American NightmareT.K. Murphy / Horror / Mystery & Detective
T. K. Murphy
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by T. K. Murphy. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
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ISBN: 978-1-935670-55-1 (eBook)
Table of Contents
1 The Layoff
2 The Date
3 The Second Date
4 The Car Disposal
5 The Boss
Robert Malcolm Jr felt the pain and fear at the pit of his belly. He had just read the email asking his team and several other teams to have a joint meeting in two hours. He knew what that meant. 52 yr old Bob had worked in this mega corporation in San Francisco for 22 years. He had started as a security guard for the building. Then got a job in the help desk and worked up the chain and was now a Project Manager in the IT department. Along the way, he had worked in many departments and this was his family-especially since his nasty divorce four years ago. The company did not offer pension benefits anymore, but he would qualify for a retirement package in three years and that included health benefits.
Then the email came. He had seen the signs before. Slowly a team of Indians had started working in his office. They were only going to help the team, he was told. They were from a very big consulting firm and the new IT head was from that firm too. That did raise a few eyebrows, but corporations were not good to people who stand out and so nobody raised any questions. Slowly they learnt the job and started handling more of the work. Concerns were raised, rumors were swirling-but they were here to help the employees –that was the official line. They worked for almost a year and initially took over the mundane tasks and then started to do the more complex stuff. But as long the rest were getting paid, nobody cared, although they knew intuitively that something was wrong.
Then the email came and Bob and his fellow workers were huddled into a giant conference room. His manager Marcy, her boss Dick and the HR representative were there. Dick started, "First of all, I want to thank you for being the best team I have had the pleasure of working with. Unfortunately the company is facing very tough conditions and we have been forced to let you all go. This was a very difficult situation and we had no other option.” Then the HR representative started going through the policy details and how they would be let go and that they would all have individual meetings to get familiar with the packages. Bob’s worst fears were now confirmed. Yes they were being let go. The entire department, along with many other people had been outsourced to this company and most operations would now be done in India. The accompanying corporate nonsense about how valued they were and how they sorry they were to lose talent etc was the most painful. Why couldn’t they be more honest? Then they set up individual meetings with each employee. They got a nice severance package. Some were asked to join as consultants –but most were given a few weeks to a month and asked to pack up and leave. The sick thing was the company had just pulled in its best quarter ever and was sitting on a humongous pile of cash.
Bob was devastated. This was his life. He was 52 years old and had been with the company for 22 years. He had yet to qualify for retirement and had diabetes- making it very difficult to get health insurance. He would be eligible for COBRA for a short period of time, but beyond that he was on his own. His ex wife worked for the city in a low paying job, but she and the four kids all had insurance through her. Bob did not take home much, between his alimony and child support which was garnished from his wages. Bob had also lost his house in the divorce. He now lived in the North Bay in Sonoma County. He was 52, no job, no health insurance and still reeling from his nasty divorce and now this. Many of his friends in other companies that had been laid off, still had to find jobs. Quite a few had stopped paying their mortgages.
Bob still had to come to the office for another month and ensure the transition had to go smoothly. He had to aid his own replacements to take over his job. Being the good corporate trooper that he was, he complied. But he grew increasingly despondent over the next few days. How had his life gone so horribly wrong? He had done everything right. He had worked hard, married, took care of his kids and never even abused the medical/sick day that his company generously offered. He had always done his work on time and rarely if ever had a complaint. That had been his story almost all his life. Bob was raised in coastal Oregon, as an only child of a handicapped mother and an alcoholic, absentee father. His father was abusive, but thankfully rarely there. His father came up occasionally to grab some money from mom, but ever since his mom had a fired a shotgun over his head, he disappeared. His mom was legally handicapped and got her regular disability check, but was not very mobile. Bob did everything from buying food to chopping wood and went to school too. He was the dutiful, good child that everyone admired. He also went hunting with neighbors on occasion- the only relaxing thing he ever got to do. Then when he turned 19, his mom died, leaving him all alone. His paternal grandmother lived close by-but she was a drunk too-but not abusive. He visited her occasionally.
