Giving Up

Giving Up
Ariah Fine

Giving Up Copyright © 2008 by Ariah Fine All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review. Cover design: Keane Fine Cover Photos from Flickr users: janettie & amymememe First Printing: February 2008 Printed in the United States of America Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. ISBN- 143484210X EAN13- 9781434842107

for Adyra

FORWARD

You are about to read a book about changed lives. Through relationships and divine leading, the characters in this story undergo a true transformation, leaving behind an old way of life to embrace a new one, this time with an incredible impact for others. Just as this book chronicles this transformation in the characters' lives, so can The Teachings lead to transformation in our own lives. When a person humbles themselves and follows the teachings of this ancient philosopher what they will experience is a changed life. No longer should their lives be for themselves. The goals they once pursued in life, like money, popularity, or security, are no longer their top priority. The teacher said to follow we must deny ourselves, but the teacher also said we might have life abundant. As you read about the transformations taking place in the characters' lives and see the incredible results of this change of heart for others, consider your own heart and how God might be calling you to something greater than you realized. Zachary Swee, Author of The Profane Conspiracy

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Acknowledgments

Let me start by acknowledging that I never really expected that I would accomplish this, having a book that I wrote in print. I believe my first pieces of fiction writing were written in third grade in Mrs. Bloom's class, in a red spiral notebook, where I wrote about an alien space craft landing in my backyard. She said I was a very good writer. After that my writing abilities decreased, or other kids abilities increased, because I don't remember receiving many positive comments about my writing from my teachers after that point. I do remember enjoying and learning a great deal from Mr. Chaplin at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin. I also had a wonderful experience learning to write in Dr. Davis' class at Wheaton College in the fall of 2001. In his words, he said I set my readers up for an eight course meal with my intros and then only served them an appetizer (I hope that's not the case with this book). I'm not sure he thought I was a good writer, but I don't know my final grade in his class, just like I don't know my final grade from any of my college classes; I never looked.

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This is a work of fiction. I in no way intended any of the characters to portray or even resemble any real life people, apart from the obvious references to Jesus Christ, whom I believe was and is God incarnate, and the savior of all humanity. An obvious thank you goes out to Him. Which leads me to thank the editors of the current English translations of the Bible, in whom I've put a lot of faith that they didn't completely misinterpret the ancient manuscripts of scribes who I have faith didn't misinterpret the writings of original authors who I have faith didn't misinterpret the words of first hand witnesses who I have faith didn't misinterpret the events and teachings of Jesus Christ. So thank you to all of those people also. Completing this book was a personal achievement. The great accomplishment of this piece of literature is not necessarily in the words written on the pages, but simply the mere fact that they've all been collected in one place, drawn into some sort of cohesive plot and are now in print. Thank you printers. It is also a project I couldn't have accomplished without the encouragement and support of my loving family, Mindy and Adyra, who allowed me to write this entire novel in the month of November 2007. My desire to write a book came from a motivation to begin to articulate my faith in a tangible way for my daughter and my family. I also would not have had the motivation to continue writing each day if it had not been for the handful of close friends and avid readers, who read along as I typed through out the month, encouraging me each step of the way. Thank you Zach Swee, Keane Fine, Daniel Burt and Josh Corlew. And thank you mystery readers, who did not make yourselves known as you quietly read along. An additional thanks to Zach who was my inspiration, having published his own novel one year before I endeavored on mine. Thank you for showing me it could be done. Thanks Mom and Dad, for always telling me I can do anything.

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“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” -Jesus

Giving Up

C hapter 1

The economy

was not what it once was. Carter Owen remem-

bered a time, not too long ago in fact, when he barely had to stop in at the factory before heading out for a fishing trip. Those were the good days, profits rolling in, employees were happier and sure to do a hard and honest job. Nowadays, Carter found himself putting full days in at the factory, Nelius Incorporated. In fact, he often found himself putting in more then a full day. If he wasn't there to lock up, he couldn't be sure what might happen once he left. Today was another one of those days. He glanced at his Rolex and noticed he was again going to be late for dinner. He also noticed that incessant twitching of the hour hand. He really should get that looked at. Carter headed out to the truck landing to call his wife. “Carter, you better not be calling to say you're going to be late again. This is the third time this week!”

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Ariah Fine “Sweetie, I'm really sorry. At least I'm calling though, right? And I will be home, just a little later then we had planned. Besides, if I'm not watching out for the business today, we can't be sure we'll have food to put on the table tomorrow, right?” The truth is they had more then enough to provide for food, but in their desire for upward mobility, Julie caught the drift. “Well, hurry home though okay? And be careful down there, you know I worry about you after dark.” “Don't worry, I'll be careful. Tell Ryan I'll be home soon. I Love you Julie, goodbye.” Carter chuckled to himself. He understood what Julie was referring to when she said to “be careful.” The warehouse district was not exactly Disneyland after dark. He also knew what he meant by “careful,” as he touched his hand to the small of his back, where his pistol was holstered and hidden. Carter was always careful, but he prided himself on being quite adventurous as well. It was that adventurous side of him that had encouraged him to start and run his business from the ground up. While many of his peers had hired contractors and middlemen to get the job done, Carter prided himself on his frequent trips to the factory to 'fix' things. It had turned out for the best too. Just last week, his neighbor Ted had told him about a manager he had to fire. Their families where grilling out together when he brought it up.

