Middle-Class Man

Jon Wesick

No one knew what the meeting was about, not the employees sitting on folding chairs ten columns wide by twelve deep, nor Donna from HR who’d set the chairs out. Despite her colorful scarf, the scene in the warehouse was drab—concrete floor, cinderblock walls, and a lonely podium made of the same gray metal as the doors.

Punctual as always, CEO Derek “Chainsaw” McIntyre started the meeting precisely at 8:30. He had red hair, pockmarked skin that always seemed sunburned, and a neatly groomed mustache. His body was trim and fit as only those of people who spend hours at the gym are although anyone who knew him would doubt he enjoyed the exercise.

“I won’t beat around the bush.” The microphone squealed with feedback and McIntyre turned it slightly. “Is that better? As you know, business hasn’t been good for several years. Back at corporate we’ve examined the numbers and we just can’t keep going this way. We’ve decided to close the plant.”

The audience erupted with murmurs.

“Hold on.” McIntyre held up a hand for silence. “In recognition of your loyalty the board is going to provide each of you one week’s pay for every year you’ve worked as severance.”

A crash came from overhead and broken glass clattered on the floor. Heads rose to see a man with a chin the size of a bulldozer rappel from the broken skylight. Despite his flashy entrance he dressed in business casual, khakis and a polo shirt monogrammed with an M. Seconds after touchdown, he released the nylon climbing rope, dashed to the microphone, and grabbed the CEO in a headlock.

“I’m Middle-Class Man here to single-handedly battle the systemic problems contributing the economic decline of the American middle class. You’d better hire all these workers back or you’re going to get it.”

“Going to get what?” McIntyre asked.

“I’m going to give you noogies so severe that you’ll need a bigger hat size.” Middle-Class Man moved his giant fist toward McIntyre’s scalp.

“It’s…” McIntyre struggled in Middle-Class Man’s grip. “It’s all the federal regulations that are killing us. I can’t hire them back unless you get OHSA and the EPA off my back.”

“EPA huh?” Middle-Class Man let McIntyre go. “Very well, I’ll take care of it.”

Flanked by aids lugging briefcases and laptop computers, EPA Administrator Katie Barstaff exited the House Rayburn Office Building onto Independence Avenue to wait for her limo. After a frustrating meeting with the congressman from West Virginia, all she wanted was to return to her office, take off her heels, and pour herself a big glass of the Kentucky bourbon she kept in the bottom drawer of her desk.

A lavender SUV cut across two lanes of traffic and screeched to a halt in front of her. Shocked by the driver’s recklessness Administrator Barstaff didn’t realize the danger until it was too late. Before she knew it, a man in a polo shirt got out, knocked down her aids, and grabbed her in a headlock. Within seconds she was prisoner in the backseat of the SUV as it sped away. Stranger still a gorilla was driving.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Middle-Class Man here to single-handedly battle the systemic problems contributing the economic decline of the American middle class.”

“All right, who’s the monkey?”

“That’s Numb Chumsky. I liberated him from the Yerkes Primate Research Center after some psychologists taught him to speak using American Sign Language.”

As if on cue Chumsky grunted and gestured.

“What’s he saying?”

“He says the I-95 is backed up and that he wants a banana but I didn’t bring you here to talk about language acquisition in primates.” Middle-Class Man held up his fist. “If you don’t eliminate your job-killing regulations, I’m going to give you such a powerful set of noogies that you’ll regret it!”

Derek “Chainsaw” McIntyre was late. Middle-Class Man stood outside the corporate headquarters looking at a parking lot that was empty except for a BMW and a green-skinned man digging holes in the asphalt with a jackhammer. Middle-Class Man checked his watch. It was 6:30. With nothing better to do he watched the man work. After completing each hole, the green man planted a sapling, added potting soil, and sprinkled it with water. Then he began digging another hole in a seemingly random spot.

Around 7:00 McIntyre emerged from the office.

“Mr. McIntyre, sir!” Middle-Class Man took a deep breath. “Just smell that sulfur dioxide! As you can tell, I took care of the EPA. Now how about reopening the factory and hiring back those laid-off workers?”

“Wish I could help but I can’t compete with all that cheap labor in China.” McIntyre took out his keys and walked to his BMW.

“China, huh? I’ll take care of it.” As he was leaving, Middle-Class Man asked the green man, “Who are you?”

“I’m Global-Warming Man here to single-handedly put an end to climate change.”

Security at the Chinese Communist Party’s compound at Zhongnanhai was among the best in the world. Guards chosen from the People’s Liberation Army’s elite October First Division patrolled the perimeter and no expense was spared equipping the facility with advanced electronic surveillance. However, all this manpower and technology was no match for a man armed with American know-how and a pair of Craftsman wire cutters from Sears.

After his kidnapping, Chinese leader Hu Jintao woke to find his wrists secured to the metal chair he sat in. He screamed for help.

“Yell all you want to, Hu Jintao.” Middle-Class Man stepped out of the shadows. “No one can hear you.”

“Who are you?” Hu Jintao rotated his head and rolled his shoulders to loosen the muscles in his sore neck.

“I’m Middle-Class Man here to single-handedly battle the systemic problems contributing the economic decline of the American middle class.”

