Charles pulled open the door to the Gravity Pub and went in. The near campus bar was dark and full of conversation coming from TVs and crowded tables. Charles found Dimitri and sat down next to him at the bar. The bartender placed two beers and two shot glasses in front of Dmitri and Charles. The bartender returned to fill the shot glasses with vodka. Dimitri placed a twenty on the bar and the bartender made change. “To respect!” Charles toasted. The two drank down the shots.
“Congratulations Charles.” Dimitri gave Charles a slap on the back. “Now that you have a master’s degree in social justice, the world is your oyster, as they say.
“So far the world is my headache. I have received no job offers since graduating.”
“Give it time. Here, let’s have another shot”, Dimitri offered and threw a twenty-dollar bill on the bar.
After two beers and several shots of vodka, Charles stood up next to Dimitri and pointed a finger in the air above him.
“My friend, for too long the one perthent have exploited tax loopholes making them richer. The rich are taking their wealth and all of the income and moving their profits overseas making the poor pay the bills. Their gain is our sthruggle!”
Conversations in the room stopped.
“Sit down tiger”, Dimitri pulled on Charles jacket, “These jokers already heard all this stuff.”
“I’ll not sleep until income inequality is error…radicated.”
“Give it time. Here, let’s have another shot”, Dimitri placed two twenty-dollar bills on the bar. He told the bartender that he was ready to settle their bill.
Charles sat down again. He looked despondent. After an hour he said goodnight to Dimitri.
Charles pushed open the door to the Gravity Pub and went out. The brisk night air in his lungs made him yawn. Looking up at a sodium streetlight he proclaimed, ” A mather’s dugree…now maybe I’ll get some re…thpect …Joe …he rethpects me… I gave him a two dollar thip!” Charles stood colorless under the yellow light proclaiming to passing cars his grand achievement.
After some time, Charles made his way home. He plunked down on the futon in the basement. He tried to remember how he got home. His thoughts were not working in any order. He lay down. His eyes, heavy with sleep, closed. The room settled down, became dark and then a large room opened before him. A room with chandeliers. A room with a large audience. The audience was looking at him. There were cries of “Speech! Speech!”
“Friends, today is a good day for the world. You have recognized my worth. I want to eradicate inequality…for too long the rich have stuffed their mattresses with wealth. The rich have the entire world’s money and their trickle down has never worked. When the rich get richer, the middle-class doesn’t benefit. No, the rich stash their cash. They buy trinkets. Their money was made on the backs of underpaid workers. Automation technology destroys the working class…Save the …”
In the next moment, a man in a tux looped a medal around Charles neck. It was the Nobel Prize. The audience stood to their feet applauding. And then a white figure with a halo came toward him. Inga was bringing him roses. As he reached for them he found himself in a ballroom dancing with Inga. She asked him, “What are you going to do with all that money?”
“I will buy a drum set. Yes, I will buy a drum set!”
“Charles, wake up.” Mick, Charles’ younger brother, thumped Charles on the head with his forefinger.
“Ow! Wh…what do you want?”
“You were talking in sleep. Hey, can I borrow a dollar? I will pay you back with my allowance.
“Aw, go away. My head hurts. Bring me aspirin and some water.”
“Aw, go away.
A week later Charles met Dimitri at Gravity.
“We’ll have another beer, Joe.”
Joe the bartender set the beer in front of Charles and Dimitri. Charles looked at him and asked, “Joe, how much do you make?’
“I make enough to take care of my wife and two daughters.”
“I mean how much do you make?
“I make minimum wage plus tips. This is a second job.”
“See what I am saying Dmitri? The greedy one percent has drained this man of his humanity.”
Joe gave Charles a puzzled look and walked away.
“Those rich greedy bastards. Those fat cats hoard money in Swiss banks. Wait till the world sees what I can do to make things right! I have no patience for the rich. Who are they to have so much when Joe has so little?
“See that framed dollar on the wall”. Charles pointed to a 4 x 6” frame above the liquor bottles. “I will frame the first dollar I take from a rich man.”
At that moment Charles phone rattled on the bar. He picked up the phone and saw that this mother had called. He pushed 1 and his mom’s number was dialed.
“Mom, what is it?”
“Several boxes arrived today for you. What are they?”
“It’s a drum set. I’m gonna play drums in a band.”
“You are also going to start paying rent to stay here.”
“Mom, not this again. I need to pay off my student loan. I have no job. The rich have made it almost impossible for people like me. And why should I work for minimum wage when I have a Master’s Degree? Look how much I have invested in myself.”
“You have to start somewhere. Your dear departed father worked for fifty years so that you and I had a roof over our head. He wouldn’t want you to be a leech. Now, either you pay rent or you are out. Get home now and get these boxes out of the living room.”
“Mom, I’ll talk to you later.” Charles ended the call.
“Dmitri, can you buy me one more beer and shot?’
“Sure. Trouble at home?”
“Ah, my mother wants me to pay rent. As if I was made of money.”
The bartender placed two beers and two shot glasses in front of Dmitri and Charles. He returned to fill the shot glasses with vodka. Dimitri placed a twenty on the bar and the bartender made change.
The two raised their shot glasses. Charles toasted to the end of the oppression and they drank. When the beer was gone Charles stood up.
“I better get going before my mother has a conniption fit. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Charles walked out. Pushing open the door to the Gravity Pub he went into the night air yawing.
At home Charles moved the boxes down to the basement. He opened them and checked the contents. When he couldn’t stop yawning he lay down on the futon and closed his eyes.
In the descending blackness he came upon daylight. He saw himself outside his mother’s car in front of a store. The car was running and the car keys were locked inside. His Nobel medal hung around the rear view mirror. Frantic, he looked around for help. His professor came by and said, “You shouldn’t have done that”. A politician walked by and said “Someone will come along to help, trust me”. A man in a Mercedes pulled up and said. ”Hey I’ve got just the thing you need.” The man opened his trunk and pulled out a Slim Jim. The man proceeded to unlock the door through the car window’s weather stripping. When the door opened the radio blurted out, ”Mama may have, papa may have, But God bless the child that’s got his own, That’s got his own.”
Charles opened his eyes, winced and held his head. “Damn”, he moaned, mom was playing her music again.
As years went by, Charles went on to become a respected professor of Social Justice at his alma mater. After tenure Charles received a six-figure salary. He summers in Costa Rica where he gives lectures about the one percent and income inequality. He went on to write “Structural Marginalization, Social Justice and Solidarity Action for the Education Challenged”. The book was well-received by his peers but did not sell in the open market. Soon after the book release Charles became the owner of Gravity Pub. Dimitri went on to start a hedge fund that gave away fifty percent of its profits. Charles’ mother died in her home with an unused drum set.
© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved