Heading east on Valley View Ln.
4 minutes later . . .
Against Ricky’s better judgment, I was already unwrapping one of my packages of Choco-Kakes. And while I did this, he’s unfoiling two yellow antihistamine tablets.
I need sugar.
He needs peace of mind.
We’re basically doing the same thing, him and me. Though, from completely different directions.
I figure it’s time I told him about the job I was taking. Last week my caseworker—before the soul stealing incident—had called me about a job. I had told him that if nothing else came up, I would consider it. But I have some idea that Ricky will not think highly of my employment decision.
“What, Jack?” Ricky said, seeing me looking at him with that pre-announcement glare.
I, uh, well . . . I think I may have found employment.
“Sweet,” he says as he forces down the second of his two Sudafed tablets without the assistance of water. “Did you get a job at the mall? That’s a good place to work, with all the chicks and stuff.”
No, I say—my eyes darting around the black and grey leather interior of his truck. I got a job with Dallas County Services.
And now I’m waiting for his response.
Dallas County Services. The people who tend to the Lyndon B. Johnson Manor, where I live.
“God-damn, dude!” he barks.
What’s the problem? I get to work near my apartment. I have relatively flexible hours. And I get to be a part of my own environment. To help people less fortunate than myself. To be a part of the cure. I’m tired of being a drain on society. I want to make a difference. Be a part of something that can lead to a better tomorrow.
“You’re going to be a tard-farmer!”
“You are going to be the guy that tends to the retards. Thus . . . a tard-farmer. Those people will drive you insane, Jack.” Then he squints at me as he glances from the road to me, and back to the road. Gears are turning inside his head.
What? I ask. What is it?
His eyes all narrow, he says, “How did you get the job?”
I could lie to him about actually applying and going through the interview process. I could make up a bunch of nonsense about being called in for a second interview, and how well the manager liked me. But Ricky, he’s grown to know me enough that he’d see I’m lying my ass off. For some reason, the post head-trauma me can’t lie very convincingly.
“Thing is,” Ricky says conspiratorially, “. . . they don’t usually let the tards run the tard-farm.”
Are you saying I’m retarded? I asked. Because, that’s what it seems like.
“Jack, you are the rare exception to the kind of people that waste away in County Services care. You’re the exception, not the rule. But see, they don’t usually let people that are in the care of County Services, work for them. It’s a clear-cut recipe for disaster.”
“Like a conflict of interest,” I add. And maybe he’s got a point.
He continues, “. . . so, there must be one hell of a compelling reason they would hire you. Not that you aren’t probably perfect for the job. But something more tangible. Why would they risk having you work for them . . . given your questionable mental status?”
That’s easy, I explain. The last guy who was working at the Lyndon B. Johnson Manor got bitten by a guy who lives on the third floor.”
“He got bitten! And that doesn’t bother you?”
I shrugged. Not really, I tell him. People have moments of, um, confusion.
“Confusion?” Ricky says emphatically. “Confusion is not knowing what door is yours. Or what key to use. Or forgetting which cabinet your medicine is in. Biting . . . that’s way past confusion. That’s primal. That’s your deep-seeded psychopathology.”
The caretaker is fine now, I explain. He just had to get some shots.
“Shot’s for what . . . Rabies?”
No, I reassure him. Not Rabies . . . MRSA.
Ricky’s face, it turns three different shades of red—like a light machine, or a lava lamp. He eyes me through the changing colors of his skin and says, “Do you have any idea what fucking MRSA is?”
I shrug. Some type of skin rash?
“MRSA is the form of staph infection that they think will kill half of the civilized world. It’s unstoppable. Like, in that Dustin Hoffman movie, um . . . Outbreak!”
I haven’t seen that movie, yet.
“It’s old,” he says. “Look, you need to be careful working as a tard-farmer. You don’t want to catch some unknown disease because some lip-dragging psycho thinks your arm looks like a Church’s chicken leg.”
It’s fine, I say, calming his nerves. They make all the staff wear long-sleeved shirts, now.
Ricky shakes his head back and forth. “You had better read all about the undead, because if you work there long enough, you’re going to be one of them.”
That’s another thing, I say. We need to talk about the book. Something has come up and it warrants your point of view.
“What?” he says as we pull into my apartment complex—the aforementioned tard-farm.
I’ve been reading back and forth between the King James , and the revisions in the Book of Sighs.
And I found a new chapter.
“They don’t call them chapters,” Ricky explained. “They refer to them as either books, or gospels. The first four sections of the New Testament, they’re the gospels. After that, they’re called the books. You know, all the different things that Constantine and his Council of Nicaea decided on.”
Right, right. “Well,” I say as I load a Zinger into my mouth, “I found a new book, then.”
“What’s it called?”
The Book of Sorrows.