A Note From the Author
[*A Short Story *]
BY BRAD CARL
Copyright © 2016 Brad Carl.
All rights reserved.
Copy editing by Free Range Editorial.
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual businesses or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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I swear to God, I woke up one day and was suddenly forty-two years old. It was as if someone had thrown me from a train moving eighty miles an hour, and I landed on the pavement, face-first. Wait a minute. It was more like I got thrown off a train I didn’t know I was on. When I picked myself up, I looked behind me and said, “How the hell did I get here?”
Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that I turned twenty-one and had that first (and last) awful shot of Wild Turkey? Come on. Twenty-one years gone?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve accomplished a few things over the years. I have two ex-wives, a kid with each, and a current wife. That’s something…right?
I swore I’d never get married again after the first two. I didn’t want any more children. No more child support and no more complaining. But when I met Crystal, I knew it was meant to be: she can’t have children.
Look, I don’t hate my kids. I just don’t want any more of them. They’re expensive and needy, and it’s frustrating as hell to watch them make the same mistakes I did. I try to tell them — advise them — and then they go and do the exact opposite.
I’ve got a daughter and a son. My daughter, Mercy, is nineteen. She graduated from high school and continues to work at the local coffee shop. She also babysits for extra money. So, at least she’s off my payroll, technically. I mean, she still asks me for money like it grows on trees. And sometimes I give it to her. I just hope she figures out that she needs to be self-sufficient at some point. She still lives with her mom, who’s crazy, by the way. But that’s another story. Let’s just say it’s a miracle Mercy has stayed out of trouble and has a high school diploma with her mother as her female role model.
My son, Nicholas, is sixteen. He just got his license and has become hell on wheels in more ways than one — the polar opposite of my daughter. The one thing I keep reminding him is to use a condom. I guarantee you, he’s been sexually active since he was twelve. I shouldn’t say this, but he’s not even that good-looking. I know I’m a horrible father for saying it, but it’s the truth. He has these big brown eyes that I think the girls really like, and he’s a smooth talker. I’m pretty sure he can bed any girl he wants. In other words, he’s nothing like his father. He already has a speeding ticket and struggles to keep his grades up. But he does have a job at the hardware store, so that’s a plus. He’s my problem child, but his mom is normal. I’d have stayed with her if she hadn’t divorced me. It’s another long story, but let’s just say I made one mistake and she just couldn’t let it go.
Speaking of jobs, I’ve had the same one for eighteen years. I work at a bank. You’d think after eighteen years at the same bank I’d be a VP or something by now. I’m not, and the truth is, I don’t want to be. Too much responsibility. I’m perfectly happy doing what I’ve been doing. I mean, I’m not much more than a glorified teller, but most of my friends assume I’m president of the place, and I don’t tell them any different.
Life is comfortable. Crystal is a good wife and treats me well. We occasionally go to her parents’ cabin at the lake for long weekends. Relaxing is good. We’ve done our share of that since we got hitched eight years ago.
Today, I went to the eye doctor. I don’t usually bother with checkups, but it’s covered by our new health care plan at work, so I figured what the hell.
Dr. Bosco did the usual thing by putting a big contraption in front of my face and flipping lenses back and forth.
“How ’bout now?”
“How ’bout now?”
“How ’bout now?”
“Same? Wait. Yeah, same. I think.”
I’ve never understood how an eye doctor confidently and accurately assesses your vision through that process. How can he be sure when I’m not sure, and I’m the one looking through the thing?
When we were finished, Dr. Basco sat down on his little stool and pushed himself out in front of me.
“You’ve never had glasses before, right?”
“That’s right,” I said. “Never had a cavity either.”
“Well, Keith, you need reading glasses, my friend.”
“What? No I don’t.”
Dr. Basco grabbed a book from one of his carts.
“Read this,” he said.
“It’s the Bible. I already know how it starts,” I told him.
“That’s okay. Go ahead. Open it,” he said.
I opened up the big black book and flipped through the first several pages, being careful not to tear them. When I reached Genesis, I began to read out loud.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” I said. I looked up at Dr. Basco.
“Go on,” he said.
I looked back down at the Bible in my lap. “And…” I said. I brought the book up just a bit from my lap. It probably wasn’t even noticeable. The first word was a little blurry. “Mow the earth…”
Wait a minute. That’s not right.
I held the book closer to me, chest high. Now the words were worse. I couldn’t see a damn thing. Just a big, blurry blob of black.
Dr. Basco stood up from his stool and took the Bible from me.
“Try this,” he said, and held it out in front of me.
“Now the earth was formless and empty,” I read, “darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Basco slammed the Bible shut and tossed it back on the cart. “That makes sense,” I said. “I didn’t think Adam and Eve had a lawn mower.”
“You’re farsighted,” the doctor informed me.
But I pretended I didn’t hear him and continued my joke. “I mean, if they did have a mower, it would’ve been one of those push things with the circular cutters.”
“You need glasses, Keith.”
“Wait. It’d be like Fred Flintstone’s. The Stone Age family, right? Fred pushed a dinosaur around to cut his lawn. That’s what Adam would’ve ‘mowed the earth’ with.”
“Are you finished?” Dr. Basco asked me with a grin.
I shrugged. “Of course, the way things turned out in Genesis, Adam probably would’ve made Eve mow.”
Basco smiled again. This time he also crossed his arms and held them against his chest.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m done.”
“You’re farsighted,” he said. “You can’t see anything when it’s right in front of your face.”
