An engaging parable about a man who measures his progress with modest markers of success, such as the octane of his gasoline.  While pursuing a conscientious sheltered life in Salem, he daydreams about experiencing first hand how the other half lives.

– Editor


Ninety Two

By John Van Dreal

He thinks about this:

He does ok.  Puts 92 in his car.  A Lexus (well, a 12 year old Lexus).

He listens to KMUZ, 100.7 on the FM dial.  Excellent programming, all of the time.  It’s public radio, so he makes sure to pay his annual fees and even doubles them, because he can… because he should.  Has the donation swag to prove it:  a sticker on his Lexus, a cap, a coffee mug… all with monikers that read KMUZ Community Radio.  It’s quality listening from a community station.  His people.  His music.  No satellite.

Buys local, gives to the shelter, doesn’t hate.  Gets angry when people do, especially when they hate the gays.  He has friends who are, and he’s passionate that they should be free to love whom they want.  Just as he is… free, that is.  He’s not gay.  But wouldn’t care if he was.  His wife might.

Works in public service, but as an Administrator.  So he does ok.  Puts 92 in his car.  Safety is important.  That’s why the Lexus.  That and quality.  That’s why the 92… Premium.  Quality and safety are always important.  House, car, furniture, art, music, clothing, kitchen utensils, bed… all are quality.  All are safe.

Been at his job for two decades.  Has tenure.  Safety.  And he’s been told that his work is exemplary.

Still, he thinks he’d walk away.  Wishes he could walk away.  Wishes he could at least consider walking away.  Or doing it over?  Yeah, if he could.  No safety, no tenure, less quality.  Just 87.  But indulged in playing music, not just listening to it.  Making art, not just buying it.  Maybe drink too much.  Some drugs.  A bar fight.

(He’d only been in one fight… in high school.  Sitting next to his friend, a black friend.  Another kid shouted a racist remark.  Goddamnit, that pissed him off… he hated that word.  He hit that kid so hard!  Still got his ass kicked though.  But strangely, it felt good… and he remembered.)

Maybe flop on a friend’s couch.  A weekend in jail.  A week in jail.  Maybe end up doing a nickel in the joint?  That’s how he’d say it… because it sounds cool… and accomplished.  But that’s too much, too long, too far.

No!  Just day to day, week to week.  No promise, no safety, a different kind of quality.  Living big, dreaming small.

That’s what he thinks about.  He’d never last.  That Lexus needs 92.


John Van Dreal is a painter and sculptor and plays keyboard and harmonica for the band Indigo Boys.  In his day job as school psychologist dealing with troubled and aggressive youths in Salem, John has more touch with everyday people than this story lets on.

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