When Abraham Bean stepped from the curb into the path of the oncoming bus, he said a prayer while closing his eyes, and kissing a metal cross that hung from a chain he’d found next to the dumpster at the corner market. He didn’t quite know what to expect, for he didn’t believe in heaven or hell, or limbo for that matter. He believed in nothing; absolutely nothing.
He wasn’t always so blasé about life in general. But lately, with advent of the most recent projections about the world coming to an end, climate change, an impotent congress, and the certainty of an ongoing series of viruses that would cause all but essential workers to remain sequestered in the sanctity of their homes, shriveling like November apples, he refused at the induction ceremony of the New Year’s Resolute Restoration Society, to read his resolution for the new year.
He managed to stroll across the stage, never having looked once at the masked audience, and upon reaching the disinfected microphone, cleared his throat and ushered in the fateful words that changed the nature of, not only the Restoration Society, but all its members, “What’s the use?”
Some pretended they didn’t hear correctly and spent the time they should have been attempting to understand his prognostication, attempting to solicit a rendering of his words from the ones six feet from them. The distance alone created a galactical atmosphere of dyslexia, and then there were the ill-fitting designer masks. His words failed to be understood by them. The words, or most certainly their intent, were not consistent with the previous projections of change expelled by those dedicated to a, “Brighter Outlook,” a slogan they approved at the annual meeting as the official motto of their newly licensed icon, a smiling question mark.
His words in retrospect left no opportunity for anything but introspection. Contemplation had become so consistently overrated that everyone upon its first inkling, turned off their hearing and pretended to be counting the holes in the acoustic ceiling tiles.
The anticipated applause was drowned out by silence, and the bewildered looks of all in attendance, except for perhaps Horatio Abbot, who had been fined more than once, by the chair of the Society, for not paying attention to the matter at hand. He was the secretary, and therefore expected to repeat verbatim all proceedings at the meeting the following month.
Abraham upon realizing he’d spoken out loud the thoughts he believed only he could appreciate, was shaken from his comatose reflections by the single applause of one Abacha Chrystal. Abagail, as her acquaintances referred to her, as they couldn’t pronounce her name, and being of polite persuasion were reluctant to ask about the pronunciation. Abacha suffered from hearing apathy and believed only the things that entered her uncluttered mind through her ears, that now ached from the constant pressure of the mask straps, had to be pure supposition, or her uncluttered mind would reject them. She had never had an indecent thought, at least as far as she was concerned. Her priest could verify her proactive approach to self-diagnosis if asked, which he was assured by her, he never would be.
Abraham’s salacious remarks concerning the future and the outlook of the society as a whole, were of little concern to Abagail. She loved the idea of love and could find no reason to disallow an opportunity just because someone had temporarily lost their way. Even though she hadn’t heard Abraham’s proclamation insinuating all was lost, being an optimist and used to filling in her own blanks, she continued writing the end to the story she knew she had to write. Optimism foremost in her mind, and having been a word she’d memorized, and as fate would have it, the word asked at a spelling bee which she had won, encouraged her to move on. Just another example of how the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Abagail believed there was no such thing as a lack of hope, and therefore, no better way of bettering the future of mankind by improving oneself by committing to resolutions, even though resolutions only had a shelf life of one year, and were usually discarded after the second martini. Abagail’s optimism normally failed to attract followers, but on this particular night, amongst the idle hands and confused outlooks of a future yet considered, it grabbed Abraham’s soul as if it were a dishrag that needed to be wrung dry.
Abagail’s singular clapping caused Abraham Bean to forget he’d given up on life, and wonder if he wasn’t destined for greater things before the world as he knew it, came to an end. He had prepared over the years for just such an occasion, by learning to ignore the intimidating influence of microphones and podiums, and pretend he was simply speaking to himself in the mirror, the lighted one he believed that made him look more like Abraham Lincoln, than he had a right to. But if they can hear my thoughts…
Abraham realized in that moment that if Abagail could overcome all her impediments and be accepted as an anomaly, he surely could begin to believe the earth was more resilient, than he’d been given reason to believe.
Normally, when he felt like there was nothing worth living for, he’d go out and plant a tree, or pick up some trash along the highway, but today, he decided he needed a change. He was not adverse to change, only its results. Perhaps he decided if he proceeded in small increments, a day at a time, perhaps…and then…?
He was sure there would probably be a tomorrow, perhaps, even a next week, but after that, well, he’d just have to see. If he made it through the next week, he could always begin again. Next time with a slightly more progressive goal, and if that worked, who knew, perhaps a new year would come. If it did, he would then reconsider the words that apparently upset the gravitational pull of psyches, in and around the society.
He had never meant to hurt anyone, but he regretted not having attempted to warn them. His remorse began to settle in his throat when he realized, they need not all believe the world was coming to an end. They could just continue to bargain with themselves and the bank, keeping hope, even reluctant hope, forefront on things to speculate about in the upcoming year.
He attempted to explain all this to Abagail as he walked her towards a sunset that they both knew was out there, even if they couldn’t see it. “See,” she said pointing to the horizon of foggy blue lights from the coal fired power plant, “Ain’t it beautiful.”
Abraham felt that he owed Abagail something for having removed one of the rungs from her ladder of optimism and replaced it with doubt. And yet, although he felt he could not tell a lie, he held her hand, looked into her eyes, and told her he thought her optimism was as radiant as any nuclear explosion he’d ever envisioned. It wasn’t actually a lie, more a play on words he reasoned.
She smiled back reflexively, her mind racing through the possibility of introducing to the Society an idea that had been percolating in her uncluttered mind since the previous New Year’s Day. They could hold a celebration of change, on the first of every month. That would certainly keep the notion that, bad things happen to good people, at odds with reality. At least it would help erase the last words Abraham uttered seconds before the bus took him away from her, “Does anything really matter anymore?”
Abagail watched in astonishment as her uncluttered mind registered his words for posterity, and replied with a whisper, the rebuttal she felt she had been born to utter, “Probably not!”