Gene Twaronite, 8/15/2016

Current Occupation: Writer and Author
Former Occupation: University of Arizona Instructional Specialist
Contact Information: Gene Twaronite is a Tucson author, writer and poet. He is also the author of two juvenile fantasy novels and three collections of short stories and humorous essays. His first collection of poetry Trash Picker on Mars will be published later this year by Aldrich Press. Follow more of his writing at:  http://www.thetwaronitezone.com.

 

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WORKING MAN

 

It was ‘89, when striking Eastern Airlines

machinists stranded me in Orlando.

He worked a poolside restaurant  

called the Marmalade Café.

 

A middle-aged waiter with thinning hair

and upturned mustache, his big eyes twinkled

with mischievous light.

 

By noon, he sweated profusely as he served

the lunch-hour traffic, a touch of vexation

on his face, concealed behind his smile.

 

Could you run this burger through the grill again?

I ordered it well done.

Certainly, sir, he replied with smooth grace

as another customer grimly pointed to her plate.

Can I order anything that doesn’t have lettuce?

Ma’am, everything we serve here has a bed of lettuce,

he said, in a tone of desperate humor.

 

Next morning, I asked him how he managed to cope.

He grinned. Oh, we have our moments, sir.

Shaking hands, I wished him well.

 

It’s been twenty-six years since that day.

I doubt my server had a union to fight for him,

or whether he would have joined one.

His fight was a quiet one waged behind the counter,

a daily struggle for dignity and an honest dollar.

 

And what of the machinists and their moment in the sun?

Their visceral target was Lorenzo—a noted union buster.

After a long bitter struggle, the strikers triumphed

and brought down a corporate goliath,

while most lost the jobs they had fought over—

a Pyrrhic victory that further fueled the raging beast

at the heart of our labor divide.

 

You don’t start out on one side or the other.

As you earn your daily bread—

by wages, investments, or profit—

a feeling grows and stirs like a fetus within,

until a conviction is born.

It feeds upon what you tell it about labor:

a human activity providing goods and services,

or a social class of persons paid by the hour.

 

Like any organism, your conviction

reacts to the stimuli of self-interests:

Who will bring you the most benefits,

or who will keep them from you.

You know where your money comes from

and who your people are.

You know who to vote for

and who to trust.

 

Even now, I see my server

working the lunch crowd with cheerful banter.

And I know full well who butters my bread

and whose side I’m on.

 

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