‘And that’s why you don’t wanna fuck with me. Because my vengeance knows no boundaries.’ I couldn’t tell if he was serious. On the job two weeks and he’s already showing his true colors. No way. This has got to be some type of hazing ritual. I thought I left all of this behind in college. What my brother said must be true, you never really escape this sort of thing. He hovered above his chair and leaned over to confront me head-on, knocking over his barely touched salad. With his toupe obviously out of place and a smidge of ranch dressing caked into his mustache, he jabbed his stubby finger into my shoulder blade with each subsequent word. ‘YOU — DON’T —  KNOW — WHAT — I’M — CAPABLE — OF.’

I looked around the office to see if anyone else thought this was a bit much. To my surprise, no one was looking into the boss’s spacious office to make sure the new guy was okay. He was being louder than a riot in here and all Tom from accounting could do was bob his head and gaze at outdated tables of data. I knew they were outdated because it was my job to update them. The lack of reaction from anyone was definitely a sign that this was nothing more than a chance to scare me during my first few weeks. ‘Look, I appreciate the theatrics Mr. Boyd, but I really need to get back to my —’ but before I could finish, Mr. Boyd hoisted his spherical body out of his chair and slammed the door behind him. Again no reaction from anyone around. So much for family culture. Mr. Boyd proceeded to walk over to the large window that sat behind his desk and rolled up the blinds, peering out as if he was about to give a kingly speech. 

‘Do you know what you are capable of, Mister Waters?’

‘Everything is listed on my Résumé. I’m sure you gave it a thorough look before you hired me,’ I said with a bit of cheek. 

‘I’m not referring to your skills!’ I smiled at getting another kick out of him. I couldn’t see his face but I felt sure that it was once again as red as a tomato. 

‘The thing I am referring to is your primal edge. The stuff that makes you human. The stuff that separates you from all the other warm-blooded animals. You ever think about those sorts of things?’

‘To be honest, not really. I can start thinking about those things if you think it would be a better use of my time than picking up your kids from baseball practice because I still don’t really understand where that fits into my job description.’

‘Well, I don’t need to think about these things. I’ve experienced it. You know what I’m talking about. When you have those wonders, late at night,  about where your morals really stand. Would you be able to throw yourself onto a live grenade or lift a vehicle off of a baby? Obviously murder is one thing and I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about that limbo state in between. Could you bring yourself to have mercy on a monster? Could you weigh the value of his life in your hands before making a snap decision? You can wonder about these things till the end of your days but believe me when I tell you that you can’t know until you’ve really been there.’

Mr. Boyd rambled on like this for a while. I would check my watch every now and again out of boredom until his rambling turned into a story.

‘Oh my God! Someone call an ambulance’ shrieked a short black-haired woman with even shorter hair.

‘Is that what you’re supposed to do? Call an ambulance in this situation? I think there might be a different number to call,’ said a bespectacled man before placing a firm hand on his chin in contemplation. Black hair looked at him in disbelief. ‘Are you really overthinking things at a time like this? Call someone!’ That was when an attractive blonde woman spoke up. ‘I think he knows exactly who to call. Whether he’s aware of it or not, I don’t think he or any of us really want to call.’ Black hair stepped over towards blondie whose red lipstick looked more like blood. ‘How dare you accuse us of such a horrible thing?’ Blondie wasn’t intimidated in the slightest. ‘Why haven’t you called then? Why haven’t any of you tried doing anything?’ Seven heads all looked around at each other and then simultaneously looked down at the sorry sight contrasted within a circle of exquisite white gold marble flooring. It was like the Vitruvian man came down with food poisoning. The man cowering and tingling in a violent seizure on the ground no longer looked human. He looked much closer to a fish out of water. The hope of getting back into that sweet water was fleeting quickly. One of the men, a bald man, kicked the pant’s leg of the bespectacled man in order to get his attention. ‘What’s the prognosis, doctor?’ The bespectacled man’s firm hand was still cupping his masculine jawline. ‘You know I’m a psychiatrist right?’ 

‘You’ve been to medical school,’ retorted the bald man.

‘Ten years of medical school versus a thirty second Google search,’ said blondie already typing the question into her phone. ‘He could have anywhere between five minutes to an hour before he dies from either an obstructed airway or a heart attack.’ She said all of this without a hint of emotion in her voice. 

That’s when a long haired skinny boy who was sprawled along a lengthy couch decided it was his turn to chime in. ‘Hey, you’re not supposed to have your phone. I thought everyone had to give their phone to the maid. Something about a zen weekend or whatever.

‘Well, I may have slipped Emelita a Franklin to let me hold onto mine. Did any of you really expect me of all people to be without a phone for two whole days?’ asked blondie. 

‘It’s already been five minutes and he’s still chucking away,’ said a large and powerful looking man sitting casually with one leg over the other in an expensive leather chair. Then skinny boy said ‘Who are we to get in the way of god’s work? It’s obviously this guy’s time. He’s had a good run. Didn’t he just win a local cooking contest?’

