Saturday, December 13, 2014


**this was written about four years ago

A whole fifty cents; a raise in my hourly wage.

I have never worked so hard for such a pittance. It’s like around seventy pre-tax dollars a month – which is like a little over $800 a year.

Laughable, I know.

But it’s MINE. 

At the strangest point in my life, I am finally earning an honest living. It’s a difficult living, I won’t lie. Impossible at times. Every spot on my body is in pain. It’s only a matter of time before someone within the company freaks out and demands I be fired, and then I am on the streets probably for good. Nothing in this new world even pretends at permanence. I battle every day to push myself physically and mentally. 

Exhausted, drained, I press on.

Within this new world, I find happiness in the oddest ways, the oddest moments. 

When I first started the gig, I managed to injure myself pretty badly. Blood everywhere. I laughed and laughed, running to get a rag for use as a ready-made tourniquet. The manager kept apologizing, and this only made me laugh more. He looked at me horrified. It was a mix between bewilderment at my plight and my reaction. He instinctively went for paperwork. Accident report and all that. 


I told him it wasn’t the company’s fault. I erred. It happens. He, like so many, is infused with collective guilt and collective salvation, and so he made some linguistic jujitsu about liability and blah, blah, blah. Resolute, I stared him down to allow me to continue working. I didn’t want to explain how I could not afford the time off nor the medical expense, and I defaulted to my alpha male, macho side.  He gave me antibiotic ointment, and we bonded over my tenacity.

Fuck yeah. 

Shit, in prison we became our own surgeons, our own medical staff. Amazing what we came up with. I guess some of that DIY spirit remains in me. 

[A prison friend had a chronic ingrown toenail. That might seem like a small problem, but the prison podiatrist couldn’t or wouldn’t solve the problem. This went on for months and months, causing the dude severe pain and frustration. He could barely walk. Finally, he came to me and asked I perform invasive cuts to dig out his nail. We sterilized the “knife,” and the knife was contraband of the highest degree. Had it been found on my person, prison officials would’ve given me MORE time. So we had to be circumspect AND quick. This dude was tough as nails. He grabbed the bottom railing of his bunk (cheap-ass angle iron), and I sliced into his big toe. Another dude was my nurse. He dabbed and poured water on the incision to clear the wound as I cut deeper and deeper. Tears rolled down my buddy’s face. I found kooky nail growths fairly deep down. Got it all out. Buckets of blood. We used thread ripped from our sheets in order to make stitches. Sewed him up. Bandaged him. Plenty of ibuprofen. He was like new in a few weeks. And that is just ONE example of the kind of shit we did.]

It’s a control thing. 

I finally have a slice of control back with regard to my life. When I get the opportunity, in obviously small ways, I exercise the hell out of control. If I do not want to be around someone, for example, not associate with them, talk with them, see them, I can now avoid them (in prison that was not possible, of course). How I spend my days, within reason, I have near complete control, and I take full advantage of every day. So when I am given a choice of any kind, I seize the moment to choose. This probably makes no sense to you, but you’d better understand if you were ever denied the right to make your own choices about even minor aspects of living. I treasure the little choices I have to make. They’re MINE. And what’s mine is MINE. Make sense? Probably not.

When my boss came to me, offering the raise, I was very appreciative. He downplayed its significance. He knows a little of my story (basic outline), but he doesn’t know anything about my financial situation. I think he assumes it’s pretty dire. It is. But he has NO IDEA how crazy it is. To him, it’s just another fifty cents. To ME, it’s the difference between a meal … or gas … or soap. I’ll fucking take it. 

Beyond the meager increase, it’s also a point of pride. I am BACK. I am back to being of value. To someone, somewhere, I matter. While I don’t place my personal esteem on the vagaries of popular opinion, I do want to be of use. THAT is cool. This dude and this company see something, no doubt small, in me – enough to increase my pay in order to keep me on the team.


And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children. 

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