Rufus hangs his jowls over the lid of the garbage can and stares at me. With my second cup of coffee of the morning being maneuvered to within close range of my mouth, I stare back at him.
He knows that I am damn well mad at him. He got to the garbage can before I did. Now, he sits on top of the bright green can as if he rules the world. It would seem as if the world was indeed at Rufus’s feet.
Envy. That’s what I feel.
Both of us have retreated to this alley way back of the building so as to not have to deal with the real world out front on the sidewalk or in front of the law office or restaurant.
“Rufus”, I holler, “it's my turn to sit on top of the garbage can!”
As usual, he ignores my shouts or angry. He just closes his massive eyes halfway to feign his indifference to me and my problems.
At 10:21 on this Wednesday morning, I have been back to work now for two days and two hours. Even with the help of coffee, my head still is held captive by a strange fog of where and who I am.
For the past six weeks, life has entangled me into (1) a major house renovation of two bathrooms and three bedrooms ((That equals plumbers and construction contractors)) (2) leadership of a massive Green Project for planting community flower boxes (2’x4’) around the downtown which involved eight civic organizations and 50 volunteers (3) planning and celebrating Robert Penn Warren’s birthday, another 40 people involved (April 24) with a large party to recognize all local writers in our part of the world, and finally,(4) the graduation event of our high school and Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of young sophomores into junior leaders (this will involve about 90 people).
WOW!!! I am tired. Physically and mentally worn out is how Rufus looks at me and he is right. For two weeks I have lost my voice and been a Nyquil junkie trying to shake off a deep seated chest cold.
So, even with my whining, I’ll get no respect from the hound dog. The most I can expect is a loud sigh from his rather large protruding lips.
“Rufus, wake up, you no good bum” I shouted.
I realized a few minutes ago that I was unfit to be around people this day. So when the chance to disappear came, I made a straight line for the alley.
In its own way, the alley is a rare juncture of quiet, peace, old bricks, garbage cans, ancient wooden boxes and ants. Knowing that I can’t dislodge Rufus from his green throne, I make the best of the situation.
Gathering up three wooden crates, I invent my own special seat.
Moving the crates into position and leaning on the old exposed brick back wall of the restaurant and law office, I settle in for a few special moments of reflection on the world.
Holding firm to the filled coffee cup and leaning back into the warm brick, I steady another look at Rufus. He’s happy. Every fiber of his being is enjoying the morning sun. For him, life is all about comfort and peace of mind.
Well, I thought to myself, WE can’t have that, since I haven’t reached any such state of Alley Zen ness.
“Look Rufus”, I shattered the peace with my urgency. “I need to talk.”
Leaning into my sphere of vision, Rufus slightly readjusts a paw to make the point of “Don’t brother me with your noise.”
Staring him down, I continue, “You’re my best bet for an audience. So buckle up dude, and enjoy the speech.”
On top of all my volunteer works/activities/projects, I have casually been keeping up with state, national, and international geo-political power brokering.
Some men drink. Some men use their hands to carve out a new world from wood. Some men play sports all the time. Some men sweat through the day with honest work. Some men steal dreams and wealth from others with dishonest schemes hatched in the bellies of super banks and on Wall Street. I think.
Sometimes I believe God gave me the gift of seeing what others can’t, just to test my resolve and faith. This talent is a blessing and a curse. In the past when I told others how trends speak to me about what is about to happen, it was mostly not good news for them.
Over the years, I have found that most people don’t want to know how tomorrow will turn out as long as today is under control.
Putting full brakes to my deep thoughts, I bang my head against the brick wall to make the serious moment go away.
This is the part that Rufus has enjoyed before on those special times I evoke my own pity party. If a dog can grin, he is doing so right now.
“Shut up, you.” I threw the words at him.
Never mind. I settle down with my coffee and the book that my good friend Mike from Frankfort sent me. Actually, it was the reason I decided to hide out for awhile. This morning mail dropped it on the Bosses desk while she was away.
The book, THE ANATOMY OF FASCISM, by Robert O. Paxton sits on my lap, waiting for attention.
Throwing off the last remnants of the mental fog from the morning, I lean forward, “What say ye, old dog, shall I tell you tales of humanity at the crossroads or shall we talk of fat cats?
Seeing no real response, I move on. “OK, we shall talk of how mankind’s actions are packaged into 100 year cycles?”
Peering off into the shadows of the alley, Rufus makes no move to appear interested in whatever I had to say. So be it. He will learn how to appreciate my view of history and future shock.
“Alright, Rufus, mankind every 100 years goes mad with absolute greed and corruption.
1900 through 1920, the Robber Barons ruled America as a corporate fascist nation. That brought on the Russian Revolution and World War l and set the stages for The Great Depression and World War II.
“Wake up Rufus, pay attention; I ‘am trying to educate you”
Taking hold of the book, I point it at him and say, “Now in our time, the grandchildren of the Robber Barons are hard at complete financial domination of the global economy, again. As I speak to you, wars, sovereign economic meltdowns and in general, economic chaos is being loosened onto the world.
“You want proof, do ya?” OK on page 210 of this book, Paxton laid out what and who are Fascists. Settle in, old boy, for I’m going to tell you what to watch out for.
Reading to him from Paxton. “I believe that the ideas that underlie fascist actions are best deduced from
* a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;
* the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination of the individual to it;
* the belief that one’s group is a victim , a sentiment that justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies, both internal or external;
* dread of the group’s decline under the corrosive effects of individualistic liberalism, class conflict and alien influences;
* need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;
* need for authority by natural chiefs (always white male), culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s historical destiny;
* superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason;
* beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success; and
* right of the chosen people to dominate others, without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group’s prowess within a Darwinian struggle.
“There you go, Rufus, hell of a mouthful.”
Open up your ears, dog. Listen to news on TV. It’s all about the Republicans making war on women, children, and senior citizens.
I can tell he doesn’t care. Instead, I notice that he is paying special attention to the two sausage and biscuits loosely stuffed inside my jacket.
Finishing off the last of the coffee, I shared the sausage and biscuits with him. As we eat in silence, it occurs to me that the world has faced all of this before. Maybe this time we will do better and stand by honest men who value the better parts of civilization.
Holding the last bite of biscuit, I hand it to Rufus in a final gesture of sharing. Maybe that’s all we can expect to do, just share our good fortunes with others and build a just society.
A place where good deeds and hound dogs can lie quietly in the sunshine and enjoy peace.