Bob was devastated then and didn’t know what to do. One of his neighbor’s cousin had moved to San Francisco and owned a restaurant and was here for the weekend. Bob talked to him and was offered a dishwasher job. He would be paid under the table and allowed to sleep in the back of the restaurant. The restaurant was in a seedy part of town and had been broken into a few times. Bob agreed and moved. It was interesting –totally new. Bob continued being the good boy and got paid a pittance and barely had a social life. He somehow managed to get a job in a security firm and worked very hard and then when the company got a contract for the corporation, he was posted there. He had gotten along well with most and soon found himself a lower level job in the corporation and never looked back. The company paid for his education and he got a degree too. Along the way, he met his wife Stacy and had four kids and life was good.
Then the divorce came out of the blue four years ago. Stacy was not the most stable person and an alcoholic. She abused him mentally and even physically at times. But Bob, the ever-sacrificing saint, just took it and tried his best to make it work. Then Stacy’s mom who had just been widowed came to live with them and things went south from there. Bob never had the nerve to put his foot down. In the office, he was very good, got things done and worked hard and did the work of almost two or three people. He never could say no or pick a fight with anyone. At home he did the cleaning, gardening and pretty much the bulk of the chores. Stacy and her mom were a bad combination and soon Bob was shut out of whatever little intimacy he had. The divorce came through and Stacy threatened him with all sorts of things and considering his nature, he did not even fight. He was so used to putting everyone’s need above his, that he simply could not stand up for himself. She got the house, the kids and a wonderful deal on alimony and child support.
Bob never could confront or fight with anybody. He was scared almost. Scared of himself. Scared of some deep, dark thing that was welling within him and threatening to break through to the surface. The surface was his carefully, constructed persona or ego. The ever helping, supremely sacrificing, loyal, hard working person. That was who he was or so he thought. That was the one person everybody saw. The meek pushover. The person whose feelings never mattered and the more they pushed, the more Bob bent over backwards to compensate- almost afraid that his deeper, darker side might break free. He did not know who else to be, this was him.
Then the layoff happened. He could not make sense of it all. At least the divorce, he could blame it on women and the laws favoring them and go hang out with like minded people and complain about how wronged he was and what a saint he was. But this, there was no explanation, no reasoning. He had been in the company for 22 years and this new guy at the top only for three years. The top guy had brought in his former colleagues right from the start and there was no explaining it away- it looked like a hit job. He had very good performance reviews. He always did a good job, worked very hard. But everyone was fired, not just him and to top it all off, the national political atmosphere had turned against people like him. He was being called a lazy, drunk creature that did not work only so they could collect unemployment benefits. Benefits that would barely be a quarter of what he was making and that does not include the benefits and stock options and 401k matches.
Bob was despondent. Utterly dejected and really did not know what to do. All his life, he had been the good guy, the self-sacrificing lamb, the one people could call at 4 am for help. That was his identity and now that did not matter. His divorce had almost broken him-for he could not make sense of it. But he had his work and his work family to fall back on and he poured his energies into work. Now this.
Bob finally said goodbye to his company and filled out his unemployment forms. He lived out in the North Bay close to the Russian River in a barn in the woods. After his divorce, he moved there as the woods reminded him of his home growing up in Oregon. Bob did not get see much of his children- Stacy made sure of that. The property was an old horse barn, but the owner Ethel was now 80 years old, deaf and had stopped breeding horses. She had rented out the help’s quarters and Bob lived in a cabin away from the main building. It was old Ethel and him all alone. He liked the solitude. But now he felt trapped. It was a long commute each day on the Golden Gate transit bus and back and he worked late and often worked at home too. But now, nothing. His colleagues still had mortgages and were as despondent as him and all terribly worried-especially with the economy the way it was.
Bob took the bus anyway and got off close to the Golden Gate Bridge. He took another connector and got off to the base from where he could walk on the bridge. Funny he never noticed its beauty as he commuted everyday over it. But today it looked wonderful as that chatter in his head stopped. He walked on and came to the middle of the bridge and there was a big Chinese ship going underneath. He was transfixed by it. The bay and the ocean on the other side were so clear. Bob stared onto the water and the islands and San Francisco for a long time - he felt at peace and he wanted to jump into the waters below- never to worry about his troubles again. Then he remembered an interview about a person who had done the same, but had survived and broken his back. That scared him-to wake up in a hospital possibly in a coma or paralyzed. He walked back and went home again.
