Monday, June 18, 2007

Like Christmas in July...Free Write Friday on a Monday

[Insert Long List of Excuses Here]

[Insert Witty Comments to Lighten Situation Here]

This week, in honor of Father's Day (which would have been upcoming if I had done this on the right day), I am choosing notawritersfather's suggestion:

Here is the idea I gave Elliot, with which he in turn teased you:
A late middle-aged guy suddenly discovers he has amazing super powers, but he is just too darned tired and jaded to employ them.

notawritersfather wins brunch with me yesterday, and a Schlafly 12 pack sampler which includes three bottles of their signature Pale Ale, three bottles of their smooth Hefeweizen, and three bottles of their current seasonal brew, which I can only assume right now is their Summer K├Âlsch, and not their Oktoberfest or Coffee Stout.

I, unfortunately, do not recieve any funding for Schlafly Beer. The only thing I do recieve is a feeling of satisfaction, light-headedness, and the rare hangover.

===

June 18th (but it should have been the 15th...) 2007

"He's opening his eyes."

"Are you sure?"

"Look!"

"He shouldn't be here, I mean, he should be..."

"Yeah, I know."

The two voices sounded eerily fraught, which didn't bode well in the mind of Eric Weldon. That is, he reflected, if he even had a mind anymore. He wasn't sure what happened when you died, because this was the first time he had ever done it. And he had done it on purpose, had timed his fall just right so that even if the fall didn't kill him, the convoy of trucks running down the highway to the overpass would surely not have missed. He had blacked out on impact and was only coming around now because he heard voices. He opened his eyes and saw a bright light, in front of which he swore he saw two angels. "Well," he thought, "at least I made it to the doorstep. Even if they do send me down, which they surely will, maybe I can at least get a glimpse of happiness before an eternity of damnation and toil."

He figured, after nearly forty years of unhappy toil, an eternity of more of the same didn't sound too bad. That's why he had jumped, why he had left his keys in plain view in his locked, double-parked car two blocks away. As a final insult to the world, though, he had taken the faceplate from his radio and put it in his front pocket. Somebody could steal his worthless car, but they'd have to break the window to get in and find that there was nothing worth stealing in it. Fuck you, world, take my car. You took everything else.

"Oh, thank God, the authorities are here," Eric heard one of the angels say; he was still having a bit of trouble making them out, and he wasn't sure if that was the brightness of the heavenly light or if it was just that he had jostled his head so badly when he fell. But upon reflection, he realized that it must be the light because his head didn't hurt and that made plenty of sense; in Heaven, you feel no pain. Only joy. He took joy in the thought that he might get a few moments of joy for his soul before being looked over by St. Peter or whoever the authority turned out to be, and sent straight to Hell.

"Right over here," the second voice called. "He just came out of nowhere, landed right in front of me...I ran the bastard over, but it looks like he's coming around!"

A third angel arrived, but now that Eric's vision was clearing up a little, he wasn't sure that they were angels per se. Maybe they were just citizens of heaven...or at least, the first two were. This third one was altogether darker and looked to be wearing some sort of official uniform; this struck Eric harder than he had struck the ground just minutes before. He blinked a few times to try and get a clearer picture.

The light was really preventing him from getting a clear picture, and what's more, the light was starting to hurt his eyes, so he sat up.

"Easy, easy," the darker shadow commanded, a strong hand landing on Eric's shoulder.

"Where am I?" Eric asked, startled that his voice sounded exactly the way he remembered it when he was alive.

"You're on 1-55, right by the Arsenal overpass, and the question I have to ask you is why are you here?" the darker figure asked. Eric's eyes were becoming accustomed to the light and he saw that the dark figure was wearing what looked unquestioningly like a police uniform.

Eric listened and heard the noise of slow moving traffic, smelled exhaust and also the brewery. He looked for the other two angels and saw that one was a rather large shirtless man covered in tattoos, the other wearing a Fed-Ex uniform and hat. The image of a Fed-Ex truck speeding towards the bridge just before he jumped came back to him. "Shit," he said.

