I could trace it back to yesterday morning when I ran downstairs to grab a pint of half-and-half from my corner deli. The old lady in front of me was embarrassed as she whispered into the ear of the Korean owner, asking if he would give her a break on her grocery bill, if she could pay him back the next day once her bank "issues" were sorted out. The kind Asian squinted cheerfully and forced a grin, assuring the geriatric lady that she could pay him the next time. I thought it was a nice gesture and didn't think about it for the rest of the day as I went back upstairs to my studio apartment and sat chained to my art table drawing the next installment of my daily journo-comic, ACTIVATE, at Live>Space, until my stomach rumbled for grub and after my usual phone call to Panda Dragon, I took a peek in my wallet and discovered, to my dismay, a wrinkled five-dollar bill that could hardly cover my Chinese food take-out order.
I threw on my hoodie and hopped on my bike over to the local bank only to find that access to the automatic teller machines were closed. So, I peddled over to another bank a few blocks away and faced the same conundrum. After making a few rounds to various banks, I came up empty and frustrated. They were all closed. By the time I raced back to my building, the Chinese delivery boy was waiting on my stoop, understandably frustrated by my tardiness. The order came to the usual total of $5.45 and I explained to him my problem. He frowned and let me slide. Told me I could get him back next time. We high-fived and I felt like that old lady.
Eating roast pork egg foo young in front of the computer, I scanned in my new comic and uploaded it at Digi-Casket so I could meet my online deadline at Live>Space. After all, I had sponsors to answer to, as well as, over 10,000 subscribers. This gig paid the bills and having built up my profile and gone freelance 4-years ago, there was no way I could quit my homespun empire. A return to the 9-to-5 grind was non-negotiable. What with my success in the blog-world, I had literally and virtually become otherwise unemployable. And, I liked it that way. Too tired to scan online news and various pop culture message boards, I shut down my laptop and put on a kung-fu zombie romance on my Plasma TV before catching up on last weeks superhero comix and called it a night.
The next morning, I woke up to my cell phone ringing but I missed the call and I didn't recognize the number so I ignored it. I brewed coffee and split open the fresh carton of half-and-half and logged onto my laptop to read the morning responses to my latest episode of ACTIVATE. Only, there were none. I was perplexed. I usually rifled through a few hundred comments and would respond to the more provocative reactions. Sometimes, this cyber volley would spark a new thread I could riff off down the line in my journo-comic and I looked forward to these healthy parlays. I couldn't understand why no one had responded. Was there a glitch? Something was awry.
Then, I heard a gunshot and a scream. I ran to my kitchen window by the fire escape and looked out and saw a heavy man running down the block with a sawed-off shotgun still smoking. Actually, he was a neighbor from across the street and his 9-year old son was running right behind him holding a bag of groceries. I looked back from where they were running from and saw the Korean deli owner laying on the sidewalk, holding his guts, bleeding and thrashing. His wife was screaming. Suddenly, there was a knock at my door. I froze and stood very still. My eyes darted right to the kitchen drawer where my steak knife was. Another set of knocks and my eyes darted left towards the door where my aluminum bat was standing tall. I quietly shut the window and tiptoed over to the door with my steak knife in one hand and carefully looked through the peephole. It was the old lady from yesterday. She was weeping. I opened the door and she fell crying hysterically into my arms.
She screamed things that didn't make any sense to me. So, I sat her down on my futon couch and brought her a glass of water. She told me to put on the television and everything she claimed was confirmed. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I flipped through the channels and every network was reporting the same news. It was true. Somebody had taken all the money in the world and everything had stopped being the way it was. America had gone medieval and I was about to become savage.
"Activate" copyright 2005 Dean Haspiel