1

Robert

He just stood there looking at it for a moment. “I’m….I’m sorry sir. It’s just that-“ “No one has ever given you a check for $82,747.22. I understand. You can call the bank; it’s good.” I wanted to smile, but I just couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t doing anything good, I was just trying to correct a mistake. “I guess all I can say is thank you.” “You’re welcome.” I walked out of the Eagle Crest Men’s Shelter with a strange sense of peace. “The Lord will provide.” I whispered to myself. I saw several men; their faces were partially obscured by worn, dirty hoodies. I wondered if that would be my fate. I got into the car and looked at the gas gage – empty. I tapped on the glass and the needle inched up ever so slightly. How far was it to the nearest gas station? I had given up my fancy phone two weeks ago, so I had to rely on memory. I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened. I tried it again and the motor reluctantly roared to life; I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I stood at the pump, carefully watching the meter. I could only afford five bucks and I didn’t want to go a penny over – literally. My life had come down to a matter of pennies; one saved here could be another spent elsewhere. A new Caragato Streaker pulled up beside me as I was putting my gas cap back on. I stared at that baby and burned with desire. But again, I had this strange sense of peace – of freedom. It made me think: What did I really want out of life? What was important to me? As I drove home, I whistled a happy tune; which abruptly ended when I became snarled in traffic. I was just outside the crisp, clean Dalton office park. This was the place where all the movers and shakers resided – or so I was told. It looked like a handful of ebony jewels scattered upon May’s green extravagance. There were flower beds and trees everywhere, as well as granite sculptures. So, why was I stuck in this place of go-getters and super achievers? The flashing lights to my right were the first clue. I looked over and saw three police cars in the parking lot. Several officers were standing there, looking up. A police helicopter suddenly flew overhead. The news vans pulled into the parking lot and reporters rushed to the scene. The artifact started to vibrate and I took it out of my pocket. If flew out of my fingers and stuck to the windshield. Oh boy.

2
As I pulled into an outer parking lot, I thought about my reputation. A good entrance would let everyone know I was Eagle Crest’s hero; I just wasn’t the savior of the Grunge. Maybe a high profile rescue would lead to a cash reward of some type. That wasn’t too noble, but then again, I was just two weeks away from foreclosure. No. Somehow God would get me through this. I walked around to the back of the building and got my game on. Flight; that one was always a blast. I quickly zipped up the side of the building; I was ready for anything, but I was hoping it would be nothing. The pinging in my brain was so strong I was starting to get a headache. I could see people rushing out emergency exits and others huddled in fearful groups on the ground. Where was he? I needed to find this wacko fast. As I went in for a closer look, I could see people pointing up at me; it was actually a little embarrassing. I turned my head and the pinging was like a jackhammer; the third floor balcony below me was where I needed to be. As I gently touched down, two men emerged, pushing right past me. The shorter, balding man was holding a gun with one hand and dragging his victim with the other. His victim was a younger guy, probably not even thirty, with a crew cut and an expensive suit. “Robert, don’t do this. If you do this, you can’t come back from it. You….you can’t undo it.” The young guy was an expert salesman – trust me it takes one to know one. But even he was nervous. “Oh….it’s ‘Robert’ now, isn’t it? I’m not ‘Buddy’ or ‘Hey You’? Or are you just reading my ID badge?” The rage in Robert’s voice was begging to build, as was the pain in my skull. It was time to calm things down. “Robert,” I took a tentative step forward, “put down the gun. I’m here to listen to you.” To me it just came out all wrong. But what was I supposed to say? “Listen, listen?! Like this little #$@@?! He’s been listening to me for years – and then just does what he wants anyways. That’s how they do it, you know. They act like they’re so nice, so polite – but they’re laughing behind your back!” Robert put the gun to his boss’ forehead. “I know how it is. It isn’t easy. You work like a dog and no one cares. It’s like your invisible. But this won’t improve…..things.” The pain was overwhelming. “You don’t even have a clue!!” Robert turned to me. “I started at this company when this punk was still in grade school! I did everything right – everything! And they kept on bringing kids in and promoting them – just because of their connections!” “That’s not true.” The boss’ voice was shaky. “Look, we were just discussing putting you in charge of the Red Project. It’s perfect for you.” “The Red Project….Red Project was cancelled last week!! You’re lying – again!” Robert’s anger exploded and he cocked the gun. I was feeling dizzy and started stumbling backwards. “R…robert….don’t…don’t d..do this…” The world seemed to turn upside down and then everything went black.

