The Outsider Ch. 30bycaligula97236©
Chapter 30 -- Extinction is inevitable
A week later, Ruthie had a modeling session at the community college. It was one of those "art appreciation" events, when the public was allowed to view projects put out by students and try their hand at drawing. Ruthie modeled for a life-drawing practice, which she enjoyed, because everyone drawing her was a complete stranger, not one of the students from the normal art classes at the university. Following the drawing session, there was a photography demonstration. The organizer asked her if she wanted to model for some additional money. Ruthie agreed. The original plan was for the photography model to pose in a swimsuit, but Ruthie stated that she'd prefer to model naked. If it was a figure photography practice, wouldn't it be better if her body was completely uncovered?
The instructor was a bit surprised by a model who had suggested herself that she pose naked instead of wearing a swimsuit. However, he remembered his friend from the art department in Davenport saying that his newest art subject was a total exhibitionist. OK, young lady, naked it is. Ruthie spent the next two hours in an open room, moving about in front of a large photography backdrop completely undressed. Sometimes she followed requests to assume a pose; other times she danced to music and allowed visitors to photograph her at their leisure. The setting was very informal and visitors wandered in and out of the room. She calculated that at least a hundred visitors took pictures of her, including some people with very fancy-looking cameras mounted on tripods.
Ruthie got back to Mike's apartment in a good mood. He was gone, at work of course, which was just fine as far as she was concerned. She'd have a couple of hours to herself and she knew exactly how she planned to spend them. She'd first make herself some iced tea and cut up some fruit. Then she would download and print an erotic story that she had seen a couple of days earlier on one of her favorite fiction websites from the Internet. That was something she had become accustomed to doing whenever she thought she'd have the apartment to herself: download and print a story that seemed promising, take it outside, sit in one of the lounge chairs, and read it while masturbating in the warm afternoon sunshine.
The routine was typical for any afternoon she was alone in the apartment. After not having indulged in "me time" for more than a year, she had been able to resume that part of her life. Yes, it would be the perfect way to spend the next couple of hours before having to deal with her boyfriend.
Ruthie logged on to her computer to get her story. She was just about to click past the Internet headlines when a title from the local news caught her attention:
Santa Cruz resident commits suicide - property foreclosure suspected as motive -- neighbors ordered to evacuate
Santa Cruz, California: July 15, 9:30 am: The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department released a statement concerning the investigation of an alleged suicide that deputies discovered yesterday at 8:30 am in a private residence of the Lomas Verdes subdivision. The deceased was identified as Roger Sinclair.
A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department stated that deputies discovered the body of Mr. Sinclair when they arrived on the property to serve an eviction notice. He added that Mr. Sinclair already was aware that his creditor had repossessed the residence and that he would be expected to vacate as of 8:00 am yesterday morning.
Sheriff's Deputies arrived on the scene shortly after 8:30 to serve the notice. Upon knocking on the door and not receiving a response, they forced entry and discovered the body of Mr. Sinclair in the living room with a single gunshot wound to the head. Deputies had to immediately withdraw from the scene however, because of the presence of very strong chemical fumes inside the residence.
The spokesman stated the Sheriff's Department ordered a Haz-Mat team to deploy and further investigate the crime scene. Besides the body of Mr. Sinclair, the Haz-Mat team discovered significant physical damage inside the house. The Haz-Mat team also determined that a large amount of industrial-strength herbicide had been poured throughout the residence and onto the ground outside. Empty five-gallon containers of herbicide were discovered inside the house and in the backyard.
Sheriff's Department investigators believe that Roger Sinclair spent the previous 24 hours breaking the interior walls of the residence and pouring herbicide around the property. After vandalizing the property, investigators believe he then killed himself at approximately 6:00 in the morning.
The police spokesman stated that Roger Sinclair's motive for both taking his life and vandalizing the residence appeared to be on-going financial difficulties that resulted in the failure to make house payments and the foreclosure notice. Among the evidence found by the police were messages critical of Mega-Mart spray-painted on the walls. Neighbors stated that Mr. Sinclair had previously blamed Mega-Mart for the failure of his business, Sinclair Pharmacy.
"The mortgage company's not gonna get much out of this one. If he wanted revenge against his lender, he sure got it. He turned that place into a toxic waste dump, and from the looks of things we're pretty certain that's what he had in mind. The whole property's going to have to be dug out."
The spokesman added that the Sheriff's Department ordered the evacuation of several neighboring residences due to the high levels of toxic fumes released by the herbicide poured around Roger Sinclair's property. The residents will be required to remain out their homes until the chemicals can be neutralized and contaminated soil and debris removed.
Ruthie totally forgot about her "me time". She stared dumbly at her monitor. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. She had known it all along...she had known that Mr. Sinclair was a condemned man...and yet...
So now it had happened. Mr. Sinclair was gone. Perhaps his death was inevitable, but it did not make it any less painful to Ruthie. Her grandmother's death had been inevitable as well, but knowing that was of no consolation when she was standing alone in that hospital room, holding the cold, emaciated hand of the corpse that had been her grandmother only a short time before.
