already gone.”

“My job is fine. It’s steady.”

“No, it’s not,” his son corrected him, as if he were a child. “If RADCO doesn’t send your job overseas for a fraction of your salary, then some really smart industrial engineer with a screwdriver will set a team of robots on the warehouse floor to do whatever it is you think you do.” 

Gordy rolled his eyes. His own father didn’t need an overpriced education to raise his family. In high school, Gordy had decided trade school was good enough for him to follow in his father’s line of work. RADCO had kept the wolves from the door for two generations.

“My job managed to pay for your college education,” Gordy said, defensively. 

“That’s because you inherited Grandpa’s house,” his son replied. “Without a mortgage, I’m sure I’d be able to send my kids to college, unless there is another 1000% spike in college tuition.”

“When you marry that girl you are shacking up with, you will eventually want to buy a house. You need to start thinking about that.”

“I sincerely doubt Anne and I will get married.”

“You don’t love her?”

“Of course I love Anne. We don’t need to get married to prove that.”

“What about a house? Kids?”

“It’s almost irresponsible to bring children into this world. And with the exponential cost of living and stagnant wages across this country, we will struggle just to buy a two-bedroom condo in a half-decent area.”

“You don’t want any children?” Gordy shook his head. “You’ll change your mind. One day. I remember—”

“Anne and I don’t want any children,” his son stated with such finality that Gordy simply shut his mouth. Instead, Gordy loaded up his plate with another helping of his wife’s sweet potato casserole.

They ate in silence for a time.

“Now, look,” Gordy tried again. “Your mother and I skimped and saved, and—” His son looked at him with unfettered disdain. Gordy had simply wanted to impart a life lesson. More and more, though, Gordy found his life lessons were of little account. What could he tell his sons? Gordy needed help updating his iPhone, a fact that his children teased him mercilessly about. 

But Gordy could service and repair most of the machinery on the RADCO warehouse floor.

“You aren’t seeing it.”

“Tell me what I’m not seeing,” Gordy conceded. He looked at his son’s soft hands and carefully groomed beard. 

“The suicides you’ve dealt with at work are tied to income inequality.”

“That’s not true,” Gordy shot back, attempting to justify why a few good workers just couldn’t find the means to go on. Couldn’t push through. One had worsening health issues, as the opioids he'd been prescribed had been erroneously marketed as being non-addictive. One stopped going to church when his child didn’t turn out the way, well, the way children are supposed to turn out. He lost heart, was all. 

“It is true,” his son said, helping himself to more Christmas ham. “When workers cannot afford to have meaningful lives, there is a precipitous rise in deaths of despair. It’s a systemic failure of capitalism. Income inequality is not a bug, Dad. It’s a feature.”

“So people die,” Gordy asked incredulously, “because they can’t afford to work?”

“No, they work just fine. They die because they can’t afford to live, to take care of themselves and their families. So they eat too much or drink too much. They take too many drugs, legally or illegally. They engage in risky behavior, break the law, cheat on their wives, beat their children.” 

“That’s because of the bad influence in town,” Gordy lamented. “I knew when they opened up the chicken processing plant that—”

“Dad, please don’t make some racist remark.”

“I’m not racist. You know that—” Gordy wanted the conversation to end. He wasn’t sure how he’d gotten so far down the rabbit hole. 

“If you read more, you would understand that the majority of the social ills in this country are due to income inequality.”

Gordy looked at his plate. For thirty years, he worked his shifts, paid his bills, cared for his family. This “new normal” his son spoke of was certainly new, but not normal. Not to Gordy, anyway.

“So, how do you fix this income inequality?”

“That’s just it. You can’t. As long as people can own real estate and transmit wealth after death, the game is rigged.”

Rigged?

“It’s like the last half hour of a Monopoly game. One player has a shit-ton of properties—has all the green houses and red hotels. All that’s left in the game is watching the other players roll the dice—and go round and round the board until they eventually go bankrupt. One winner. Everyone else loses.”

🜋 🜋 🜋

At least the children were raised, Gordy thought, opening another can of malt liquor, sitting in his truck in the empty RADCO parking lot. He tried to imagine being unemployed with his boys still little. 

