Crystal’s day was going terrible. That morning she and her mother met with the people at Welfare so her check wouldn’t be cut. She met with another representative in New Mexico Human Services so they could issue her an EBT card for emergency food stamps. She was squatting against the fake marble pillar in front of Bedlam, the for-profit college in Albuquerque’s South Valley where David Shimamura taught classes in Business Euphemism and Obfuscation 101. He noticed her as he came to work that afternoon. She looked forlorn.

“How’s it going?” David asked.

“It’s going,” Crystal said.

Then she wept. The river flooded its banks. She told him the story of her day. As David listened to her, he thought of something William Burroughs had written. He was not in the habit of quoting a Beat writer, any Beat writer–didn’t even like them–but the sentence was apt. Burroughs said bureaucracies were the cancer of democracy.

No doubt.

He did not mention the thought to Crystal. She was not in a literary frame of mind anyways.

She told Shimamura how she had gone to court to take out a restraining order against her ex-. He had threatened to kill her and eat her flesh. Crystal said it was the meth talking.

David entertained a morbid question: “Carne asada or barbacoa?” The sick joke was his Maginot Line of defense that the story could be anything but made up. Denial was the way the mind armored itself against horrible news.

But, no, he forced himself to admit, Crystal’s story was not made up. That was like saying Vonnegut fabricated the firebombing of Dresden. In fact, right now, Crystal was locked down in the same cold meat locker as the author’s, bombs bursting o’erhead in a Saxony sky.

She saw a shadow-moon that eclipsed her whole awful day.

About Richard Read Oyama

Richard Oyama earned a Master’s degree in English: Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and a B.A. English from The City College of New York. The Country They Know, a volume of poetry, was published in 2005. Riot Goin’ On, his first novel, is forthcoming.

>> Richard Read Oyama's author page

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