In 2008 – as the chickens came home to roost, the seeds once sown were reaped, and just desserts were being served – I wrote the story “Laid Off,” now published by Cracked Eye.
The Great Recession continues to drag on, and friends continue to lose jobs, houses, savings accounts – and their natural hair color.
But as one character in the story says, it’s all part of a natural process of selection. Or is it?
The story’s genesis was interesting, at least to its author. It was written after a tumultuous trip back to Boston, where I’d gone to college. The excursion was distinctly different than the one portrayed in the story. In reality, the city was encased in ice – there was no snow, just a frozen slippery sheet over houses, sidewalks and streets. Walking up and down the slopes in Beacon Hill made for some Olympic-style slaloming, and some psychedelic contusions on every limb. My friend Mark – not Fred – and I lay prostrate in the back of a fishtailing pickup truck drinking beer and singing about Plastic Jesuses because, at the time, it seemed to make sense.
I forget the name of the driver of that truck. He was a bald person, and solemn – but kind, and he had good reflexes.
In the Real Trip, two vagabonds did indeed crash a party in a secret wing of a blue-blood old hotel through a decoy exit door, but there was no Aaron Burr. There was an aspiring novelist, sure – but he was a bigger jerk than was portrayed herein.
Back to history… At that point in 2008, America had made its bed and was just about to lay in it, as we’ve said. After a decade of paying for all sorts of nifty exploding gadgets abroad, and thousands of McMansions springing up across the land, all paid for on the credit card, the tab had come due. Suddenly big entities with anthropomorphic names like Freddie and Fannie were cashing in all our collective chips, and panic hummed in the air. And then there were talks – even in the mass media – about Historical Patterns and Cycles of Civilization and all sorts of other high-minded Pop concepts.
I believed them, and I still believe it now. But I’m also a student of History, and because of that, I’ve read Ecclesiastes:
“Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
In trying to make sense of our lean times by boiling it down into abstraction through a fictive medium, I drew inspiration from the greats, too. For one, I was a tour guide at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin one rainy autumn about a decade ago. And this story certainly owes a debt to the author of “Two Gallants.” So if you remember a mumbling American walking you through the steps of scheming Corley and lascivious Lenehan in the fall of 2003, it might have been me. Or it might have been some hopeful Yank, spry of foot and mind, who actually thought poor suckers had a shot in this world.