Nothing made sense anymore.

He worried about his co-workers with young families. He worried about a lot of things.

Maybe he’d just sell everything. Move south to warmer climes. The company buyout was generous enough for him and his wife to start somewhere new. 

But he was not new. He was pushing 60-years-old, an old man. Medicare was too far away and Social Security even further. Gordy sighed audibly. 

As the night grew darker, even the security guard quit making the rounds. After all, there was nothing of value to protect.

Maybe there was only one thing that made sense, Gordy thought.

Walking back down to the warehouse, he grabbed a few more broken bricks and decided to finish the job he’d started.


June 06, 2021 23:56

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52 comments

K. Antonio
16:01 Jun 07, 2021

To me what makes this piece is the details. The details about the machinery, the specific and layered dialogue. It really does bring everything together, allowing us to understand the past of the main character and how things shifted in his life. Very well constructed, painfully truthful and informative. I liked it a lot!! The title was super attractive and interesting, but also contributed to the tale!

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Deidra Lovegren
17:00 Jun 08, 2021

Thanks, K. Antonio! Your comments mean a great deal to me. I'm a long time fan of your writing :)

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Ash Jarvis
21:11 Jun 08, 2021

This story is powerful, and depressing, and the current reality in the Upper Midwest. You really nailed the confusion and despair of so many people who are living through changes they don’t completely understand and are powerless to stop. One minor thing “So people die,” Gordy looked incredulously, “because they can’t afford to work?” was perhaps supposed to be “So people die,” Gordy asked incredulously Really great take on the prompt!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:12 Jun 08, 2021

Thanks, Ash — I made the much-needed correction. This is the reality in most of Florida, too. Jobs that exist are minimum wage and expendable. Cost of living is far outpacing wages. It’s a mess. And it was entirely predictable…

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10:11 Jul 11, 2021

I love your slow, languid yet Oh so sure descriptive pace you employed in this wonderfully etched story. Trolls go to hell. One needs to stick one's neck out to write such brilliant exposes of a flawed system. So, keep going and never mind the naysayers. I lived this no end.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:02 Jul 11, 2021

Thanks, Neel. Love your bio. Generation X forever, compadre ❤️

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Patrick Charron
14:29 Jun 18, 2021

This belongs on a Marxist propaganda page. The story could have been good if you weren't so preoccupied with hitting all your key anti-capitalist talking points. You need to learn more about income mobility, entrepreneurship and the increase in living standards before popping off on economic theories you clearly don't understand.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:02 Jun 18, 2021

So, you liked it :) -- thanks for the constructive criticism! I'm sure you'd like to get back to watching OANN, reading Ayn Rand, and burning Bernie Sanders in effigy. Not quite sure why you are conflating disparate economic theories, as Keynesian economics has been dormant until COVID-19 triggered it into play. You may want to stop watching Jim Cramer and pick up a copy of The Economist. And you are far too old to use the term "popping off." Thanks for dropping by :)

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Patrick Charron
20:29 Jun 18, 2021

Sorry - I didn't like it, but there were some good bones there for a decent story. My advice is to focus on telling a good story, not to masquerade a lecture as a narrative. You could have gotten across the same criticisms by focusing on the character, rather than trotting out a litany of activist talking points.

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15:21 Jun 14, 2021

you alive?

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Deidra Lovegren
17:38 Jun 14, 2021

Absolutely—I’ve been road tripping this past week! I saw your experimental piece — very clever. Poetry in your future 😎

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00:05 Jun 15, 2021

how far into the future? i'm preparing my oscar speech now... ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
00:53 Jun 15, 2021

You are hilarious LOL I'm back in town now. You are so awesome :)

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13:14 Jun 15, 2021

i am even more awesome now that i finally got back on the princess-themed-whatnot-series train... i earned my writer's jock strap with that part three. politically, you could say that i grew a pair! :D

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Deidra Lovegren
17:32 Jun 15, 2021

Sounds promising. I'm working on an end-of-the-world story this week. 'Tis the season.

