Saturday, April 28, 2012

“A Thief In The Night of America”

“A Thief In The Night of America”
by Michael Kindt

“Let’s say you’re trying to fix your screen door. Last night, let’s say, it was terribly windy and the door came open and flapped back and forth uselessly, much like a politician’s tongue. Perhaps you were away visiting family or something and weren’t home to halt the destruction. So the screen door is all loose and a little bent and will no longer shut. It’s hanging there, screaming WHITE TRASH to the neighborhood.  So you go to work on it with a Phillips screwdriver, trying to tighten the hinges, but it’s very difficult. You can’t get the angle right, can’t get any good leverage. You’re struggling and struggling, perhaps even grunting. Suddenly, the screwdriver loses its grip on the hinge and flies up and stabs you in the shoulder. POP!

You go to the bathroom to clean the wound and look at it in the mirror. It’s pretty bad, with a surprising amount of blood. It’s a puncture wound, so hydrogen peroxide is out. You keep cleaning it, but the bleeding doesn’t really stop. Plus it hurts like hell. You take a couple aspirins, but it’s like throwing bricks into the Grand Canyon. Puncture wounds can get infected quite easily, so you worry and clean, worry and clean, and say “Damn it” a bunch. You look at the screwdriver laying there on the toilet tank. It’s rusty. You try to remember when your last tetanus shot was, but can’t. It’s been years, though.

You decide to go to the doctor, but you only have $274 to your name and you still have to buy groceries and keep gas in the car so you can get back and forth to work and/or school. Maybe you even have kids. That $274 has to last two weeks–and it would, easily, if you didn’t have to go to the doctor. You drive one-handed across town to a walk-in clinic. You’re holding a wet, bloody rag over the wound as you drive. For fun, you pretend inside your head that you’re a gunshot victim and are coming straight outta Compton. “Thug life,” you say out loud and chuckle.

You note as you drive that your town is located in the wealthiest nation ever built by mankind upon the earth. The Roman Empire was nothing compared to America.

At the clinic, you fill out the form with lies. You say your name is something, even though it’s something else. You make up a social security number and give a phony address. For laughs, you provide them the phone number of a Pizza Hut. The doctor cleans out the wound with his magical sterile solution, closes it with a couple dissolvable stitches, and bandages everything up tight. He gives you a tetanus shot for good measure, plus a 3-day prescription of antibiotics as a precaution. He tells you how to keep it clean and to be on the lookout for any increased redness around the wound, as this is a sign of infection.

Off you go to the lobby, where, according to the form you filled out, the entire fee is due, all $322.46 of it. $125.50 of that is simply because you are a new patient and have never used the services of this fine medical establishment before. A fine, in other words. “I only have $20,” you tell the receptionist flatly and set the bill down on the counter. “Sorry.” You’d shrug, but your shoulder hurts. “You’ll have to bill me the rest, I guess. See ya.” Of course, you’ll have to pay the full price for the antibiotics. The doctor may prescribe expensive, name-brand medication, obeying his pharmaceutical overlords, or he may prescribe a much cheaper, generic version of the same stuff. It all depends on if he wants to come back in his next life as a cockroach or not.

This method of DIY health insurance won’t work for anything very serious or for anything requiring on-going care, but it works well for one-time colds and injuries, though. Also, you may get caught. They may track you down, but who cares? So you damage your credit score, reducing your ability to become a debt serf. That’s all your credit score is, right? A numerical measure of your ability to go into debt? So it’s no big thing, despite what the commercials teach us. True, a bad credit score can make it impossible to get certain jobs or rent certain apartments. As this century progresses, I’m sure it will be used to discriminate against people in other ways as well. If you need medical care, though, and have no money, what, exactly, are you supposed to do? Anyway, God bless America! *attaches flag pin to lapel*"
Michael Kindt is writer living in South Dakota whose work has appeared in College Times, Midwest Lit Review and in the poetry anthology “It’s Dark & Scary In Here.” He’s the author of “Early Onset of Night, Volume One” and blogs at Twitter: @MichaelKindt

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