This page was last updated on Sunday, 08 November, 2015.

Harry Discovers the "Real America"

Steve Whitman
7 November, 2015

Harry Trent is a typical hardworking American who is in the insurance business. He often finds himself traveling a lot to seek out new clients and to acquire hot leads for potential customers. He has a family of two children along with his wife of twenty years that he provides for. The family lives in a typical suburban home in southern Massachusetts that he purchased for about $300,000 eight years ago. Earning $75,000 per year, he tries to make ends meet the best he can without his wife working. Sadly, the facts and figures shown in the following story are reasonably accurate and have been experienced by the author.

Harry, do you have to go into the office today?” his wife asks while preparing him and the children breakfast. Harry lights up a cigarette and replies, “Yes, I do Hon….looks like I might be able to land that new account at the Acme factory…..I have a very important meeting scheduled with them today to go over the particulars….landing that account should bring me a huge bonus at the end of the year.” Rose responds, “well, speaking of money, before you go, there are several bills that need your attention….we got the electric bill yesterday and it’s gone up over fifty dollars this month….and we got the tax bill….seems like that’s gone up a lot too.” She hands the bills to Harry and he starts to peruse them. “Let’s see here….electric bill…..the cost per kilowatt hour has risen to 24 cents…that’s over twice as much as my brother’s rate in Florida….what’s this additional fuel charge on the bill for?….and these added taxes and fees?….well, there’s nothing we can do about it Rose…we need electricity to live so I guess we have to pay it… kids, remember to shut off your lights….okay?” As he looks around the breakfast table, he notices the kids are paying little attention to him. They are on their smart phones or I-Pads playing games or talking to someone. Realizing there is little use of perusing it any further, he begins studying the tax bill.

Harry pours himself a cup of coffee and says, “Rose, I thought our taxes were only going up $500.00 per year due to the new school being built….the increase shown here is $950.00 and the new school isn’t even finished yet.” Rose dishing out the oatmeal to the kids replies, “yeah…that’s what they said….but you know how the town selectman are with their estimates….the school is going to cost 61 million now to finish and our revised tax rate doesn’t even reflect the new operating budget…..I don’t know how much that is going to affect the rate.” Harry throws the tax bill on the table in disgust. “Our yearly taxes on this place are going to be nearly seven thousand dollars….the monthly payment will be more than our original mortgage…I think that’s a little absurd, don‘t you think?”

As his wife puts the pot back on the stove she turns to Harry. “I don’t know how we are going to make ends meet anymore…..we just got our prepared tax return back from the accountant and we have to pay again this year.” Harry finishes his coffee and replies, “well, how much do we have to pay?” Rose looks off to the right, a tear comes to her eye and she replies, “Three thousand dollars….and that’s for the Feds….the state we owe another fourteen hundred.” Harry gets up out of his seat and walks over to his wife. He tries to comfort her while he is adding up his final taxes in his head. “Let’s see”, he thinks, “with the added payment due …. Our total Federal taxes will be five thousand dollars for the year and our state taxes are over three thousand…. considering them together that takes up twelve percent of my pay….what a raw deal that is.”

As he pats his wife on the shoulder he says, “what choice do we have?….we have to pay it….I guess that new Acme account I am in line to get today will come in real handy….don’t worry hon…we’ll be okay.” She looks up at him with teary eyes replying, “you don’t understand Harry….everything is going up…coffee has risen over 30% this past year and eggs have increased more than that…realistically, our food bill has gone from $200.00 per week to $250.00.…. and all those politicians have to say on TV is that there is no inflation…..can you believe that?….they have the nerve to say that publicly and think we are too stupid to realize what the real deal is….plus Harry, we are behind on our mortgage payments….what are we going to do?”

Harry steps back, and ponders the situation for a moment. He is starting to see the grave financial situation they are in and it begins to eat at him. “Well, I have to go work now…we’ll talk more about this when I get back from my road trip….okay honey?” Rose nods her head and Harry kisses her on the cheek and says good bye to his kids. Again, the kids do not even acknowledge him as they are still glued to their digital machines. He picks up his bags and leaves through the front door to get in his car which is ten years old and has 170,000 miles on it. He knows a new car is needed, but his wife’s car is even older than his and needs replacement too. “She needs a new car more than me” he thinks, “I’ll have to do something with that when I get back….when I get my big bonus, I’ll use part of it to get her a new car..”

