“...This American carnage stops right here and stops right now… America First, America First...”
He stood shrivelled and wet, shivering on the cotton tufted bathroom mat gazing into the hole in the condensation he had wiped in the large, round mirror. The past few years had been kind to him in some ways, he thought. But not in his looks. Hard work had its rewards, yes, but the bruises and scars throbbed red and hot.
He bent forward, taking a closer look at the bags under his eyes; signs of ageing that took him by surprise. Three years and he had changed so much. Even when he was living on the old welfare system, he had not felt so physically laden. So battered and so damn old!
But, he thought, in those days he had no pride. He had no sense of achievement in signing for welfare. He had no pride in begging for menial work that he never got. And now he had debt, yes – but it was manageable debt. Debt that was creating wealth and jobs and investments. And he knew that that was making America great again.
He pulled the towel around himself and lifted his toiletry bag and opened the door.
“About fucking time you fat jerk!”
If looks could kill, Romanian Tanya had just cut him in half with a blunt pair of nail clippers while he, so, so tired, had no time to move while she hacked.
He smiled and moved past the queue to the dorm and his shared floor.
He pulled on his pants and his laundered shirt and sat on the edge of his low, thin bed to tie the laces of his shined leather shoes. Things only a few years ago he could not have afforded. But in those days, no debt company would allow him to live so far below zero. He knew this was temporary. Because the work he had secured – one of the new jobs the President’s closure of the corrupt Unions had secured (boy did everyone appreciate that one when they were able to stand on their own two feet!), was a job with a future. He was in contact everyday with people who could help his future. He was learning from them, banking knowledge, banking how to act when he became a middle manager and then a boss, because he knew that his hard graft would pay off and one day he would be driven from his huge house in a limousine. Opportunities.
That was everyone’s dream. But like the bloggers blogging across the internet, all hoping to be discovered as some great commentator or writer or poet, he realised there were more bloggers and poets than those interested in reading them. There were more people scrambling at the bottom than enough spaces at the top of the pyramid. More people than jobs of any value. But he wasn't on the streets and he wasn't Asian, black, or gay. Luckily the President was Scottish, and even though the Scottish in Scotland seemed not to like the guy, he seemed to like the Scots. And most of the white European race, except for, he supposed, Hispanics. Which was good for him with his Scottish name. He had one rung he couldn't fall off. There would always be a class below the good, wholesome American people.
“America Is Truly Great Again!” The special edition of the New York Times, printed for the new workers villages seemed to have one headline every day, or variations on the theme. “America The Great.” “America is Unbeatable!” “The People, not the Swamp, Rule America!”
He never read it for news. Because there rarely was anything new in it. It was mind chewing gum. A past-time. Something to keep him away from Fox News, because at least he could set this down and let his mind wander. He had a few minutes before the breakfast room was opened, and he savoured it. His working hours were long. This was time to relax and dream of future opportunities. Of the freedom that work and money and the laws passed to protect people like him would bring him in the future.
He wanted to ignore the shrill, nasal voice.
“Gil! Wanna play a game?”
“Not really, Joe. Wanna relax.”
“Aw, come on, Gil, just one game.”
He knew he wouldn’t be allowed to relax. Joe would whine and shout. There was something not quite right about the guy. Back in the days when all of that tax money was wasted on kids being diagnosed as being on one spectrum or another, money would have been thrown at Joe, to accommodate his weirdness. But Gil knew that this way, Joe, like everyone who could lift a hand, could contribute to the world and earn his debt too. But he was weak...
He folded the newspaper and crossed the dorm to Joes bed. On it was a checker board. He knew he could beat Joe in a few minutes, but that that would be like playing football with a four year old to win, so he made it that Joe beat him. It took a long time. Joe was not strategic in any way, and Gil could have won a number of times, but he held back.
“Jeez Joe, you are a great checkers player!”
“Ya know, Gil, before we made America Great again, I didn't even have a checkers board? At least not my own. Our house had stuff, yeah, but it was all subsidised by the swamp. My mom had no pride. We do now!”
The “Making America Great Again” classes were paying off on Joe. He could barely read, but he could cite the propaganda word for word and it was present in most of his sentences.
In fact it was present in most sentences if you wanted to hold on to your job. And the great and the good, when they spoke through the TV’s and in the special editions of the magazines and newspapers he read, told everyone how their efforts were creating American jobs, walls, cars and wealth all of the time.
And he knew it was true, because he was a great example of it. Lifted from the projects, cleaned up, and given a place in the new world. New jobs, where there hadn't been jobs before.
And in the dorms there were many people like him, who were grateful. When that Philippine President had come over to share with their President how he had drained his country of drug addicts like him and the rest, no-one thought our President would be so brave as to enact it. Who needed new gun laws when the citizens could be empowered to clean up the streets!
Another brave step for our President to take. Of course the rest of the world cried and shouted, but what did they know? They were harbouring terrorists and drug addicts...
“You going for breakfast, Gil?”
“Aye, Joe. Lets go.”
He stood up, and straightened his pants, stretched and lifted his blue jacket – the jacket of his profession, and pulled it on.
