He followed the script.
He played by the rules.
He married young, but not too young. He met his wife when they both were in college. They moved to be close to family. He took a job that provided him with free travel to see his own family regularly and stay in touch with more than social media posts. He was upbeat, patient and pleasant to his co-workers. He worked hard and did his job unstintingly.
And none of it worked out. He was making barely more than daycare workers in Washington State make. His wife was working at a bakery, making around the same. Combined they were making around the median household income for their state, which is about half what married couples make who have kids in Washington.
But he met her at college. They married young, but not too young. They lived near family.
And he was almost 30 and fatherhood was looking like a dream. He hoped further, additional credentials would finally get him a pay raise, into management.
But hope curdles in the face of grinding reality, where following all the rules pushes you deeper and deeper under and all the smiles and positive attitude aren’t moving you forward, but locking you in place.
His name was Richard Russell. His friends called him Beebo. What a privilege they had.
He took a plane up into the light, because for all his efforts to follow the rules, the light was slipping further and further away and all his smiles and good spirits couldn’t push away the dark shadows of despair and futility.
But in that plane, for a little while, he touched the light. He reached down into this bleak world of corruption and the grinding down of good, young, decent men and he gave a taste of it to the rest of us here on the cold gray ground.
We who only knew him in death call him Sky King. Sky King did nothing wrong.