Friday, June 6, 2008

Prehistoric Rage

The following story was published in the (now unfortunately non-existent) Truth Magazine in the April issue of 2007. I really liked the kinds of stories they published, and this one seemed to be to their liking. It is not autobiographical (at least not consciously so); I have not experienced violent outbursts and deep frustration of the Roman kind. Yet it was written just after a difficult high school teaching experience the semester before, and it is dedicated to all the high school teachers who are out there dealing with all the stress and pressure on a daily basis.

Prehistoric Rage

Thursday afternoon. Roman was sitting in a cafe. Slurping from his mug. Hot coffee. Cure for dry throat and sleepless nights.

But Roman all but content. Something eating him. From the inside. Gnawing in his entrails. Hunger? Maybe. Was slowly growing. Two words. Opposites. Arctica and Antarctica. North and South. How could he mix them up? He had become a laughing stock to the hungry greedy eyes of puberty-stricken students. Their eyes, their hidden sarcastic grins. Ready to burst out. Reducing you to the fool you are. Know-it-all wisecracks written all over their forehead.

Dammit! Why, Roman, must you complicate matters? Why not simply say North and South Pole? Why use such fancy words that you have no clue about. You tricked your way through school yourself. Be honest. Face the music. Hadn't read the book and still tried to trick your way out. His university years - a complete joke. Hahaha.

But Roman did not feel like laughing. No, not on that particular Thursday afternoon. The sun should have been able to chase away the clouds over his broody head. Yet Roman thought jelly thoughts. His wife. Penny. She not only wore the pants in that relationship, but shirt and socks as well. Called him what yesterday? Spineless. You are just as spineless as the Democrats. Her cabbage heart voted Republican each time. Penny. Penny Lane, what a clean machine! Yeah, but he never said that to her face. Sometimes, in his frustration, he would crank up the Beatles tune in silent wordless protest. This song is about you! In your face! She must have gotten it. Must have made the connection. Do you get it, Penny?

Stupid boss. Mr Dohan. Always telling one how to do things. Often: how to do things wrong. Their way. And then fussy like one's parents. Nagging away. Asking for silly child-stuff things. Do this, do that. Complaints. Roman, we've had some complaints. By some of your students. Ha, them again. Will they ever let him in peace and let him do his job peacefully? Poor guys and girls. In his more sensitive moments he felt nothing but pity for the world. They would grow up to be future Pennies and Mr Dohans. Become principals of god-forsaken schools.

Stupid geography. Arctic, Antarctic. Who cares?

Roman did not just pity himself, but the whole world. Students, listen, you will study, work hard, waste your time, renounce fun and life, in order to work hard, be criticized by people who know nothing and every day, day in day out, you wallow through the same shit over and over again. The little money you'll make goes for monthly overpriced rent, and your wife's expensive clothes. Listen, students, please listen!

Ah, if only religion had been a solace. It's nothing but a pain. Roman, why aren't you Catholic, Roman? Get it? Roman Catholic Roman. Holy Inquisition. Vote for a Christian president. In him we trust. In the end, does it matter?

Republican, Democrat, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Arctica, Antarctica? Aren't both just god-forsaken places?

Roman used to watch the news until politics almost made him throw up and actually made him throw the remote right through the television set. It's in the repairs still. Penny got furious. She missed her latest soap opera because of him. Now she will never know if Pam will marry Hank or if Susan will get a divorce in time and lope away with him instead. America's funniest home videos.

His stomach was growling. He realized he had not eaten all day. He had skipped breakfast and gosh it was even past lunch time! He ordered a ham sandwich.

Nothing beats a hunky slap of pig. And coffee. Could I have another one, please?

Thing is Roman had not slept all night. Call it insomnia. Worries were eating him inside out. Should he leave his wife, quit his job, leave the country? But, isn't everything the same wherever you go? Would he not replace the wife with another, his job with another, the country with another and end up at the same crossroads? Better keep the status quo. Involves less effort.

Not only was he spineless, but he lacked balls. Maybe true. He was indeed afraid of them all. Even his acne-ridden students made him tremble. He was a mouse in a man's skin. He was afraid and lazy to a fault. But the ham sandwich felt good. He chewed with satisfaction and for a moment he seemed in bliss, without a single care. The basic things are what's best. All that nourishes. Like the sun, the rain and this oh-so-delicious ham sandwich. It had a touch of mayonnaise, not too much, not too little, just right. Perfection. One of God's best creations.

No, look, Roman, the world isn't as bad a place you make it out to be. Just look around. People smiling, couples holding hands, no hard feelings. No need for bitterness. There, there. Just eat and take in all the goods the world has to offer. Did you see that little bird on the ground? How joyfully it hops on its two tiny legs?

The world is not so awful after all. Yes, there may be wars out there. Many innocent people die because of wicked people's material gains. The Middle East is a giant oilfield that gives us permission to kill. To recreate the world as we like it. Innocent lives lost daily for the pleasures of a few. But there are injustices that Roman had nothing to do with. Besides, what could he do?

The game was already fixed and we know who will win in the end. What's the point of protest then? Once he had attended a peaceful march, and his eyes were red and swollen for days after. Was it all worth it? Hardly. It was just a trendy thing to do. To get rid of some of the self-guilt. And God knows how much self-loathing Roman endures on daily basis. It was in his blood, his nature was bent towards hating itself.

He remembered when he first learned to walk. It was a big moment, only the walk on the moon could have rivaled it and that had been way before his time. When he took the first step, he felt as if the event was being televised throughout the entire world. He began to sweat because of the imaginary spotlights on his each and every move. No time for a faux pas. And he fell.

Not once or twice but many times. He turned scarlet. His parents were encouraging him, applauding, egging him on with baby talk compliments, but he was only thinking of the millions and millions of people watching him. And then, like on sitcoms, he started hearing laugh-tracks. First, at occasional intervals and then more and more frequently. It turned into a side-splitting laughter and he could see all of them rolling and balling uncontrollably with incessant laughter.


Ah, the waiter had just brought him the bill. No need to rush. No worries. No hurries. Leave when you want. But here's the bill. Everything you need to pay for. Nothing's free. Nothing.

So ... let's see! How much was it? That can't be right! The calculations are all messed up. Ah, that's why. Stupid waiter confused ham with chicken sandwich. Excuse me! Excuse me! No. No mistake. The waiter insists. Says that Roman did order the chicken sandwich. Bollocks! Bunch of lies! That's not true. I know what I ate and it wasn't chicken, no, sirrah, Bob! Look at the crumbs on my plate!

They can't be from a chicken sandwich! Check with your manager. But the waiter's stubborn like a mule. Stupid know-it-all jerk! Doesn't know the difference between chicken and ham! And Roman has purposely avoided chicken. Not that he disliked it. More because of the connotations. Headless chicken, chicken feed, what-have-you? Roman gave up (outwardly) and paid the sum on the bill. But he left not a penny of tip. Deserved nothing but slaps in the face for his (lack of) service.

But his anger grew loud and became unbearable. His stomach roared like a mad lion. His body began to tremble like the giant San Francisco earthquake at the turn of the century. And then, he was seen running down the streets, his head moving side to side, his arms flapping wildly though the air and in his Roman wilderness of pain he resembled a living wild dinosaur.

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