“You know I had to fire another one of those cherries yesterday,” Ted, noticed the sideways glance Carter gave him, “..I know you don't like me calling them that, but that's what they are! Listen to this, this cherry had been marking down profits and skimming off the top for the last six months! And, he had the audacity to make it a habit of saying to me 'times will get better' when he called in the deposits each week! 'Times will get better', can you be-

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Giving Up lieve that, and all the while he was pocketing my money; my money! I can call them whatever I want when they do things like that.” “You know you ought to stop by your factory every once in a while and check things out for yourself. Let them know whose running the show. They keep skimming off the top and you won't have enough to pay out when I beat you in the golf tournament this spring.” “Go down to the factory? You're the only owner I know, you're probably the only owner in the entire city, who goes down there. I'm not saying its not smart, you can see I have my share of problems with my business, but I'm just saying, you do have a family to think about. You keep taking risks like that and you might not be there to beat me at the golf tournament.”

Carter did have a family to think about and to get home to dinner with. Ever since Ryan had been born people were telling him it wasn't proper for him to head down to the Warehouse District. And for the most part he had listened to them. When the economy was booming, in Ryan's early years, Carter didn't need to stop in but once a week. Now though, if he was going to keep his profits in his own pocket, rather then one of his managers, like Ted, then he needed to make his presence known. And his presence was certainly known. Touching the small of his back again, Carter remembered the one time he had actual discharged that pistol. It was not the most pleasant day of his life, but it had done more for his reputation around the Warehouse District then years of business wheeling and dealing could have done. The other man had wound up shot and thrown in prison for attempted murder. Carter realized they hadn't gotten the facts ex-

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Ariah Fine actly right, but he felt it was as fair as you could expect an imperfect justice system to be. That one incident, unbeknownst to Carter at the time, had brought him a great deal of respect, or was it fear, in the district and in his business. It had also brought him a fair share of nightmares. What if he had been the one to wind up with a bullet in his chest or in prison? What would Ryan do without his father? Carter walked back in off the truck loading dock and on to the factory floor. A couple of workers where mopping up the floor and restocking some of the materials. They acknowledged Carter's presence. He headed up the metal staircase from the factory floor to the offices above to make sure everything was properly locked up. He knew the night watchman would check for that, but he always liked to be sure himself, one less potential criminal he thought. As he grabbed his sports coat and briefcase from his office and stepped back out into the factory, he couldn't help but notice how hot it was. That's what you come to expect with an old building like this, he thought to himself. He really would like to install a proper air conditioning system, but with the budget already tight as is, it just wouldn't be good for business; He might not have a factory to put the air conditioning in if he made unwise decisions like that. Carter's wasn't the only factory with it's share of needed updates. Practically the whole district was in similar disarray. Carter looked around and surveyed the landscape as he headed out to his vehicle. These buildings had had a rich history. Built in the days of horse and buggy, the factories where built mostly along the river, helping business to thrive. As industry grew and factory jobs began to be exported the district had become a practical ghost town. It hadn't been long before the city jumped on the empty buildings as a perfect place to create public housing. The economy was good, and the downtown was drawing in all kinds of people and tourist, the city needed to do some-

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Giving Up thing to clean up its image. Carter couldn't imagine what it must have been like for those growing up crammed in these tiny units amidst these massive factory buildings. Fortunately, he didn't have to grow up in a setting like that, but his father had lived in a similar area in the next state over. The dismal public housing hadn't lasted forever though. As industry picked up again, developers saw opportunity, and had turned a fair share of the massive buildings into high rise condos. The public housing, more than likely due to pressure from the developers, was quickly disbanded, and those living there were pushed out of the district, but the city boom also didn't last. Recession and the war had created a number of changes, and the bright factory district turned back to its dark and unsafe reputation. Of course, that's right when Carter had seen the opportunity and started his business, purchasing multiple buildings for nearly pennies. The high rise condos where still around, though they'd been converted into cheap rentals, cramming twice the original capacity into the same space, and they where once again in dismal shape. Though Carter had never himself wandered through any of the high rises, he knew many of his factory workers lived there and he had overheard a few unpleasant stories that made him glad to be stepping into his warm car and heading out as the sun went down.

As Carter pulled out between two of the buildings, he noticed what he thought was a flashlight in the building to his right. He reminded himself that, though it still sat vacant, it was his building, and he didn't want to be responsible for any misdeeds happening there. He made a mental note to investigate it in the morning; for now he needed to get home before dinner was cold.