"Shit?" the shirtless man asked, spitting on the ground. "You jumped off a bridge into oncoming traffic and all you can say is 'Shit'? You got run over by a big rig and my F-350 and a horse trailer and that's all you gotta say? Well...Shit!"

"It didn't work," Eric said, struggling to get up.

"Easy," the police officer said again, but Eric very easily stood and began to walk under the overpass.

He turned back to look at the spot where he had landed, saw no blood, just a few cracks and some tire marks. He looked down at his body and saw the only signs of damage; his shirt and pants were ripped and had matching tire marks. He screamed the only word he could think of to sum up his feelings before running back in the direction he came, intent on running all the way to the nearest bridge over the river, so he could plunge in and end his life for good.

"Whoa, whoa there," the police man said, restraining Eric with the help of the shirtless spitter and the Fed-Ex driver. "I think you should come with me." By this time the ambulance had arrived and the paramedics were approaching with a gurny. The lead man asked Eric where the victim was.

Eric pointed at himself, and the paramedic became furious. "This is no time for joking around, asshole! Where's the guy that jumped?"

"You're talking to him!" Eric screamed at the man. "I jumped. And I'm fine! And I want to die!" He turned to the cop. "What's the penalty for attempted murder?"

The police officer bristled. "You tried to kill somebody?" Eric nodded. "And it didn't work?" Eric nodded. "That could get you life, buddy."

"Not death?"

"No. Maybe in Texas. But if you tried to kill somebody and it didn't work...have they recieved medical attention?" Eric shook his head no. "You better take me right to him, and then straight downtown." The police officer got on his walkie and called in the attempted homicide. Eric slapped him.

"It's me, asshole! I tried to kill myself and it didn't work! What's the penalty for attempted suicide?"

Stunned, the police officer cancelled the call, took a step towards Eric and grabbed him by his hands. He pushed him across a lane and a half and smack up against the idling ambulance.

"Now I gotcha for attempted suicide, disrupting the peace, and assaulting an officer. You want to try for resisting arrest, too?"

"Can I get the death penalty for any of those things?"

It was several hours later, and Eric had point blank refused to talk to any lawyers. He kept making demands to see Jack Kevourkian, his mother or "the perfect woman." When Dr. Freidman finally arrived, Eric had settled into a silence the police officers deemed impenetrable. It was the arresting officer's opinion that the man should be wrapped in a straight jacket inside a padded room, inside a padded building, inside a heavily guarded and also padded country.

"Mr. Weldon," Dr. Freidman said, "My name is Sydney." He was tall, angular, with a bushy mustache and tight, curly hair, and carried himself with an almost lazy confidence; he looked, in many ways, like Eric himself, except Eric's hair was straight, he wore no facial hair aside from thinning sideburns and he carried himself with a slump; the weight of his troubles was enough to make him appear four inches shorter than he really was.

"Doctor," Eric said.

"Good," Sydney said, "I got you to talk. The chief owes me a twenty if I can just get one more word out of you. What do you say to that?"

Eric pondered this for a moment. He stood up, walked over to where Sydney was standing and pointed at Sydney's breast pocket. "You want my pen?" Eric shook his head yes, and Sydney gave him the pen and also one of his business cards. Eric wrote, "Cut me in for half and we've got a deal" on the back of the business card. Sydney reached into his pocket and handed over a ten dollar bill.

"Thanks," Eric said, handing back the pen and returning to his seat. "I'm going to need all the cash I can get, seeing as how I'm alive and jobless. And also, I got a parking ticket."

"Did you? Is that why you tried to kill yourself?"

"No. I got it while I was trying to kill myself. That was not my intention."

"What was your intention?" Sydney took a seat across the table, leaning comfortably back without looking bored or disinterested, in the kind of trick they must teach you when you become an analyst.

"To have somebody steal my car. And also to actually die. So far, I'm 0 for 2 today."

