Slowly, the economy is showing signs of recovery in many areas of the country. It may not have reached you yet, but hopefully your straits have not been as dire as the man I spoke to recently.
Let’s call him Albert.
Albert is a contractor we use at my work and yesterday he showed up with bandaids under both eyes. After we finished teasing him, he explained to us that his son, just out of the military, borrowed $1500 from him to pay for his COBRA insurance because his girlfriend was pregnant and would soon deliver.
Albert is a man of meager means, his pockets aren’t very deep. He borrowed against his current 401k savings to help his son out. This paid for one month of insurance while his son looked for a job.
“That Redneck”, as Albert referred to him, took that $1500 and bought a four-wheeler. Shortly thereafter, the Redneck left town and no one can get in touch with him. “He’s not dead.” Albert said. “He’s been seen by friends and family, he’s just not responding to email, text, or phone calls.” Albert says that the baby was born several weeks ago and she has a cleft lip and needs surgery. The mother doesn’t have insurance and can’t pay for the surgery and the delivery at the hospital.
So what did Albert do? Most people would look for some type of second job. Pizza delivery, auto parts counter person, handyman. No. Albert needed to make some fast cash, but it had to be legal…sort of.
Now, Albert is in pretty decent shape for a man of late forties, early fifties. He’s a pipefitter by trade, served in the Navy and tried unsuccessfully to become a SEAL when he was a young buck. Albert learned about an underground fight promotion in East Texas that he could make a fast buck. A lot of money, if you won. Participation is usually by invitation only, but Albert had a connection and was able to work his way onto the card.
Two weekends ago, he traveled up to a rural community in East Texas where a UFC type cage was set up in a barn. There were people from all over Texas there to fight. They had to pay $50 to get a chance in the cage. The number of rounds they could last determined how much money they were paid. Young MMA fighters, cowboys, boxers, wrestlers, gang members, and Albert the Pipefitter lined up to pay for the opportunity to earn their keep.
He held his own against a young MMA fighter looking to be a future TV star. Albert said that at one point he was against the cage and was covering his head and ribs while his opponent pounded his upper arm. He said that he was hitting him so hard that it felt like he had broken a rib.
Despite not having the time to prepare, to condition his body, Albert relied on tenacity, strength, and a bit of boxing he picked up in the Navy. Battered and bruised, he went the distance, but lost the decision to the young fighter. With open cuts under both eyes, an ice pack in one hand and $5,500 cash in the other, Albert made the long trek back to Houston.
This will only make a dent in what he needs to pay for the hospital stay, so he plans to return to that East Texas barn as soon as his body heals from his last fight. Or until desperation pushes him to go sooner.
Fighting for Posterity by Norman Cooper © 2012 was originally posted at Open Salon on April 27, 2012.