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Ariah Fine Entering Main street, Carter joined the throngs of traffic also traveling home from a hectic workday downtown. Carter glanced up the row of cars and noticed the man coming. Bucket in one hand and a squeegee in the other, the man's clothing was a bit tattered and he was certainly under dressed for the weather. Carter tried not to make eye contact, but the man some how decided he'd stop at the Land Rover anyways. With a splash the man's squeegee covered Carter's windshield with soapy, but dirty, water. The man did his best to wipe the window down, and then he stood, awkwardly, at the driver's side door, staring back and forth from Carter to his handy work on the front window. The light was still red and Carter was feeling quite awkward himself. He grabbed a quarter from the change tray in the car and opened his window slightly dropping the quarter out into the mans awaiting hands. The man, clearly not in a completely right state of mind, mouthed 'thank you' through the window and did a little curtsy, before moving on to the next vehicle. Carter thought to himself, a few more quarters and the man was likely to buy himself some booze. As the light turned green, Carter hit the window wash button and his wipers cleaned up the dirty mess the man had made of his window. It was a nice drive, just thirty minutes when traffic was good, and it gave Carter a chance to relax and unwind. Sometimes he'd catch a bit of news or a talk show, something to take his mind off things for the moment. He flipped channels to his news station. “In world news tonight...” Carter flipped the station again glancing at the clock. He'd just missed the sports segment, and he already knew what the world news would be: bad. The talk radio segment was about the wage again of all things. He already knew how he felt about it and he'd heard every argument imaginable from the opposing side. He clicked the radio to some soft jazz and hit cruise for the last little stretch of highway before arriving home.

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Giving Up To his right, Carter glanced out and noticed the patch of trees and creek off in the distance. That little plot of land could be a great walking path he thought to himself. If the Country Club could get it's way it would be. They had been putting pressure on the farmer who owned the land for sometime now, but he was reluctant to sell it. Carter, being a member of the board himself, had even visited the man personally, to try and persuade him.

“Mr. Archer, it's not like we are trying to takeover your farming business or your land for your crops.” “Please, call me Chuck, I'm uncomfortable with the formal talk.” “Um, okay, Chuck, We just see the potential to benefit the community by using that patch of land for a nature walk.” “What community though? Not my community, I'm not a member of your Country Club.” “Well, you would be if you sold us the land. That's right there in the proposal. Not only would we pay you quite handsomely, but you'd receive a lifetime VIP Membership to the club. That membership alone is worth far more then most of the current members could afford.” “Carter, I don't mean you no disrespect, you're a very kind man and all, but they would never accept me at that club. Sure they might let me in the door, but bet if I don't get starred at and whispered about till I make my exit. You think they want to be drinking metropolitans next to a farmer in overalls?” “That's just it, with the money we'll be paying you for just that small piece of your land, you can buy a whole new wardrobe! You'll never have to wear

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Ariah Fine overalls again. Now, I'm not saying you have to stop farming, just that you'll be able to afford to hire others to do the dirty work.” “Yes, well, maybe I like doing the dirty work. I know you think it's below you, but there's something special about tilling the soil, something you'll probably never understand. Besides, what would I do with my free time? I've never golfed a day in my life.” “We could throw in some free lessons for you,” Carter said with a smile, but he realized he wasn't going to change Mr. Archer's mind. “Chuck, I don't want to take up anymore of your time. We are interested in doing what is best for the community, and I think you're turning down a tremendous deal, but it's not my decision. If you do change your mind, just give me a call, I put my personal number on the back of my business card. And, if you ever do want a golf lesson, or need anything, give me a call too. I care about this community. Well, you have a good evening.”

That had been his only conversation with Mr. Archer and, unless he agreed to the deal, it would probably be his last conversation. The board had decided to arrange for the city council to put some pressure on Archer Farms in an effort to force the deal. It wasn't the most ethical approach, but many of the council members were members of the club too, so it wasn't like they were twisting their arm to make something happen. Carter had voiced a slight protest at the board meeting, but had bent to pressure quite easily. Besides he thought, it really was the best for the community. It wasn't like Archer was making good use of the land anyways. Archer had called once, they didn't speak, he had left a message on Carter's voicemail, asking him to do something about the City Council pressure and voicing suspicion that the board

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Giving Up was involved. Carter hadn't returned the call. Carter pulled into their garage next to his wife's vehicle, carefully maneuvering so as not to hit Ryan's bike, which had been left out. The garage showed the signs of an attempt at organization, with sports equipment and camping gear on a set of shelves on one side of the garage and power tools and equipment toward the back, but it was still quite cluttered. Carter stepped in the door to the kitchen and took in his surroundings. He noticed the dirty plate in the sink, indication that has wife had eaten without him. The oven light was on and a place setting was sitting out for him, but his wife, Julie, and Ryan weren't around. Dinner could wait, Carter headed up the stairs to the bedrooms, following the sound of splashing water to the bathroom. “Geronimo!” shouted Ryan as he splashed around in the tub with some toys. Carter, slowly pushed open the bathroom door so as not to attract the attention of the four year old. “Cannonball!” He yelled as he jumped over and splashed the water with his hand. “Dad!” Ryan shouted with excitement as he reached up and gave his dad a hug, soaking his dad's work clothes. “You certainly made an entrance,” chimed Julie from her perch on the vanity, her legs dangling, magazine in hand. “I'm sorry I'm late, Jewels, my new closing manager starts tomorrow, so I promise I'll be home for dinner, okay?” “Don't you go making promises you can't keep. Any later and Ryan would have been in bed. I know the factory is important, but your son needs his father in his life too. Okay sweetie?” Julie wasn't trying to guilt him, she had that look of genuine concern on her face, and she had never been one to avoid a sensitive subject. “Alright, time to dry off. Then maybe dad can read you a book before bed.” Carter headed to their bedroom to change out of his, now wet, work

