by Steven Hill

"Let me tell you something," he said, eyeing her coolly over the top of his yellow beer.
"I don't need anyone.
"Not anyone," and the sound of the bartender clinking glasses together made her spine shiver.
"I have my own business.
"I'm my own boss.
"I set my own hours.
"I'm responsible for my own losses and gains."

She read his business card:

Northwest Poseidon, Inc.
Broker for Seafood
Salmon, Bottom Fish, Crab

"I'm completely independent," he bellowed, taking from his plate another bite of succulent broccoli top that had been grown on a large cooperative farm in the Willamette Valley of Central Oregon by 63 men and women: planters and harvesters, mechanics an d technicians, secretaries, bookkeepers, clerks, managers, accountants, custodians and maintenance people; and then there was the truck that had transported the broccoli, along with thousands more: the plant that manufactured the truck, and the hundreds and thousands of people employed there, machining the engine block, molding the pistons, riveting the cab and the trailer, screwing this, bolting that; molding the tires, mounting the hubs, installing air brakes, ash trays and rear view mirrors; there wa s truck stop where the driver filled up with gas, the waitress behind the counter, serving sliced tomatoes from California with cheese from Wisconsin on a local whole wheat bread; dressed in slacks that she had purchased on sale at J.C. Penney from a cash ier who had just returned from his dentist, checking and cleaning teeth, filling cavities with dental hard-ware she had purchased from a large dental wholesaler in San Francisco that employed 58 men and women, two of whom got together in their spare time and started their own seafood take-out restaurant and three days ago bought salmon and dungeness crab from a seafood retailer that had been supplied by-- Northwest Poseidon, Inc.

"I go on exotic dream vacations to buy shrimp and prawns in India and Southeast Asia, completely written off as a business expense...
"And I expect to retire by the time I'm 45. Maybe 50 if I'm unlucky and the fish get smart.
"I like myself, and I'm happy with what I do, thank you very much.
"I take care of myself first, and like people who do the same.

"I treat my women reeaalll special...

"I like being independent," he said, brushing crumbs off the sleeve of his stiff Calvin Klein that had been manufactured in a small, sweaty factory in Hong Kong by 76 women making $.85 US an hour to keep their children fed and themselves from prostitutio n. He frantically chewed his food and gestured in the air with an antique silver fork the proprietors had purchased at a garage sale held two years ago by an elderly couple, both of them carpenters, who had devoted much of their lives to their family, gr andchildren and great-grandchildren, the restoration of antiques and colonial homes, and to peace activism.

"Furthermore, I do not get involved in politics.
"I leave that to the politicians.

"I'm a businessman," he bellowed, sipping his coffee that had been ground from beans grown in the hills of El Salvador. In fact, one of the beans that had been ground to produce the exact cup of coffee that he was presently enjoying had been in the sack of Jose Guzman Martin the day Guzman had been fired upon his return from the fields for protesting the treatment of four of his fellow workers. The four had been labelled as "agitators" and "communist sympathizers." Two of them had since disappeared, an d their families were unable to find any trace of them. When Guzman leaned his sack against the wall and left work that day, vowing that this was the last straw, and that he would fight the injustice of the coffee growers and the Yanqui imperialists so t hat his children and grandchildren might live a better life, that coffee bean sat at the top of his sack, waiting to become brewed coffee in some North American's cup.

"So you can keep your politcal pamphlet to yourself," he said.
"However, if you would like to come back to my place...
"And discuss this in greater depth...
"I think you're kind of cute..."

The young women stood and eyed him coldly.

"I think you are not independent at all," she said.
"In fact, I think you are totally dependent-- just as an infant is totally dependent on its mother -- on a vast network of humans who must work together to stay alive, or the whole thing will fall apart.

"The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and you, mister, are an extremely weak link."

She picked up her literature, being sure to leave him a copy, and turned and walked out.

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