There's nothing wrong about being poor. Nothing wrong with being rich, either. If you really stop and think about it, all that matters is why.
My family was poor for all the wrong reasons. Didn't make much difference to us, though, we'd been rich for the same reasons. We were, every one of us, an experiment to see just how horrible a human being could be. Ha! How they'd laugh if they could read this now. How you would laugh if you knew their names. No doubt each one is on some public list of saints. Not me, though. I'm the only one who turned out normal, the good egg, as it were. The fluke, the mistake. Left, beaten, and broken behind every time I moved, talked or thought. Ha! If you knew half of the things that my family has done... Man, I mean, at least I'd have an excuse. Who could blame the middle child, constantly abused and hated. To steal from one of my best childhood memories, "I'm on nobody's side, because nobody's on MY side."
A truer statement has never been said.
This is my story, you may not like it, hell, I know I didn't. But hopefully you'll finish it, then maybe I can get some sympathy. This is it, folks. My tale, from start to finish, birth to death, every word is here. Uncensored. Unabridged. Unbelievable.
My family became poor when my dear old dad's fortune was stolen. Or should I say stolen back. One week, my dear old dad is the executive of the largest, most corrupt company on the planet, then boom! He's dirt poor and living in a small house in suburbia. We definitely were not middle-class. All the money my dear old dad had saved was just able to pay for house each month. The house would've been plenty big for a family of five. But then you add in the twins, and, well... There goes that. They ruined everything, they always have, and probably will screw things up even as their coffins are nailed shut. Unfortunately, my older brothers weren't old enough to be sent away to some crappy college, besides, we'd never be able to afford it. Then there was me. The one lucky enough to be born before my dear old dad's fall into poverty, barely avoiding his evil-genius-in-training programs. And fortunate enough to be born before his future-crazy-psycho programs. I got a little of both, and to this date I have no clue what I am.
My two older brothers and I got all the best tutors in science, math, and politics. We also got the best teacher in ethics, our very own saint of a mother, and the best teacher in economics, our very own charitable father. Ethics class could be defined by one statement (repeated to us day after day by our saint of a mother until we could repeat it back, syllable by syllable) "Ethics is not about doing the right thing. It's about doing whats best for yourself while making everyone believe you're doing it for the world." Economic class could be similarly summed up as thus; "The thing about money is, if it's not in your pocket, then you're doing something wrong." Ha! Guess dear old dad screwed up in that last one.
Of course, the lessons were more complex than that. They'd be separate, then joined, then separate again. For instance, I learned that it's not charity if you get sales out of it. I also learned that, should a few extra barrels of toxic chemicals from a rival company "break" and spill all over some poor little town in Africa, then it sure as hell ain't our fault. Even if we rigged 'em to break. They should've had better anti-corporate sabotage plans. Science, math, and politics were similar, even if they weren't taught by our revered parents. Politics was mainly about the standard opening bribe for a mayor, congressman, senator, president. Math was your typical stuff, geometry (gotta design those buildings to be complete eyesores, now!), algebra (if x+9=13, then who cares?), and, of course, word problems (Mary has five apples, and Bob has three. If Bob can steal one apple every five minutes, how long will it take him to realize he should just sue Mary for some obscene amounts of cash and the apples?). Science was my personal favorite. Its awful hard to corrupt science.
Of course, my revered parents sure tried. For instance, as it turns out, it doesn't really matter what you put in flu vaccinations. Most people will just fall for the old placebo effect, and if a bunch of people do get sick... Well, it is pretty hard to predict those flu strain trends.
So me and my older brothers suffered through our learnin's for a couple years, and then dear old dad lost everything.
The interesting thing I've always seen is this, is how stupid he was when it happened. Now, don't get me wrong, the man was a damn genius. And probably a damned one, as well. But once he lost his job... Woo! Mind is gone, just like that! All the sudden, we were moving into a small house in the burbs with no maids, no servants, no huge-screen t.v.'s, no nothing. No tutors, either, so it was up to dear old dad to teach us everything.
