August 18, 2005
Meet Mike. Mike goes to high school everyday. He walks the lonesome
path from school to home. He has what some people would call A.D.D.,
so he can't pay attention too well anywhere or at anytime. His
teachers think that he will never amount to anything. His parents
think he's a lost cause. His friends... well, he doesn't have too
many of them.
Actually, he only has one friend -- Fredrick.
When Mike is down and needs some advice or company, good old Freddy
there for him. Fred has it pretty good -- he is a straight-A student, varsity
basketball player, and all around great guy. Sometimes when Mike feels like just
giving up, Fredrick tells him, "Always remember that there are people in
this world who have it a whole lot worse than you. At least you have some opportunities.
All you need to do is capitalize on them."
With a few words like that, Mike would be off capitalizing.
He would study hard, do all his homework, help around the house,
community service, go to work, etc. You name it, Mike was doing
it. It seemed like he could take on the world.
But Fredrick wasn't
with him on those long walks from home to school, where Mike
was hassled by local punks or at home, when his parents would
Mike's environment wore on him, and after some time, he went
back to his old habits. It was like a cycle: Mike became despondent
for one reason or another; Fred gave him a pep talk; Mike felt
better; something would dishearten Mike and his old habits seemed
to find their way back into his life.
One day Mike comes home and sees his parents fighting. He goes
to his room, but he can still hear them arguing over their financial
troubles. He hears his father yelling, "I work hard all day
long, and this is what I come home to. What the hell are you doing
with all our money?"
"Why don't you ask Jack, your bartender, where all our money's
gone?" his mother said acridly.
"I told you never to talk about that. I can stop whenever
I want. That's none of your damn business!" his father was
Mike was looking at the several posters he had on his decaying,
flaking walls: Public Enemy, Malcolm X, and under the leaky part
of the ceiling with some sort of yellow fungus, hung a picture
of Gandhi. "I wish I could be like them some day," he
thought reminiscing of all the time he wasted during his life,
when he should've been out changing the world.
"You bastard!" screeched the voice of his mother from
the other room.
"I'll kill you, woman!" came the sound of his crazed
Mike couldn't take any more, and put a pillow over his face to
drown out their noise. The humid vapor from his breath was moistening
the pillow on his face, and like that, he fell into deep sleep.
Time passes by and Mike somehow manages to graduate from high
school. Life takes Fredrick and him their separate, respective
ways, but Mike always remembers his friend's advice.
Mike's grades weren't all that good, and he didn't have that
much money, so he couldn't go to college. He doesn't know what
to do. Everyday his father calls him names, and his mother tells
him to get out of the house and do something. Although he wants
to, he doesn't have enough willpower to muster up the strength
to do so. "Why God?" he asks in lament, "Why have
I been placed in the most hideous of circumstances? I have no money;
no friends; no nothing. The little family I have hates me. I can't
do anything. I feel so worthless; so helpless; so hopeless. What
can I do to make my situation better?"
Ask and you shall receive. Until that point, Mike had been asking
all the wrong questions. He asked why he was miserable, and he
was told all the reasons why. He asked why no one liked him, and
he was told all the reasons why. But it wasn't until he asked what
he could do to change his situation for the better that he was
given the answer he was always looking for.
He thought long and hard and the answer came to him. There was
a program where after serving for some time in the Army, an education
would be provided with several other benefits.
So he enlists in the Army. He's shipped off to some country where
there's a war going on. He doesn't get along well with any of his
fellow soldiers, and no one from home calls or writes him. He is
left with naught but his own solitude. Regardless, he is determined
to make the best of his situation. With a smile on his face and
cheer in his heart he begins his day, determined to make lemonade
from lemons. Two hours later he is shot in the field. Mike blacks
out and is taken to a hospital where he goes into comatose. Lucky
for him, it isn't fatal or paralyzing, but severe enough to have
him shipped back home.
The sweltering summer heat is just like Mike remembered -- so
hot outside you could scramble eggs on the sidewalk. Scramble them,
not eat them. Considering the filth that made the city a sort of
living, bleeding hybrid between a rotten, musty jungle and a festering
landfill, it wouldn't be too wise to eat from the sidewalk. Either
way, it was hot. Now, Mike is 22 and living with his parents. They
want him out. He has no money, no higher education, and no connections.
So Mike does what any descent person in his position would do:
he gets a job. Working at McDonalds isn't that bad, he often assures
himself, "Things could always be worse. At least I have my
A few months pass, and Mike finds an apartment with a roommate,
Ken. Similar to Mike, Ken didn't do too well in school and was
forced to leave his parent's house at the age of 25. Mike observes
Ken over the first couple of months they are living together, and
notices that he's doing fairly well. Ken has Armani suits, Gucci
shoes, and a new Mercedes -- he purchased it cash.
baffled: "How is this possible? It's true that Ken is manager,
but we both work at McDonalds. How can he be bringing in so much
more paper than me? While I'm using the Associated Press to go
to the bathroom, Ken uses Alexander Hamilton - this is ridiculous.
Why can't I be living it up like him? I'm working the 9 to 5 hard
just like him. I want a piece of McDonald's too! That's it.
Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start working even harder. Soon
I'll be manager, and so long newspaper. Hello George Washington."
Unbeknownst to Mike, Ken overhears his entire stink about his
situation. He peers into the old, wooden kitchen where Mike is
resolutely conniving. Looking at the moldy wallpaper peeling over
Mike's head, and the linoleum floor with permanent gum splotches
and grease stains all over it, he sees Mike's entire future in
all of this. A sudden surge of empathy floods Ken's conscience
and he knows what he must do. "Hey, Mike. We need to talk," he
innocently begins, after pretending to have just entered the apartment
so as to suggest he'd heard nothing.
