"Excuse me, sir. Would you mind giving me some room?" exclaimed the man behind the wheels of his car. "It's obvious that two cars cannot be contained at the same time in a single slot. Don't you think?"
The man in the second car, inside a shabby, old, white ford recoiled at the comment and leaned his head out of the window revealing an expression of disbelief blended with a dose of utter disgust.
"Well, excuse me, sir" he replied in an edgy tone, "but if I remember correctly I entered this slot first. That means that by the time you arrived here, this spot was already taken. Which makes the point that you have to find another spot."
Luke, was a genial man in his late 40's that would rarely give into fights with others. As a matter of fact, it was so long since the last time he engaged in a quarrel that he couldn't even fathom the state of distraught he was experiencing at the moment. He had a modest, slender physic, with oversized clothes bulging above his scrawny body and a busted car that was as worn out as he was.
To the contrary, the man to the car across him, was chubby and well-groomed, sitting behind a black luxury car, evidently in a different level than his, and he would hold an air of haughtiness that would make Luke all the more adamant to his stubborn position.
No, he thought, this specimen of a man obviously came here after me and decided that he could trick me into stealing my spot. Well, if that's what he thinks then good for him because I ain't leaving until I get the spot I deserve.
The two cars stagnated, twisted into the side of the road, glued with their front into the same space and their back jutting outwards into the sideroad. They had remained in this position for a good few minutes and they both had made the decision that they wouldn't retreat unless they got their rightful spot.
"I'm very sorry sir, I have to mention this to you," said the man in the black car, "but it so happens that I have been using this spot for almost 5 years now. And it belongs to me and the members that work for the facility right above it".
He pointed upwards ostentatiously and Luke goggled in a bewildered expression being unable to believe what he just heard. "And that means that this spot belongs to you?" he asked. "Well sorry, sir but I can't see any particular sign that makes the point and neither have I ever seen any documents that prove it. So as long as there is none of that I'm afraid my position remains the same as before."
The first man grunted in a sign of annoyance and scoffed at Luke who averted his eyes away from him.
"Your little stubbornness is taking this out of proportions while we could just finish the issue off, once and for all, and move on with the rest of our day as normal," said the first man. "Don't you think it would be easier if you would just search for another spot nearby?"
"If it is that easy then why don't you do that. And this way you can free up the space that I found before you in the first place."
The first man folded his hands in a posture of evident annoyance and closed the engine of his car. "Fine," he said, "if that's what you want then we can stay here all day."
"Fine," uttered Luke in an equal unyielding manner and zapped his head back into the car.
The minutes passed while the sun was still blazing hot over them in the angled corner he was jutting out from and it was obvious that neither of the two men was ready to back out from it or make any move to compromise. Luke, in particular, was so enraged with the incident that he was ready to abandon his duty and miss a day from work if he had to. An act he never committed in his 20-year-long career as a constructor, but circumstances required extreme measures and he was ready to take them if it wasn't for a particular disturbance that took him of his track.
From the back-end side of the road a distant figure bustled over towards him, evidently in an excited frenzy and Luke noticed him from the side mirror that was pointing towards his direction.
"Mark, for Christ," he sneered, "what does he want now."
A big joyful smile curled in Mark's face who was approaching faster now and he raised his hands in anticipation of his encounter with Luke. Mark was his continuous, stable, and endless companion for the last 20 years, the man who would work together with, every single day of his life, in the harsh and bleak conditions of construction and with which he had developed such intimacy that people would confuse them many times to be the same person.
"Luke, you won't believe what happened," he said. "Come with me immediately and I will explain to you on the way."
He stood panting on top of the open window propping his hand over to the dusty white surface that was now hot from the accumulated sun. Mark was approximately the same height and size as Luke, with short-cut hair jutting out of his head and thick eyebrows that made him always look a little bit angrier than he was.
"Well, that's great to hear" exclaimed Luke sarcastically. "I'm really happy for you. But unfortunately, I'm into a situation at a moment."
Mark scratched his head in bewilderment and glanced around him noticing the man in the opposite car. "Situation? What situation? What is going on?"
"Well as you can see I was just into my way into this parking slot and this gentleman over there decided that this particular spot would suit him better than me. Thus we are stuck here."
"Stuck? What do you mean stuck?" asked Mark unable to comprehend the situation.
"I mean stuck." uttered Luke, "I'm into a situation that I cannot untangle myself from. What do you think stuck means?"
Mark stood a step back even more confused than before and glanced between Luke, his car, and the man across him trying to grasp the situation.
"Well sorry but from what I can see you are both halfway into this slot but only one can fit into it."
"Your observation skills serve you well" sneered Luke.
"So why don't you just back away and you can find another one then? There are plenty of spots across the street."
Luke recoiled at the comment and opened his mouth unable to believe what he had just heard.
"Well excuse me buddy, but I think you are jumping to conclusions there."
"How so?" asked Mark.