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Jubilee Lubov
20:08 Jun 12, 2021

Okay, I'm not great at the intellectual-type comments. However- WOW. This piece was incredible in more ways than one- the descriptions were so so good, and I especially enjoyed the interactions with internal monologue spliced throughout. Fantastic job!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:12 Jun 18, 2021

Thanks Jubilee :) I finally got my first troll (scroll up). Always fun to have them chime in. I appreciate your comments.

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Cathryn V
00:05 Jun 12, 2021

Terrific illustration on economic inequalities and change adjustment. Your stories are engaging and thought provoking. Also, I enjoy reading your fans comments!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:13 Jun 18, 2021

Thanks, CV. Comments are always the best part. It's like a wonderful virtual book club :)

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Cathryn V
15:23 Jun 18, 2021

agree! hey, have you successfully submitted your reedsy winners to publications?

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Deidra Lovegren
15:36 Jun 18, 2021

"The Play's the Thing" was in the Top Ten of the Montana Humor contest. (So I got that going for me. Haha) I'm just starting to submit some of my better stuff. A good writing friend turned me on to this amazing (free) site that actually tracks your submissions, etc. It's been fabulous! Highly recommend: https://manager.submittable.com/signup

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Cathryn V
15:42 Jun 18, 2021

oh yes, i’m very familiar with submittable. Do you use Duotrope at all? it’s $5 per mo. Wow, congratulations on winning the top ten! Is that a Reedsy story?

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Deidra Lovegren
15:45 Jun 18, 2021

Is Duotrope worth the cost? Yep. I like how judges leave comments on Submittable...Jimmy Kimmel & Huey Lewis were allegedly the final judges (my light brush with fame? haha) "The Play's the Thing" won a long time back on Reedsy. KFC & Hamlet mashup.

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16:31 Jun 11, 2021

This moved me emotionally. Like, super impressed. I'd reccomend beeping out the swear since most people do that, but you can leave it if you want to. Wonderful story!

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Mark Wilson
13:16 Jun 11, 2021

Another good read, Deidra ~ You must surely know something or someone who's an electrician; OSHA standards and spliced-wires (uh, I'm sick-to-death of it, but loved your story). The title was brilliant as well. I especially liked the 'Monopoly' metaphor! Very well thought-out, an so true. A great social-commentary. Well done!

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Phil Manders
19:00 Jun 10, 2021

“So people die,” Gordy asked incredulously, “because they can’t afford to work?” “No, they work just fine. They die because they can’t afford to live," I love this line so much! Great story Deidra.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:11 Jun 18, 2021

PHIL - I've missed you :) Hope all is well across the pond.

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Phil Manders
18:35 Jun 18, 2021

Hi Deidra! Come on over, I’ve finally managed to write something😁 Would love your feedback.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:00 Jun 18, 2021

YAY

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H L Mc Quaid
14:34 Jun 08, 2021

Nice, really believable main character...tangling with a world that doesn't make sense any more. The son sometimes sounds like a college lecturer, but I think that's what you were going for? A few small things. Maybe use a contraction here ("he'd") to limit the number of 'had beens': "One had worsening health issues, as the opioids he had been prescribed had been erroneously marketed as being non-addictive. And I think it might be 'further' here rather than 'farther;" "Medicare was too far away and Social Security even farther." as it's r...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:56 Jun 08, 2021

Spot on with the need for contractions and "further." I appreciate the assist :) Having sons come home from college, they have relevant knowledge but "soft hands" -- if you know what I mean. Theoretical is a nice place to live, but...I think this Buzzfeed article says it best: https://www.buzzfeed.com/katherinepickhardt/college-major-vs-current-job

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H L Mc Quaid
16:40 Jun 08, 2021

I'm curious about the self-defence key chain, and, for course, weasel-themed merchandise. Overall, quite depressing, though.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:48 Jun 08, 2021

What's even more depressing is that out of every 3 college students, only 2 make it back for sophomore year. Even fewer graduate. Those that do only find menial jobs (unless they are STEM majors.)

