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The Village Idiot

A low wage slug speaks up!

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(1/2014) Iís at the factory grumbling about something the bosses had told me to do. No surprise that I canít recall what I was going on about, but it led to my demanding the union leader call a strike! (We organized about last week and became the Master Stampers, Debossers, Stackers, Sprayers, Dyers, Splitters, Skivers, Scrap Trimmers and Maintenance Workers United- Local No. 1) Getting the union to even listen to my grievances is about as difficult as getting the bosses to listen. It just seems some people let positions of power go to their heads and they usually forget itís the little guy (okay, so Iím the biggest guy in the shop) who needs be taken care of so he can get the work out. No work, no money. We arenít like the government; we canít just print the stuff! (Well, we probably could, but none of us are smart enough to forge checks let alone US currency.)

So, after days of arguing with the union leader we finally call a strike! I canít wait to walk a picket line. Thatís always seemed so cool, getting paid to goof off- I mean hold a sign declaring the unfairness of having to work- I mean not getting paid enough or whatever it was we went on strike for. I arrive at the factory in the cold dark of 5:50 on a late fall morning, eager to take my place and rail against the man! No one shall cross the picket line while Iím on it! Blood will be shed! OoRAH!

DW looks at me and shakes her head. "Will you open the door? Itís cold out here."

"Hell no, we wont go!" I bellow waving my arms (someone forgot to make the signs.) I look about for the other strikers. Itís so dark I canít see them. But I know theyíre there, backing me to the hilt!

She sighs and turns her sighted eye on me and squints. "Do you want to sleep with the dogs tonight?"

I mumble something, stalling so the rest of the picketers can come to my aid.

"Open the door Jack. Now."

"Yes dear."

And so went our first strike. We voted for a change of union leadership as soon as I got the shop lights and heaters turned on, but as Iím in a union of one, I ended up being reelected.

I never did think much of unions anyhow so I voted to kick the union out of the factory, not that anyone noticed. So Iím back to being just a plain stamper, debosser, stacker, sprayer, dyer, splitter, skiver, scrap trimming maintenance slug, but only because no one else in the factory does any of those jobs. Nor do they want them.

Iím trimming out a box of scrap leather, leaning over the edge of the wooden crate that had held 500 pounds of leather, gathering splinters in me belly (which is too big anyhow) when it occurs to me Iím lucky to have a minimum wage job (I think Iím paid minimum. I never see the front of the check DW says to sign and take to the bank.) I mean how many indoor jobs are there for high school dropouts over the age of 59? As I cut my fingers with the scissors again I regret not paying attention in kindergarten- Oh, I didnít go to kindergarten. No wonder I canít trim leather without snipping my fingers occasionally. (DW says sheís going to start docking my paycheck if she has to keep buying Band-Aids for me.)

I get to thinking about all those people who keep telling me I am a burden on society because I donít pay my fair share in taxes and cost the state money to care for my simple needs. I donít know how much more I should be paying in taxes. I know taxes are withheld from my paycheck, even if I never see how much. I know we pay taxes on the phone bill, the grocery bill, the electric bill, the gasoline bill, the wine bill and I know we pay taxes on the house because DW snarls every July. She also snarls in February when she figures the income taxes. Me and the dogs usually find some place to curl up and wait for her to tell me to "sign this" and take the forms to the PO.

The part about the state taking care of me really has me puzzled. I started working in 1969 according to the Social Security crap I occasionally get in the mail. From that year until now Iíve drawn less than two months of unemployment and on at least one occasion the bosses had to trick me into signing up for it. The only way they convinced me into signing up last winter was by yelling at me. "WEíVE BEEN PAYING INTO THE FUND FOR 40 YEARS! TAKE SOME OF IT BACK!"

To which I replied, "But I donít want it."

DW gave me that one eyed squint. "Do you want to eat?"

"Well, there are the dogs and catÖ Okay! Iíll sign the damned paper!"

Evidently, Iím also a burden on the taxpayers because I donít have health insurance. That one really puzzles me. I see a doctor and I pay the bill. I go into a hospital and I pay the bill. (I seldom buy the drugs the doctor recommends so paying the druggist is moot.) If I canít pay the bill, I donít go to the doctor or the hospital. How is that a burden to the taxpayer?

"But what if you get cancer, or have a stroke, or a heart attack? Then the state has to pay your bills!"

Not if I can die before I get taken into a hospital against my will. (I hate tattoos, but Iím thinking of having one done across my forehead: LET ME DIE!)

"But youíll change your mind when the time comes! Everyone does!"

No, everyone does not. I didnít the night I slammed a motorcycle into a four-wheeled cage. As the tires screamed in protest to my locking the brakes I knew it was too late to avoid the flippiní vehicle and hitting it at 45 MPH was the last thing I was ever gonna do. That I was about to die didnít bother me in the least. I was pissed I couldnít avoid it, but I wasnít worried about the dying. We all die. My time had come. I was going to see what was next on the Wheel. (Iíve heard the EMS crew was as surprised as I was when I opened my eyes and found I wasnít dead. For the life of me I couldnít recall my name, but I was vaguely disappointed about being alive.)

If Iím a burden to anyone it would be to DW. I earn too little, eat too much, rant too often and loudly, curse too much and complain more than needs be. If she can put up with me the state sure as hell hasnít a gripe!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.