The Tower of Bethlehem

By Dara Cunningham

My father lost his job when I was too young to understand the crisis but old enough to remember Billy Joel’s top hit song. My parents may have been the only locals who hated “Allentown”. 

“What does that rich fuck know about our lives?” my father said, and my mother nodded in agreement. Their shared disdain of what was embraced by the masses made me realize how they much they deserved each other.

My father was the first in his family to finish high school and leave behind the smelt and danger of the steel mill for the company’s headquarters in the gleaming new Martin Tower; the skyscraper where the white collars worked. Though he hadn’t been to college, with the skills he learned in the Air Force and his gracious, blue-eyed charisma he landed a job in computer maintenance; IT before it had a name. He recounted how everyone from clerks to executives would wring their hands in panic when their screens went blank, and how they rejoiced when he arrived to type the mysterious language that brought them back to life.

He escaped the first few rounds of layoffs, including the legendary “Black Friday” of 1977 when without warning over two-thousand jobs were cut. It was a swift and brutal death blow to lifelong employees who were marched out with their careers in boxes.

“They won’t be able to live without guys like me,” he assured my mother.

Several years later in the mid-eighties they decided that in fact, they could. It was smaller and less publicized, unworthy of headlines when they let my father go. His colleagues took pictures together on their last day, somberly draping arms around each other’s shoulders. My father wanted no part of it, but he agreed to one solitary portrait with the Martin Tower behind him and, with his arm raised, he held up his middle finger.

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Dara Cunningham graduated from the finest community college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and now lives year round on the fringes of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her short fiction has previously appeared in Bright Flash, and in online reviews such as Fiction 365 and Page & Spine.

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