He could hear the exclamation inside his mind.
“Don’t look back!”
He ran and fought off the curiosity to look behind him at his foe. He figured he must have many lengths between him and her but each moment he was just about to let up…
“Run!” And it was like the flip of a turbo switch, at least in his mind.
The sweat ran down his face, his breathing becoming forced and shallower. He tired, he could feel it engulf him.
He could hear laughing. Why? What was so funny? He wanted to look back.
That is when the arms of his foe grasped him, his body shut down, fully overcome by the tiredness while his cape broke from free from his neck.
“Honey, you are so funny.”
“Mom,” he said, “I’m a superhero, not funny;” the thought of milk and cookies became the new focus of his mind as his mother hugged him.
Rufus, the sheep dog, got up off from the superhero’s cape.
He beat the source of so much hurt, humiliation and pain.
He beat it until he could no longer swing his arms.
The thing slumped on the ground, not moving and it did not make a sound.
The man smirked while thinking to himself “who is the victim now?”
The thought created the immediate need to place a swift hard kick to the thing’s back. He could feel the back give way to his foot. He smirked again “you were always a cancer to the world and now – finally – the chemo has arrived.” He knelt down to try and look into its eyes but was unable to do so. The swelling and coagulated blood hid the thing’s eyes.
He stood up, looking around to see if anyone was watching. He pulled the gloves off his hands. They worked just like the retailer said, “Whatever you hit will be decimated by the additional power in these beauties.” The gloves had small rectangular forms of lead in the middle section of each finger so that the glove was the equivalent of lead knuckles. The lead and his own hatred and hurt would power his fists through the thing’s flesh, muscles and bones. Once the gloves were off he placed them in the bag he had folded into his back pocket. He unbuttoned a couple buttons from his shirt near his stomach and slid the bag inside then re-buttoned and adjusted his shirt. He had the urge to crush his heel into the thing’s remnant of a nose but he showed discipline and vengeance. He figured the thing would live. Thing would be a mess, require surgery and a lot of pain medication. Vengeance given in this case required life not death. He wanted thing to suffer and he knew it would.
He turned his back on the slump of flesh and blood and headed for a cup of coffee. He needed the jolt of energy because he was exhausted. Beating that waste of carbon had tired him. He thought about going to the local Starbucks but decided instead to fix the coffee at home. He could wash himself up and relax. He slid the mask off his face and threw it on the passenger seat and stepped into the car. He looked over himself quickly with the cabin light on and was glad to see not one drop of blood on his hands or clothes. He patted his stomach to make sure the gloves were still present and then started the car, slowly accelerated and began his trip home.
The plan as it was executed today was finalized a year ago. The first wisp of thoughts about today entered his subconscious about twenty-five years ago. Slowly each year and with greater frequency and duration, the wisp developed into a thought and then thoughts and finally to the plan. There was beauty in the plan since it was a reaction, a correction, of past abuse; long past. The bullying and misery took place around thirty years ago and it was daily and brutal. The waste of carbon had made his life hell for no good reason. The thing had targeted him simply for being alive and in the general vicinity. The devastation it ushered into his life apparently had lifelong impact. But now, the thing would have the scars physically and psychologically for the rest of its life. It was owed it and the debt had now been paid in full. Thing was not intelligent, it was a brute. Thing was a base life form that polluted and harmed unfortunate human beings in its path. This evening though the thing had been remodeled, re-shapened by the hands and volition of the bullied. Thing’s teeth would no longer be its own. Thing’s eyes would have drooping to them and be slightly misshapen. The nose would need to be reconstructed. Thing’s face shape would be changed because of the damage and correction of its jaws. Thing will now always walk with a limp and its hands will not be able to be clinched into tight fists ever again. Using its hands will cause pain and just the simple movement of the fingers will require a grimace.