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Ariah Fine clothes. As he undressed he couldn't help but notice his reflection in the mirror. He wasn't old, just thirty-five last month, but he could feel old age creeping up on him. Little things like a few gray hairs, a wrinkle here or there, nothing drastic, but certainly tell-tale signs he wasn't the youthful adventurer he once was. Thinking about age, Carter recalled a list of things he had jotted down, sometime in college, or maybe it was high school, of things he wanted to accomplish in his life. It was your typical life-time achievement type list: Write a book, climb a mountain, run a marathon, backpack Europe, make a million dollars, own a vacation home, skydiver and so on. He'd actually accomplished a fair number of those, though he realized even with his success, he probably wouldn't complete all of them. He was okay with that, in fact, as he reflected on it, those he had accomplished hadn't brought the lasting joy or prestige he had expected or hoped they would. His mention of completing a marathon rarely brought more then a grunt from his peers and often some sly comment about how it's crazy to try and run that far, unless it's for women or booze. He thought for a moment where that list might be now; probably tucked away in a box in the attic or the garage, maybe he'd go looking for it this weekend. When Carter got to Ryan's room he was already in his pajamas. He could hear his wife in the kitchen, probably cleaning up her dinner plate and warming up his. He'd read Ryan a quick story and then head down to spend some time with his wife. “What do you want to read tonight Ry?” “Let's play Kart racer instead!” said Ryan as he reached over to turn on his game system. “Just one quick game, please dad?” Carter thought for a moment and then nodded his head, he knew they should probably be reading, but it was bonding time either way, so it wasn't that big of a deal. “How was school today?” Carter asked, hoping to get updated on his son's

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Giving Up life as he fumbled with the controls to Kart racer. “It's Thursday, Dad, I don't go to school on Thursday.” Ryan said with a roll of the eyes. Of course, thought Carter, it's every other day, realizing how out of touch he really was with his son's life. But of course, Ryan didn't pick up on it too much, his dad was around enough for Ryan to be happy, and he loved his dad. After a short game, where Ryan lapped him multiple times, Carter gave his son a kiss goodnight and turned off the lights.

Julie was coming up the stairs with a plate full of lasagna and a glass of milk for Carter. They followed each other into their bedroom. “Thanks for cooking, honey, you make some of the best lasagna this side of the Mississippi.” Carter said trying to charm his way out of missing dinner. Julie gave him a look, letting him know it wasn't working, and handed off the plate and cup. They both climbed into bed and she flipped on the TV. They caught a sitcom and one of the late night talk shows before heading to bed. They chatted a little, during the shows, about the day, nothing to serious, before dozing off. As they headed off to sleep, Carter reflected on how grateful he was to have a wife like Julie. They had married just seven short years ago, but it seemed like forever. She had been a cheerleader at the undergrad college where he was attending grad school. It wasn't that he was a nerd or anything, but she was way out of his league. Some how he had charmed her in, and a year and a half later, as they both finished their programs, they were married. The seven years had not been easy. Carter was a bit of a hothead in his younger years, and they'd had their fair share of fights. In fact things were on the rocks for quite a bit of those first couple years. One might say it was a miracle they stayed together. They hadn't been unfaithful to each other, at

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Ariah Fine least he knew he hadn't. That's not to say he hadn't thought about it or had opportunity. If credit could be given anywhere for Julie and Carter sticking together it was to the Country Club. They had only just joined after they had married and settled into town, but they were warmly embraced by a number of the members. It was a prestigious club and Carter had worked his connections hard to get invited, he was glad he did. If they were honest, it had mostly been the social pressure of the club that had kept them together at first. Divorce was highly frowned upon by the members, and Julie and Carter were both eager to please their new friends. Eventually though, as they gained closer friendships, they found encouragement, and a counselor. Things had worked out, and now they had a beautiful child together, and were valued members of a tight circle of friends at the club. It sounded silly, but that club had saved their marriage.

