Ms. Anne Thrope lets me work alone when I clean the shop. I have time to turn things over in my head, to solve problems, and sometimes I remember ordinary things that happened back in the day. I play music and sometimes sing or even dance. The door is locked so the only worries I have are inside my head. Tonight my worry concerns the economy and jobs, whether the latest government bailout is going to help ordinary people instead of helping the CEOs, and whether my unborn great-grandchildren will be able to clean up whatever mess we’ve left behind.
Big laughter interrupted my work, and I knew Saroyan was in the shop. Ms. Anne keeps an old photo of the writer on the wall, but I never thought a photo would invoke a spirit from the past until I began working here. I’ve become used to his irregular visits.
Not really conversations because that implies more of a dialogue than what happens when the ghost visits. He talks and he laughs—do ghosts have gender? Maybe I’ll find out in the future.
Saroyan’s big laugh signals some sort of talk and I brace myself for whatever he says.
“Hey, worried man! Pay attention. Why are you letting politics ruin your time on earth? You’re cleaning this place and all you can think about is how the politicians are screwing up the world with their greed and you’re acting as if this was just invented. Meanwhile you’re missing the imperfect beauty of the world. What’s the matter with you?”
I began to mumble something about feeling trapped because of decisions being made by different leaders.
He talked over me, “Did you ever read what I wrote? I forget which story I put this in. It was a good story—but they’re all good because they are my children and they retain their innocence unlike children who grow up. This is what I wrote:
Three times in my life I have been captured: by the orphanage, by school, and by the Army. I was four years in the orphanage, seven or eight in school, and three in the Army. Each seemed forever, though. But I’m mistaken. The fact is I was captured only once, when I was born, only that capture is also setting free, which is what this is actually all about. The free prisoner.
“And that’s why you need to let go the burdens you’re holding, kid. This worry isn’t helping you—unless you’re going to change things. And I don’t mean signing a petition. Do something constructive. Ask questions. Embarrass the politicians. Ask them again and again. Go to political events. Talk to other people. Take a run for political office. Don’t let fear turn you into a living statue. Live and make the world a more glorious place by what you do!
“Good talking with you, kid. Anytime you got a problem you need to talk about, let me know.”