Part 2B The Jack

The lights of a dozen or more highway patrol and ambulances and fire trucks kaleidoscope through the misted pre-dawn window as Kaufman is flagged aside and directed to park the cruiser over 500 yards from the scene. He obliges with an odd salute. Soon he works his way toward the commotion, but is kept at arms length by a cacophony of overwhelmed deputies and confused officers from a stalled Toyota Prius just off the freeway roll out. A generic vehicle: some indeterminate shade of grey that daylight couldn’t even reveal. Under the Texas night stars and the colored emergency lights, the car lacks any innate color completely. Sucked dry of it all. Kaufman’s best guess, someone’s mother had died.
As he slips past a news crew that has already made camp, Kaufman can’t help but wonder why so many responders for a Toyota? Must have called every department in, and they’re all plenty grumpy, so there’s lots of chatter. Questions and nonsense and everybody’s in the dark. It’s not until he manages to reach the tail of the Prius, when he gets his first look inside, that he spots the figure hunched over the wheel. A big guy, wisps of white hair raised high, static electricity from the looks of it. Maybe the guy was frightened to death? Either way, Kaufman was wrong. This wasn’t someone’s mother. It was someone’s father.
“Can I help here, or am I just takin’ up space?” he asks nobody in particular. There’s no answer in the confusion.
More fire trucks and ambulances linger along the sidelines while the uniforms vehemently circle the vehicle. Just why nobody has begun on the door starts to eat Kaufman. He reaches for the handle, wrist grabbed tight by a Rookie clearly just out of the academy who finally feels like he has some clout, “orders come down direct.”
Kaufman peeks inside, “anybody check if he’s still breathin’?”
The Rookie doesn’t even look.
Kaufman raises up, knowing the chances of getting any information from this guy – iffy at best. “Don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ like this here’s a birthday party and we all are just standin’ around the cake. Candles burnin’, drippin’ down wax and all.”
The headlights from several more patrol cars rake across the Rookie’s face, stealing his eyes for a moment and Kaufman takes the opportunity to shimmy toward a mobile command station that’s nearly prepped. Cables run across the highway, tapped into a power line nearly a quarter mile from the accident site. A quick circle and Kaufman finds a safe spot to linger. A nice vantage point for the car, and easy listening to the group of commanders and lieutenants. At least Kaufman thinks he recognizes their ranks since they’re the ones who let loose that the driver of the Prius was indeed a father. And a husband. What was a surprise to Kaufman though: the driver of the colorless Prius, with hair standing up like a wild child, was the richest man in Texas.

Part 2A The Jack

            The borrowed police cruiser, stealthily parked in a defunct speed trap beside route 377, could easily be seen by passing rigs who if they bothered to slow down would get a good, though brief, late night show. A quick peep inside at the hard plastic in the rear of the cruiser that makes for easy cleanup and a firm surface for steady fucking. Which is exactly what Kaufman was busy with when the call sounded over the radio from down the road in Irving. Mere miles away which is a lot to say for Texas; A state that takes the better part of two days to cross at 75mph. And this call, a couple minutes drive at best.
The woman pressed in back, handcuffs, Guns N’ Roses t-shirt pulled up and over her face, holds her breath as Kaufman hurries it up.
The ill-fitting dress blues cling to Kaufman’s sweat soaked midriff. A couple minutes more is all he needs, about as long as the drive to Irving and that thought is gumming up his mojo. He wishes she would tell him to come. He wishes she would say it’s okay. But no. He’s going to have to give this one up.
“Let’s get you home sugar.”