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C hapter 2

Carter didn't need an alarm in the mornings to wake up. His internal clock swooped him out of bed at five every morning. He'd been that way since grad school, including the weekends. In those early years, driven toward success, he'd read a news article interviewing many of the top CEOs in the country and nearly every one of them said they woke regularly before six to get a head start on the day. Now, Carter had come to like the morning times to himself. Usually he'd throw on some jogging clothes and take a morning wake up run. He even had a playlist on his iPod by that name: morning wake-up run. He used to take their dog, Spot, out for jogs with him, but Spot had died a couple years ago due to some complications with his liver. They had planned on buying a new dog at some point, but decided to wait till Ryan was a little bit older and could take care of it. Beyond the idea of Ryan caring for the dog though, was the fact that Carter had spent five thousand dollars on surgeries before they ended up putting him down. It's not that he didn't love the dog, it's just he had this feeling there should be a limit to that sort of thing. That money could have certainly been used somewhere else.

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Ariah Fine Unlike today, Carter tried to make it a habit of having breakfast with Julie and Ryan before he headed off to work. Being the owner and CEO of a large company usually allowed for perks such as arriving when you choose to in the morning, and avoiding rush hour traffic. He did plan on avoiding rush hour this morning, but he was going to do it before the traffic rather than after. He had a meeting with management, and he figured if he got there early enough he could peek into the empty factory next door and try and figure out if he really had seen some suspicious activity the night before.

Carter pulled the Land Rover in and checked his watch, still about half an hour before his meeting, plenty of time to take a peek next door. He quickly slipped off his dress shoes for some sturdy work boots, grabbed his Maglite from the back and stepped outside. The building next door was a site for sore eyes. A large section of it had caught fire years ago and most of the damage had never been cleaned up. The brick walls on the outside still black with soot, as if the fire had just been last week. The city had condemned the building prior to the fire and hadn't done much since, so when Carter acquired it in the package of factory buildings he had purchased, the city didn't even bother contacting him about the code violations. What he had done, to at least reduce the risk of liability, was to board up all the doors and windows that could be accessed from the ground level. Carter had brought the key to the padlock on one of the boarded up doors in case he needed it, but he only planned on making sure that everything was boarded up properly, that would satisfy him. He walked by each boarded window and pushed at them with the butt of his flashlight. After walking around three sides of the building he was pretty confident his suspicions were only that, but then he discovered something.

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Giving Up On the backside of the building he noticed the fire escape stairwell, rickety, but still attached to the building wall. They had removed the ladder that would reach down from the second floor escape, making it extremely difficult to even attempt to get to from the outside. As he looked up at the fire escape landing to the third floor he noticed what he thought looked like a rope. It seemed quite out of place, its faded tan color against an otherwise black backdrop. Carter glanced at his watch again, he still had about twenty minutes and his curiosity was in over drive. He jogged around to the side entrance to which he had a key. Unlocking the padlock he was able to push aside the makeshift plywood door they had built to allow access for just this sort of occasion. Except for the light coming in through the entrance the space was nearly pitch black. He flipped on his flashlight and looked around for stairs. Scanning the floor, he didn't see any signs of being lived in, but he wanted to make it to the third floor to be sure. Carter walked around and found a stairwell and climbed to the second floor. Again he scanned around looking for signs of life, bedding, food wrappers, but he didn't see anything. Finally, he climbed to the third floor and stepped through where a door used to hang. “This is a house of peace,” said a stern voice in the shadows, “If you come to bring trouble we ask that you leave, now.” The voice had startled Carter so much he probably would have started shooting, but the “house of peace” thing had confused him. He had immediately focused the flashlight toward the voice and he saw before him a very odd looking person. It wasn't so much that the person was odd, as that Carter couldn't find any positive language for describing them. From the sound of the voice he suspected the person before him was a woman, but the rest of her appearance made it difficult to be sure. Her clothes where tattered and dirty, worse then many of the dismal people standing with their cardboard signs on the corner. Her eye, as

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Ariah Fine she only had one open, was penetrating. He couldn't make out the rest of her face though, it looked badly deformed, but he wasn't sure in the light. This strange person standing guard in his building isn't what he had expected, and he was a bit flustered by the whole thing. She stood confidently, awaiting a response. “I'm not here to bring trouble, I don't intend to anyways, but this is my building, and I don't know what your doing here, but I need to ask you to leave. Is there anyone else up here with you? You're trespassing, which is against the law, but I won't press charges, as long as you pack up your stuff follow me out the door so I can lock this place up. I don't mean you any harm, but if you don't pack up and leave, I'm going to have to call the police. Okay?” As Carter finished his little monologue two others emerged from the shadows. The other two where also similarly dressed, though he could tell they were also both women. They stood their ground, not saying anything for a few moments. “We aren't leaving,” said the woman on the right. From the way they stood, Carter had a feeling she was the leader of the group. He also felt for a moment that the voice sounded vaguely familiar. Carter quickly ran through scenarios in his mind, as he glanced at his watch. Who were these three ragged old ladies? And what were they doing in his building? What was really itching at Carter was their unwillingness to comply with his demands, they obviously didn't know who they were dealing with. “Listen, maybe I didn't make myself clear the first time: You have to leave. This is not a request. This is my building and you're not welcome here. Either get out now or I'll call the police.” Carter's voice was stern and his anger came through as his voice raised. The three ladies continued to stand their ground, unflinching, staring at

