(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.