“I guess I hadn’t noticed.”
“You’ve probably always had it. It’s just gotten progressively worse with age,” he explained.
“I don’t want glasses.”
“You’ll probably only need to wear them when you read.”
“I really don’t think I need them,” I said again.
“Is it a cosmetic thing?” Basco asked me. “I guess we could do contact lenses, but it’s a bit much for you to be doing every day if you don’t have to.”
It didn’t look like I was going to win this. I mean, I could’ve been a jerk and walked out. But it wasn’t worth the hassle. “I’ll just do the glasses.”
“Good choice,” Basco said. “I’ll get you set up with Deanna out front, and she’ll help you pick out some frames.”
I made sure the frame selection process was painless and quick. I chose a pair of wire frames that I can’t afford, but I figure you only go blind once, I might as well do it in style.
I stepped out of the doctor’s office and walked across the street to the parking ramp. When I reached the curb, I noticed a homeless man walking towards me. I assume he was homeless, but you never know. I’ve heard about regular people making a good living begging on the streets. Anyway, the guy was carrying a cardboard sign that said something about how every little bit helps. Before he could make eye contact with me, I turned and hustled in the opposite direction. I wasn’t in the mood to turn the guy down. I also wasn’t in the mood to give him any money. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized I wasn’t really sure what the hobo’s sign said.
A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from Deanna telling me that my glasses were ready to pick up. I was in no hurry to get them, so I waited until the weekend, when I had nothing better to do.
The glasses didn’t look as good on me as I remembered. Apparently the two-week wait had done a number on my memory. I made a mental note to tell Crystal not to bury me in the glasses when I die. I didn’t want to be remembered as a “glasses person,” especially not in these.
When I left the vision center, I had separation anxiety over the money I had just spent. I was contemplating whether there was still time to turn around and take them back for a refund, when I noticed the homeless man I had seen a couple of weeks ago.
This time I could clearly see the words on his sign, and it wasn’t because of my new glasses since I wasn’t even wearing them. It read: “Hungrier than a cop in a donut shop.” I chuckled out loud. The scruffy man was coming towards me, and my initial instinct was to run in the other direction. But as he moved closer, I held my position.
“Could you spare some change for a U.S. veteran?” the man asked me. I was about to blow him off, but something inside me said not to.
“Are you really hungry?” I asked instead.
The man looked at me as if I’d just asked him if the sky was blue. “Yeah. Yes, I am,” he answered.
“Then wait here,” I told him. Instead of going to my car, I ran across the lot to the donut shop. Inside, I got in line behind — I know it’s going to sound like I’m making this up, but I’m not — a police officer. And then I got an idea. “Excuse me, Officer,” I said, tapping him gently on the shoulder. The uniformed man turned and looked at me. “If I bought your coffee or donut or whatever you were going to get here, could you do me a quick favor?”
The policeman raised an eyebrow. “I guess that depends on what the favor is.”
After quickly explaining my idea, the police officer agreed. I paid for his jelly-filled sugar donut and large coffee along with a cream-filled chocolate donut, a regular glazed, and a regular sugar.
As we walked out of the donut joint, the policeman spoke. “Hey, I got an idea to add to your idea. Give me your donuts. I’ll drive them over in my car. Just follow my lead.”
I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to do, so I smiled and complied.
As I walked across the parking lot, I could see the homeless guy standing in the same place, still holding the sign. A look of disappointment crept across his face when he saw me returning empty-handed. Any other day I would’ve found this aggravating, annoying. The nerve this guy must have that he expected me to buy him a donut. But, for whatever reason, I was instead amused that the man had no idea that he was going to get exactly what he was hoping for.
Just as I reached him, the policeman pulled up alongside us. He flashed his lights and even threw on the siren for a quick scream. Rolling down his window, he gestured at the scruffy guy standing next to me.
“You think that sign is funny?” he called out. The homeless man quickly flipped his sign around so the words could no longer be read. “I already saw it,” the officer added.
The man shot a glance at me and then back to the policeman, his face turning red. “I…I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said.
“The implication is kind of rude, don’t you think?” the officer continued. “It’s like you expect the police to always have donuts handy or something like that.”
The man looked at the ground, and the policeman winked at me.
“I didn’t mean anything like that,” the homeless guy said. “I’m just hungry. It’s just a line to get people’s attention.”
“Well, you got people’s attention, all right,” the cop said. I watched him reach over to the passenger side of his squad car.
At that moment, the homeless veteran dropped his sign and raced off. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.
The policeman turned back to his window, donuts in hand. “Where’d he go?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Hey! Mister! Come back!” I called out. But the homeless guy was already too far away. I turned back to the police officer. “He must’ve thought you were gonna arrest him or shoot him or something.”
The cop shook his head. “Well, crap,” he said, looking up at me. “Maybe I came off a little too strong. I was just trying to sell it, you know?”
I squatted down so we were eye to eye. “I know. I thought it was funny, myself.”
The policeman sighed and shrugged before handing me a donut.
“Don’t mind if I do,” I said. We each took a bite and after some small talk, went our separate ways.
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(Short Story) Keith is just like you. He has concerns and problems in his everyday life about himself, his family, and life in general. He has made mistakes, too. But when he takes the time to slow it all down, he realizes things aren't so bad. While visiting the eye doctor he is blessed with the opportunity to view the world in a different light - with a clearer vision of what has always been right under his nose. In the process he also learns that everyone has their own point-of-view in any given situation.