3

I was somewhere between the strange and the familiar. I walked through an office that almost looked like my old one, but was somehow out of place with reality. As I passed each cubicle, I saw a pristine white canvas. Upon each canvas there was a painting of a faceless bust. The clock on the wall had stopped and night and day paraded outside the window at a dizzying pace. A voice from somewhere deep within this bizarre landscape urged me: “Give them a face.” I searched desperately through the desks and cabinets for paint, markers, pens, pencils, or highlighters – anything. There was absolutely nothing to draw with. I followed one of these weird portraits as it slowly waddled out of the building and into the street below. I saw streets lined with faceless paintings; they were directing traffic, manning cash registers, cutting hair – you name it. I turned to the faceless person next to me. “Boy is it chilly.” “Yes it is.” The voice was low and muffled, like it was being smothered by its own anonymity. “I’m Mitch by the way.” “I’m Ronald. Pleased to meet you.” Ronald had a face. It was worn with care and framed in long, straggly gray hair, but he had a face.

I woke up in a bed with clean white sheets. Before I even opened my eyes, I could feel the artifact lying on my chest. There was the sound of beeping and slow whooshing, as well as some voices on an intercom far away. There were tubes in my arms and a mask was snugly fit over my nose and mouth. “Mitch! Oh my God! Mitch!” Maggie hugged me so tight I thought she was going to squeeze the life out of me. “Nurse! Nurse! He’s awake!” The nurse came in; she looked at the chart and then looked at me. She had a puzzled look on her face. “How are you feeling Mr. Harrison?” I was still too weak to make a response. I simply nodded my head. “Johnny, call off the Hospice team. I’m not sure why – but Mr. Harrison has…recovered.” The nurse put her cell phone away and sat down beside me. She had these piercing grey eyes and golden hair. “Mr. Harrison, you had quite a fall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone fall three stories and live to tell the tale. You’re lucky that some tree branches slowed you down.” I tried to get up but the pain was still too much. “Whoa. Take it easy.” The nurse helped me back down. “You’ve had your left leg shattered as well as some broken ribs. You’re not going anywhere for a few weeks.”

4
Maggie touched the artifact. “I spent the whole night looking for this. It was in some nearby bushes….I knew it would save you.” She gently kissed me on the forehead.

The next morning, I tried to get up. I was on my feet, good. The pain in my leg started to build and I clutched the artifact. The pain subsided – somewhat. I took a few steps and then sat down in a nearby chair. I plopped down too quickly and my side started hurting like a thing from Hell. I was escorted by the amazed nurse and an orderly back to bed. “Now, Mr. Harrison, you can’t leave your bed, not until your leg is able to take your weight.” The nurse checked my chart twice. “I’m Mitch by the way.” “I’m Veronica. And I’m astonished. Three days ago you were at death’s door. You had a concussion and a punctured lung – not to mention internal bleeding. You should be playing the harp at the Pearly Gates, Mitch. I….I really don’t understand what’s going on.” Later that afternoon, I was walking around with no problem. The pain in my side had almost gone away. Maggie was standing there with a wheelchair, but I waived it off. “Mitch, I heard about the money. What you did for the Men’s Shelter was a good thing.” She came in to give me a hug, but given my condition, decided not to. “What happened to Robert?” “C’mon, let’s get out of here….you must be starving.” “Maggie, tell me. What happened to Robert?” “He let his boss go.” “Thank God. I’ll go see him in jail, let him know he did the right thing.” I winced slightly as I put my jacket on. The tears started running down her face. “Mitch….” “What, what happened?” “Robert used the gun on himself.”

Bfk

© 2014 Benjamin F. Kaye

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