Scene: Kennedy-era Post Office in Tacoma, Washington. An overcast, cool day. People stand in line, shuffling through envelopes tangled with rubber bands and loopy writing. I am preparing a small mailing to a friend.
Everything sifts out and I lift my eyes. An old man stands in front of me in the line, alert, a little smile on his lips. He wears a maroon plaid shirt, has a little band-aid on his smooth left cheek, his teeth are slightly yellowed but very clean. His waist is neatly cinched with a belt, and his wisps of hair are combed neatly back.
I engage him; he is eager to talk:
I’m obsessive-compulsive; now that I’m retired, I have such a hard time walking away from a project. By the time I finish, it’s dark! And the day is over. I don’t get much sleep.
With all due respect to you, young man, this country is sliding down the tubes. It’s socialism! People talk about democracy, when what they mean is Marxism. It reminds me of what Stalin used to say — you give the people bread, and they stop asking questions.
No one reads the Constitution. It is a piece of parchment, written by men with virtue. But this country is being sold out by traitors! And no one knows what is important anymore. I mean, does it really matter if the Mariners win?
We don’t produce anything anymore, and now we do trade with those Chinese sons-of-bitches!
This new guy, Obama, he’s a Marxist! And as far as the race thing goes, he’s not completely one of them, so it could be even worse.
The UN is a den of thieves. We are this far away from having Russian troops moving around with impunity inside our borders.
I saw this coming back in 1935. I never liked FDR — he was a real son-of-a-bitch, and the other one — what was his name? — Harry. Truman. Neither one of those guys would stand up to Stalin. They were in bed with the guy! This whole setup goes back to the end of the war.
Do you go to school here? Yeah? I used to, but then I took a statistics class, and a microbiology, and it got my head all turned around. I had to transfer to St. Martin’s. I was no crackerjack student there, but I tell you something, my history and economics teachers? They were all socialists! I had one who talked about “the glories of Yugoslavia,” and I just did not agree. So I went to talk to one of the priests and I got that socialist son-of-a-bitch fired.
I don’t expect you to agree with everything I say. It’s just that I have a lot of frustration about what’s happening, and sometimes I have to let it out. My daughter, well, my granddaughter is an atheist, and that’s something she is just going to have to work out.
Great to meet you. Why don’t you call me sometime? How do I say your last name? Cathcart? OK, Cathcart. Take care of yourself.