The beauty of the transformation of the bully is that it is without any chance of the bully knowing or understanding who the artist was. Hurt has a long memory unlike the aggressors’. The base has little if no intellect and its mind had the mental faculties of a goldfish (I mean no slander to the goldfish). Things do not contribute to society in a beneficial way. Things are usually predators and rarely does it have the experience of reciprocity. As he stepped into his home he turned on the lights and headed for the kitchen. He set up a cup of coffee with his Keurig and then took the bag out from under his shirt. He turned on the hot water and ran the water over the bag. He then took out the gloves and rinsed the infection’s blood off of them. Examining the gloves he saw no damage to them and then he smirked at the thought that came across his mind about the same can’t be said of its condition. Examining his hands he noticed the redness and swelling from the repeated impacts. He smiled. Running cold water over them he then splashed cold water on his face. He felt so alive. He felt lighter. Empowered. He looked at the clock on the wall and did the math; the ride home had taken an hour. Thirty-five miles away he was sure that the human waste was now getting the attention of hospital personnel. He pulled out the mop bucket and dropped the empty plastic bag inside and then covered it with bleach and let it soak overnight. He dipped the gloves into the bleach and the rubbed them against one another making sure to treat the entire glove. He dunked them again and let them sit for about thirty seconds and then pulled them out, ringed them and left them in the sink. He picked up his coffee mug and went into the living room and placed the mug on the coaster. Sitting down into his chair he picked up the remote and turned on the television. A hundred and forty channels and he had to settle for a rerun of Burn Notice. He appreciated Michael’s can-do attitude. Sipping the coffee with his legs propped up on the ottoman he heard his wife come down the steps behind him. She patted the top of his head and went into the kitchen. He heard the water run and the refrigerator open and close. She came in with a handful of grapes and lay on the couch. “How did it go?”
She popped another grape into her mouth and he watched her as she was watching the television. He had originally thought about lying to her and not letting her in on his plan but decided against it. He didn’t think he could get away with it with her. Something would not connect or an unexpected event would happen and it would all spiral into trouble. He decided to be candid and was certain that she would understand and not hinder him from what he needed to do. In the end he was able to go with not only her support but her blessing. She had originally expressed interest in watching her husband make the wrongs right but he was able to persuade her that it was best for him to only be focused on transforming the pile of crap into something less harmful to society. She understood and agreed. As he watched her while he drank his coffee she happened to glance over at him and saw his gaze. She smirked and popped a grape into her mouth and threw one over to him.
The next morning after showering and dressing he walked into the kitchen and saw that the mop bucket was put away and the baggy was gone. He looked out the front window and saw that the trash collectors had picked up the garbage this morning, just like every other Wednesday morning. The gloves were lying on the kitchen counter wrapped in a large paper towel and next to the coffee pot was his morning note from his wife. He poured a small amount of coffee in his stainless steel Starbucks travel mug and grabbed the gloves. He drove to the Starbucks that was out of his way to work and walked inside placing an order for a refill of his Starbucks cup and paid with cash instead of his Starbucks’ card. The store was busy and had a low symphony made up of voices, music and the espresso machine. He walked over to the condiment counter and grabbed a Splenda and a couple napkins and then walked out and took a small table next to the garbage can. He opened his work bag, unfolded the napkins and the using them grabbed one of the discolored gloves and placed it on his lap. He opened the Splenda and dumped the contents into his coffee then in one graceful move disposed of the empty packet and glove & napkins into the garbage can. He sipped his coffee swishing the coffee around his mouth. It was a pleasant morning and he had thirty minutes to get to work and it was about fifteen minutes away. His mind drifted to his previous night’s work and how he now knew he had the answer for a problem in American society but needed a safe avenue to share his insight with others so that the problems could be remedied and hopefully deter their future existence. Reciprocity was needed and it had to be with an overwhelming amount of force that was disciplined so that the artist would experience no further harm. With the technology age the violence and abuse of the bullies in the world seem to grow exponentially which meant more lives forever harmed and changed. This tide needed to be met with a preponderance of violence expertly executed on these waste of carbon so that they would be changed entities no longer willing to be harmful while ever humbled for the past transgressions. As he drank his coffee watching people come in and out of the coffee shop he knew that his purpose would not be complete until he could get the word out and empower others to courage and responsibility so that they could gain some of themselves back that was lost days, months or years ago. He got up and entered his car and did a turnaround in the parking lot so that he could easily swing in to the McDonald’s drive thru. After paying for & receiving his food he pulled slowly to the convenient drive thru garbage can. He pulled his sausage McMuffin out of the bag and then used the bag as a glove to pick up the glove out of his work bag and then pulled the bag around the glove back into the bag, crumpled it up and threw it away in the garbage can and then drove to work.
Inspiration can come from the darndest things. Answers to questions unspoken can also appear as secret Santa gifts at your desk in the middle of July. Such was the case for me.
