No, no, we must not upset the precious bully. We must continue to appease the little Austrian, Mr. Churchill.

It’s just the latest round of Faulknerian dysfunction having to do with Joe Dirtbag, of course. Hare Krishna, my sweet Lord, as they say in George Harrison’s house. Once again, I’m the main scapegoat, probably because I’m the more timid and less manipulative party of the two. My dad would find it more painful to blame Joe Dirtbag, and I’m the one with the diagnosed history of mental illness. There must be something wrong with me, not him, for my being ambivalent and hesitant about committing medium- or long-term to the very man with the longest, most articulable history of rat bastardy, freeloading, and unbridled belligerence on the job of any employer I’ve ever had. I’m seeing things in black and white, things like openly drinking behind the wheel on the Interstate in broad daylight, bootlegging for shits and giggles using investment money misappropriated from conscientious squares, lying to investors about business finances, and general financial domination of non-consenting parties. Similarly, we must consider the precious fee-fees of that dumbass radiologist with the daughter in the restaurant business; he might be upset by the counterappropriation of his financial and in-kind investment for something other than interstate bootlegging, such as a custom crush.

My dad said that I have an internal conflict of not wanting the responsibility of being in charge of anything but simultaneously wanting to control everything. That just isn’t true. I’d much, much, much rather subordinate myself to an employer whose overall judgment and morals I trust than have the burdens of running my own business. The problem, of course, is that I don’t trust Joe Dirtbag on either count because he’s manifestly untrustworthy. My dad objects that this is exactly the sort of Manichean thinking trap I fall into again and again, but I can fully back up that claim with specific examples of Joe Dirtbag’s criminality and belligerence.

The underlying problem is that no one will stand up to that bastard and tell him no. My dad doesn’t even want us telling him in so many words that he’s wasting a large section of his property by leaving the semillon blocks abandoned for years on end. Does that sound like the kind of thing one would feel compelled to gingerly euphemize in discussions with a deeply, genuinely self-confident businessman? He’s letting over a thousand row-feet of grape vines in a vineyard that produces top-grade fruit year after year go literally to seed, and we dare not be so inflammatory as to call this abandonment a waste of his property.

I’m unwilling to give this motherfucker explicit commitments that other employers who paid me wages of up to $12 an hour never requested of me, even though I’m the one who wants to clean up and rescue-prune that semillon, not he, and I’m preemptively refusing to sit through an in-person negotiations of equals about the terms, if any, under which he’ll stop throwing our money into a gaping hole and misappropriating it to fund criminal activity in defiance of our express wishes. I must be one uppity, entitled little shit to assert conditions like these, so that I don’t become the last crewman on a sinking ship under the command of an insane captain.

Gawd.

This whole situation feels like a solemn burden, not an opportunity to throw my weight around. I don’t think I’m being emo here. It’s high time that someone fucking stood up to that asswipe over his campaign of terror against very reasonably disgruntled shareholders, and I’m apparently the only one halfway inclined to force Joe Dirtbag into basic compliance with the law in his business dealings with us and our money. I feel like shit about this. But Joe Dirtbag is clearly getting away with this shit because everyone knows that he’ll go ballistic if he’s perceptibly challenged. Who the fuck do we think he is, Kim Jong-Un? He’s acting like a honky Nork tyrant over this ramshackle hobby farm and maybe a quarter million dollars’ worth of other people’s money. My dad’s acting like forgive him, for he knows not what he does. Not too goddamn likely. As a Social Security beneficiary, he can’t be too dense to understand the value of Social Security benefits. The reason he won’t lift a finger to get me on track for any retirement benefits of my own is that it’s cheaper that way. He’s cool with my parents paying for it, but he’s perfectly leisurely about the pace of actually delivering me the goods using my parents’ money, probably because I’m loaded.

I have a non-retirement financial net worth of about $8,000, a beat-up old Civic, and absolutely no real estate. It’s baller, yo, especially compared to the house, outbuildings, and woodlot that Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew own free and clear.

It’s a bit hard to believe that my parents can afford to pay for more of this shit when my dad insists on gluing the ignition key for his car back together every time it breaks instead of buying a new one. Our ongoing martyrdom in service to these belligerent ingrates is the cost of keeping them from blowing their tops when we demand that they monetize the farm we’ve been funding or call bullshit on their meticulously cultivated proud cracker act. We’re the ones who must defer to their precious sense of pride, not they to my sense of dignity when I’m sleeping in my care because they won’t lend me a couch when I’m working for them unpaid.

If I use this clusterfuck as the basis for the next Jonathan Franzen-grade logorrheic family dysfunction novel, available on Amazon for $2.99, at least I’ll make some money. $3.00 is sixty containers at BottleStop, and I’m grateful to fish a dozen per visit out of trash cans at rest areas, just to keep the dream of financial self-sufficiency alive. This is what it’s like to be too flighty to pay one’s dues.

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