16 July 2005

Walker Associates, Inc.

Death of a Credit Rating

There is a collection agency after me. They are the Walker Associates. They are still under the impression that I live in the Little Building, sliding down tile to pick up my mail on the way to the dining hall, counting the lunch bar rotations until burrito week, forced to sign guests in and out and present identification to clicking machines and ponderous, faulty elevators. Every so often Emerson forwards me another of their communications, dated several weeks previous.

I like to imagine their final retaliation will involve tracking me to Cortes via paycheck stubs and bank activity, where, unrepentant, I will be surrounded one muggy night. Curled up in the corner of the room farthest from the street, I will listen for sirens. Helicopter blades chopping above the rooftop. Unmarked cars zooming in from sidestreets and handbreaking to a vicious stop. Men in black suits piling out. Spotters glued to binoculars watching from the wide industrial windows of the offices across the highway. Climbers up the fire escape. Megaphones blaring to give up my $51.00 strep test bill to Quest Diagnostics before somebody gets hurt. I will wonder if I dare crawl across the living room on my belly and collect a few kitchen knives. Footsteps pound up the stairs. The door splinters. Smoke bombs smoke. Laser sights bifurcate the gloom. Radios crackle. They sweep through, leapfrogging, covering the exits. I yell they'll never take me alive. A man in a gray suit and cufflinks walks up polite and sinister. Looks around at all the mess. Says, looking me straight in the eye, "Taking you alive was never part of the plan." He turns. He has washed his hands of me. My glance moves from his smoothly exiting back to the muzzles of no fewer than thirty-seven large and small semi-automatic weapons. I close my eyes. There is a pause. I am dragged roughly to my feet. "You think we're going to shoot you now?" The captain whispers gutteral into my ear. "Shooting you," he says, and laughs once, "would be too quick."

Of course, I know that reality is more prosaic. The letters will - politely - become more firm. Eventually, I'll receive a court summons. I'll try to hand over the $51. I'll be fined legal fees. They'll take away my guitar as collateral. And so I'm stamping the addressed envelope they gave me. I'll eat the cost. I didn't even have strep, you know. I argued with the nurse. She'd just said I didn't have strep. I said, why test me then? She said we'd better be sure. It didn't even occur to me certitude costs money, though of course in this world of irrational change, surety is a luxury item.

This is the last time I do the cautious thing and visit a clinic if I think my inability to swallow food means I have something worse than a little virus. It's all fluids and bed rest from here on out. If I lose an arm, I'll drink some orange juice and sleep it off. Take some aspirin. It'll have to be CVS brand, though, even though I suspect that CVS brand aspirin is sugar pills and packaging. I can't afford the real stuff.

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