Fiction: Spark

By John Yohe

When I saw the first name and photo come up on my pickup list I laughed thinking how much he must have hated looking like and having the same first name of the guy who tanked the american economy—the world economy—for the last two years while making millions if not billions on a vaccine which didnt even work and which ended up killing at least tens of thousands of people with its side effects. I planned some kind of joke when the guy got in like, —Going to Davos?
The pickup was up in the west hills of Portland, so whoever it was had some money—meaning hopefully a good tip. They were going to the Schnitz, probably to a fancy concert. I pulled into the driveway of one of the large houses up in there and who should come out the front door but the actual guy, one of the actual real richest men in the world. Sonofabitch. Trying to prove he could hang with the little people, I guess, instead of getting a limo, like how he used to drive an old pickup back when he was only a hundredmillionaire.
He and the woman he was with got in the passenger door—her first, tucking the skirt of her little black dress, scooting across the back seat of my Malibu, perfume cloud osmosizing the car interior.
—Hello, said the man.
Pavlovian conditioning made me say, —Hello sir. Welcome aboard.
They both laughed. People love that joke.
They didnt buckle up, old school taxi-style, and the man said in the whiney nasal voice I/d heard too may times on tv and NPR interviews, —We/re going to the Arlene Schnitzer Hall.
I nodded, looking at him in the rearview mirror. —Got it.
He knew I knew, but had to assert his dominance even in a Lyft ride.
I backed out and headed back downhill, thru the curvy roads, looking back at them while they talked about people I didnt know. The woman he was with was not his exwife—younger and more glamorous, but not that young, not as young as the girls he/d probably fucked while hanging out w/Jeffrey Epstein on Lolita Island.
I thought about what to say to him, how he/d ruined my life w/his vaccine and vaccine mandates, making places like my community college force everyone to take it or be fired, tho I/d even had the damn virus and so natural immunity, which was a hell of a lot more effective than the vaccine—his in particular, from the company he owned. All I got was a fever for twenty-four hours, then a cough for about a month. And here we were over two years later, mandates gone, along w/my job.
I thought too about the Glock I had under my seat—bought after a scary saturday night w/three drunk assholes fucking w/me—a long ways from teaching Bolivar’s vision for a United States of South America, or that Lincoln ordered the largest public execution ever—of 27 indians—the same week as the Emancipation Proclamation. Or that I wasnt anywhere close to getting my twenty-five rides for that day, so would be working until midnight and beyond, again.
I thought about all the jobs lost, lives lost, lives ruined by the shutdown as we rolled down on 23rd, passing the Simpsons street names, turning left on Everett, still downhill again, avoiding Burnside. I thought about the lies and partial truths, the hiding of facts like that the virus really only affected people over seventy and obese people and how there were early treatments, good cheap medications already on the market, which were effective and saved lives, or would have if the rich dude in my back seat hadnt put a hold on them so that an emergency use authorization could be put in place for his companys vaccine w/o any real tests being done on the new technology it used—my mother would probably still be alive instead of dying alone on a ventilator in Detroit.
I knew he knew I recognized him and saw me glaring at him in the mirror. I willed him to be scared, but all he did was keep glancing at me while he smiled and chatted with the woman, his left hand on her right thigh. I thought about how easy it would be, and about vengeance, and justice, and how I would be a hero to many, about how I might start a spark, how others would rise up and kill our oligarchs whose wealth went up during the so-called pandemic while the rest of us poors got poorer, more in debt. I thought about my nephew and his wife and kids living out of their van after they couldnt pay rent after losing their jobs—they even got the vax anyways—and not being able to afford rent and how he tried to joke about it, about the opportunity to do some extended camping. I thought about the new treaty about to be signed by our government and others allowing the World Health Organization—effectively run by the man behind me because he/d put so much money into it—stating that countries would now have to follow their dictates about responses to pandemics or suffer economic consequences, w/o any of this being discussed or voted on, unless the african countries could mayber veto it. And I thought about what a lie voting is, how it changes nothing, that american politics is like professional wrestling and as I turned right onto Broadway heading south I thought about all the people in the country who still think this guy is a hero, how they trust him because he/s friends w/Bono. I thought too about how—even if I gave myself up peacefully after shooting him—I would be suicided in prison before we went to trial, which I would use as a way to expose his crimes.
I thought about all that and I pulled up to the curb in front of the Schnitz, all the rich people there for some kind of benefit gala, even saw the governor there talking to reporters, the one who/d issued the order for state employees like me to take the vax or be fired and I thought about taking both of them out and the man said thank you, opened the door and got out, helping the woman exit holding out his hand. And he closed the door.
But I said nothing. I did not say you’re welcome. That showed him. That would change the system. And on my rating of him I would call him a fascist.
He did give me a good rating tho. And leave a big tip.

John Yohe was born in Puerto Ricoh and worked as a wildland firefighter, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. He is a Best of the Net nominee and has also been featured on the Notable Essay List for Best American Essays 2021.