I was getting coffee at my favorite coffee shop and decided to sit in one of the comfy chairs that the bottom was actually sitting on the floor. Really – what are people doing on these chairs!? Do the employees jump up and down on them when the store is closed? But there I was sitting in the comfy chair with my knees parallel to my elbows when I decided to close my eyes for a moment. (See, I really needed the coffee.) I like to eavesdrop, hopefully, discreetly on the conversations around me. Not that I am nosy per-se but more that I love to listen to real conversations. I have had my heart filled with emotions listening to such table talk and it is much more real than being tweeted. (C’mon you know the celebrities have people tweet for them. And besides those aren’t conversations.)
So I took a safe sip of my hot coffee, set it down and looked around a moment to see the faces and body language of the people in the shop and then I closed my eyes to try to focus on the them. It is much like using a dial radio and trying to zero in on the channel you are wanting to listen to. I heard the table of three that were closest to me which were talking about their plans for the weekend. The table beside them where two guys were talking about a web page design and then to my left at a table about center to the traffic path was a couple of women who had their notebooks on the table and their laptops on. I heard the words “please understand” and tried to focus. I have learned the best way for me to focus is to open my eyes and look at the people I am trying to focus on and then begin concentrating on them directly slowly closing my eyes. I have, let it be known, got up from a seat to sit closer to a conversation that I found very interesting. Right now though the words “please understand” for some reason struck a chord with me.
“I know that you want to succeed and that right now there is a lot of pressure to perform but you need to consider where you are at. You are new to the team and the team knows that. What you need to acknowledge is that this is not the employer where the unprofessional and arguably the unethical behavior took place – that was in the past.”
“I know, I know but I am somewhat apprehensive and concerned. I wonder if I am making the right choice working on this project. I am not sure I can meet the team’s expectations…”
“You had no problems until a week ago so what happened?”
“Jay called me, my old boss, and offered me a new position…”
“So that is what this is about? Money?”
“No, no I am looking ahead and I am not sure…”
“Quit looking ahead, for that matter quit rehearsing the past as well. You need to live in the present…”
Connection broke – it was like someone took those seven words and planted them in my heart and mind. “You need to live in the present” – why were those words so jarring to my mind? I ran through the conversation again in my head and nothing else stuck out. I began drinking my coffee and looking around at the people and mulling over the feeling those words gave me. The best I could describe it as is the so-called Eureka moment.
I began to think of Tess and my mind told me softly “you are on the right track”. (Aren’t people who hear voices in their heads and listen to them given lots of medication to shut up those voices? But I digress…) I have been concerned why Tess – such a wonderful woman would allow me to be in the center of her life. I have been concerned that I will screw up the whole thing as well as my fear of repeating past mistakes. Then the bell rang – past and future, I was dwelling on things past and unknowable future events instead of enjoying the present. I looked over at the two ladies talking and I wanted to say thanks to them. I was all excited now and knew I needed to see Tess and give her the biggest hug I could muster. I picked up my coffee and got out of the coffee shop and headed over to the store she worked at. My heart swelled and I could feel a lump developing in my throat – I was so fortunate to be enjoying life with Tess and I was never going to forget that again.
The months went by and we grew closer. Dinner at each of our parents’ places provided anxiety, stress, laughter, embarrassment, sharing, relief, affection, and well-being. It was a cycle we each had to go through and we did. Of course each of our dads had to be “hams” as well as – surprisingly – warm. I think I can say for the both of us that the embarrassments were small and enjoyable. I learned of Tess’ long relationship with her stuffed animals, the building blocks of her independence and why she paints each toenail a separate color/pattern. (Isn’t she adorable?!) She learned of my nerd/geeky history in school, my obsession with X-Files, and why I all my clothes are white, black or gray.
Tess and I continued to meet up for coffee when she got off from work and never ran out of things to talk about. She, for some reason I can’t fathom, continued to love me and allowed me to love her. I have to admit things were really good and many a night I would go to bed with the nagging question “why?” See I am the type of person who believes that experiences in life are not random and that they do not happen without a purpose or reason. Looking at Tess as a wonderful woman who was intelligent, articulate, and beautiful I can’t reason why she would want to love me. It is not like she had been beaten unconscious subconsciously by cupid or some faerie to fall for me. Right? Surely she was not acting of her own will – while being fully aware and sound. Hence my stumbling, bumbling question that was nagging me now daily – “why?”
