Jason was looking over the newspaper classified employment ads as he sat at the kitchen table. David was across from him doing homework.
“Anything promising?” father asked from the living room.
“Not much,” Jason answered as he stared at the grid of small rectangles and abbreviated text. “A lot of the same old stuff.”
“Budget cuts because of the Cold War ending would be my guess.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking,” Jason agreed. “I guess we’ll need another war to get things going again,” he added half seriously.
“Doesn’t the county building have a job center?” David asked.
“I checked it out, most of it’s part time work,” Jason said, “and nothing that pays enough.”
“What about a temp agency?” David suggested.
“I need a permanent job,” Jason replied. “Those temp jobs don’t pay much anyhow.”
“I should look for a new job myself,” David said. “I’m getting tired of the fast food scene.”
“Safeway is always hiring,” father said impatiently.
The telephone rang. David reached over and picked up the receiver. “Hello? Oh hi, Todd…Yeah, he’s here.” He handed the receiver to Jason. “It’s Todd.”
Jason took the receiver. “Todd. What’s up?”
“Got some bad news,” Todd said.
Jason suddenly got a sinking feeling. “What is it?”
“Randy was busted.”
“Dammit!” Jason brought his fist down on the table, and David looked up. “What happened?”
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Todd said. “A SWAT team did a raid on this house where he just happened to be in the middle of a deal.”
Shock ran through Jason. He got up and tried to grasp what he just heard as he paced back and forth. The coiled phone chord dangling from the receiver to the wall telephone followed him around. “I can’t believe this!” he said angrily. “Where is he now?”
“They got him at the city lockup. I called and they told me he’s going to be arraigned tomorrow.”
“Goddamn, this is a nightmare!” Jason said anxiously as the news sank in. What little hope he still had for Randy came crashing down and left a void in its absence. He then looked around and noticed his brother and father looking at him with concern. He turned toward the telephone, leaned into the wall, and tried to conceal his anger. “You know, I told him not to be careless,” he spoke quietly into the receiver. “Once he started getting mixed up with Darren and Tony, all those other sketchy motherfuckers, that whole scene, I had a bad feeling something like this was going to happen!”
“I heard how he lost it at Tony’s party and got into a fight.”
“Yeah, I think just about everybody at that party was keyed up. We got Randy out of there just before the cops showed up. A lot of good that did,” Jason added bitterly.
“I also heard from some of the guys that you and Randy almost got into it,” Todd said carefully.
Jason was stung by the memory of that night. “Yeah, we had some words,” he said regretfully. “Never thought it’d come to that.”
“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “Don’t blame you for avoiding the party.”
“I never knew Tony all that well anyway,” Todd said.
“I only went because of Randy, guess I thought I could keep him out of trouble,” Jason said. “But I suppose it was too late for that.”
“It’s all fucked up,” Todd lamented. “But I guess it isn’t a total surprise.”
“No, guess not,” Jason said. “So now what? It’s not like Randy or his mom can afford a
decent lawyer, or any kind of lawyer.”
“I know. He’ll probably end up with some half ass public defender.”
“Which means he’ll probably end up doing some time.”
“Most likely,” Todd said dejectedly. “It’ll all depend on the lawyer he gets stuck with, the
judge, whether the DA wants to cut him a deal, and they won’t do that unless he’s willing to give up some names.”
“Can’t see Randy doing that,” Jason predicted. “Probably doesn’t know anyone important anyway.”
“No, he probably doesn’t,” Todd agreed. “He’s definitely the low man on the totem pole.”
The gravity of the situation continued to weigh on Jason. “So what happens next?”
“I’m going to call in sick tomorrow so I can go to the arraignment. I’ll be in touch with everyone as soon as I know what’s happening.”
“How much do you think his bail will be?” Jason asked.
“No idea,” Todd answered. “I guess that’ll depend on the amount he was caught with, or if they want to make an example out of him.”
Jason leaned his head against the wall and looked down. “He’s really up a creek.”
“It doesn’t look good,” Todd said. “Do you know if he has any priors?”