They walked down the long dorm, past twisted, skeletal remains of people, who had the President to thank for the end of their addictions. All of them had seen friends gunned down, and rightfully so, because unlike them, their friends were just not strong enough to make America Great again.
The breakfast rarely changed. But he didn't mind. This was kinder than what had went before. Before, he didn't eat. Now, yes, he banked debt, which created new money, but he ate. One day his breakfasts would be more fruit and fresh stuff rather than the cardboard cereal and cheap maple syrup substitute. But the coffee wasn't too bad. Every new thing in the world, if it was an advance, had a sacrifice. And this new, fair system meant not only work for all, but permanent work for all, and opportunities until you die. And some; the weak; sacrificed themselves by not embracing the stronger America.
His latest opportunity was a bigger bed in perhaps a few months when one of the older, frailer workers died. He knew what he had done, the crime he had reported, had moved him further up the queue. He thought to himself, would I once have thought that cruel? He laughed. It was no crueller than the innovations from before America was great again. Things like the internet. That was a sham. Yes, it meant more communication, but at the sacrifice of our safety and our children's moral fibre. The car – another sham; those foreign car manufacturers over-charging for their foreign built dangerous crap. And certain freedoms… the freedom to travel Route 66… something he had always wanted to do… but not something he should do as a poor person. The bum he had been. Too dangerous. Highways – built without barriers – and suicidal and stoned liberals were sure to meet their end wandering across them. No longer, what with the new safety laws. And the new jobs, and the new arrangements to ensure we never missed a day. Well, we couldn't miss a payment, and that was only fair for the food and shelter they were providing for them. Those Gods and their tax dollars...
Joe noisily sucked the rice cereal through the milk but Gil didn't care. Joe didn't bother him. Some of the recently cured addicts did. Some of the ungrateful workers bothered him. The ones who talked about rebellion under their breath. The ones who would stab him if they knew he was pigeoning on them and their dangerous ideas. Why would they want to bring America to its knees again? American values should prevail… and America was surely becoming great again…
The men marched in and stood at the front of the brightly lit canteen. The room went silent and everything went still.
“José Garcia-Martinez step forward.”
Joe stopped slurping and looked at Gil. Gil smiled at him, comfortingly. He stood up and raised his hand.
“That's my old name. I’m an American now… I’m Joe...” he stuttered.
They raised their rifles. “Come forward!”
“I don't understand... I...”
He looked at Gil again. “It’s OK Joe. Do as they ask. It’s for the good.”
He thought, ‘Every new innovation has a sacrifice. And jobs for all mean Mexicans cant stay, regardless of how long they've been here. The Asians are going and the blacks and native Americans are back in their ghettos shouting about their oppression while they have no work. Some people are just lazy.’
At least there was one class below… impossible for him to fall into.
He looked around the room. This was testament to the new world the President had created. Clean. No drugs. Workers. Food. Opportunity. Always opportunity. He had created opportunity.
Joe wasn't lazy, but he was taking an American’s job. Gil had to tell them. ‘He’ll be happier on the other side of the wall anyway’, Gil thought, ‘fighting against the rebellion there. Its their war, not ours. Even though our President is being kind in sending their new Government money to keep the communists and terrorists at bay, I really think he should consider just building that wall higher and manning it with machine gun nests.
Yep, the new America is on its feet. Standing tall, making money, and we all prosper. We all have opportunity and worth.’
The men escorted a protesting Joe out of the canteen and everyone went back to their morning routine.
Gil looked at the time. It was his time. His bus would be here.
After a quick smoke outside, and a crowded bus journey to the hotel, he was there. Ready for his long shift.
He boarded the elevator to Penthouse 4, his station. On arrival he was met by the outgoing shift. They looked exhausted, battered, bloodied. They didn’t look near him as they passed him into the service elevator. Obviously the family were having an early start.
He took his place in the marbled, gilded hallway, standing, facing the entrance to the suite. This was the best part of his job. The standing, watching, learning how the Gods of America lived; how they conducted themselves. Because they were success personified. They were rich for the very reason they knew how to be. They knew things he didn't.
The young God’s played in their room; he could hear them, playing some sort of shooting game. And the Great God himself walked into the hall. Gil lowered his gaze. In this job, you were only part of the furniture. An unthinking object. An ungrateful scrounger, leeching off these hard working people.
He could tell the God was agitated. He was looking for something.
The kids played on.
“What is it honey?”
His beautiful Goddess called after him.
“I’ve left that book I was reading on the fucking plane...”
Gil knew his purpose was about to be fulfilled. He was about to earn his debt.
“Honey, ask someone to get you another copy! There are still book stores all over this city!”
The God came closer to Gil. This was it.
“Yea, I’ll do that...”
Gil felt the blow on the side of his jaw. This God worked out, unlike the one who had stayed in the suite for the previous week. All he had wanted to to was fuck Gil. This God needed to let off steam. And it was a privilege for Gil to allow him to use him to do that. A stress free God meant a better economy, a happier society and more jobs for the likes of Gil.
The next blow floored Gil, and he felt the stamp of the boot on his face. Like he would the next day after a clean up in the pharmacy; and the next day and the day after that…