Being an acquaintance to many but a friend to no one (not by choice by the way) I had no one to talk this through with. Well let me rephrase that, no one that was not family to talk this through with. A few people at work (which was still miserable) I have comradery with but could I actually wisely choose one of them to talk to and expect to receive wise advice?
Tess jumped up and went to her dad mumbling something under her breath. I stood up and looked at my father who had the proud look in his eyes because he knew “he got me”. I walked over to my mom and said “what the heck are you guys doing?”
“It was your father’s idea” she said smiling looking at Tess. “And you must be Tess,” my mom said walking over to give her a hug. Meanwhile Tess’ father circled round behind my father and stuck out his hand to me. “Good to see you again. “I told your father when he came into the store that we better do something or we’d never meet “officially”’, doing the quotes sign in the air. This is my wife, Tess’ mother Vanessa.
“Hello” I said as I grasped her hand. It was very apparent seeing both of her parents that Tess got her looks from her mother but her eyes and stature from her father. Her mother was beautiful, in the classic sense. If she was wearing make-up I could not tell. She had a beautifully proportional oval head with a sleek nose and perfect lips. Lips were one of the first things I noticed about Tess; in fact I would go into a daze watching her mouth as she would speak.
I turned around to look and Tess was standing with my parents, my mother was holding her hand. I caught my dad wink at me and shook my head. Tess began introducing Harry, Loretta, and Roscoe to our parents. She then stepped back as the greeted one another and came over to me and grabbed my hand. “My father” she started to say and I interrupted, “Our fathers”.
“So son am I gonna get some treats or do I have to”.
“Yes dad” I interrupted and quickly went to the candy bag. I rooted around in there looking for one of my dad’s favorites – dark chocolate Milky Way bars. I gave him a few and he said “first they need to be frozen” as he looked over at Tess’ father.
Our mothers came over and shared “we have made dinner plans for next week and the week after” my mom said nodding at Tess’ mother. “Yes next week the six of us will have dinner at our home,” Tess mom said, “and the following week at our home” my mom finished her sentence. Tess and I looked at each other and at that moment I wanted to stop time and everything in it but Tess and I and allow us to step away and discuss what each of us was thinking. I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking but once the moment passed so would have the true words of emotions. I suspect words like “nice, afraid, fear, eventually had to happen, could be worse, and the unspoken word “sigh””. After the fact, when everyone was gone and we talked it was she was okay, jittery, but okay. BUT I saw her eyes when our moms announced the dinner plans are those big wide eyeballs were proclaiming a lot of things but “okay” wasn’t one of them. Well second thought, it could have been “okay” like when someone is saying something they shouldn’t and you try to shut them down and change the subject. That startled “OKAY” so maybe she just needed to communicate to me what kind of okay it really was. But I digress….
I believe our fathers would have stayed the rest of the evening with us just so they could torture us but the moms said it was time to go and get some dessert which surely had to be some type of bribe to get them all to leave. Tess and I said goodbye to our parents and as they walked away Harry grabbed the back of my pant leg and gave it a yank. “Boy they got yas!” Tess and I turned around to see Loretta and Harry armed with big dirty grins and we laughed – nervously – but still we laughed.
Sitting in front of the apartment building passing out candy with Harry (who is bald), Loretta (not affiliated with Harry, yet), and Harry’s dog Roscoe.
Harry is a widower of ten years and Roscoe has been with him for the past twelve years. Harry is young to be widower, he is 50 and works for the city on the road/property crew. He is the team leader and the job suits him well.
Loretta is a widow of almost twenty years, she is – I am guessing – around 60 because we all know the rule. She works as a book-keeper for several clients. She is her own boss and that suits her well too.
Tess and I have begun to think of trying to hook up Loretta and Harry but we are still cowards in the match making business. Understandable but we are sure these two souls were meant to be together and we have each caught them at different times looking at the other with “that look” which quickly gets shook off.
“Roscoe here was the cutest puppy you’d have ever seen,” Harry said as he was patting Roscoe’s head. “People think he is too big to live with me here but he is rarely here. I take him to work with me, the store, walks, the park, heck even to restaurants during the Spring thru Fall seasons when I can eat outside.”
