Goosy Gus and the Cash Mob, fiction by William Trent Pancoast

(orig­i­nal­ly appeared in Revolver)

Gus had acquired the name “Goosy” because of his shell shock and bat­tle fatigue from WWII and now he was no longer allowed in his daughter-in-law’s donut shop in down­town Cranston even though eat­ing donuts was his favorite way to start the day.

When he was cor­nered or con­front­ed with loud nois­es, he struck or grabbed the peo­ple or things in prox­im­i­ty to him­self. All who knew him tried not to sur­prise him, though the guys at the steel mill used to enjoy get­ting him going for their own enter­tain­ment. One day the new mill man­ag­er was tour­ing the plant and intro­duc­ing him­self to the employ­ees and when he came to Gus, one of the oth­er mill­wrights slammed a board down on the floor behind Gus. The result was that Gus grabbed the plant man­ag­er by the throat and squeezed. He almost got fired over that one, until his dis­abil­i­ty was con­firmed by the secu­ri­ty depart­ment and plant hos­pi­tal to Human Resources.

The rea­son he was barred from the donut shop was because of the “Buy Local” cam­paign, a last ditch save-our-jobs-and-city effort spear­head­ed by the local cor­po­rate news­pa­per. The same paper that had scoffed at Gus’s Buy Amer­i­can let­ters to the edi­tor twen­ty years ear­li­er when Amer­i­can work­ers like him were plead­ing with the Amer­i­can peo­ple to con­sid­er buy­ing union prod­ucts made here in the USA.

Goosy Gus had been there eat­ing a maple-frost­ed cake donut one morn­ing when two car­loads of folks—the news­pa­per edi­tor included—piled out of a cou­ple of Toy­ota vans and came into the shop, bab­bling about the big come­back the down­town area was expe­ri­enc­ing.

As they all ordered bags of donuts the daugh­ter-in-law real­ized she was the bene­fac­tor of this week’s Cash Mob, a group of do-good­ers who bought shit from a tar­get­ed mer­chant on a cer­tain day.

Gus sat in the cor­ner siz­ing them up.

There was the edi­tor, whom Gus referred to as a con artist and fraud and said that if jour­nal­ism was a spit­ball it wouldn’t stick to his slip­pery ass. The head of the Cham­ber of Com­merce was there too, a coun­try club­ber of the high­est order who had sided with the nation­al Cham­ber and Karl Rove in spend­ing $40 mil­lion to try and beat the state’s demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor. Along with those two was a gag­gle of hang­ers-on, the sort that Gus knew from look­ing had nev­er worked a day in their lives. These folks were all here to show­er some wel­fare on his daughter-in-law’s store.

Gus sank low in his chair at the back table, hop­ing this too hap­py group would buy their donuts and get the fuck out. He had just received notice that his health insur­ance, part of his steel mill retire­ment from a decade ear­li­er, was being ter­mi­nat­ed and he was in no fuck­ing mood to hear about the hap­py horse­shit these folks were shov­el­ing.

With no warn­ing the com­pa­ny had dropped his insur­ance. There was a meet­ing sched­uled for that after­noon at the union hall, but Gus knew there was noth­ing any­one could do about it. The com­pa­ny always won. They would fake bank­rupt­cy, lie, cheat, steal, buy politi­cians and news­pa­per edi­tors, what­ev­er it took. Goosy Gus had only want­ed to con­sume a maple donut in silence—two this morn­ing instead of his usu­al one—to soothe some of the pain he was feel­ing. He knew that with his wife’s med­ical bills his sav­ings would be gone in anoth­er four months, and he, along with a bunch of the oth­er retirees would be head­ed on a shit-greased slip­pery slope to bank­rupt­cy.

Fac­ing bank­rupt­cy, and this chick­en-shit cor­po­rate news­pa­per edi­tor and his thiev­ing busi­ness leader bud­dy were all gal­li­vant­i­ng around the decayed rem­nants of the down­town with a bunch of old women who had nev­er hit a lick in their lives, bab­bling about how fuck­ing great it all was that donut and bas­ket shops were spring­ing up in the ruins. One of these women got Gus banned from the donut shop. She had gulped her first pain pills of her new pre­scrip­tion that morn­ing and was cack­ling like a roost­er pheas­ant on open­ing day.

Gus had heard her jab­ber­ing from curb­side when the do-good­ers first got there. Then when they entered the store she gushed and eyed the pas­tries, point­ing out the var­i­ous kinds and describ­ing them in detail, dash­ing around in front of the oth­er Cash Mob Peo­ple.

Now she was in front of Gus’s table—the lone occu­pied table in the place— ges­tur­ing at the donuts in the glass case and on the shelves behind his daugh­ter-in-law, point­ing at him, then to the donuts and peo­ple near­by. He heard the words “Buy Local” and “Cash Mob” sev­er­al times. He watched the cack­ling woman, her hus­band was a bank vice pres­i­dent and they went to his church—his church not their church—as they were fresh in from the out-of-town cor­po­rate mer­ry-go-round, as were all the peo­ple who now owned every­thing in his town, folks he called Tran­sients. As her face grew red and heat­ed through her speed-freak dance before his table, he stood up and tried to slide along the wall toward the exit but she fol­lowed right along with him. He couldn’t help notic­ing her nip­ples pressed hard against the front of her rust-col­ored silk blouse, grow­ing in uni­son with her dance. He fix­at­ed on them as they grew longer and sharp­er and point­ed as if accus­ing him of some unde­fined crime.

Gus thought about the expen­sive silk blouse she was wear­ing. Sex­u­al­ly abused lit­tle girls in South Amer­i­ca prob­a­bly made it. The union had always made sure its mem­bers were edu­cat­ed on the issue of glob­al labor.

Gus heard the words “Cash Mob” and “Buy Local” one more time. His right hand shot out in a blur of motion. His cal­loused and swollen arthrit­ic fin­gers latched on to her left elon­gat­ed nip­ple. He twist­ed it to the right. She screamed. She screamed sev­er­al times. The Buy Local mob mem­bers turned toward Gus as the lady backed away, point­ing at Goosy Gus.

Gus’s daugh­ter-in –law had been the only per­son to see what had hap­pened, and as she real­ized that none of the oth­ers had seen it, that they were all intent on her deli­cious donuts, she did not rat out her husband’s father, despi­ca­ble throw­back that he was.

The woman calmed down, but kept Gus in her view. She rejoined the group, and in a cou­ple more min­utes the Cash Mob was gone. Gus’s daugh­ter-in-law stood over him at the table. She shook her head in silence as he fin­ished his cof­fee.

Fuck­ing Toy­ota dri­vers,” Goosy Gus said.

Now every morn­ing Goosy Gus sat at the Dunkin’ Donuts out by the free­way. For a while he said, “I like Dunkin’ Donuts bet­ter any­ways” until his son told him to shut the fuck up.

William Trent Pancoast's nov­els include WILDCAT (2010) and CRASHING (1983). His recent fic­tion has appeared in Revolver, Steel Toe Review, Mon­key­bi­cy­cle, Night Train, Fried chick­en and Cof­fee, As It Ought To Be, and Work­ing Class Heroes. Pan­coast retired from the auto indus­try in 2007 after thir­ty years as a die mak­er and union news­pa­per edi­tor. Born in 1949, the author lives in Ontario, Ohio. He has a BA in Eng­lish from the Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty.

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