"I see."

"Also," Eric continued, "I had my faceplate in my pocket, and even though I came out of it in one piece, I can't say the same for the faceplate. So, if I do get out of here, and get my car, I can't even listen to music."

"That is a shame," Sydney said. "Eric, let me tell you why I'm here."

"I know why you're here. You're here to ask me why I tried to kill myself."

Sydney rifled through some papers in his briefcase. "Oh, no, I think I have that figured out." He looked down at a sheet of paper. "Let's see...you just turned 40 and you also just got fired from the same job and same position you were in when you turned 30, making almost the same amount, I might add. Your wife just left with the kids for Davenport, to stay with her mother until she, in her words, 'figures things out,' she drained your bank account, alienated you from all of your friends, your mortgage is past due because she hasn't been paying bills for five months so you're about to have your house repossessed, your parents' nursing home just burnt to the ground with all of their posessions and the insurance money won't cover any of it, and to top it all off, last night you came home and there was a man in your house you didn't know who was looking for your wife whom he called, what was it..." Sydney looked up into Eric's eyes. "Fucky Kitten, was it?"

Eric took several deep breaths. "You forgot something," he finally said.

"What's that?"

"My goldfish died last week."

"Ah, but that was actually your daughter's gold fish."

"Same difference. So, why are you here?"

Sydney shut his briefcase and leaned forward, earnestly. "I'm Dr. Sydney Freidman, and I work for the Rand Corporation and the United States Government. I'm a psychiatrist and also a researcher interested in paranatural phenomena."

There was a long pause before Eric finally spoke. "Para what?"

"Paranatural."

"Why not paranormal or supernatural?"

"Because people think they know what those mean nowadays. No, what I have to say is this: We have several eyewitnesses who saw you fall from the bridge."

"I didn't fall. Falling implies it was an accident. I jumped."

"Jumped, fell, whatever. People saw you. And then, you got run over by several tons of machinery moving at speeds in excess of seventy miles per hour."

"What's your point? That I can't do anything right, not even killing myself?"

Sydney got a weird smile on his face. "Simply put, Eric; you can't kill yourself." This remark was followed by a ridiculous giggle on Sydney's part.

Sydney's giggle, however, was merely met with Eric's face as it fell slowly further into depression. "What?"

"You can't die, at least not by physical trauma."

"Are you telling me that I'm like that guy in Unbreakable?"

"It's exciting. You know, there are actually quite a few people with these paranatural abilities. And we've found many of them. They work special detail in some of the worse places in the world."

"What?"

"We find them, we employ them, and we give their lives meaning. For instance, in your case, you are ready to die. But think of it; with a word, I could stop the foreclosure process on your house. Hell, you could buy five times the house. You wouldn't have to worry about scrounging up for that parking ticket, because it's done, taken care of, and as for the radio, you'd get yourself a free car. Whatever you wanted. Of course, you'd have to go where we tell you, do what we tell you, but you'd never be in any danger at all. Because there's nothing out there that's dangerous enough to hurt you."

"What about bullets?"

Sydney stood up, removed a gun from a holster Eric hadn't seen before, and shot Eric in the chest. Eric stood too late, reeled, flew backwards over his chair and landed hard, breaking the backrest off the chair, and panting on the ground. He had a momentary pain in his chest which dissipated almost as quick as the gunshot had been.

Eric stood up, looking at the mark left on his shirt. "Fuck. I can't even shoot myself to death! Damn it! What about poisons? Drowning myself? Exposure to the Ebola virus?"

Sydney shook his head, returning the gun to the holster. The door opened and three officers came charging in, but Sydney put up his hand. "It's fine. I told you who I am. Get lost." The police officers backed slowly out of the room, the last lingering long enough to glance at Eric, brushing himself down and picking up the mangled chair before throwing it back to the ground. The door closed.