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H L Mc Quaid
17:18 Jun 08, 2021

😔

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Ruth Porritt
04:32 Jun 08, 2021

Boom! :) I love this story. Why? Let me count the ways. :) 1. I adored the character of Gordy. Growing up, I met a lot of people who were just like him. The description of him was superb. 2. The issues in this story are all things I care deeply about. 3. I have talked about similar issues with my mother, who is a Boomer. I see that, once upon a time, things in America may have worked the way that my mom describes. (One income supported an entire family and, if you worked hard, there was always the possibility of wealth.) However, growi...

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Deidra Lovegren
16:08 Jun 08, 2021

This story loves you back. The conversation America needs to have about income inequality (and wage stagnation) is long overdue. But so is an authentic conversation on racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia, infrastructure, basic democratic principles, basic human rights, UBI, universal health care, etc. The fact that we have one of the oldest Congresses ever (not to be ageist) is a problem. 50 Senators are over the age of 65! They seem to fiddle while Rome burns. IMHO? Boomers need to get off the stage; the digital natives need to take o...

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Ruth Porritt
04:43 Jun 09, 2021

Hello, and cool! :) I learned about all of the greatest books, movies, and tv shows from my father (he was a Boomer born in '56) and he helped me immensely with my creative writing. He was the best editor I've ever had. Yes, definitely! :) I am a huge fan of England; a lot of issues that are a big deal in America are just not that big of a deal in Britain. (From what I can see, most people in Britain don't care for Nigel Farage--not sure of the spelling of his name--and that guy is/was a lot like Trump.) It makes me angry (boils my blood)...

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Keya M.
01:12 Jun 08, 2021

Lovely work as always Deidra! I like this interesting twist on the common man's life. How are you doing, I've been missing our little chats (:

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Deidra Lovegren
16:22 Jun 08, 2021

School is out. Life is good. I'm ready to write some vicious satire. Tis the season :)

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Keya M.
12:45 Jun 09, 2021

Consider me interested! I shall await your "vicious satire" haha.

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Beth Connor
22:19 Jun 07, 2021

Brilliant, utterly terrifying, and an amazing title. Going to take a moment to the Ted talk you referenced below.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:34 Jun 07, 2021

Wilkinson spitting facts right there.

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14:08 Jun 07, 2021

tell me, deidra, how do you spin such magic out of freakin' windows?- sent chills up and down my spine. that pinch of psychopathic you sprinkled in (or was that me?) was perfect. gordy and the woman from 'behind the wainscoting' would go well together, i think.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:29 Jun 07, 2021

Wow, Kate!!! I love when you understand my characters more than I do. I think you are 100% right -- Gordy is going to SNAP. No doubt. As for the psychotic wife in the "Behind the Wainscoting"? She HAD totally snapped... Both characters are not living authentic lives, choosing to live in their own fantasy world (which always, always crashes and burns.) You amaze me. Count me a Kate Mengel fan :) :) :)

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15:47 Jun 07, 2021

crashin' and burnin'... my area of expertise. if i was one of those mushball singers, i'd call you up on the stage and sing a solo to you. definitely your fan too, deidra! :) their wedding would be held at a graveyard, 100%.

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Jay Luuu
08:35 Jun 07, 2021

Woah… That's really a terrifying truth and reality. The rich only get richer because they're the big players holding every property on the board and the people who don't have anything have no choice but to keep rolling and eventually go bankrupt. In some magical way, you've managed to capture a very huge economics issue and summed it in your story. Amazing! I'm left in awe at how you keep doing these! —JLU

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Deidra Lovegren
11:18 Jun 07, 2021

Hi Jay -- Thanks for reading. I think the "digital immigrant" crowd (aka over 50) is still reeling from the digital revolution, attempting to understand how the fundamental game not only changed, but also the rules. We are clinging on to what we knew growing up, but that playing field just isn't there anymore in the 21st gig economy. Back in college, I was "Marketing Student of the Year," but that was an ice age ago -- and not one thing I learned then is still relevant now. Also (since the soap box is still out), I think every person in gov...

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00:27 Jun 13, 2021

*commercial voice* hey, you! yes, you! would you like to rot your brain with over one thousand bullet points haphazardly crammed into a messy story format? then click on this link below, and destroy your braincells even further! https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/97/submissions/71460/

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