Part 1B The Student

Outside the auditorium the gaggle of primarily white men in 300+ dollar raw denim and vintage sneakers smile and pat one another on the back and some hug and talk big about angel investors and start ups and wink and nod and head straight for a line of waiting luxury buses outside to ferry them back to Silicon Valley from this field trip to the city. Amelia M., though, makes a b-line for Mission street, eyes on the patterned industrial carpet and then the neatly poured concrete outside the Moscone Center and doesn’t look up until she’s at least 30 feet from the glass doors so she can finally light up an American Spirit. She types feverishly into her cell phone, one handed, while the cigarette burns to a nub. Then with a look of surprise, or contempt, lights another. Of course one of the men from the lecture sidles up next to her, asks if he can bum one, pockets an e-cig vaporizer and begins with a grin to remind her of the speech she is already trying to forget into her notes.
“Talk about ‘old guard’ right?” He says.
Amelia, well practiced speaking with tech-nerds, pours first kindness, “can you imagine being at the head of that table? I mean, having everything you can imagine. Endless. Limitless…stuff and junk.”
            He nods.
            “So what happens to all the people who aren’t at the table, who don’t have the food?” Amelia asks. “I mean, pragmatically speaking, if we have to accept that some people have limitless desires, and mathematically speaking there’s only one seat at the head of the table, then what?”
            The grin quivers.
            “So just who gets to sit in that seat?”
            No more nodding.
            “I can guarantee that it’s not me,” she says. “Or you. And certainly not Mister Endless-Table-PhD.”
            “It was just a philosophical trial. Food for thought, if you will.” He appears pleased as a peach with the pun.
            “Food is not philosophical. People need to eat. And if only one fat motherfucker gets to sit at that table, then the rest of us starve.”
            “I don’t think he was being literal.”
            “He may not have been pedantic, but he most certainly asked us to recognize just how fundamentally fucked up these greedy Wall Street fucks are. And to leave if we didn’t agree that endlessly feeding our needs and wants at the expense of others was a flaw. A flaw I see as psychopathic. Right? But then nobody left. Not one of you. Point literally made.”
            The grin chews on this, briefly. “Or he was hoping to distinguish that it is okay to want, and to get what you want, as long as you maintain some reasonable limits.”
            “I didn’t hear that,” Amelia raises her voice. “Even if that were so, that he was somehow advocating for some limited amount of greed, at whose expense?”
            “Look. I get where you’re headed with this. But I’m not the enemy in his fairy tale. It’s not like I’m taking food out of someone’s mouth just because I’m paid well for my expertise.”
            Amelia crushes the butt of her cigarette on her heel, drops it in her bag, hikes her multi-colored tights up and smooth’s the crease in her threadbare corduroy skirt. “No. You certainly don’t steal food from their mouths,” she says and turns from the twit with one of her smokes smoldering in his hand as the 14-Mission bus pulls up at the corner. “You’ve intercepted it all at the market.”
            Amelia races to the bus, next in line behind Santa.

Part 1A The Student

            The man on stage for the past hour could be Santa Claus in a well worn bespok three-piece suit. Not the Dutch Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas, but rather another bastardization of the icon Coca-Cola shoved down our throats in the 1930s along with so much acrid brown sweet juice. Bushy white beard and flushed cheeks to boot, he stands center stage rocking steadily on his heels, signature pot belly jutting forward as counterbalance, and without making eye contact begins to illustrate to the pay-for-play crowd in the nearly empty auditorium – this table. An endless table stretching far out of sight. Infinite, is the word he uses. A table with you at the head. And placed in heaping piles across the tabletop is an endless bounty: meats and cheeses and wine and desserts culled from every corner of the globe. Locally sourced, he adds.
This gets a round of applause.
And again he says at the head of the table, you. He pauses. Then restates for a third time, you and you alone. At this point it’s clear he’s lost the crowd. He takes a shallow breath and adds, you could never have your fill. Even if you were able to invite your family, your friends, everyone you have ever known or could ever possibly know, still, the food would be limitless.
The audience might be paying attention.
He continues, but this particular feast is prepared and served solely for your consumption. Your personal enjoyment. He hooks a thumb in his vest and scratches his beard. Are you expected to lick your plates clean? He asks. No. Of course not. If you did pretty soon you would all be large as me.
Again the audience applauds.
Whether Santa feels the applause are for his unfortunate girth, or the lack of theirs, is unclear. He digests this feeling. If you intend to consume the food, he goes on, then you simply do not understand the fundamentals of high finance. The Wall Street mindset. For in sole financial markets, excess is the game. The only game in town. From this vantage point, one must consider this: can you eat a number?
Santa holds on this tidbit, finds his fulcrum and stops swaying to the beat of his own stealthy diatribe and finally takes a look at the silent and expecting faces. He inhales, filling his chest with all the room’s air, then exhales the co2 waste and adds that if anyone can not accept the underlying flaw in this logic, they should immediately head towards the nearest exit.
Nobody stands.
Rocking again, Santa – with a salad of both professional and academic accolades before his name: PhD, COO of so many think tanks, honorary degrees, publishing credits from the 60’s through the 90s – offers the spectators catharsis, if you do not believe you deserve all the food in the world, then you fundamentally do not believe you should be rich. I do not mean well-to-do, but the owner of obscene wealth. This is what is meant by billionaire. This is what constitutes the one-percent. A pregnant pause, and then he asks for a show of hands. Who believes that they are entitled to everything they need?
All hands up.
He modifies the question, everything they want?
One hand goes down.
He adds, and whose needs and wants are endless?
Several hands waver.
Santa looks over his shoulder for a chair, or maybe the sleigh to rest his weary frame. There is nothing on the sparse stage. His disappointment is clearly written across lips nestled behind that well combed beard. Whether this disappointment is for the lack of a resting perch, or the eerily greedy crowd, is unclear. Someone off stage catches Santa’s eyes, sends a signal. A last thought is half-heartedly delivered through a heavy footed exit, stage left, and in short breaths which remind everyone he is likely on his last legs. He invites the room of plaid shirts and hoodies to consider attending the follow-up lecture series held later this week at a crosstown public meeting house in Oakland. No fee. Gratis. As the rents are still cheaper, for the moment, across the Bay. The topic is sustainable economics and community. Not so sexy, he realizes, so he adds the focus will be on philanthropic investing. And with these parting words, like a well toured rock star, he aims to leave them wanting more. But he already knows this crowd, this generation, will never get everything they want.