James Ramford Got Me Fired
It was a long time ago, and I almost don’t remember how it started, but I do remember it was in fifth grade that we all told the teacher what we wanted to be when we grew up. “Painter,” one of my classmates said. “A firefighter,” another said. “A lawyer” is what I said when it was my turn, thinking of what my dad always said he wanted to be. Then the kid next to me, James Ramford, looked me in the eyes and said “I want to ruin any job you ever get”, and he said it quiet enough that everybody moved on to the next kid, except James who wouldn’t take his eyes off me.
That Summer I got a job at my uncle’s ice cream stand. It was hard work but I liked the challenge, and I also liked meeting the girls that came by. That was the summer of my first real girlfriend, Marylou, whose favorite ice cream was pistachio.
Three weeks into scooping ice cream James Ramford spread a rumor that I was touching 12 year old girls, which was kind of true in the sense that Marylou was twelve and we were kissing, but I was 12 as well, and she was kissing me back. My uncle said that didn’t matter though, it was the principle of the thing; he couldn’t have a child child-molester working his ice cream stand.
I didn’t see much of James for a few years after that. In high school I had some odd jobs mowing lawns and raking leaves, and about half of them would end when “a dick lives here” appeared in limestone on the lawns during the night. No one really said I was to blame, but they felt safer not having me near their lawns.
I decided to go to college in the next state to give myself some distance from James. When I got there that Fall I found a job as a waiter at a breakfast place to help with extra money. James was my first customer the first day I started. He said he found a baby’s finger in his waffle and when I told him that I would get him a new one he told me to get the manager instead, and after they talked for a while the manager came over to me and asked if I said anything racist to James.
“No. He’s white and I think descended from the Pilgrims,” I said and pointed to James, who turned away as if scared.
“He’s been yelled at enough, I think you should go.”
And that’s how I started working at the local bar, and then the men’s clothing store, and the furniture store, and when I graduated I moved across the country to Arizona to go to Law school, partly for myself and partly to get further away from James Ramford. And it worked for a time. I was excelling at my classes, I was meeting women and kissing them with no ill repercussions. I was cherishing things more because I feared they might be taken at any time.
I got an internship with Jonathan Stark, a local politician who was running for a seat in the Arizona Senate. It felt like what I really wanted to be doing, even though I was only doing fundraising. I was fighting for people’s rights, and not just surviving at a job I didn’t love. My anger for James Ramford slowly turned into admiration as I realized how much he must have seen in me to push me here. I sometimes thought about it and wished I could have goaded him into as much success as he had with me.
At our first rally Jonathan made a great speech about how he was going to improve the lives of every person in Arizona, and then he opened the floor for questions.
“Don’t you think your fundraiser sucks,” James yelled from the audience and pointed at me.
“No I don’t, I think he is by far the best intern that I have on my team,” Jonathan said back. And maybe I imagined it, but maybe I saw a smile on James face, as if that was his last gift to me before he later exposed a huge corruption scandal that took down Jonathan Stark’s entire career.
I don’t know what James will do when I run for that Senate seat next year, but I think something with another baby finger would be pretty funny.