Ty squatted to paw through the wastebasket’s contents before emptying it into his giant gray thick plastic barrel on wheels. Rich people threw everything away. He’d found treasures in their wastebaskets sometimes. One night, he found a brand new children’s book that he took home for his daughter’s birthday. Another night, he found a perfectly good tie, a beautiful tie of dark green with subtle thin black diagonal stripes. He wore it to Mass on Sundays. Now he hoped to find something for his patient, hard-working wife.
She had warned him not to trust a liar and cheat. That man would not keep his promises. Why should he? He was rich. He didn’t need to work to put food on the table, pay for expensive medicine for his wife, pay health insurance premiums, and the rent. All that man cared about was getting more money for himself and his friends, no matter how he did it. Ty hadn’t believed her. That man had said everything Ty’d been thinking, and promising to make America great again. But nothing had changed.
Ty spotted a spiral notebook toward the bottom of the wastebasket. He pulled it out, opened it. Writing in ink filled only two pages. The rest of the notebook’s pages were clean. His daughter could use this in school. He dropped it into the cloth bag he wore around his waist. Ty had been cleaning rich men’s and women’s offices at night for the last two years. During the day, he taught third grade at an elementary school two blocks from their apartment. He could walk to that job, but he had to drive to the night shift job. Buses stopped running after about 12:30 a.m. His wife drove the car to her day shift in “catering” at one of the big hospitals in the city. Gas was expensive.
That man had turned back the clock really. No, not turned it back. Ty had studied history in college and knew that in America democracy had prevailed for 240 years. Then that man took over. A celebrity businessman used to getting his own way by any means possible. And his family, giving his kids big jobs in the government like dictators usually did. He hadn’t a clue about who really did the work in America. And he didn’t want to know. Yeah, the first thing he did was to stop the flow of information as he banned one media organization after another from covering his activities. He used the courts to keep them so tied up they didn’t have time to do their jobs. He signed off on “reform” that ended Social Security so that “people will have more money in their paychecks now and save more for the future.” But wages hadn’t increased. How was he supposed to save when he could barely make enough to support his family?
That celebrity businessman wanted to show the top 1% that he was truly one of them and not some wannabe. So he made certain that business got what it wanted, and unions didn’t. He made certain that the tax breaks benefited the wealthy so they could keep all their profits. He made certain that he got the money from Congress to do what he wanted even if it meant gutting all spending even for the military. But he still ran up the national debt as if he could just declare bankruptcy again, no problem.
Ty regretted supporting that man. But what could be done now? He and his party were in power and changing the government to suit themselves. They called it “a permanent majority.” He didn’t like that at all. They weren’t helping him or anyone like him and his wife. Ty emptied the rich CEO’s wastebasket into his barrel and moved on. They were all bullies really. Now they were in power, they bullied all they wanted — even other countries. That celebrity businessman decided that America got nothing from being in NATO, from being allies with other countries, from free trade. He made America isolationist again. And his young daughter endured all sorts of bullying in school. It wasn’t safe for anyone who didn’t look like that celebrity businessman, that ugly celebrity businessman.
His back ached. His wife thought it was because of the lifting he had to do, but Ty knew it was because of his shoes. But he couldn’t afford new shoes that would give his feet the support they needed. So, his back ached. He massaged his lower back as he pushed the giant plastic barrel out of the CEO’s office and down the hall to the next office.