“Nothing like this,” Jason said. He stood back up. “This sucks, this really, fucking sucks.”
“I know,” Todd said mournfully. “Randy always was the life of the party, since he was little. Guess it finally caught up with him.”
“It sure did.” Jason’s mood sank lower into despair. “It didn’t have to be this way, but he just ignored all the warning signs.”
“Yeah,” Tom sighed. “Well, I’ll let you go, I’ve got some more people to notify. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how it went.”
“All right,” Jason said. “I was just about to head to Christine’s myself. Says she has important news, probably about a job somewhere.”
“That could be a good thing. I know you’re getting sick and tired of your current job.”
“Sure am, but not exactly on my mind right now.”
“Well, talk to you tomorrow.”
“All right, bye.”
“Bye.” Jason hung up the receiver.
“What happened?” David asked.
“Randy was arrested.”
“Oh no!” David reacted. “What for?”
“Possession,” Jason said. He swiped his keys off the table and headed to the front door.
“What a shame,” father remarked sadly.
“Going over to Christine’s,” Jason said as he left. He got into his car and drove away quickly. The late summer twilight was fading into night as all his worries about Randy dimmed into new uncertainties. He then saw Randy disappearing into a sea of statistics on crime, incarceration, and people whose bad decisions put them on the wrong side of the law. His dread then merged into a bigger, permanent, and irreversible change happening far beyond his control. He sensed previous possibilities closing off as hopes plateaued and promises of unity gave way to a more fractured future. He then saw his own life heading down a more limited path, and felt the chill of isolation.
He arrived at Christine’s and sat in his car for a moment as he straightened out his thoughts. He finally got out and walked to her apartment. He knocked on the front door. It opened slowly and Christine quietly let him in. He entered and milled around in the front room as Christine closed the door. He tried to figure out how to tell her what had happened. “Bad news about Randy,” he finally said.
“He got busted.”
“Oh no,” Christine said sadly and she sat down. “That’s terrible.”
“Todd just called and told me, he was arrested earlier today.”
“What did he do?”
“He was in the middle of a drug deal then the police raided the place.” Jason paced around some more. “I tried to talk some sense into him,” he said with frustration. “I told him not to get mixed up with the wrong people.”
“You did the best you could,” Christine reassured.
“I don’t know about that,” Jason countered as he kept pacing around the room. “Feels like I could have done more.” Anger continued to build up inside of him. “Maybe I should have grabbed a hold of him and shook some sense into him!” he said aloud as he held up clenched fists. “Instead I did nothing.” He came to a stop and dwelt some more on the worsening situation. “Shit, they’ll probably throw the book at him.”
“I know,” Christine said somewhat absently, “it’s awful.”
Jason noticed Christine was looking away and seemed to be thinking of something else. “You work for lawyers, what do you think his chances are?”
“Hmm? Oh, I don’t know, we don’t do criminal law. I guess it’s going to depend on how much he was caught with, and if he’s willing to plea bargain.”
“Well then he’s in bad shape because Randy was never one to snitch.” Jason began to pace around in a circle as stress accumulated. “Why the fuck did he have to get caught? Now he’s stuck in the gears of the system!”
“Maybe he’ll get help he needs on the inside,” Christine said helpfully.
“And he has to go behind bars to get it? Is that fair?” Jason said angrily. “This is all fucked
up. I know he blew it, but it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone, all he did was get mixed up with the wrong people and make some mistakes! Why all this other bullshit?”
“I know, it’s terrible, and I’m really sorry it all happened like this,” Christine said, “but it’s out of our hands now.”
“Yeah, just like a lot of other things in life.”
Christine stood up and moved toward Jason. “Look, I know this is really important, but there is something I need to tell you.”
“If it’s about another job possibility can we talk about it later?” Jason demanded as he came to a stop. “Got a lot on my mind right now.”
“No, it’s not about a job.”
“Then what?” Jason snapped. “Is it a family emergency? Someone back in the hospital?”
Christine hesitated. “No, not exactly.”
“Then what’s going on?” Jason said louder.
Christine struggled to speak as Jason loomed over her.