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Giving Up him still with penetrating eyes. “We are not leaving.” Carter again ran through the scenarios in his head, the majority of which, made him quite late for his management meeting, which he was never late to. What continued to nag at Carter is that, though the people standing facing him where not intimidating, in the traditional sense of the word, and by no means any threat to him, he still could not figure out what was holding him at bay, and why they hadn't backed down. Carter touched the small of his back, he didn't intend to use his pistol in a situation like this, but it gave him a feeling of superiority again in this awkward situation. “You leave me no choice then. I'm leaving here and I'm going to call the police immediately. I'll have you all thrown in prison for trespassing.” Carter, unsure what his next move should be, stepped back and turned toward the stairwell again. “CJ, we are not leaving.” Carter spun back around. He hadn't been called CJ since college. Was that a lucky guess? Or did they really know who he was? He clicked the flashlight on again and pointed it at the one who had said his name, the taller one, the leader. He had thought he recognized her voice, and now, flipping through his mental directory of faces from past acquaintances he was almost sure he would figure her out, classmates, teammates, peers, study groups, staff... “Professor?” She didn't say or nod her head, but he could tell in her eyes it was her. A million questions ran through his mind, but he didn't have time to answer them, or make sense of it anyways. He stammered without thinking, quite out of character for Carter: “Well, okay, this changes things a bit. I won't call the police right away, I'll give you one week. That's the best I can do for you, as an old friend. You

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Ariah Fine have one week, and when I come back in a week, it'll be time to pack up and find someone else's abandoned factory to hideout in.” With that Carter did turn, even quicker this time, and walked briskly back to the stairwell. He practically ran down the stairs and out the side door, locking the plywood doorway shut on his way out. He jogged back to his vehicle, both to avoid being late for his meeting and to get away from the twilight zone he had just experienced. Carter had always hoped he'd run into his old professor again someday, but that was the last place he expected to find her.

The day, in fact the week, had flown by. He had made it to the meeting just on time, but more flustered then any of his management team had ever seen him. Carter would have liked to wander back over and try and make sense of what he had seen that morning, but his schedule wouldn't allow it. Something urgent had come up at the factory and before he knew it he was off and running again, though in the back of his mind he was thinking about the life of his professor, wondering how she had ended up living in his abandon, burned out factory. He'd even mentioned it, in a way, to his wife: “You remember Professor Klein from college?” Carter had asked Julie when they were sitting in bed watching a rerun on TV. “You mean the wildly successful one who tried to off herself? I think everyone remembers her. Why?” “Well, I ran into her the other day, down in the factory district.” Carter was trying to decide how much of the bizarre encounter he should explain. “Really? What was she doing down there?” Julie asked, quite intrigued “Um, she's...uh... she's looking for some real estate.” Carter tried to choose his words carefully, not wanting to launch into a full explanation at

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Giving Up this hour. “So, did you talk to her? I'd wondered what happened to her after that. I had heard they locked her up in the crazy house, but that was about it. Then she dropped out of the limelight, never mentioned again, at least not in People Magazine or any of those. Well, what did she say?” Julie was quite interested now. She wasn't over the top in keeping up with the celebrity gossip, but she did like to stay up-to-date. A juicy tidbit like this would really make her a hit at the Country Club with the other ladies; that was the main draw to any of the celebrity gossip, it had somehow been chosen as the worthwhile conversation topic among all the ladies at the club. Julie thought it was quite silly, but it wasn't unlike the rest of society, and besides, it was fun to live vicariously through others every once in a while. “No, we didn't have a chance to talk. It was in the morning and I had a management meeting, but I think I'll run into her again soon.” Carter hoped this was a sufficient end to the conversation, at least for now, he'd share more with Julie after he actually had a chance to talk with Professor Klein. In fact, as he glanced at his watch, tomorrow would be one week, the time he said they would have to leave. If he shortened his jog he could probably make it down to the old factory with over an hour to go and chat with Professor Klein, make sure they moved out of the building, and still be on time for his morning meeting. Carter rolled over and turned off his bed-stand lamp. Sitting on the bed-stand was his old spiral bound notebook, he'd dug it up from a box in the attic over the weekend: Philosophy 101, Professor Klein.

Carter had been a business major, driven to see his face on the front of Forbes magazine before his hair turned gray. He had chosen Glendale Col-

