The Man in the Green Cap
Chino can get into trouble just walking down the street
“Turn away” came the command, followed by an even sterner, “Turn away, NOW!” His back was turned away from me, as though he was waiting on someone.
At first, I didn’t know if he was talking to me, whomever “he” might be. I just knew his barking command was gruff for someone just standing on a street corner.
“I’m sorry, are you talking to me,” I asked.
I kept approaching his position on the corner, not because I wanted to confront him, but so that I could cross the street at a crosswalk. Traffic was heavy and I didn’t want to risk crossing in the middle of the road.
“Stop where you are and turn around! You are not going to cross this street,” he said emphatically.
“Why?” I questioned aloud.
“Because I’m about to blow that building to smithereens.” He then pointed directly across the street and, while doing so, turned to face me. His look matched the demeanor of his voice, so I immediately froze.
“Chino how do you manage to keep getting into situations like this,” I wondered to myself.
Things were finally starting to get back to normal for me — I left the Army, had a great job, found the love of my life, got engaged, and was settling down to a nice comfortable routine. Then, all hell broke loose.
I got a call from my fiancé telling me we’re done. When I asked why she didn’t have an answer--she just hung up. I never saw her again after that call.
I went to her house, then to her parents' home, and even waited for her outside the AT&T building, where she worked as an operator. One of her co-workers told me she had quit her job and told them she was moving far, far away, but she didn't say where, when, or why. It was as if she had disappeared off the face of the earth.
That was the beginning of a downward spiral for me.
I soon lost my great job — couldn’t seem to show up on time — and then went from one short-term job to another trying to make enough to pay the bills. I stopped going out with my friends and barely saw my family, opting instead to confine myself to my one-bedroom apartment, smoking two packs of Marlboros a day and sleeping from one nap to the other.
I had fallen into a deep, ugly depression. I had no energy, no strength, and no desire to make any changes, even though I knew I had to pull myself together. It seemed losing my girl made me lose all the excitement in my life.
After a year and a half of what I call “lost time” in my life, I got a call out of the blue from my old employer, asking me to come back to work for him. He asked me to stop by the plant and he’d give me all the details later. So, I agreed, and we set a time to meet, then hung up.
Haggard-looking, I sprang out of bed, showered, and shaved. Then I put on the cleanest shirt and blue jeans I could find, slipped on my shoes and I was out the door in less than 20 minutes. I figured it would be better to show up early, rather than late.
So, here I stand, trying to cross a street to the very building some guy is about to blow up! What else could go wrong (except for him blowing up the building, that is)?
“Look, friend, I don’t know what your beef is with whoever or whatever has you about to do something this terrible, but please don’t blow up that building. Please?” I pleaded.
“Son, you got no idea what they’ve done. I worked for them clowns for over 40 years… 40 years they stole from me without paying me a fair value for my time,” he said. “Now it’s high time I get even!”
My brain frantically searched for something to say. If he blows the building, hundreds of people inside are sure to lose their lives. I decided to try to stall him for as long as I could, hoping another passerby could somehow distract him long enough for me to lunge and tackle him.
His hands were empty. I could see no device or any mechanism on his person that would show me unequivocally that he could blow up the building. I looked in all directions to see if anyone else was coming close enough to help me — nothing! The streets and sidewalks were absent of any human activity whatsoever. It was just me and him, stuck in a limbo of sorts.
Here he was, wanting to blow up the place where I was hoping to get a job. I started wondering who could have been so mean and cruel to him over the years to make him this desperate. Then it dawned on me — I’ll just have to ask him.
“Hey, Mister, who is it that works in that building who has done you so wrong?” I asked. His reply was instantaneous.
“John Keegan, but he won’t be in there much longer. I’ll see to that!” he stated.
“Wait a minute, you can’t do that!” I shouted, hoping to draw attention from someone, anyone nearby. The air was deathly still.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because that’s who I’m supposed to meet about a job in there. Mister, I’ve been down on my luck here recently, and I’m trying to start my life again. I sure would be grateful if you’d not blow up that building,” I said.
I continued, “Why don’t you let me take you to lunch and see if we can figure out a different way for you to get even?” It was lame, but it was all I could think of at the moment.
“No chance, son… thanks just the same,” he replied.
“Well, what about all the other people in the building? Have any of them done anything to you?” I queried. “I mean, I can understand trying to get even with one guy, but should anyone else have to suffer for his mistakes?” I figured I might as well try reasoning with him, if for no other reason than to further stall him.
He appeared to be pondering that rationale, which gave me a better chance to size him up. He was about 6 feet tall, thin, and had a gaunt chin line etched in his face. His clothes were wrinkled but presentable. I couldn’t see any holes in his shirt, pants, or jacket.
While I surveyed him, I noted he appeared haggard, as if he was tired from all of his life’s struggles. Other than his scraggly beard, which needed a huge trim, he reminded me of myself, in a way. How weird is that?
After my quick assessment, I told him, “You didn’t answer my question.” I could only hope and pray that my intuition was accurate. He seemed agitated as he answered.
“Young man, you and me, we don’t know each other, and yet you have the gall to question why I’m going to blow up this here building. Why do you care? As a matter of fact, why does anyone care? That’s the problem with this world, everybody thinks they have the right to stick their nose in other people’s business,” he finally replied.
“Well, I think,” I began but he interrupted me.
“It doesn’t matter what you think! It only matters what I think,” he added with emphasis on his “I.” He continued, “What I think is that all them people you seem so worried about are just transients. They live from one day to the next as if they’re in a stupor. Most have never had an original thought to form in their limited piss-ant brains.”
He was getting agitated now, so I kept quiet, not wanting to incite him any further. The longer I could keep him talking to me, the longer “them people” would stay alive. His movements became confused. Instead of standing still and staring at me, he was pacing back and forth. He moved from the street corner, back to the building in the back of us, then back to the corner again. Back and forth, back and forth.
Suddenly, he put his right hand into his front jeans pocket. I didn’t know if he had some kind of a trigger stowed away or what, so I stood completely still.
“What’s your name, son?” he asked.
“Chino, sir,” I replied. Curious now, I asked, “What’s yours?”
“Mine?” he asked. “Mine’s Pete! But it don’t matter none what either of us is named. Just like the others, we’re just transients in this here life. Here one minute, gone the next,” he said ominously.
I didn’t want anything bad to happen, so I tried to draw him out a bit further.
“Pete, you got a wife and kids somewhere?” I asked hopefully. “What about brothers and sisters?” I continued. Guessing his age to be around 60ish, I left out his parents in case they weren’t still around.
“Don’t you worry about me and mine, Chino, you just worry about yourself! Here shortly we’re all going to be needing some help,” he stated.
I took that to mean he was about to make his threat a reality. I didn’t know what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it, but I was going to stop him from blowing up that building and killing all those people inside.