But the lessons all went downhill. Ethics was obliterated without a word, all because it had been the word used to "unjustly" fire him. Economics was torture, especially when he went of on one of his longer rants. Science flew away to somewhere more suitable for it ("The dump," he always said). Math followed. Politics survived, but most were rants on these new upstart politicians who wouldn't just take their damn bribes! Can you imagine? Un-bribable politicians!!! Blasphemy!
It was hard. Dad turned from an unscrupulous bastard into a psycho. Mom went from a lively, devious little snake to a lifeless husk. And the twins! Ugh! Don't even get me started on those little monsters! I hear their both running for office this year. If they win, we're all screwed.
But, of course, it wasn't all bad. Just, you know, most of it.
There were a few upshots to my life. One thing I noticed was that my life took a huge jump in happiness when we moved to the burbs. In corporate America there was no room for my kind. All the "Save the World!" and "Go Green!" memorabilia remained to be wistfully stared at, but never to be touched. Plus, Mark and Joey were real bastards, both of them. If you only knew their last names, or mine...
But life was better in the burbs. In the country, as it were, I had just that small bit of extra freedom. I could finally keep things like fantasy books and eco-magazines in my room, since, along with his psychosis, my father also received a new respect for personal space. All because he found the records of all those massacres in an "abominable" raid on his office. Yes, father, but why did you keep proof of all the bribes to Brazilian officials to keep everything quiet in your office?
I also got to meet new people. I remember in particular Matt back in the fifth grade. I remember that her dad was an biofuels engineer and that I had thought they were both so cool.
They recycled! And not because they got a tax break for it, either. They chose to do it! That is so cool!
I hadn't even thought that kind of caring existed until I met Matt. I wonder if he ever knew how big a crush I had on him at the time. Ah, well, the past, hm?
Anyway, back to the tale. I went to the Plainsroad Elementary School at the time. A relatively new school, at the time.
At Plainsroad, which went 1st-5th , we had one teacher for all of first through fourth grades. This seemed very strange to me.
I still remember my first day, in third grade. My brother, Joey, had been in fifth, while Mark had been in seventh. Joey had sneered while we had walked in, but I had been barely able to contain my excitement. Public school! Hooray!
Then I had gotten to my first class. The teacher, one Mrs. Mueller, had asked me to stand at the front of the class and tell everyone my name. I was terrified. I had never been in front of so many people in all my life, even though the class had only had around fifteen kids in it.
"R...R...Rachel," I managed to stutter out. A couple of kids chuckled. I think I whimpered a bit.
"It's okay Rachel," Mrs. Mueller had said soothingly, "now tell them where you're from." I nodded slightly.
"New York City," I said, almost a whisper. There were a couple of interested oohs and aahs from the crowd. I straightened up a little.
"And where did you go to school before?" Mrs. Mueller asked quietly.
"I...I..." I stuttered, "I was h...home-schooled." I looked at Mrs. Mueller, who smiled at me warmly. I smiled back a little.
"Very good!" Mrs. Mueller said, then pointed to an empty desk, "You can have that desk there next to Matt." Matt waved at me. I waved back weakly, then sat down. And the rest of the day went great!
After that first day, I couldn't wait to go to school every day! Of course, Joey got a reprimand from his science teacher, Mr. Well (who I found out in fifth grade to be a wonderful little old man with a frizzy white hair "just like Albert Einstein"), and another from his English teacher, Mrs. Gertrude (less nice, but still not that bad).
Surprisingly enough, Mark had managed to get a full detention his first day, so I felt that I got off pretty good. And that was kind of how school went for me. I got great grades, and almost never got in trouble. It was all a breeze.
The teacher's always remarked about my family, "Yeah, if you have to get one of them, pray for the girl." That, of course, was before the twins hit the circuit of schools, but I still take pride in it.
I continued on like that thirteen years before I hit my first snag. And that, I'm afraid, is a bit more complex...