As he speeds down the highway, he remembers he has a tire replacement appointment and heads in that direction. “Almost forgot” he thinks, “my tires are bald and I don’t need a flat on this trip by any means.” Pulling into the station, the attendant takes his car and it promptly goes up on the lift. He locates himself in the waiting room and listens to the TV on the wall to pass the time. The news anchor says, “yesterday the market closed up 250 points while the NASDAQ rose 55 points…..from what all the analysts having been telling us, it seems good times are finally headed our way.” Harry looks up at the TV and mumbles, “well, that’s good for anybody that has money in it….myself, I have no money to invest…in fact, I don’t even have any money in the bank….due to the increase in my health insurance which is $1450.00 per month….there‘s little left to invest.” Thinking about that brings some more rage to Harry. He begins to realize that his health payments make up 23% of his income. He murmurs to himself, “you know….with taxes being 12% and health care 23%…..35% of my money is swallowed up by those two things…..adding the food in of 250.00 per week which is another 17 percent…..over 50 percent of my money is gone before I even buy or pay for anything else!”

Harry is starting to grow angry at the way the government and society is taking his money, leaving little to survive. He begins to think about his monthly electric bill which is $300.00 and his telephone/internet/ cable TV bill of $180.00 per month. Jotting down these figures on a pad in his lap he thinks, “Christ adding those items together is another $480.00 per month or about 8% of my income….then there is the water, sewer and heating bill which is $350.00 a month….that’s another 6%…..combining it all they are taking over 65% of my income…when is this ever going to stop?”

The manager of the store, announces his car is ready and Harry, pleased at the fast service, heads up to the counter to pay his bill. “That will be $433.26, sir” the clerk says. Harry is shocked and replies, “your advertisement says it’s only 69.00 per tire…the bill should be less than $300.00.” The clerk places a pen on the bill and begins pointing at the various charges. “Well, sir that’s the price per tire as is noted here….there are other things involved as well….the alignment charge of $50.00, balancing of $10.00 per tire and the taxes……the federal tax of 7% and the state tax of 6.5%…, since the tires are hazardous waste there’s a disposal charge of $7.50 per tire for a total of $30.00.….making a grand total of $433.26, sir.”

Harry shakes his head as he realizes he has been taken…. he discovers he has to pay federal tax and state tax on his tires…. plus all the other “hidden” charges. He pays the man with a credit card and goes to pick up his car. “Would you like us to fill your car sir with fuel, sir?” the attendant asks. “Sure” Harry says, “that would be great I have a long drive ahead of me.” The attendant drives the car over to the gas pumps and fills the car. As he is doing so, Harry notices the price of gasoline has dropped some more down to $1.99 per gallon. “At least the price is starting to go down” Harry says to the attendant. “Won’t go much lower than that” the attendant replies. “Why not?” Harry asks. The attendant grins, “well, because of all the taxes…..the Feds get 19 cents a gallon and the state gets 42 cents a gallon, plus there are other taxes and fees including my profit per gallon… all about .90 cents per gallon the oil companies never see….you realize, they have to make something too.” Harry shakes his head with further disgust. “That’s just great….the powers to be have their fingers in our pockets with gas too.” Again, Harry hands over his credit card and pays the man. Getting into his car, he heads on down the highway to his next appointment.

As Harry is driving his thoughts again return to his house budget and thinks to himself, “that fill up back there cost me almost fifty bucks…in order for the kids to play sports in school we have to pick them up after practice each day as there are no late busses like when I was a kid……hell, between my wife and I, we spend about $100.00 per week on gas…...that’s another 7% of my income….let’s see now…that puts the total figure at over 75% of my total pay…….” Then Harry remembers he has to pay in order for his kids to play sports in school, something he never had to do. “Jason, my oldest costs me $500.00 for football and 400.00 for baseball” he recalls, “and Billy the youngest costs me $600.00 each year to be on the hockey team…where in the hell do our taxes go?”

Then like a shock wave it hits him. Harry realizes his mortgage payment of $2,500 per month is not included in the mix yet, but regains some relief that it contains his property taxes of $600 per month which he has already figured in. “Let’s see now….if I take $600 off the total monthly payment of $2,500 that still leaves me a mortgage payment of $1,900 per month or 30%!!…..hell, that puts me at over 105% of my total income!”

Harry is horrified on his discovery and begins to think about his three credit cards that he uses often to purchase various items such as clothing, meals, auto repairs, insurance and other necessary things. His mind goes into deep thought with, “I know those cards are carrying a total balance of at least $11,000 ….how are we ever going to pay them off?” As he thinks more about it, a smile comes to his face. “Well….at least what we owe on credit cards is below the national average of $12,400 according to the news the other morning….things are looking up!”