"What's up, Ken?" Mike kindly responds.
And so Ken begins to tell him how he needs someone he can trust.
Someone he can work with who will always be loyal. Mike is confused
as to what Ken is speaking in regards to. So Ken tells him everything.
He tells him how it is possible for him to afford the Armani suits,
the Gucci shoes, the new Benz, and last but not least, the endless
supply of single-dollar bills. Mike is ecstatic. He finally understands
all Ken's success. He has found his opportunity.
Several months later.
He gets out of his king-sized bed and runs to swan dive into
his Olympic-sized pool filled with Tangerine Jell-O. "Faanzwaath,
bring me my morning tea and sturgeon caviar. Don't forget my partridge
eggs. You know how irritated I get when I miss my partridge eggs," asserted
Mike, now a very wealthy, young man.
"Yes sir. Right away," replied Farnsworth servilely.
After having tea and biscuits, he makes his way up to the helicopter
pad on the roof of his 12-story mansion: "I think I'll go
for a spin now."
He takes his brand-new helicopter all around the city where he
looks at the new housing developments he's invested in, and his
numerous factories scattered amongst the multitude of various structures
filling the skyline -- towering over everything. "I've
certainly come a long way, since my days at McDonalds. As soon
as I found out how to explicitly capitalize on real opportunity
- not always doing things legitimately, but getting where I want
to be by any means necessary - I was on my way to the top. Look
at me now! Forget Washington, I'm using Benjamins."
Mike, or "Millionaire Mike," as everyone now calls
him, is 32 and living large and in charge. He owns the city. When
he walks down the street, or rather, considering he has every form
of transportation available to him, if he ever chooses to walk
down the street, people turn and run in the other direction. People
are scared of him. They fear him -- they fear his power. Mike
is powerful. He is power. He is the boss now - the big boss.
It's true that he wanted to go back and help out his neighborhood,
but things just didn't work out that way. Although he vowed to
get an education after the Army, life just took him on a different
path. His parent's would have been so proud of their son, but for
some reason, they never had the chance to witness all that he'd
become. Their lives were cut short. They weren't as fortunate as
Millionaire Mike is living the fast life -- he has it all
and no regrets. Everyone wants to be around him, but no one can
even get close to him. He's too much. He's become too moneyed;
too important; too strong; too egotistical; too powerful. He's
become too much. His enemies are everywhere. They're out to get
him. He can't let them. But there isn't anything he can do. So
like an animal trapped in a corner, he does anything he can to
hold onto life, just a day, an hour, a minute, a second longer.
Mike eliminates all his enemies -- political figures, business
heads, government officials. If he suspects anyone, they're as
good as gone.
Mike has gotten way out of hand. He can no longer be controlled.
He must be stopped. They're coming to get him. He knows it. He
knows it as soon as his eyelids open in the morning and until they
close at night.
A day passes, a week passes, a month passes, and they never come.
Mike is more anxious than he's ever been in his life. He can't
take it anymore. He decides that he won't play cat and mouse games.
If he's going to die, he's going to do it his way.
Two hours later Mike is on a rampage through Downtown. The police
come. They begin to pursue him. He is thrilled. He is going out
- his way.
He could feel them gaining on him as he pushes onward dashing
down the block as fast as his swift legs take him. Whether his
eyes are burning more than his lungs, he can't tell, but he feels
as though he is going to collapse. "Just keep running, don't
stop. Keep going."
He keeps pumping, "One, two, one, two."
And then there is the relentless burn: when each step feels like
the last, but for some impossible reason, they keep pushing and
pushing. And pushing. "Don't stop, Mike," he commands
He runs passed red brick buildings inundated with graffiti on
porcelain-colored, concrete sidewalks cracked from weeds that grew
unimpeded for years. He runs through a playground housing a rusty,
red seesaw -- paint cracking off the wood. He runs under electric
wires with old, worn out Adidas's hanging by the laces. He runs
through the market filled with ladies donning press-on nails, gold
hoop rings, and wavy, greasy hair. His entire body is sweating,
his throat is burning, and his lungs are giving out, but he knows
he can't stop. Their so close to Mike, he feels their shadows cooling
his back from the searing sun. He runs into what appears to be
a skyscraper. Running up the stairs, he thinks he's lost them,
when lo and behold, they're a mere, single flight of stairs below
him. On the roof, he looks for a conveniently-placed helicopter. "It's
an old model, but it'll have to do," he nearly doubles over
"They even left the key for me. Hah! This is unbelievably
easy. Maybe even a little too unbelievably easy... ," Mike
says quickly as he turns the key in the ignition.
It sputters, turns on, and the propellers begin to swoosh around.
The helicopter suddenly turns off. The police scurry up the stairs
onto the roof as Mike jumps out the helicopter. "It's the
end of the line... ," affirms an officer, "We gotchya!"
"Not if I have anything to do with it!" screams Mike
as he darts towards the ledge, the law taking him into his scope.
"No!" cries the officer.
"Hahahaha!" cackles Mike as he leaps into nothingness;
abyss; the great beyond - the eternal slumber to which he thinks
he has made himself everlastingly beholden to.
Just as he sees all 80 stories pass before his eyes in a flash
as he plummets towards his asphalt-filled fate, Mike wakes up to
saturated sheets and a moist pillow over his face in his eight
by ten room, feeling the blistering humidity of the summer heat
- his parents in the other room still yelling, and his pipe next
to his bed.