Chapter Seven: Jennifer
The second of January was a sunny, chilly day in Nashua. Dozens of ragged people waited in line outside the cocaine store on West Hollis Street, waiting for the place to open at noon.
Volunteers from a local Christian mission walked up and handed out literature offering rehabilitation services for people who wanted to quit drugs. Half the people in line refused the papers, the other half accepted them and then threw them onto the sidewalk.
A dozen young women, all dressed attractively, walked up. They caught the eye of every male in the line.
“Ooh, ain’t she pretty.” one man said.
That woman stopped. “You like what you see? Let’s talk about this. Follow me.”
“Hold my place in the line.” the man asked, then followed the woman as she led him down the block. Then she stopped.
“My name is Jennifer.” the woman said, “If you like what you see, you can have it tomorrow night, free of charge. However, you have a choice to make. You can get back in that line now, or you can follow me.”
“You serious?” the man said.
Jennifer replied. “Absolutely. I can show you a better way than killing yourself with cocaine. But you’ll have to make some changes. I’ll show you how. And since I’m telling you that you can have it, I have to mention, ahead of time, that I’ll require you to use a condom. I don’t mean to be rude, just truthful, because that’s part of the deal. Now you have a choice. You can get in my car, or you can get back in line.”
“Well, I’ll get in your car.” he said. “My name is Tony.”
Jennifer drove to her apartment and showed Tony in. “Like I say, you have to wait until tomorrow night. You have to let me lead you and tell you how to pull yourself out of the hole you’re falling into. You’ll also have to shave tomorrow morning. Do you have a place around here?”
“No.” Tony said. “I lived down in Massachusetts. I got evicted from the rooming house for nonpayment, so I’m homeless. I hitch-huck to Nashua to buy cocaine because there’s no laws against it here. They still haven’t relegalized drugs in Massachusetts yet, so it costs more there.”
“How do you like my apartment?” Jennifer asked.
“It’s beautiful.” Tony replied.
“How do you like my car?” Jennifer asked.
“It’s beautiful.” Tony replied.
Jennifer explained, “I got all of this by earning it. Life is not easy. There are other programs where they take you by the hand and give you guidance, or hand you everything except what you need most. You need an attractive female who gives you some, free of charge. I’m a member of the Nashua Libertarian Temple. We follow the religious doctrine of the Libertarian Church.”
“I thought the Libertarians were a political party.” Tony said.
Jennifer explained, “There is a political party by that name, too. But we’re the Libertarian Temple, which is a religious organization applying the tenets of the Libertarian Church.”
“Oh, I see.” Tony said.
Jennifer explained the deal. “Now, tonight, you’re going to have to stay at the shelter run by the temple. Tomorrow morning, you rise at 4:30 and shower, and dress in clean clothes. You go to Labor Ready and sign in. They don’t even require identification anymore, because the feds are too scared to bust businesses in New Hampshire, now that the local cops won’t help them if there’s a shoot-out. Labor Ready will send you out on a job ticket. You go out on that ticket. Do a day’s work. It will be tough, but remember what you can look forward to, tomorrow night. After work, I’ll drive us to the movie theater, and I’ll buy my ticket, because you’re obviously not rich. But you buy yours. That way, you can respect yourself. We can cuddle in the theater and get comfortable being close to each other, before we return here to my apartment.”
Tony looked at Jennifer. “So you want me to work tomorrow?”
“It’s for your own good. We can help you to a point. Now, you brought money for cocaine with you?” Jennifer asked.
“Twenty dollars. That’s all I have in this world.” Tony replied.
Jennifer noted, “And you were going to spend everything you have in this world on some powder with which to kill yourself? Well, I have a better idea. I’ll drive you to the supermarket. You buy food for yourself. No drugs. No alcoholic beverages. No cigarettes. Just food, for today, and for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m a smart shopper, so I’ll teach you how to save money. Labor Ready does not pay well, so you need to save your money. I’ll require a full accounting of all your money as long as I’m helping you. That will be part of the deal.”
Tony looked at Jennifer. “We’re going to the supermarket?”
“Yes. Rest assured, like I said, tomorrow you can have this. I am definitely single. I will give it to you. It won’t be forever or anything. I’ll help you find a girlfriend, too. So, let’s go to the supermarket.”
Tony and Jennifer got into the car again, and went to a nearby shopping plaza.
Jennifer said “This store is run by rich businesspeople. Now, think about this. If they could cut their expenses by one percent, without doing anything wrong, or losing any sales, do you think they’d do it?”
“Probably.” Tony said.
“Well, look at this.” Jennifer said. “If you go out on a job ticket and buy a can of tonic at lunch, it might cost you eighty-five cents. Here, you can buy the supermarket brand of tonic, and it works out to twenty-five cents a can. The difference is sixty cents. If you work at Labor Ready, you’re lucky to clear sixty dollars in a day. So by saving sixty cents, you cut your expenses by one percent. You need to save up your money. You cannot afford to drink. You’re so broke, that if this place offered you a job right now, you would have to turn them down, because you cannot make it until your first paycheck. Labor Ready will pay you right away, after you finish your shift. Oh yes, you’ll need four dollars for transportation. That’s what the workers who have cars charge the workers who ride with them, two dollars each way. Oh yes, they can pay you cash, or a check, but if you want cash, there’s a fee, one dollar plus any change on your check. Ask for a check. The shelter will cash it for you.”
Tony bought a six-pack of the store brand of soft drink, which New Englanders call “tonic.” He also selected a submarine sandwich and some fruit. He brought all of his selections to the automated cash register.
“Here’s one thing you always want to do.” Tony told Jennifer. “These automated cash registers ask if you want English or Spanish. Always select Spanish.”
“Why?” Jennifer wondered.
Tony explained, “Well, some big shot at the company’s home office will view the stats, and let’s say a majority of the customers pick Spanish. The company will think they need bilingual help, and Spanish signage. Selecting Spanish will throw off the count on them. That’s the reason to do it.”
After Tony paid, Jennifer drove him to the shelter run by the Nashua Libertarian Temple, and she checked him in. Then she went home.
Copyright © 2004 Tom Alciere