“What do you want from me?”

“What do I want?” Middle-Class Man stepped behind the Chinese leader, wrapped a forearm around his neck, and vigorously rubbed his scalp with the knuckles of his free hand. “Don’t play games with me, Hu Jintao! Stop keeping your currency artificially low, raise your wages and environmental standards to U.S. levels, and start enforcing copyright protections or else you’ll be sorry!”

“You’re… you’re asking me to commit economic suicide. If I did that all our jobs would go to Vietnam or Burma.”

“Burma, huh? I’ll take care of it.”

For anyone who’s penetrated security at Zhongnanhai, breaking into a Russian missile silo is a snap as two officers of the Strategic Rocket Forces found on returning to the control room after their morning vodka and caviar break. Both were quickly subdued with powerful headlocks and then handcuffed by a man in a polo shirt and a silverback gorilla.

“Let’s see.” Middle-Class Man examined the control panel and began turning dials. “Here we go. Sixteen degrees forty-eight minutes north, ninety degrees nine minutes east.”

“Who’s the monkey?” a Russian asked.

“That’s Numb Chumsky. He speaks sign language.”

The gorilla grunted and gestured.

“What’s he saying?”

“He’s asking whether it’s pronounced Rangoon or Yangon and he wants a banana.”

Chumsky made more gestures.

“Now he says ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, liftoff!” Middle-Class Man punched a red button and the control room shook as the ICBM went on its way.

On his second visit to Zhongnanhai, Middle-Class Man found Hu Jintao peeking out of the turret hatch of a T-99 battle tank. Instead of the usual suit and tie the Chinese leader was wearing a leather helmet and olive-drab fatigues.

“Hey, Hu Jintao, I took care of Burma. Now how about raising those Chinese wages?”

“Screw you Yankee Middle-Class Man! We like our economy the way it is!”

Motors whirred as the turret turned and the tank’s 125mm cannon lowered to point directly at Middle-Class Man.

“Fire!” yelled Hu Jintao.

Fortunately for Middle-Class Man his Eddie Bauer Kevlar polo shirt protected him from the blast. After the debacle at Zhongnanhai he retreated to his secret lair in Muncie, Indiana to plan a new economic strategy.

“We need to find something we can sell to the Chinese.” Middle-Class Man set a bowl of microwave popcorn on the table in front of Numb Chumski.

Chumski stood up, pointed at the world map, and gestured.

“What’s that, Chumski? Sell them opium. That’s a splendid idea! I wonder why no one has ever thought of that before.”

In a greenhouse, the size of a football field, workers in polo shirts scurried about examining poppies for signs of insects and disease, checking mineral levels in hydroponic fluid, and repairing electronic equipment.

“Quite an impressive operation you have here,” Global-Warming Man said.

“And we’re well on our way to becoming carbon neutral.” Middle-Class Man pointed to the roof. “During the day solar cells power the pumps and charge the batteries they run off at night.”

“What are you growing, anyway?”

“We’re growing opium to sell to China.” Middle-Class Man crossed his arms over his chest in satisfaction.

“But that’s illegal!”

“It can’t be illegal! It’s all natural!”

“If the DEA catches me again, they’ll put me away for thirty years.” Global-Warming Man dashed toward the exit.

“Damn government bureaucrats!” Middle-Class Man raised his arms over his head and waved. “Attention everyone. Gather round.” The workers formed a circle. “I’m sorry I’m going to have to lay you off.”

The workers dropped their tools and started toward the door.

“And I’m going to need your polo shirts back,” Middle-Class Man added.

Chumsky the gorilla stood from the computer control station and rested a hand on his mentor’s shoulder.

“I’m afraid that means you too, Chumsky.”

The gorilla hung his head.

“Try to think of the bright side,” Middle-Class Man said. “It’s the creative destruction that’s the engine of American competitiveness.”

Chumsky gestured.

“Of course you can use me as a reference.”

The gorilla began removing his shirt.

“Aw, what the hell. You can keep the shirt.”

With nothing better to do Middle-Class Man went to the park and watched a pickup basketball game. As always his sympathy was with the underdog, so instead of concentrating on the dribbles, dunks, and fast breaks, he paid attention to a man in a yellow jersey sitting on the sidelines.

“Why aren’t you playing?” Middle-Class Man asked.

“Bad knee. Doctor says I need surgery but I don’t have health insurance.”

“Knee surgery, huh?” Middle-Class Man grabbed the injured man in a headlock and using the pressure of his forearm against the carotid artery quickly rendered him unconscious.

Seeing the scuffle, the basketball players surrounded them.

“What are you waiting for? Can’t you see he needs knee surgery? You!” Middle-Class Man pointed at a bald man wearing a headband. “Bring me some rubbing alcohol and a kitchen knife.”

Host of the Gelato Poetry Series, instigator of the San Diego Poetry Un-Slam, and an editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual, JON WESICK has published more than sixty short stories in journals such as The Berkeley Fiction Review, Space and Time, Zahir, Tales of the Talisman, Blazing Adventures, and Metal Scratches. He has also published over two hundred fifty poems. Jon has a Ph.D. in physics and is a longtime student of Buddhism and the martial arts. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest.

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