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I challenge every person who reads this story to sum up his or her life in just a few words. There are a variety of life lessons that probably took decades to learn and any person who TRULY examines themselves and what they have knowledge of knows that we are not done learning until we are cold in the grave.

If you have ever heard a well-told story before you know that it is not simply heard, it is experienced, it is felt, and it is lived. These are a series of stories I have experienced that have taught me so much putting me well beyond my years, and yet, I must admit that I still know nothing. I feel that I am close though. This scares me in a sense. For my belief is that when we know what is necessary it is our time to leave. May be that is another lesson I’ve yet to learn, why not to fear death. I honestly don’t know.

My brief story begins this series. I am the main character; the end all be all. All the other stories revolve around me. So please, keep that fact in mind as I go along. They are stories that have personally been told to me and therefore witnessed. I will explain more as I go along, I promise.

I was the first to see what others around me couldn’t. It sickens me to see the simple, pathetic, self-destructive path I chose to get to where I am.

My life was in ruin. In my late twenties all I did was drink hard liquor and gamble every penny I earned. Every other thought was how I could make more money, faster money, with little effort, almost as if I was entitled to it. The “big win,” would pick me up out of my depression. I would be able to drive that car I dreamed about since I was a boy or buy that house that my now, ex-wife used to want. This illogical sense of vengeance was always first and foremost on my mind.

Not to sound conceded but I was an intelligent man in some ways. I was wise enough to have the self-awareness that my day-to-day activities were self-destructive. I knew that no matter what excuse I imagined, me, myself, and nobody else was ultimately the one who put me in the position I was in. I chose to marry the woman who took my children and married another man. I chose to marry a woman who drained me of every penny before she literally threw me to the curb. I also chose to foolishly drink and gamble my money away instead of taking the logical steps necessary to pick up the pieces of my life after she decided to leave everyone, even her kids.

Immediately after the divorce my ex-wife would move from apartment to apartment, and I would pay the expenses in order for her to do so. I would stay at a friend’s house and give her almost every penny I made at my meager factory job.

I was patient and tolerant of her decisions to this point. When she left our kids though, I put an end to it. From now on the money, I made would be mine. I would spend it how I deemed necessary and take care of our kids myself.

Until this “big win” I would try to sustain life by getting an odd job every other month that didn’t require any sort of skill, or test for alcohol. I would do this until I was fired, or my co-workers would run me off. Most of my nights were spent in abandoned buildings. My meals were gotten at whatever cheap burger place was closest, or the cleanest food I could find in the garbage.

That was just a short description of me of what kind of characteristics I used to possess. You will get to know me better as we go along. We can say a bunch of adjectives to describe a person but until we see how they lived their life we will never truly understand. (For example, I can be a loving and caring guy, but I can either love sex care about no one but myself and be a male, or, I can love mankind, care for those who need, and be a man. We must carefully observe in order to try to understand. Miscommunication is one of the greatest causes of turmoil.)

I was spending my time at the Lake of the Ozarks and found some condominiums that needed a maintenance worker. I applied and got the job. It was easy enough to get hired on if you smudge a resume. The work wasn’t too complicated. Mowing grass, trimming hedges, and cleaning the docks was what I did the majority of the time.

I kept the same sort of company no matter where I was employed. The sort that enabled me to continue down my self-destructive path. The last week out of the two I had worked at the condominiums I spent every night playing five-card stud with three of my “fellow” employees.

This specific night was Friday night, payday, and this meant everybody would be playing with more money. I was going to clean them out. After that, I was going to go to the casino and break them. After that, I would have enough to show all of those who doubted me that I could come out on top. Almost like I had access to an entity that nobody else did.

The sun began to sink behind the wood-line and the spring peepers were almost deafening. The traffic at the lake was slow but it was welcomed. The past week owners of the condominiums swarmed the lake.

On top of a bluff, not far from the lake four men sat around a worn poker table in a little shack drinking and laughing. That was except for me. I sat concentrating and determined to win. There was no laughing, no joking or getting familiar with my “fellow” employees. This game could completely change my life. I kept the best poker face I could muster but my heart was racing.

“So, Aaron, you come here every night and we have no idea who the fuck you are. Why don’t you talk?” Larry asked. Larry was a large, bearded man. He almost always wore a white tank top that complimented his arms but wasn’t near as flattering for his popped belly.

“I’m just trying to focus on my hand Larry.” I said solemnly.

Larry replied, “That doesn’t seem to help your game dipshit.” The other two men joined him in laughter. In my head what Larry said was probably to affect my game. It hit a nerve, but I didn’t react. I merely reached for my bottle of cheap whisky and took another large swig. I drank as randomly as I could, that way I didn’t develop any tells.

“You know Derek here says he doesn’t like you.”

I looked to his left where Derek was sitting. I figure he was in his early twenties with the libido of a jackrabbit and something to prove to every swinging dick that existed. (Except the dick that he stroked to make friends so to speak.)

I honestly wasn’t interested in a fight though. More time fighting meant less time gambling. “That’s ok. I don’t really like myself that much most of the time.” I forced a grin as if my honesty was a joke.

“Derek also says to need to take a FUCKING shower, you smell like shit.” Larry laid down his cards. It was a royal flush.

I looked at my hand. All I had were three tens. That was the rest of my money. How could someone so vain have such good luck? Now I would go hungry the rest of the week unless I dug through the trash. Frustrated and without thought I retorted. “Then Derek needs to learn to speak for himself instead of having a retarted, cousin-fucking redneck speak for him.”

Larry didn’t give me a chance to even blink. I barely got a grin in when I felt his fist hit me from across the little table, knocking me out of my seat.