Bespectacled man made the subtlest sound and nod of agreement before Black hair erupted like a volcano. 

‘You can’t all be serious. Are any of you actually considering letting this man die? I know some of us may have a couple of minor issues with him but who gave us the right to decide a thing like this?’  Skinny boy spoke up. ‘But that’s just it. We aren’t deciding anything. We’re letting nature do its thang.’ Blondie stuck a pointy finger in black hair’s face. 

‘Oh Please. We are all sick of your self-righteous one-for-all bullshit tonight. Listen, I know you think you need to go out there and right every wrong you come across. You keep telling yourself that maybe it might bring you a tiny bit of freedom from your past, but trust me, sweetheart, despite what that TV preacher of yours tells you, some things really are unforgivable.’ Blondie looked like a snake spitting venom. Black hair went silent and held her head down in dejection. The powerful man stood up, like the leader of a nation of confused youths. ‘Okay, everyone in here knows this guy wasn’t right. He’s always been off, ever since high school and all of us have carried slack for him at some point. Perhaps we would all be better off if he were to bite the dust. Don’t act like you all have forgotten the rumors about what he did to those boys at the high school.’ 

‘Oh, God! Do you think he can hear us?’ sparked black hair. 

‘Even if he can, it’s unlikely he will remember any of this,’ said the bespectacled man in a monotonous tone.

‘Those rumors were squashed. I don’t think he did it. He’s always been eccentric but he wouldn’t harm a fly,’ said the host of this frantic get together. 

‘Yeah, of course, they were squashed, by your family,’ said the powerful man in his booming voice. Couldn’t have the heir to one of the country’s largest newspapers preying on young boys now, could they? And you know what I think? I think just like every one of us, there’s a reason why you haven’t commanded your maid to bring you your phone to call for help. We all know you should be next in line for that paper and if your father lived long enough to see what kind of “man” your brother turned out to be, he would agree. And do you really want to split this beautiful house?’ The powerful man raised his arms and waved them around so that everyone would take in the beautiful sights.

The powerful man’s booming use of the word “maid” signaled poor Emelita to come back into the room. Her face was red and full of tears. Her body was shaking in a fashion similar to the man on the floor. She knew her life would be finished after this. She was, after all, the one who served the dying man’s dish. The simple use of nut oil was the culprit. She was new on the job and somehow failed to remember the most important rule of the house. NO NUTS. She could hardly speak any English but she could feel what everyone was saying. Then black hair ran over to Emelita, almost tripping due to her blind fervor. She took hold of Emelita’s shaking shoulders. ‘Emelita! Please! Phone! Go get phone!’ 

Emelita understood and began turning around. 

‘Emelita. No,’ barked the host from the opposite side of the room. ‘Emelita, go upstairs.’ Both Emelita and black hair looked like they were all out of hope as she slowly walked toward the stairs.

‘Now here is what we are going to do,’ said the powerful man. ‘According to my mental clock, this poor fellow will be lucky if he’s got another thirty minutes before he breathes his last breath. I say we take a page out of the founding fathers’ book and bring this to a vote. There are seven of us here and we each have to pick a side.’ The group chattered amongst themselves for about another minute before agreeing that it made sense to vote. 

The powerful man walked to the center of the room, standing right over the dying man’s convulsing body. 

‘He lives.’

Black hair was the first to shoot her hand up, followed by bespectacled man who couldn’t be bothered enough to bring his arm up to full mast. He muttered something about the Hippocratic oath forcing him to do so. It looked like all hope was lost when, to everyone’s surprise, the powerful man too raised his hand in defense of the man on the floor. 

‘Okay, now to confirm and bring this to a close. He dies.’ 

Blondie was the first to raise her hand. ‘My nephew goes to that high school. He can burn in hell.’

Then Skinny Boy. ‘Fiat Voluntas Tua’  Thy will be done.

The owner was taking his time to decide as if this made his ultimate decision less morally culpable. He too raised his hand. It was an even split three to three. Everyone except for the bald man cast their ballot.

By this time, I was at the edge of my seat. I was even snacking on a bag of popcorn from Mr. Boyd’s mini-fridge. ‘So what’d you do?’ I asked without hiding my excitement. ‘I want you to know something, Waters. I want you to know that you work for a guy that can be mighty merciful. Family culture. That’s what I preach here. But at that moment, I knew I could have just as easily voted the other way. I can’t begin to describe to you what that felt like. Knowing that I could have ended a man’s existence with the mere lifting of an arm’ He was sitting down again and balled his hands into fists that he jutted out in front of him. ‘When I let you borrow my car for the weekend, it was for the sole purpose of you driving my sweaty smelly kids from point A to point B. The GPS that I expected you to be smart enough to expect me to have alerted me that on Saturday evening you took the car out for a little spin. I’ve been young before. I know it probably felt great to impress whatever little girlfriend you have with a car like that.’ Then he leaned in and brought his voice to a grungy whisper. ‘If you ever do a stupid thing like that again, you might be exempt from all of that mighty mercy. Welcome to the family.’

February 05, 2020 02:47

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