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Ariah Fine lege because he wanted to attend a smaller school, and Glendale had the best business program of any small college in the country. Carter was interested in Business, not Philosophy. However, Glendale, being a liberal arts school, prided themselves on their well rounded students. General Education credits were required in nearly every subject area, in addition to your course work for your major. Carter had chosen the Philosophy class for two reasons, the teacher was a new gorgeous, young professor that everyone was talking about, and first year teachers were usually a cakewalk. As expected, Carter fell in love in that class, but it wasn't with the professor, it was with Philosophy. Professor Klein had opened his mind to humankind's quest for meaning. They'd looked at many of the greats, Plato, Des Cartes, Confucius, Aristotle and discussed how humankind had been on a lifelong journey for meaning and purpose. Carter had enjoyed the class so much that he had signed up to TA the class the following semester. His dorm-mates gave him knowing winks when he said he was a Teacher's Assistant for Dr. Klein, though it wasn't like that. Any immature crush he had, had gone right out the window on the first day of class. Dr. Klein was by far the most brilliant professor he had ever had at Glendale. By the time Carter had finished his grad coursework at Glendale, Dr. Klein had received nearly every award an Academic Professor could hope to receive in the competitive field of Philosophy. Which is probably why she left so early in her career to pursue another career, acting. Even though they were academic achievements, Dr. Klein's attention in academia was picked up by the mainstream news and she received quite a bit of press and attention in her Philosophy heyday, but there wasn't much attention on her academic work, it was her looks that everyone was interested in. She had been solicited and had turned down request for photo shoots from

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Giving Up GQ, Maxim, Esquire, and even Playboy. Yet, when an opportunity to play Emma Silver, the famous feminine Philosopher, in a Hollywood produced film she simply couldn't turn it down. Dr. Klein had written about Silver for her doctoral thesis and considered Silver her inspiration for all her academic achievements. The studio had only intended on bringing in money based on Klein's celebrity status and film debut, they hadn't banked on her acting abilities. The film was a hit and Klein's acting career took off. She took a five year leave from Glendale, which they were more than willing to grant to the professor whose affiliation alone had nearly tripled their enrollment demands. Kathy Klein topped the charts in those years: People Magazine's wealthiest Celebrity, Maxim's Hottest female celebrities, Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, there was even talk of her running for president. Unlike most celebrities though, she didn't become part of the woodwork, overshadowed by the latest scandal or teen-bopper star, Kathy Klein was on top of the world and it seemed like there was no end. Then came the incident. The details where vague. Every news station wanted the scoop and so rumor after unconfirmed rumor were discussed for what seemed like weeks. Multiple 'anonymous' sources had come forward, but their stories seemed to conflict. What was known and agreed upon was that Kathy Klein, quite possibly one of the most famous celebrities in the world, had attempted suicide, failed, and was now residing in a 'home' somewhere in the mountains of northern California. Live video feeds pointing through the fence at the wall of a mental hospital were only interesting for a few days, and eventually the cameras went away, the tabloid stories died off, and Kathy Klein was a forgotten memory. Carter had stayed in touch with Dr. Klein for a little while after he graduated, but business took off and he had lost touch with her before she stepped into the Hollywood spotlight. He remembered regretting that too, imagining

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Ariah Fine he might have been on her short list of guest to the Oscars. Carter hadn't glanced at his Philosophy notebook since graduation. He'd pulled it out of the box in the attic that weekend, along with the list of life goals he'd written in college. Browsing through the box of college papers, a few photos, and a couple textbooks had brought forward a flood of memories of years gone by.

Carter had been your typical college student then, free-spirited, socially aware, and politically involved. When he had talked about 'making the world a better place' his father had told him he was 'idealistic', but not to worry, it would wear off in a few years. Regardless of how he had felt about it then, his father was certainly right. Sitting there reflecting in the attic, Carter wondered what had happened between then and now. Was he really just a naive youth, unwilling to see the world as it really was? He didn't feel like a 'sellout' now, but that's definitely what his earlier self would have called his life now. He also realized, having gotten himself in an academic mode browsing through his notebooks, that he'd never made any intellectual decisions to switch from 'idealistic' to whatever he was today, it just sort of happened. Carter looked out the side window of the attic. He could see his large backyard connected to other backyards in the Garden Hills development. Out in the distance he could see their Country Club, and beyond that, way in the distance, he could see the vague skyline of the downtown and the Warehouse District. He understood how he had ended up here: success and hard work; but how had his once great teacher and mentor, Professor Kathy Klein, gone from a place far more successful than his to living on the third floor of a burned out building in the factory district?

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Giving Up Carter had woken up even earlier than usual, his mind still racing, eager to make sense of all he'd been thinking about the past week. He went for his jog, grabbed a quick shower, and drove the stretch of highway to the Warehouse District. Dressed in casual clothes this time, he grabbed his flashlight again and headed for the back of the abandoned factory. Carter was less cautious this time, having surveyed the floors last time he was confident of his surroundings as he made his way up the flights of stairs. He had planned his approach, or at least tried to; he'd be polite at first, hopefully ask some of the curious questions he'd had, hopefully they'd politely follow along, but if not, he was ready to be stern. Carter took the final staircase to the third floor and headed toward the entrance, but turned startled. There was Professor Klein standing on the stairs to the fourth floor with an expectant look on her face, as if she'd been waiting for him to arrive. “I hadn't expec...” Carter started to explain his surprised look, but Dr. Klein put her index finger to her lips and he stopped his sentence. She motioned for him to follow as she stepped past him through the door to the third floor. As she walked him around some large debris he realized he hadn't been any farther then the doorway the morning before. They turned a corner and came to a stop. “They are why we cannot leave,” said Dr. Klein motioning to the floor in front of them. It took a minute for Carter to take in the scene, but he quickly realized that on the floor in blankets, some sleeping bags, and some covered with cardboard boxes were about twenty children. They seemed to vary in age and size, many looked to be in their teens, but more then a handful couldn't have been much older then his son, Ryan. What were these kids doing here?

