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Todd Lee

Ping Wong did not want to get up this morning.

But her feet were so sore
last night, she did not go out.
So here she is, as she is every Monday night or Tuesday morning,
picking up bottles, sorting through cans, trying
to make a living. Even though
her back hurts from the bending, she has
done harder work, she has done whatever it took
to feed her family, and then
to feed herself.
She likes the
night picking better, the people don’t yell
so much when she opens the bags.
“Why do they yell,
so much, I am picking up their trash!”
she thinks to herself.

It is hard work, but it is honest work, and she
needs to eat. When the factory laid her off
because it could get no credit to buy material to sew,
she tried to go to unemployment like her niece said,
but they just gave her a form
and could not help her fill it out.
She likes the simplicity of this, the routine.
It is hard work, but it gets her cash for what she needs.
She doesn’t care that it is a “green job”,
just that the money the recycling
center gives her is green.

Bob Steel leans back in his office chair, and puts his soft
Gucci loafers up on the big oak desk.

He chuckles to himself.
was more of a mess than he thought it was. He came in
to rescue it, and is now fishing around
for a way to cut their losses. He shouldn’t have said on TV
that the bank had “a great future as an independent company”.
It hurt his ego
for it to go down the tubes, never mind those thousands of people who believed him,
who lost
their homes, lost
their retirement, lost their kids’ college fund, or lost
their way to live a decent life in their golden years.
Those poor shmucks out there who held
onto their Wachovia stock.
But Bob isn’t worried, why
should he?
He daydreams about that cute intern that calls him, “Gordon Gecko”
because his hair is slicked back like Michael Douglas
in “Wall Street”. Guys like Bob Steel
always land softly. Guys who CEO companies, float between government
and big universities and big corporations, collecting big money whether they win big, come out even,
or crash and burn. To guys like Bob,
it’s all good.
If they cut his golden parachute, it might mean he can buy only one
of those summer houses in the Hamptons. Or maybe he’ll have to wait
on that yacht his wife calls, “The Queen Mary”. But he’ll do ok, whatever happens.
His life isn’t bad, not bad at all.
Bob thinks softly to himself, then says it out loud:
“What a fucking country”.
What a fucking country.