“He is a handsome dog Harry,” Loretta said, “aren’t you Roscoe?” Which was all it took for Roscoe to move over and cosy up to her. She patted his head and rubbed his ears, “Dashing Roscoe”.
“Trick or treat” said a masked musketeer.
“Trick or treat” quietly almost whispered by the little blonde princess.
“Trick or treat” bellowed aloud for the neighborhood by the little kid in the full mask of Frankenstein.
We all acted startled and chuckled. Roscoe barked once his approval. It was a busy street of characters looking for their share of the candy loot. We saw old favorites like Frankenstein, Mummy, and vampires but more of the characters of today who I recognized but did not know their names. It was an enjoyable evening and it had just begun, a little over an hour had passed and the sky was just now getting dark enough to actually feel like it was Halloween night. Something about Halloween occurring in the daylight just isn’t “right”.
“We always have a good turn out on this street,” Loretta explained. “The majority of the buildings on this block our 4 unit apartment buildings that have been here for over 75 years. They are taken care of by the landlords and the tenants, we all take pride of our places and our place here on the block.” Tess and Harry nodded.
“I fell in love with this block as soon as I arrived to view the vacant apartment. I was sold before I came inside,” Tess shared. Harry and Loretta smiled like proud parents.
“Trick or treat” said Buzz Lightyear.
“I’ll be…” Harry began to say when my eyes moved over to see what he was looking at. Tess grabbed a hold of forearm as she saw the scary sight. It – for whatever reason – felt like we got caught. I don’t know why, we were not doing anything wrong. But “gotcha” was word for the moment; the other was “ugottabekiddingme” (I had to make it one word, sorry Webster).
Up the sidewalk with plastic pumpkin containers for candy strode our parents. Dad with his glow in the dark vampire teeth in muttered, “Trick or treat” while mom just beamed a big smile.
Evening finally arrived which meant now to the time of the good stuff. Leave work. Leave cubicle-land. Leave the mind numbing job. Leave the condescending boss who is unprofessional and disrespectful. Leave the place of masks and fakes. Leave all the bad, the necessary part of life – for now. Onto the purpose of life. Onto the times with Tess. Onto holding her delicate hand and looking into the green eyes of love. Onto being who I really am, I have discovered – not the job guy. See I realized that was the problem, my personal life and work life shared the same guy. That guy at work who is shackled to a desk and computer. Shackled by bureaucracy and lack of common sense and honesty. Yes, honesty. The place breeds name sake only culture and beliefs. Words only. It is so heavy, suffocating my spirit deliberately, steadily, and quietly. But – Tess – a breath of fresh real air. My spirit realized before it was too late that I am not the job guy. In fact personal life guy is beginning to lead a revolution inside job guy. But I digress….
I arrived at Tess’ apartment building on time armed with costume in my pocket and on top of my head. I was wearing my tall top hat which showed much wear and in my pocket my Groucho eyeglass/nose piece and the glow in the dark vampire teeth. Wearing my black suit and tie with my red and white pinstripe shirt – I was an icon of my humor. Dark and silly. I slid the glasses on and teeth in and knocked on Tess’ door. She opened and almost lost my teeth. Tess was dressed as Snow White and she was breath-taking. She giggled when she saw me and I stood in the door way like Lurch unable to move. Personal guy was counting his blessings and she was the source of the majority of them.
“Come in silly,” she said as she pulled my hand trying to move me. “Will you grab the purple and red bowls over on the table?” I could not get my eyes off of her, heck – I could not get my mind off of her. Not because of some sicko Snow White thing but because it hit me so hard this one thought, no – one fact. It had been a terrific three months but now I knew. I want to marry her. I want to be with her for the rest of our lives. She is the one. The one I never thought I – me – would ever have. She was wife and the fact made me so thankful. Thankful to God for the paths of destiny crossing. Thankful to her parents, for having raised such a precious lady. Thankful.
“Um, yeah sure, I got those, anything else?”
“I already have the chairs pulled behind the stairwell so I will take the refill bags.”
I picked up the bowls and it was like the candy fairies sent me a sign of approval – a bowl of Smarties. My favorite. She could not have known that, I don’t think I ever mentioned it or ate them when we were out. Smarties. I chuckled to myself, nodded to the candy fairies – ok I get it and walked out the door to the front steps.