Poor Mike...now he truly is alone...what am I going to do? What am I going to do with him?
She decided the very first thing she needed to do was to get dressed. If Mike had been at work all day, chances were that he still knew nothing. She'd be the one to have to break the news...and it would be inappropriate to do it in the nude. She put on jeans and a blouse, a conservative get-up for her. Then she sat down and gazed in the direction of the monitor again...but just into space...not bothering to focus her eyes.
We understood each other, Mr. Sinclair...I just...I...kinda wish I would've had the chance to say goodbye...I'm gonna miss you. I don't give a shit about most people...but I am gonna miss you...
Ruthie lost track of time. She was startled to her senses when she heard Mike's key in the door. She stood up, shaking and her face stained with tears.
She couldn't speak. All she could do was stare at him as she continued to tremble.
"Ruthie...what happened? What's wrong? Did something happen to your mom?"
She shook her head.
"...computer...it's on the computer..."
"What's on the computer?"
He approached the screen. Without saying anything, he read the entire article. Unlike Ruthie, he was not overwhelmed with emotion. The shock was too great and for the moment he felt nothing at all. The hurt would come later. He stood up and put his hands in his pockets.
"I'm kinda wondering how come nobody's called me. I mean...it happened yesterday...and nobody told me anything...it sucks...sucks to hear about it on the news...my dad... on the news."
Ruthie sat down on the spare bed and started crying. The scene was very strange indeed: it was Mike's father who was dead, and yet Ruthie was the one crying. He just stood, with his hands still in his pockets, staring off into space.
"I...didn't think he'd do something like this. I never thought...it'd end this way...I mean...he'd talk about what things were gonna be like after they moved out...Mom talked about it..."
There was a lot that Ruthie wanted to say in response, but all she could do was continue to cry. Maybe Mike had not known that Mr. Sinclair would end up shooting himself, but she did know. She knew, because she identified with Mr. Sinclair and understood his mindset. Her failure was not in clearly seeing what was about to happen, but in not expressing herself so that Mike could understand that there was no reason to be optimistic about anything having to do with his father's future.
Not only had Ruthie known that Mr. Sinclair's time on the earth was drawing to a close, she also knew why his life was predestined to end precisely on the day he lost the house. The story he was giving about living off his kids once the house was gone was total bull. There was no way he would allow himself to be a burden on his children...no way. He had too much pride in himself. That story was just to shut them up. Yes...pride...and also his final act of vengeance. The mortgage company ended up with not a house, but instead a hazardous waste site that would cost thousands of dollars to clean up. The Sheriff's Department would get nothing either, except the expensive deployment of the Haz-Mat unit and a lot of very bad publicity. Mr. Sinclair had his vengeance and now no one could touch him. Not even the corporate elites can sue or file charges against a man who is dead. He was beyond their reach.
Ruthie stopped crying and managed to calm down.
"I...I 'spose you ought to dial Colleen...maybe she knows...something..."
Without saying anything more, Mike dialed his sister, who added a few details. There was no question Mr. Sinclair had thought long and hard about how he was going to depart this life. Even the funeral arrangements had been partially taken care of. On the same day she found out about the tragedy, Mike's sister received in the mail the deed to a funeral plot and an envelope containing the cash that would be needed to cover the burial.
"Dad was totally obsessed with not being a burden on us. That must have been what was eating at him...him losing everything and having to make us put him up in our places...and it would have been me who would've had to do it. He saw himself as useless."
Mike's sister was silent for a moment, and then continued: "When he was talking crap, you know, saying things like he thought most people live too long...that life passes them by, and they don't know when to call it quits...I thought he was just depressed and talking a bunch of shit. It didn't dawn on me that he was seriously thinking about killing himself. Now I feel like a total moron."
Ruthie looked at her boyfriend and could tell the shock was just starting to wear off.
"So...what are we going to do?"
"Go to his funeral. What else can we do? I had the funeral home pick up the body...and had them send out e-mails...we'll bury him on Saturday...give people a chance to respond...and then...I don't know...I don't know what we'll do. Move on with our lives, I guess."
Mike was quiet for a moment. There were several things he wanted to say, but all he could get out of his mouth was:
"Move on with our lives..."
Colleen waited for him to say something more. Finally she added:
"Anyhow, about Saturday...Reverend Chandler told me he'd do the eulogy. I do have a question...you'll be bringing your girlfriend Ruthie Burns?"
"OK, I'll put her on the list. Anyone else?"
"No. It'll just be me and Ruthie."
Mike's words resonated in her mind. She realized he was saying that about his entire life, not just his father's funeral.
"It'll be just me and Ruthie."
For the second and final time of her life, Ruthie accompanied Mike to his parents' church. As she looked around at the cavernous chapel with its fine wood and modernistic stained glass, then at the forlorn collection of old white people sitting around her, once again she had the feeling of seeing the final phase of a bygone era. There was, of course, that weird organ music coming from the background. Her imagination wandered and the thoughts of her own death, now indefinitely postponed, eclipsed the death of her boyfriend's father. That eerie music made it very easy for Ruthie to picture herself underwater. Her lifeless body was drifting beneath the surface, illuminated by the sunlight passing through the waves. She was relaxed and finally at peace, drifting through her silent world as the sea-lions and fish swan by. At peace...yes...to be dead was to be at peace.