"Mr. Weldon," Sydney said, opening his briefcase again, "medical records are the first indication we have of who has these abilities. Unfortunately, even under the current administration's lax regulatory stance, we are still unable to create situations that can draw these characteristics out. If somebody notices on their own, they usually tell their doctors, we see the records, we can approach them, but we need hard evidnce. Something like surviving a suicide attempt. Although, we wondered; do you remember in fourth grade?"

Eric thought. "What about it?"

"Your two best friends; one got menangitis and nearly died. The other got it, as well, but it was caught early and treated. They never found a trace in your body, but they gave you the medication anyway."

"The doctors said sometimes it can take a while to show up, they were being-"

"College, sophomore year. The girl you were dating, yes?"

"Eliza?"

"You're aware that she had mono, correct?"

"Yeah."

"And you never got it, even though by your accounts to your friends you 'fucked like crazy,' correct?"

"Why do you have that on record?"

"Are you also aware that she had herpes?"

Eric was silent for a long second. "What?"

"Yes. She didn't know it at the time, but she had already contracted it prior to your relationship. And she continued a sexual relationship with the person she had contracted it from while she was with you."

Eric's face fell again. "Eliza was cheating on me? I should have tried to kill myself years ago..."

Sydney snapped his briefcase shut again. "But it wouldn't have been any different then, Mr. Weldon. Here." He handed him a manilla envelope.

"What's this?"

"Information. About our program. Training materials. It's classified, so you are under the strictest penalty not to divulge this information to anyone."

"So...you'd kill me if I told my neighbors?"

"Mr. Weldon, you can't-"

"Then why even bother, I suppose." Eric perused the outside of the envelope. "What happens to the people who don't want to sign up?"

Sydney shifted uncomfortably. "It happens. Some sort of...go into what you'd call private contracting."

"What? They become local superheroes?" Eric laughed at the thought. But the sheepish look on Sydney's face cut off the laugh. "Really?"

"Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, but Mr. Weldon, I urge you-"

"Urge nothing. I have the urge to do nothing." He sighed, handed the envelope back to Sydney. "I can't do anything right, Doctor. Nothing. I can't even kill myself correctly. So thanks, but no thanks. I don't want these powers. For you, it's something exciting. For me, it's just another thing wrong with my life."

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's preventing me from achieving my life's goal?"

"And what's that?"

Eric stood, looked out of the lone window. "Death. Ending it all. I just...don't care. I'd screw it up. The people I'm supposed to save? They'd die. I'd get captured and sentenced to death in the jungles of Burma, and they'd try to kill me every day, and they'd never succeed. It would be...well, honestly, it would be what I was expecting this morning when I jumped. It would be Hell. But I was going to Hell on my terms; I don't want to stay in this Hell on your terms. No thank you," he turned around, "Doctor Freidman, but I'll just keep trying to end my life after my own fashion."

Eric sat back down, and lapsed into a silence to match his earlier one. Sydney stood, silent for five minutes, looking into the half-lidded eyes of Eric. Finally, he left the business card Eric had given him back, with "Cut me in for half and we have a deal" scrawled across the back, packed up the briefcase again, turned and walked out the door.

Across the country, deep in a labyrynthine maze of code-entry corridors, under a thousand tons of rock and soil, a man sat staring at the image of Sydney as he left Eric alone in the small room. The man moved a joystick and the image of Eric grew larger, his hopeless face filling more and more of the screen. A phone rang to the man's right and he answered it.

"Yes, I saw the whole thing. Well played, Doctor. You are right; he is the perfect candidate for our program. Proceed as planned. Keep me posted."

The man hung up and watched as on the screen Eric picked up Sydney's business card and put it in his pocket.


===

And that man's name was neither Lex Luthor, Doctor Ochs, Magneto or even Stan Lee. That's all you get out of me for this one. It was long to make up for it's lateness.

I am off to the Cardinals game.

1 comment:

notawritersfather said...

Wow, and i thought he would just sit on his couch and think about maybe getting up and stopping the mayhem, but not today. Tomorrow...maybe