Continuing to drive he thinks of the vacation last year that he took his family on. “I forgot about that” he says to himself. “The trip to Disney world ….yeah, that cost a lot of money…but, we all deserved it…” He recalls that the trip cost $8,000 including the air fair for a week at the resort. “If I remember right the taxes on the air fair was a lot of money…and the hotel taxes at the resort were absurd.” As he thinks some more, “the base air fare for each person was $180.00 for the round trip, but added to it was excise taxes of $14.00, segment fees of $8.00, passenger facility charges of $9.00 and a September 11th security fee of $12.00.…the added cost of each ticket was $43.00 or 24%!” Harry is beside himself, but continues to think about the hotel and the additional expenses there. He mumbles to himself, “yeah…the hotel tax was 12.5% and they had a sales tax too of 6%….damn it, it seems the government is in your pocket every time you turn around.” Pondering some more he surmises, “well, the trip was a lot of money, but the home equity rates were low at the time….it was a great opportunity to borrow the money….but, alas that’s another payment that I had forgotten about and it’s $300.00 per month….. that‘s another 5% of my income.”

Suddenly, his vehicle begins making a funny noise. As he listens intently, he glances down at his heat gauge and it is in the red. A white cloud bellows upwards from beneath the hood and suddenly he can not see where he is going. Quickly, he pulls off to the side of the road and exits the car. He discovers that antifreeze is spilling all over the ground and the front of the car is in a cloud of steam. Harry kicks the front tire and blurts, “well, not going any place with this hunk of junk….need to get some help.” Harry reaches into his wallet and gets his AAA card out for the phone number and while dialing his cell phone thinks, “well, at least I can get some help…it’s a good thing I have AAA and this phone.” After contacting them and hanging up the phone he begins to think, “that’s some more expenses I didn’t think of….AAA…and this cell phone….this new smart phone I got is costing me $150 bucks a month…that’s another 2.5 percent!”

Waiting for the wrecker, the traffic is fairly heavy so he decides to sit well off the road on an embankment. “Don’t want to get hit by someone” he thinks, “the way some of these people drive you can never tell…..” Just as he thinks this, a car heading at high speed down the break down lane smashes into his vehicle. In amazement he watches the car total his vehicle and turn it into a twisted piece of metal. Frantically, he dials 911 to get an ambulance and while doing so, his car erupts into flames, bellowing black smoke upwards into the sky. Seeing the individual in the other car screaming, he rushes towards the wrecked vehicles and pulls the woman from the car, placing her a safe distance away from them.. She is badly hurt as he notices the lacerations across her face and arms. She is complaining about her neck and back, so he tells her to lie still until help can arrive. Within minutes a cruiser and an ambulance pulls onto the scene.

Harry is pleased to see the woman get proper medical attention and the officers take his statement while the fire department extinguishes his burning car. In the meantime he calls his wife and tells her about the accident and that he is okay. After about an hour, he is given a ride to the police station to wait for his wife.

When his wife arrives a few hours later, he meets her in front of the building. Suddenly, he looks at his watch and realizes the time. “My God” he thinks, “I missed my big appointment with the Acme company executives….I need to call them now!” He pulls his cell phone from his pocket and quickly dials the number. His wife who is driving, glances over at him while he is speaking to someone on the phone. All she hears from her husband is “yep…I’m sorry, but….no, you don‘t understand….well, I can….” and then she hears a loud click on the other end. Harry can do nothing, but stare at the phone. After a brief moment, he says, “they hung up on me hon…..they wouldn’t even let me explain why I was late….they have decided to go with another insurance company.” His wife trying to be supportive replies, “don’t worry Harry there will be other opportunities….” Harry, who has sunk into deep depression, looks over at his wife and says, “I was counting on that account to help us get out of the hole we are in…..there went thousands of dollars in commissions….all because of that old shit box that I drive.” The rest of the way home Harry does not say another word. His mind has reached a new low and all he can think of is, “what are we going to do now?…..”

One evening Harry and his wife are sitting in the livingroom watching TV. Harry has been having some rough days lately, since management has threatened layoffs and because of him losing the Acme account, he thinks his job may be on the chopping block. Pounding down a few beers to relieve his pain Rose says, “my sister called today….her son Teddy is getting braces.” Harry immediately turns to address her and replies, “her son is getting braces?…how can she afford that?….for Christ’s sake she’s not even working and having a kid at 40 years old really does not make for a very good financial situation, if you know what I mean.” Rose who is knitting, glances over to him and smiles. “The State is paying for it….she gets lots of things..” Harry chokes on his beer and adds, “the State is paying for it?…what kind of shit is that?…..she gets pregnant from some drunk who is useless, claims a bad back and goes on disability at the age of 40?…and she gets her kid‘s braces for nothing?…when we can‘t even afford our health care?”

