The ChildMature

Marshall Crawford was one of the worried. Mr. Crawford would not have admitted to being "worried," exactly. "Concerned" was the word he used when discussing the emerging exodus from the workplace. As the chief executive officer of a major corporation that dealt in what we called "fast food" back then, Mr. Crawford relied heavily on under-educated and under-motivated people to work the counters and drive through windows at thousands of restaurants across the United States of America (as it was called before the fall of governments). These types of businesses rarely retained workers for longer than a year, most workers moving on to higher paying jobs, to college, or to other, more lucrative and less legal ways of earning a living. Mr. Crawford had a business model that took this into account with plenty of methods of replacing a revolving-door workforce that would not stay put. So in 2010, when the door began to swing only in one direction, and fewer and fewer people applied for his substandard positions, he began to be "concerned."
Despite the failure of policy after policy aimed at retaining workers and recruiting new applicants, Mr. Crawford was intent on success. For him, nothing else mattered. Success meant respect. Mr. Crawford determined he would not be losing any respect because of a few "socialist-minded" idealists who thought that flipping burgers was below them. For an entire year he fought ferociously to save his business model, but as franchises closed and his bottom line turn from black to red, he resigned his position and returned to his hometown of Austin, Texas, where he had begun his journey. Disgusted by the fast food industry, (but not for reasons than most people were) he decided to try his own hand at a passion and bought a large tract of land and built a set of batting cages for young baseball players.
This is how he came to be my son Williams's employer and nearly his murderer. William, 16 at the time, was riding high on the waves of job availability and increased wages while he finished high school. If he'd had it his way, he'd have been chasing his own immature professional baseball dreams, but he had a mother who was somewhat strict and slightly over-protective, but not even a bit inclined to release him to the wild before he graduated, at least. So off he went, every day after school, to his job at the last source of income for Mr. Crawford.

And home he'd come every night at around eight, tired and sweaty, hungry and thirsty, complaining about his day, much as I did. William had been working for Mr. Crawford for less than a month before he realized that the batting cages did not strike in its patrons the same kind of feelings he'd had himself when he had been younger and loved hitting the cages. There was a feeling about the place that sent kids home riled up and angry, rather than worn-out but relaxed, as he had expected. It was less than two months before he began coming home angry himself. It pained me to see him in the drudge of a hated job and the toll it was taking on his mental well-being and I encouraged him to find another place to work. I should have demanded it.

William was the only child I ever had and I always only half-joked that I never had a real child. He was a pleasure to parent. From potty-training to homework, William was a breeze. He was smart and had a kind heart, but he was also popular and in love with baseball. He was very open with me on many topics (of course, not all, as he also had a strong sense of privacy and independence) and we had wonderful conversations together as he got older about everything from politics to genetically-modified foods (not that those topics were exactly mutually exclusive back then). So I was completely unprepared for the night I awoke to find him standing over my bed with a raised baseball bat.

The End

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