Loki had not said a word as John reeled off the story of Sydney Porter’s death. When he was done speaking she gently bit the right side of her lower lip, did a micro head bob, exhaled and reached for John’s hand. After gripping it for a second she asked, “And?”
”And?!” John demanded. “And what? I don’t know ‘and.’ And I’m going to do everything I can to be with my wife?”
“Well I hope so. Did anybody go to prison over your manager’s death?”
“Yeah. Two of the guys that rushed him were convicted of involuntary manslaughter. They got twelve months. It’s interesting how they say twelve months instead of a year, isn’t it? Makes it sound longer.”
“And that was the maximum sentence?”
“No, that was the minimum; they could have gotten way more.”
“No,” Loki answered, shaking her head, “that’s not what I meant. I meant that was the most that anybody got?”
“Yeah, that was the most. Ridiculous, huh?”
“It is. It’s also ridiculous that you’re still doing time for a crime you didn’t commit fifteen years later: Fifteen times as long as the guys who got convicted. Does that seem reasonable?”
“No. They should have gotten a lot more,” he replied.
Loki tilted her head to the left, rolled her eyes to the right, brought the right side of her lips and cheek into a smirk and said, “That’s not what I meant and you know it.
“You better eat,” she added, “you’re gonna have to catch your bus.”
“I can take it with me. Oh! And get this. The employees who were involved? They were given an ultimatum; quit or be fired. The district manager came around and told us that if we quit then we wouldn’t have to say that we were terminated for cause when we apply for other jobs. What he didn’t say was that if we quit we couldn’t collect unemployment benefits. Another guy and I quit but two of the others refused. The DM said they’d be fired for cause and they were and when those two applied for unemployment Tyson’s rejected the claim. The two sued and won: How’s that for justice?”
“I don’t know and why do you care?” she said harshly. “I mean, I’m sorry, but get over it. You got a poop sandwich, okay? Yeah, you may have made it yourself but get over it. It sounds to me like this Sydney dude would have wanted you to keep on living. I think you owe it to him to forgive yourself; don’t you?”
John’s voice quavered. “Yes. He would. And you’re probably right. It’s probably time for me to stand up again.”
“I’m pretty sure we should probably take the probably out of the statement.
“Hey,” she added, “You’d better git or you’ll miss your bus. I’d walk you back but I’ve got to let my phone charge. Give me your number and maybe I’ll call you sometime, here’s mine,” she said writing it on a napkin. “Now stand up, give me a hug and go make a life for yourself with that wife of yours; you hear?”
“I hear,” he replied, doing as she requested and also standing. Hugging her he whispered, “You know what? You’re pretty smart for a retard.”
“That’s what all the boys say when they want to get in my pants. Now go, killer,” she replied with a smile.
John smiled and shook his head. “Up yours.”
“Screw you. Safe journey. Keep those twins occupied, Tamika’ll appreciate it.”
John winked a goodbye, grabbed his food and valise and hurried back to the bus platform.