Bob’s addiction was work. It defined him, it consumed him. He took pride at beating the odds and moving up. Now everything was ripped from him. That too by people from other countries and he was forced to teach them how to do his job! Nothing he could come up with, made sense of his situation. Yes he could vent and fume, but that would not get his job back. Now he had to go file court documents for reducing child support and face the dreaded Stacy and her mother again who always treated him like a failure no matter what he did. He felt like a sand castle with the waves lapping and threatening to devour him. The waves were that inner darkness; the inner demons that he had held at bay for so long. The rage at never having his needs met, the anger at having to endure an abusive marriage and yet be treated like the abuser by the system. The rage at having worked so hard for decades and being tossed aside like a piece of garbage so that the management can get a bigger bonus. The rage at being in a populace that now considered hard working people like him to be welfare cheats, while not holding any of the nasty people who caused this economic collapse accountable. That bugged him the most. He did not have a single thing to hold onto and was so lost and lonely. His mental projections about who he was were breaking down and he no longer had an identity.
Bob decided to do the one thing that could always get him to cool down. A trip up the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. The Sonoma coast is a wild and rugged piece of country. Sparsely populated, spectacularly beautiful, windy, and foggy. It was his personal paradise and reminded him a lot of growing up in the Oregon coast. Unlike the better-known Big Sur coastline south of San Francisco, this wonderful place was just rugged, beautiful and rarely had any people. On weekdays, you could have the whole park or beach to yourself. He slowly drove there and still did not have any peace. He stopped at Salt Point state Park-one of his favorite jaunts. But as he started to hike, he started to scream and cry and lose it completely. He was having a breakdown. He was not conscious of his actions and the words that were coming out from him. They certainly did not seem to be coming from him. “Fuck them, I will kill every one of them,” he screamed, while waves and waves of rage and strange emotions bubbled over. His conscious mind desperately tried to regain control. Desperately screaming, ‘I am in control”. But to no avail and he started to sob uncontrollably and alternatively screamed in rage. Emotions he did not even know he had, started to well up to the surface. However he had skillfully pushed them under the surface for so long, that he did know what they were and acted like a man possessed by demonic forces. He screamed, he cried, all the time his conscious persona desperately trying to regain control. Everything was collapsing within him. The isolation and splendor and the rugged coast and the waves only served to incite the rage in him, the darkness, and the dark corners of the psyche that he never expressed in his life. Now there was nothing to hold them back and as the onslaught started, his conscious mind did not stand a chance. What could it say to hold the tides back? He had lost everything and was 52, not getting younger and faced a dismal future. But he still waged a furious battle. Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw two hikers in the distance. That gave his mind its chance and he regained his sanity and composure. He then walked over and then started running towards his car that was half a mile away. He could feel his innards ready to burst through and was too scared. He got to his car and was panting so hard, but got in and turned on the music. The modern world’s comforts soon got his attention back and he was soon back to being good old Bob again. But he would never be the same again.
Bob was a slight man. Very thin, almost bald and what was left had turned to grey. He tried to be in the background as much as possible. He was very submissive and tried to be as non-threatening to people as possible. He had always been that way. Maybe it was the lack of a father or playing second fiddle to his dominant, handicapped mother, but that was all he could ever remember and that was his identity. Then this happened. It frightened him. It brought forth feelings he didn’t realize he had. Violent impulses, anger, a need to be heard and the resulting chaos had fractured his identity beyond repair. Who was he? He had no hopes for the future and so his mind could not latch on to that to keep him busy. The only thing available to him was low level menial jobs-the kinda jobs he had started with and had worked his way up from.
He had nobody back in Oregon-except his decrepit old grandma. He didn’t see his family much and his work friends were all scattered. He had a lot of free time. The rent was very low and so he was ok financially. But he worried about the future and the more hopeless he became; the more his inner rage worked its way to the surface.