“Well it better be really important!”
“I don’t quite know how to say this,” Christine stammered.
Jason gripped Christine by the shoulders. “I’m losing someone very important in my life!” he implored. “Can’t you understand that?”
Jason was startled. Christine took his hands and held them closer to her. She peered at him gravely. His stomach tightened. “What is it?”
She paused. “I had myself tested.”
He immediately feared of the worst. “Is something wrong?”
She began to crack. “I’m pregnant.”
Jason went numb all over. Christine’s words echoed in his mind and signaled an end to life as he knew it and an unknown future of new responsibilities pushing him out of the center of his own being. He rapidly fell away from his former stability as he tried to comprehend what he just heard and where it was going to take him. He struggled to put his thoughts back together and tried to speak, but was too overwhelmed by the sudden change of events. “For real?” he finally asked.
Christine nodded. “I just found out today.”
Jason remained confused. “I…I don’t know what to say.”
“I was late,” Christine said, “and I was starting to worry. So I took the test.”
Jason struggled some more to grasp the situation as he saw his old lifestyle disappear for good. He searched through the disarray of new thoughts and tried to find something appropriate to say. “I guess I never figured on this happening so soon.”
“Me neither,” Christine admitted. “Oh my god, what are my parents going to say!” She buried her face into her hands.
The weight of her ordeal dawned upon him. “You haven’t told them yet?”
“I haven’t told anyone.”
Jason gently put his hand onto Christine’s shoulder. She sobbed a little then they came together and held each other tight. He felt her convulse a little as they embraced, and found himself settling into his new reality and accepting the awaiting path ahead of him. He continued to hold her close, then realized he had forgotten his agonizing over Randy.
“Now I’m really going to have to get a new job,” Jason said with unexpected relief. “I need to get out of there anyway,” he went on. “Whole place feels like a compound. Everybody I like there has either left, was let go, or is on the way out.”
“I’ll work for as long as I can,” Christine offered, “at least until I get too big.”
Jason thought some about the burden of new responsibilities and what it would do to them. “So are you ready for all this?”
“This is a lot sooner than I expected,” Christine said. “But yes, I’m ready. When I found out, I wasn’t sure how you’d react. I guess it’s still sinking in for me.”
“I’m still in shock myself,” Jason said. “Hope I’m up to it.”
“You’ll make a good dad,” Christine said confidently.
Jason was daunted by Christine’s faith and all his new obligations as they headed together irreversibly into the future. He looked ahead and pictured her in the last stages of pregnancy. “Guess you’ll have to buy new clothes in a few months,” he tried to say humorously.
“Won’t that be a sight,” Christine remarked as she continued to lay her head on Jason. After a long while they slowly relaxed their hold on each other.
Christine looked at Jason, her eyes still wet. “Sorry to surprise like this. I know you got a lot of other things on your mind right now.”
“Nah, don’t be,” Jason consoled. “You’re right about Randy’s situation being out of our hands, just wish I could’ve done more. And it’s way past time I moved on from that soul sucking job from hell.” He felt himself adjusting to his new circumstances effortlessly. “They’re forcing everybody out so they can bring in all their own high end cronies. I just don’t belong there anymore.”
“It’ll be their loss.”
“Yeah, that’s the way I look at it.”
“So what are you going to do about school?” Christine asked.
“Well, degrees ain’t worth what they used to be,” Jason said resignedly, “better to learn a skill anyhow. I’ll just have to leave the college stuff to my sister.”
“And maybe even David someday.”
Jason laughed a little. “We’ll see about that, but we will have to tell everyone else pretty soon. Wonder how they’ll take it.”
“My family will sure be in for a surprise,” Christine said humorously.
“Same with mine,” Jason said laughing along with her. “My parents are going to be
grandparents for the first time, that’s gonna to make them feel old.” They laughed some more until their levity subsided. They looked at each other solemnly with a shared realization of the demands ahead of them. They embraced again and held each other close.
“So now what?” Christine wondered.
Jason thought for a moment. “Is your uncle still hiring?”
©2018 Robert Kirkendall