It was all a haze for me from there. The only thing I was certain of was that all three men were kicking and stepping on me at once. There was at least minute of this until I was rolled out of the door.

I struggled to get up. I had never been knocked down and not gotten back up. I crawled a few feet until I was finally able to pull myself together and pick myself up. I wobbled, dizzy and disoriented trying to make my way to anywhere but the little shack. I had lost this fight. To go back would be suicide.

“Hey bitch, you forgot something.” It was Larry yelling at me. I turned around and put my hands up to fight. Just as I did, I felt my fifth of whisky hit me in the side of the head knocking me down once again. I lay there for a moment… Hoping he had killed me. Tears began to well up in my eyes as I heard the three men laugh and make their way back inside. I fought the tears back in case they decided to come back and ridicule me some more.

My mind raced with what I should do. Not only did I lose my money but also, I lost my pride. It didn’t take long though for me to come to the conclusion there was nothing more I could do that night unless I took my money from the three men, the three men that just beat me half to death. There was no winning this fight. I would just have to chalk it up to a loss, a three-hundred-dollar loss.

When I was sure my co-workers were back inside the building jerking each other off I lifted myself up, picked up my whisky bottle and headed towards the docks. Staggering and drinking the entire way I figured this would be as good as place as any to sleep. At least I would have a roof over my head.

I crossed the walkway and stepped onto the dock. I could feel the dock gently sway in the water. As I laid down this was comforting at first until it started to make me feel nauseous. I wasn’t about to throw up, so I stood up and started pacing.

As I paced, I started to scheme on how I would make my money next time. Poker, lottery, or maybe next time I would go straight to the casino. I could put bigger bets down on the roulette table with the three to one odds, or put down moderate bets on thirty five to one odds and end up making more money… potentially.

Suddenly the schemes stopped. I reached the end of the dock. The sun had completely disappeared for the day and the moon had come out. I admired the way it danced on the water. It was beautiful, awe-inspiring… Inviting. I wanted a closer look, so I walked to the very edge of the dock. I stood there and stared. As I stared with bottle in hand, I had an epiphany. I thought of my past and the path I had taken. May be if I had been a little different, said the right things, broken instead of bend when it came to my ex-wife things would be different. I would still be able to tuck my babies in at night, tell them stories and wake them up every morning with a smile and a hug like I used to.

              I would wake her up in the morning with a kiss. First, I’d kiss her gently on the cheek, then on the lips. She was always so self-conscious about her breath, but I never cared. There was nothing about that woman that could detour me.

This put a metaphorical blade in the middle of my stomach that felt literal. “No.” I told myself. A man who breaks isn’t a man at all. I decided there was nothing else I could have done. I decided there was nothing else I could do. I was destined to feel this pain for the rest of my life. I inched my way closer to the edge of the dock. The toes of my shoes were now hanging over…

The decision was quick. I inhaled, took one final swig out of my fifth and exhaled as I jumped into the water.

I sank quickly. I knew by the time I hit the bottom it would be too late to make it out alive. I would need to inhale before I made it back to the surface. The water was a good six feet above my head. I felt the mud and rocks on the lake floor as my feet hit the bottom.

For whatever reason, it came to my mind to open my eyes. I guess I wanted to know what the last thing I would see was before I died. When I opened them I saw nothing. Utter and complete darkness.

I panicked. This wasn’t right. What was I doing? Suicide was not the way to end things. There are other ways to deal with this. This cannot be the end. Why did I make such a rash decision? Since I had no more breath, I cried to God to help me, to pick me up from the water.

I began to swim to the surface. I rose even faster than I sank. I was able to reach my hand above the water and feel the cool night air on my fingertips. I was going to make it! I thanked God profusely… This was until I felt hands grab me around my ankles and begin to drag me down. I began to sink deeper and deeper and the further I dropped the more hands began to grasp onto my body. This was certain death for me. So, I accepted.

I was drug down with my back flat against the bottom of the lake. There was a moment of pause while all I did was notice hands gripped over every part of my body giving me no chance of ascension.

Suddenly I could feel my body pulled through the bottom of the lake. The water was so cold at that point it felt like shards of ice grazing over my skin. A haze of images flickered before my eyes. I saw a dark forest, the earth on fire, fear and anguish began to take physical form until I was thrown onto my knees in a black room in front of a window that seemed to connect to what had to be another dimension.

I stood up and walked slowly towards the window to peer inside. I saw a trial taking place. I saw a well-dressed man pacing in front of the judge. The whole court room nodded their heads like they were part of a congregation at a church.

I then saw a security guard pull out his gun and point it at the judge. I ran to the window to stop him but as I got to the window a mighty force took me by the shoulders and told me to sit. I watched and I wept because I knew there was no way of communicating to this man.

Soon though, the tears stopped, and all five senses engaged as the whole world unraveled right in front of me. A thousand voices harmonizing as one whispered to me. “This is the world you left them in.”

My eyes and ears were opened like they had never been before. I could feel what other people felt, see what other people saw, in a world I left behind.

June 09, 2021 07:18

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1 comment

Dean Atlas
07:27 Jun 09, 2021

I've decided to do something different. Admittedly there are a couple of stories I've submitted on here that I'm not a fan of. They were fresh ideas that I threw together and executed poorly due to lack of time and other priorities. That will change though. I owe it to readers not to waste their time and do my best. From now on starting with "Empathic Endeavor," all of the stories will connect and ultimately come to a conclusion. The conclusion is already decided, it's just going to be a matter of what route we take to get there. Thank you f...


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