It all begins on a bad day
Jeremiah Williams was never happy on his way to work. But that never stopped him from going to work. Every morning he had the same routine: angrily slap the snooze on his alarm clock; unplug the alarm clock; slouch to the bathroom for various morning chores like brushing hair and teeth; feed the blasted-loud parakeets.
Jeremiah never was much of a morning person. But waking two hours before dawn went so against the grain of his being that he had no choice but to really hate mornings and going to work. Not that he would have liked to go any other time, but we're talking about the factors leading to Mr. Williams' disposition in general and specifically on this day in particular.
Traffic was bad on this cool Friday morning in April. There was a highly publicized basketball playoff game happening in town, not to mention the world's biggest Knitter's Convention going on this weekend as well. Where the streets and highways were normally the realm of mobile, mechanical sardines, they were now more like a 40-inch belly pouring out of a pair of 30-inch jeans.
Despite the attractiveness of the condition, Jeremiah drove the entire route to work with an especially disgusted scowl on his face. The several waves, fingers and insults from fellow unhappy commuters did little to raise his spirits. Even when the sun finally broke over the horizon with a blinding ray of light, Jeremiah did not let up his scowl—in fact, he now grimaced more as his eyes squinted nearly shut.
When he finally pulled into work, The Greater Eastside Credit Consolidation Advisory Group Incorporated, Jeremiah made no attempt to wipe the negative look from his face. So it comes as no surprise that when he passed Amy Fizzle's desk, Jeremiah was greeted with an especially sweet reception.
"Good morning Jeremiah." The receptionist's face was split horizontally by a gaping chasm of pearly white teeth. "How was your commute?"
Grunting, Jeremiah got away from her as fast as possible and slipped into a corridor of shoulder-high walls housing cubicles slowly filling up with the eastside's biggest credit counseling force. Somehow Jeremiah managed to make his way through the maze without lifting his eyes from the floor six feet in front of his steps.
So this day passed, as hundreds of days before had, with Jeremiah answering calls in his six-foot by six-foot cubicle to tell people how to stop losing all their money (by giving money to The Greater Eastside Credit Consolidation Advisory Group Incorporated so it could pay Jeremiah to answer these calls). One call was pretty much like the rest, and Jeremiah was adept at answering questions without looking at his cheat sheet—and often without hearing the questions or even thinking of answers. "Well, really, it's bad to spend more than you have… no sir, you should not max out all your cards in one month… yes, $20,000 in retail credit debt is a bad thing…" and so on and so forth.
By the end of the day Jeremiah's blue eyes were closer to gray, and he couldn't even muster any excitement about getting his check and heading home for the weekend. A moment of adrenaline did rush through him, though, when he saw Fizzle walk away from her desk—he seized the opportunity to run past without having to endure that smile. Unfortunately, just as he was about to leave, he heard that college-refined cheerfulness from behind. "Have a good weekend Jeremiah."
He growled and went home.
Commutes home were worse than going to work. At least thick morning traffic meant that Jeremiah might be late for work; on the flip side, traffic on the way home meant that Jeremiah might miss some of his favorite talk shows. He especially loved Monty Pythiams, an ex-con turned talk show host, and Fanny Bones, a former regular guest on Monty Pythiams who started her own talk show. Jeremiah got home just in time to see Fanny hug a confused lesbian mother-of-four who was going through an afterlife crisis.
The scowl that had been a chiseled feature of his face all day finally started to fade. Jeremiah sat back and spent an hour relaxing on his couch, forgetting about the drive to and from work, the lame-brain credit-impaired clients, Amy Fizzle, and, in essence, his whole life. By the time the Fanny Bones show was off, Jeremiah was dozing peacefully on his couch, dreaming about chasing a scantily clad female in flowing, semi-transparent garments along a beech (inspired, apparently, by a tampon commercial currently on the TV that was identical to his dream except for his presence). But before he could catch the girl, the phone rang and Jeremiah snapped back to reality and another commercial about hair loss.
The scowl was back.
After the fourth ring, Jeremiah finally dug the phone from a pile of unfolded clothes.
"Is Mister Williams around?" asked the woman on the other end. There was something about the tone of her voice that sent a shiver of disgust down his spine—years on the phone had taught him how to recognize hostility.
"This is Mister Williams."
"I am Latanah Rizasistaha Lahanaba Veronica Jefferson. I am the legal aide that will be representing you at court next week. Please return the forms I asked for as soon as possible, or your hind end is gunna be fried in court next week."
The scowl was replaced with a crinkling of his nose and creasing of his forehead. "Um," said Jeremiah in one of his not-so-fine moments, "I think you've made a mistake. I'm not going to court next week."
"The hell you aren't, honey," exploded Ms. Jefferson. "You better get your butt on the roll, or heaven only knows where it will be rolling to soon."
"I'm sorry," said Jeremiah, a little taken aback. "But I have no reason to go to court next week."
"Uh huh," said the legal aide. "You white folk think you can do anything. Well I'm tellin' ya… if you don't get them forms back to me, there's no way the judge is gunna look kindly on it. "
"OK," said Jeremiah slowly, nodding his head. "Well thank you for the call." He hung up the phone, though he could hear Ms. Jefferson still talking as he removed the phone from his ear.
What the hell is she talking about? He pondered that question as he glanced over at the kitchen table and its pile of unopened mail that spanned several weeks. He went to it and for a moment he reached as if to sort through the mess. Instead, he grabbed the newspaper and went to the bathroom to read the news.