Jason looked over the newspaper classified want ads while sitting at the kitchen table. David was across the table doing his homework.
“Anything promising?” father asked from the living room.
“Not much,” Jason answered. “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 dick anyhow.”
“I should look for a new job myself,” David said. “I’m getting tired of the fast food scene.”
“Safeway is 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 somberly.
Jason got a sinking feeling. “What is it?”
“Randy got busted.”
“Dammit!” Jason struck the table and David looked up. “What happened?”
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Todd informed. “A SWAT team did a raid on this house where he just happened to be in the middle of a deal.”
Jason was shocked and dismayed. He got up as he tried to grasp what he just heard and paced around as the coiled phone chord dangled from the receiver to the telephone on the wall. “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 became anxious as the news sank in. The dread he had been feeling for Randy reached its conclusion, and the few remaining hopes he had came crashing down. He then looked around and noticed his brother and father looking at him. He turned toward the telephone and leaned into the wall to conceal his anger. “You know, I told him a thousand goddamn times not to be careless,” he spoke quietly into the receiver, “not to get mixed up with Darren and Tony, all those other sketchy motherfuckers, that whole scene, now look what happens!”
“I heard how he lost it at Tony’s party and got into a fight.”
“Yeah, that was a bad scene. We got him out of there just before the cops showed up. A lot of good that did,” he added glumly.
“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,” he admitted. “Never thought it’d come to that.”
“Yeah,” Jason agreed regretfully. “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 with bitter irony. “What was I thinking.”
“It’s all fucked up,” Todd lamented. “But I guess it isn’t a total surprise.”
“No, guess not,” Jason agreed. “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 began to reveal itself to Jason and weigh on him. “So no what?”
“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.”
“So 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.”
Jason leaned his head against the wall and looked down. “He’s really up a creek.”
“Could be,” 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 agreed mournfully. “Randy always was the life of the party, since he was little. Guess it finally caught up with him.”
The situation continued to sink in for Jason. “It’s like he 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.”
“We’ll see, 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 grabbed 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 faded into darkness as all his worries about Randy were recasting into new uncertainties. The story of Randy’s life played out in his mind once again, from early childhood, through their shared growing years, and up to the present, where their shared lives began separating into diverging paths. Loneliness overcame him as he looked at his new life. He tried to see where Randy was heading but saw only darkness. He then despaired that Randy was slipping out of his life, and his loneliness turned into abandonment.
He arrived at Christine’s and tried to straighten out his thoughts as he 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 was weighed by what he was about what to tell her and summoned his strength. “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.
“Did I?” Jason countered as he kept pacing around the room. “Feels like I could have done more, even if it was just grabbing a hold of him and shaking some sense into him!” he stated as he held up his clenched fists. He came to a stop as he dwelt some more on the worsening situation. “Shit, they’ll probably throw the book at him, because they can.”
“I know,” Christine said somewhat absently, “it’s awful.”
Jason sensed that Christine was 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 started to move around again to release mounting stress. “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 hopefully.
“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 fall in with the wrong crowd and make some mistakes! Why all this other bullshit?”
“I know, it’s terrible, 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 walked up to Jason as he was pacing around. “Look, Jason, I know this is 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. “Got a lot on my mind right now.”
“No, it’s not about a job,” Christine reassured.
“Then what?” Jason asked curtly as he stopped in front of Christine. “Is it a family emergency? Someone back in the hospital?”
“No, it’s nothing like that.”
“Then what?” Jason repeated louder.
Christine hesitated and struggled for words as Jason loomed over her.
“Well it better be important because I have a lot on my mind right now!” Jason paced around again in agitation. “I’m losing someone very important in my life! Can’t you understand that?”
Jason was startled, and looked back at Christine. Her pointed expression was gravely serious. His agonizing over Randy ended abruptly. He looked into her eyes, and became apprehensive of what he was about to hear. She tried to speak. He moved closer to her. “What is it?”
Jason was suddenly numb all over. He sensed the ground opening up under him, and felt himself in free fall. Everything he thought he knew about his life was evaporating as he descended into a new consciousness. He tried to comprehend what he just heard and struggled to say something, but was too overwhelmed by changes beyond his control. “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 revealed, “and I was starting to worry. So I took the test.”
Jason saw his old life disappearing for good, and a new reality of living for others began to emerge. He tried to grasp the situation but it was changing too fast. He searched for something to say in the sudden vacuum. “I guess I never figured on this happening so soon,” he uttered.
“Me neither,” Christine admitted. “Oh my god, what are my parents going to say!” She buried her face into her hands.
Jason began to think of her ordeal. “You haven’t told them yet?”
“I haven’t told anyone.”
Jason slowly put his hand onto Christine’s shoulder. She held onto his hand, and looked up at him with eyes wet with emotion. They came together, and held each other tightly. She convulsed a little as they embraced for a long moment.
He held her close as he realized everything about his life was changing permanently. She sobbed a little more then wiped the tears from her eyes as she continued to hold on to him.
“Now I’m really going to have to get a new job,” Jason said. “I need to get out of my rut anyway,” he said with unexpected relief.
“I’ll work for as long as I can,” Christine offered, “at least until I get too big.”
Jason imagined Christine in the last stages of pregnancy and how she would look. “Guess I’ll have to hug you from behind when that happens.”
“When I found out, I wasn’t sure how you’d react,” Christine said as she rested her head on Jason. “I guess it’s still sinking in for me.”
“I’m still in shock myself,” Jason admitted. “Hope I’m up for it.”
Christine looked up at Jason. “I think you’ll make a great father,” she said convincingly, her eyes still wet as she smiled a little. He worried if he could live up to her faith as he saw his youth coming to its final end. He considered all his new obligations for the future as he headed irreversibly into destiny. After a long while they slowly relaxed their hold on each other.
“Sorry it happened like this,” Christine apologized.
“Nah, don’t be,” Jason consoled. “Time to move on from that soul sucking job anyhow.” He sensed himself readjusting to his new circumstances automatically without any effort. “They’re forcing everybody out so they can bring in all their own high end cronies. Whole place feels like it’s on lock down.”
“I was afraid you were going to be upset.”
“No, just surprised.”
“Same here, this changes everything.” Christine appeared concerned. “What are you going to do about school?”
“Some other time,” Jason said resignedly.
“Really sorry about that.”
“Don’t be, degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. Better to learn a skill anyhow.” Jason gave in to the transformation that he felt to be happening on its own. “Guess we’ll have to tell everyone pretty soon,”
“My family will sure be in for a surprise,” Christine said as she laughed a little.
“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, then embraced each other again as their laughter subsided. The weight of their situation grounded them and Jason felt more tied to Christine than he ever had before. “So you’re ready for all this?” he finally asked.
“This is sooner than I expected.” Christine held onto Jason contentedly. She then looked up to him. “Yes, I’m ready.”
Jason paused for a moment. “Is your uncle still hiring?”
©2018 Robert Kirkendall