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Ariah Fine Dr. Klein quietly stepped out and he followed, she walked him over to a sitting area with a few milk crates centered around an old propane fueled camping stove. A very beat up old kettle sat on the burner. Klein took two small tin camping mugs from a box near the stove and poured some tea for Carter and herself. She was calm, quite content with the silence between them, not eager to explain and answer the questions she undoubtedly knew where bouncing around in Carter's head. “I know some people at the City council, I could pull some strings and get all of those kids into good homes or at least an orphanage with proper beds.” Even Carter knew his attempt at offering a solution was foolish. Dr. Klein responded by taking a sip of her tea and gazing off into the distance. She didn't need to explain everything, Carter was smart enough to put the pieces together himself. He'd seen a Dateline special about street kids a few years back, ran across a homeless person who looked far too young to be on the streets, and he knew, though he'd never admit it, that those same laws that had made capitalism king had done nothing to help these little ones. Carter took a breath and tried again, “I'm sorry, that was naive of me. What can I do?” “You can let us stay here, just as we are.” The professor had such an authenticity about her, even in her current state of appearance, Carter couldn't help but see her as his teacher, hanging on her every word. He nodded his head as he thought through what this might mean for him and his company. Nobody had to know, and if they were discovered, he could deny he knew anything about it. Still, he was quite unsure about what was going on, and he still didn't have any of his questions answered by the professor. “How did you get here?” He wasn't quite sure how to bring her story up, but this seemed like an appropriate question to begin with. Dr. Klein gave him a look with those penetrating eyes, as if she could see right through his

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Giving Up veiled question right into his mind. “You're asking as if you want to know how I wound up in this building, but that's not what you really want to know. Besides, you wouldn't understand that now; at least not yet. What you're really wondering is why I did it. You're wondering how I went from the top of the ladder you're currently climbing to a mental hospital in the blink of an eye.” She'd read him like a book, and his expression conveyed it. Carter made eye contact with her as she paused to look at him, then she gazed back out across the floor to the area where the kids where still sleeping. “It was a chasing after the wind, CJ. All the intellect, money and prestige, it was empty. Remember our lessons on The Perfect? Well, I found out first hand what I had already suspected, the world's idea of The Perfect was meaningless. I was at the top, and I was empty, and in a moment of rash thinking, I figured if no one in the world could come up with more meaning than this there was no reason for me to waste the rest of my years trying, and I tried to end it all there. Who would have thought that only a few weeks later I'd discover the thing I had been spending my whole life searching for, The Perfect, and in the 'crazy house' no less.” Dr. Klein was about to go on when she heard someone come tearing down the fire escape and run onto the floor. “Momma K! Momma K! Scott is coming up the alley! And he has Jenny with him!” Dr. Klein immediately jumped to her feet and made her way toward the fire escape window. Another boy was already letting the rope down. Scott, a boy about sixteen years of age, was standing on the ground at the bottom of the fire escape. He grabbed a hold of the rope and wrapped his legs around it, holding a young girl, Jenny over his shoulder. The boys at the top of the fire escape pulled the rope with some difficulty, but managed to get Scott all the way up where he could pass off Jenny into their waiting arms.

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Ariah Fine They brought her back inside and carried her to a cot where Dr. Klein, or Momma K as all the children were calling her, placed a warm wash cloth on her head and tried to check her over. Carter stood to the side, unsure what his role should be and feeling quite out of place. Carter couldn't figure out exactly who Jenny was or what had happened to her, but gathering bits and pieces of conversation from the kids passing him by he gathered that she had gone missing for about a week, that she was obviously hurt, or sick, and that Scott had rescued her from some situation or captivity or something. The shouting had stirred some of the other sleeping children from their beds and the floor started to buzz with action. Carter attracted a lot of stares and evoked a few whispered conversations, but none of the children seemed shocked to see him, Dr. Klein must have let them know to expect him. He glanced at his watch, if he didn't make an exit soon he was going to be late for the meeting, he'd practically forgot the time, place, everything had seemed to fade away. His watch had snapped him back to reality and so he tried to get the attention of Dr. Klein. “One more week. I need some time to think about this.” Carter felt at peace about saying that. If anything, it meant he'd be back at least once more to try and make sense of this mysterious world. He had one more question he wanted to ask before he left. With all the kids awake, Momma K was getting a lot of attention, so Carter just tried to speak over their heads. “Dr...er...Momma K, you said you had found The Perfect? What is it?” Momma K glanced up for a moment, stealing her attention away from the kids briefly so that she could look Carter right in the eyes. She wanted him to know she was serious, that she hadn't misspoke. And in a serious tone, but almost with a slight smile she spoke. “Jesus.”

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Giving Up
by Ariah Fine
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