A line from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the only book from the Bible that ever made any sense to her, surfaced in her thoughts:
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
Ruthie silently wondered: is that really true? Is it better to be a live dog than a dead lion? No, it isn't, she answered back. Life sucks. It's only gonna get worse because CEO's of Mega-Town Associates, and the narcos, and all the rich...the religious clerics, the bullies...they've taken over the planet and are gonna make life a living hell for the rest of us. So...why wait? What's the point? Why stay around just to serve those parasites and predators? Mr. Sinclair understood that. There would be no more exploitation, or profits, or whatever, at his expense. He's gone...and now they can't touch him. I wish I could be there with him. This sucks, having to stick around like this.
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.
The dead know nothing...not even pain. That was what Ruthie Burns longed to feel: nothing. She had given up hope that she could ever be happy: there were just too many things working against her. The only alternative to being happy was to be unhappy, and the only alternative to being unhappy was to be nothing at all.
Their love, their hate, and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Ruthie's mind continued to wander throughout the memorial service. The pastor talked about the "tragedy" as though Roger Sinclair had died in a car accident or an airplane crash...we can't understand God's plan...but we must not give up hope. Must not give up hope? Why? Of course we need to give up hope, because hope serves no purpose. Hope is like God, a figment of the imagination based on nothing but wishful thinking.
Tragedy. Yes Mike's dad did die as the result of a tragedy, but it was not the "tragedy" that took place in the Sinclair's house. The real tragedy was that the suicide was inevitable, and it had been inevitable ever since Mega-Mart decided to build a Mega-Center in Mike's neighborhood. The death of one middle-aged man was only a tiny part of a much bigger tragedy of globalization. It's predestined...what's happening to the United States...the obliteration of an entire society by its own elite, but still, it's sad to have to live through and witness the process.
That's why I didn't want to stick around...why I wanted to get out. Life sucks, and it's only gonna get worse. I can't stop it from sucking, and I can't stop it from getting worse, but I can...or I could've, gotten away.
The funeral moved outside...from the church to a nearby cemetery. Not much left to do...just put a boxed object in the ground and cover it up...and that would be that. As for what would happen next, Mike's sister had said it best: "I don't know what we'll do. Move on with our lives, I guess."
An hour later, Mike said good-bye to his mother and his sister. He was very curt with them, making it obvious that he held them responsible for his father's death. Neither of the two Sinclair women had anything further to say to him. If Mike wanted to blame them for Mr. Sinclair's death, there wasn't much they could do about it. The opportunity to talk about it had come and gone. Ann Sinclair would face a future by herself in Arizona, and Colleen Sinclair was headed to the east coast. No point in sticking around in California with its wrecked economy, no hope for a job, bad memories...it was time for both of them to move on. So, that was it. Mike, his mother, and his sister would part ways in bitterness.
Ruthie was at a loss for words as she watched the restrained goodbyes and the departure of Ann and Colleen Sinclair. Mike's family had broken up, just as her own family had broken up just a few months before. I thought the Sinclairs were so different from my fucked up parents, but I guess they weren't.
After most of the people attending the funeral had left, Mike remained next to Mr. Sinclair's grave. He had his hands in his pockets and just stood quietly. His eyes seemed not to be focused: he was just staring blankly ahead. Ruthie moved closer to him, silently inviting him to hold her if he wanted. He put his arm around her, but was still dazed...still trying to accept the reality that his father no longer was alive. Ruthie rested her head on his shoulder. She tried to comfort him, but all the while she was thinking: Mike, I can't believe you didn't see this coming...
Undoubtedly, once he recovered, he'd hate the CEO's of Mega-Town more than ever. Right now he blamed his mother and his sister for avoiding his father during the final weeks of his life. However, that blame would shift soon enough, to the real culprit that took away the family's livelihood and Mr. Sinclair's purpose in life. The company's greed and marketing strategy had not merely impoverished Mike's parents and taken away his future, but had destroyed his entire family.
Ruthie's wandering mind gave her a glimpse of the future. It was a very bleak future, for both the US and for Mike in particular. Hatred would consume him and he would spend the rest of his life figuring out what he could do to avenge his father. He would be a mortal enemy of Mega-Town Associates...and not just its CEO's, but of the entire society that allowed that corporate monster to destroy everything it touched. Ruthie wondered how many more Mike Sinclairs were out there...hundreds of thousands....millions...tens of millions...the outsiders destined to comprise the mob of the future that will bring down the corporate system and annihilate the United States in a storm of fire and blood.
Not that any of it mattered, because if it had not been Mega-Town it would have been something else. Our society is dying, and Mega-Town is just the disease that happened to enter the body first. If not Mega-Town...our annihilation would come anyway, from some other cause. Extinction is inevitable. If the fossil record proves anything, it proves that.