July 12, 2009

Ender, What Do You Present As?, Bargain

1. An Asian-American guy in his twenties, lime-green preppie shirt, shorts, black-rimmed glasses, is at the last twenty pages or so of Ender's Game*, avidly turning pages while his girlfriend, across the table, works at her laptop. He's shaking his head to himself as he nears the last page. He's at the part where the generals are cheering and weeping and Ender doesn't understand why. I'm waiting for him to get up and go to the bathroom after he finishes, so I can say as he passes, "That's a hell of a book."

*Plot summary at this link contains spoiler.

2. I'm thinking of using the medical "presents as..." locution when I talk about people I encounter. "She presents as cropped blond hair, a pink thrift-shop blouse with a white lace collar, and the beginning of a pot belly." "He presents as three-day whiskers, microbrewed beer, and flipflops."

3. The guy standing at the highway intersection presents as a cardboard sign saying, "ON THE ROAD -- HUNGRY." He's about sixty, collarbone-length gray beard, dusty broken-in backpack, black baseball cap that, when he takes it off to thank me for for my dollar, reveals a bald head. "How long do you stand out here on a day like this?" I ask. It's ten-thirty in the morning and well into the 90s. He says, "I can only take it for about thirty minutes, then I go inside somewhere, get some water and something to eat. I try to get three meals a day. I go to Wendy's and get one of those dollar burgers." "A double stack! That's the best!" I say from considerable experience. Two dollars for a satisfying lunch if you're on the go and starting to shake from low blood sugar.

In writerly fashion, I imagine inviting him for a meal and paying him for his life story. My stream of consciousness rolls on as I drive away: I'm asking him how well he does in his line of work, and a bystander is asking, "What do you mean line of work?" "He works as hard as me," I say. Bystander: "But he doesn't make anything. He doesn't create wealth, he just takes." As so often happens in my fantasies, I correct an ignoramus' misconception: "He makes you feel good when you give him something. You'll go about your day in a better mood and treat people kinder. It's a bargain at one dollar. He's a teacher."

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