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Before the accident, he was “quite the athlete.”
“Not on any team. I was in college when this happened, played lots of intramural sports. You name it — baseball, basketball, water sports, I did it. Loved sports.”
“Are you able to work?”
“Probably. But if I do, then my benefits get cut off.”
He was on government assistance, but the conditions — at least for maximum benefits — excluded work and placed other restrictions.
“The moment I get married, everything changes. My benefits get reduced. F—-ed up, but that’s the system.” He laughed again.
“Are you in a relationship?”
He’d had been dating about a year before the accident, and he and his girlfriend were still together.
“She manned up,” I said.
“Got that right. Not part of the 99 percent.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the time the relationship ends over something like this,” he said. “Look, I understand. This is a tough deal for a wife, let alone a girlfriend. But God gave me a good one. Believe me. I’ve got a good one.”
He excused himself to go outdoors for a cigarette. The pharmacist, a young woman who had been watching and listening to our conversation, said: “Michael’s a good man. You made him laugh.”
“He seems happy,” I said.
“He is. Never complains. Never feels sorry for himself. Sometimes he comes in here just to talk. But I’ve never seen him laugh like that.”
That night, to prepare the next day’s radio broadcast, I watched cable news. The lead story was about Occupy Wall Street — a group that seems to consist of mostly young, able-bodied, able-minded people with their well-honed sense of entitlement “protesting” against a country that much of the world would lie, cheat, steal and kill to enter. They finally issued their list of 13 demands. These included, but were not limited to, a “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.” Such a life would provide the Occupy folks plenty of time to think up more demands — while sitting around all day.
Was Michael watching, I wondered. Not likely, I decided. He was probably somewhere appreciating the outdoors with his girlfriend — smoking a cigarette. And laughing.
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