Rose eyes her husband for his derogatory comments against her sister. “Well, Harry Trent she has had a tough time you know….just because she gets disability payments, free health care, food stamps, fuel assistance and subsidizing housing does not make her less of a person.” Harry’s face grows red with anger and he replies spitting beer out of his mouth, “I bet she gets help with her utility bills too!” Rose stands up, looks down at Harry sitting in his sofa chair and loudly says, “yes, for your information she does and she gets school vouchers too! They help pay for sports so her child can participate….plus she gets a free Obama phone!”

Rose walks away towards the kitchen leaving Harry to steam away at what he had just been told. His mind was running at full speed now and the realization of someone who could work but wasn’t, was too much for him to bear. “God damn free loaders….” he mumbles to himself. “I should quit my job and go on the dole like her sister….my back hurts…it always has…, why not?….oh, the hell with this shit!” and Harry hurls his beer bottle at the wall near the TV set. The bottle explodes into a million pieces as it strikes the planter and Rose comes running back into the room. “What in the hell are you doing?” she demands. “Letting off some of that freeloader steam, that‘s all….I‘m going to bed“ and with that Harry disappears upstairs..

A few weeks later at the dinner table, Harry and his wife are going over the mail, when he opens a letter from his bank. As he reads it, he is shocked on what it is saying. His wife seeing the astonished look in his face asks, “what is it Harry?….something wrong?” Harry hands her the letter slowly and replies, “because we are behind on our mortgage…..they are starting foreclosure proceedings…we are going to lose our home to those bastards!” His wife glancing at the paper for a second, begins to cry. “What are we going to do Harry?….we need this house….where are we going to go?”

Harry completely disgusted with his situation notices another letter with a return address of a law firm by the name of Linskin and Linskin. “What’s this?” he mumbles to himself. Opening the envelope, he begins reading the letter and as he does, his eyes grow larger with every second. He looks at his wife and says, “you think that’s bad about the bank….you know that woman that I brought to safety?……well, she is suing us because of me pulling her out of the wreck…. from what this letter says, she suffered irreparable damage to her spine from me moving her…..can you believe it?….I risked my life to save her and now the bitch is suing us for 5 million dollars!”

His wife can no longer take anymore of the pain and rushes to the bedroom. She slams the door leaving Harry by himself in total silence. He grabs a beer from the refrigerator and sits down in the living room alone. He looks around for his kids, but remembers that they are over to their friends house and won’t be home until tomorrow morning. Sitting there alone, he begins to think of all the problems facing him and his family. “We are bankrupt…..what am I going to do?…..we need money and we need it fast…..without it, we are going to lose this home and everything else……the woman who is suing us probably won’t win, but I am still going to have to hire a lawyer….that will cost thousands of dollars to defend me…..where is that money going to come from?”

As he sips his beer, he ponders his problems some more. “The only thing I have of any value is my life insurance” he chuckles. “That’s worth $250,000.….with that amount of money, all our problems would be solved…and I think it even has a double indemnity clause as well, if it‘s an accident…..that means 500,000 dollars to my family…surely with that kind of money they would be all set.”

Harry grabs another beer and continues to think. “Of course, the only way we can get that money is if I was….” He then remembers the .357 magnum Smith & Wesson in the top drawer of the gun cabinet. He gets up and unlocks the door, grabs the gun and goes back to sit down in the chair. Looking down at it, he sees the bullet heads in the end of the cylinder and discovers it is still loaded with 145grain silver tip jacketed hollow points. “These will definitely do the job“ he thinks….“but, it must look like an accident…if my family is to get the $500,000.” He gets up and retrieves the gun cleaning kit from the cabinet and puts it on the kitchen table. Opening it, he places a bottle of gun cleaning fluid on the table along with a few cleaning brushes. He attaches one of the brushes to a cleaning rod, dips it in the fluid and places it on a protective rag on the table. “There…” he murmurs, “that looks about right….”

Sitting down at the table, his hand begins to tremble, as he points the gun to his chest. His hands are so sweaty, that it causes the hand grip to be slippery. Because of this, it is hard for him to point the gun at himself even with two hands. While looking towards the bedroom, a tear begins to run down his cheek. “It will all be over soon” he thinks…..”my family will go on….and they will be well taken care of….all it will take is a simple squeeze…..” His places his slippery finger on the trigger….his legs become weak, in fact the weakness overwhelms his entire body as he concentrates on pulling the trigger…..”God, give me the strength to help my family” he pleads in his mind….

As his brain rambles on with the thoughts of his wedding day and first child being born, his face becomes wet with tears…….he knows what he must do…...there is no turning back now……his situation is bad and there is no way out of it……he mumbles, “they finally got me….the lousy bastards have me by the short hairs…..” His index finger pushes forward and the trigger begins to move ever so slightly when suddenly he hears a voice coming from the bedroom. “Honey….are you coming to bed?…..I need you…….”℠ (Right-side navigation page SSI insertion)