J.D. Hager, 8/24/2015

Current Occupation: Middle School Science Teacher
Former Occupations: In no particular order: bartender, technical writer, pizza artist, delivery boy, landscaper, busboy, tutor, paperboy, professional skateboarder, camp instructor, surf bum, marketing associate, room service waiter, and lizard wrangler.
Contact Information: Mister Hager spends his days working undercover as a middle school science teacher, and his sleepless nights scribbling story ideas on the backs of detention slips. He inhabits Northern California with one wife and a few other animals, where he seeks to perfect the art of combining naps and beaches. His writing has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Hobart, Jersey Devil Press, and Cease Cows, just to name a few. Check jdhager.com for more.

 

#

Until Something Better Comes Along

Only one bad thing about traveling; the return to home, like a crash landing. Broke, burnt-out, mosquito-bitten, bad breathed, culture shocked. All things of consequence mortgaged to finance six months of vagrant bliss, which suddenly and inevitably spirals back to this. Home.

Car sold, apartment relinquished, girlfriend gone, savings account on a horrible downward trajectory. Couch surf and search for employment. Scour the wants everyday and respond to promising ads. Administrative Assistant. Busboy. Delivery. Sales Associate.

Fifty applicants per opening. Forced by desperation to accept something temporary perhaps. Like the graveyard shift at the Donut Hut. Just until something better comes along.

In the middle of the night, at the Donut Hut, there are a few quiet moments. Eyes closed, the sounds of the video games take over, shooting, pinging and dinging. Enjoy these almost quiet moments, channeling past adventures and planning future ones. Live the moment has been mantra, but living the moment in Donut Hut is difficult. Relegate the moment to a later time. Block out the distractions and the detritus. Relive past moments. That wine in Paris. That sunset in Thailand. That market in Marrakech. The warm caress of that sand in Bali. Just until something better comes along

Reverie’s chain is broken by the Jesus freak. Not Jesus freak because he is into Jesus, but because he looks like Jesus if Jesus lived under a bridge and was a schizoid alcoholic. He has long straight hair and a beard, and smells mucky like low tide. Sometimes the Jesus freak asks to use the bathroom, and sometimes he tries to barter for donuts with lottery scratchers. Tonight he just walks up to the counter and stares at the donuts, like they are the keys to his salvation.

“Can I help you?” Always ask, even if you know the answer.

“You ever eat these donuts here?”

“All the time.”

“Those ones with the chocolate and the sprinkles any good?”

“The best.”

“Better than the jellies?”

“It’s apples to oranges really.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” he says, and gives a wink and a nod like he wants people to know that he knows something they don’t. “I’ll take one of each.” He smiles and it becomes apparent he is missing most of his bottom teeth.

Grab one jelly and one chocolate with sprinkles with the donut tongs. Put them in a bag.

“So, you got money tonight. Those scratchers you traded last time didn’t work out so well.”

The Jesus freak steps to the counter and raises a hand. He waves it in front of himself a couple times like he is casting a spell. He closes his eyes and concentrates. “You will not be charging for these donuts for this evening.”

“So cash then?”

“You will not be charging for these donuts for this evening.”

“I will not be charging for these donuts for this evening?”

“You will not be charging for these donuts for this evening.”

“I won’t?”

He opens his eyes. “Nope.”

“Whatever. No cash, no donuts.” Make sure to hold the bag out of reach in case he lunges for it.

“That’s cold. I thought we had an agreement.”

“My only agreement is cash for donuts. That’s how this works.”

The Jesus freak puckers up his face. He squints in a threatening manner. “You know that there are places in the world that have no donuts. And here we have so many goddamned donuts but not everyone that wants donuts can get them. It’s is a distribution problem. It makes no sense.”

Stare back at him. Match his ominous squint.

“You know there are places in the world where people would kill for donuts like these. KILL,” he repeats, bringing his finger to his throat.

Hope this is not one of those places. Realize how stupid it would be to kill or be killed for a fried blob of dough and sugar. Realize how stupid so many things in the world are. Try not to be overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all. Hand the bag across to the Jesus freak. Tell him to take the donuts and get out. “Don’t come back.”

The Jesus freak doesn’t say anything, not even thanks. He does smile again, revealing more missing teeth than seems possible.

Channel the past to soften the now. That reef in Australia. Those ruins in Cambodia. The balloon ride in Turkey.

Just until something better comes along.

2 comments on “J.D. Hager, 8/24/2015
  1. Charles Rammelkamp says:

    Good story. I know the feeling well. This too shall pass (but until it does, right?….)

  2. Bonnie Overcott says:

    What a contrast you portray. The ecstasy of 6 months of world travel, then the realistic landing back home. Your portrayal of the doughnut shop is so vivid, everyone who has taken a job until something better comes along can relate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

sixteen − 2 =