"As I told you already, I arrived in this spot first. I tried to park my car normally as any decent man would do and this gentleman, popped up out of nowhere and slid into the spot like a snake". "Excuse me my friend but I'm afraid that is something I cannot turn my back on that easily."
"So let me get that straight" exclaimed Mark leaning in closer to Luke. "You found that spot first and you were cut out by this man who tried to sneak in before you and so you two are both stuck in here because no one is backing up?"
"That is correct," said Luke dignified and Mark took a calmer expression as he turned his voice considerably softer.
"OK, I see," he said. "Look pal, I know this situation sucks and obviously you are the one that is objectively right of course. But what do you say you give this man the spot, this one time, and get over with this whole incident once and for all. I promise you this event doesn't have to waste any more of your time and plus I have some news that is a complete game-changer. Just between you and me," he whispered conspiratorially.
"And allow this specimen to win the spot just like that? Oh sorry, pal but I don't think it's going to be that easy."
"Luke as I told you, there are other things that have priority at the moment," gritted Mark.
"I understand, but I'm afraid I cannot help you right now,"
"You cannot help me?" bellowed Mark. "Well OK, how about this. You come with me for 10 minutes in this little cafe in the corner so that I can tell you what needs to be told, and then you are free to come back and continue whatever this is,"
Luke oscillated back and forth in anguish glancing between the orange cafe with the spiky wall and the black-and-white sun cover, and Mark who seemed to be irrationally confident and resolute in his request.
"And leave the car here?" he asked. "Like this?"
"Well I'm sure nothing bad is going to happen in 10 minutes," said Mark. "I'm sure this kind man will be here to get back to your business when we finish and if something happens we'll be right across the street," he said pointing to the little cafe. Luke seemed bewildered. He took a few seconds to react to the suggestion but eventually leaped up with a jolt of determination and straightened his jacket in a dignified manner.
"Fine," he said. "But I'm only doing this because you asked for it. I plan to reclaim this spot right after we finish."
"For this you can rest assured, my friend" exclaimed Mark. "Not a problem at all".
The light jazz music was filling the room with its vibrating tone and there were scattered already a number of people around the small circular tables that were dispersed inside the little cubicle. Mark and Luke took their seat on the side of the main bar and Mark gestured the order to the waitress who picked up on it from distance.
"So," begun Luke solemnly, "I understand that you have something important to share?"
"'Important' is not strong enough to describe it," he said furtively while sipping from the hot coffee that just arrived at their table. "This one is about to change many of the things we take for granted."
"Yes, you told me," said Luke. "This one is a game-changer."
"You are God damn right it is," said Mark proudly.
"OK, then. I'm all ears. What is it?"
Luke sat patiently with his lips shut close waiting for Mark's response. It wasn't the first time that Mark would divulge some obscure fact to him or something totally unexpected, but observing his incredible eagerness, he could sense that this was something rather unprecedented to him.
"Well, let me take it all from the beginning," Mark said and Luke scoffed in his mind for having to go through the whole process. "I came in this morning, at 8 o'clock, business as usual, and walked right in, into the hulk of the building and passed right through the main entrance into the back room with the studs and the wall panel". "I greeted Josh and the rest of the guys in the group and had a small chit-chat with them, business as usual. A few minutes pass and I walk outside into the lounge to have my morning cigarette before the day starts."
"Are all these details really needed?" muttered Luke.
"Don't worry we are getting there," said Mark and continued. "So I'm standing there in the edge of the patio, leaning over the fence while smoking my cigarette and observing all the dugs and the bars and all the underlying structures we had in place, and I'm really thinking of what a good job we have all made and how well-aligned everything is. And then I just saw the most unbelievable thing."
"What was that?" growled Luke.
"Right at the very edge of the frame, in the far end corner where the whole structure ends and at a depth of around 2 meters below the surface, there I saw a little glimpse."
"Yes, a glimpse. Something totally out of the ordinary."
Luke waited patiently with the same reserved posture he had adopted throughout the story while Mark sipped from his coffee once again.
"I didn't pay attention in the beginning but my mind wouldn't allow me to get off the hook that easily. Not unless I was to delve into it and solve the mystery."
"So I did. I jumped into the underground studs and started digging around the area trying to figure out what it was. It wasn't easy to pull it out, let me tell you, with all the dirt and the rocks into it but in the end, I managed to locate the object just fine. And you know what it was?"
"What?" asked Luke blatantly.
Mark dug his hand inside his pocket and pulled it out under the table in a fist, as he leaned closer to Luke.
"A piece of gold," he hissed darting his eyes around him conspiratorially and slowly unfolded his fingers. Luke looked at it holding a stolid expression, grunted something intelligible, and then turned his head straight ahead again.
"OK," he said curtly.
"OK?" asked Mark.
"OK," said Luke again repeating it with the same exact placid tone.
"Is that all? Just an OK?"
"What do you want me to do?" asked Luke.
"Do you even know what that means?" hissed Mark. "Somewhere in there lies gold that nobody else knows of but us. Gold that can make us rich beyond imagining? Can you comprehend the possibilities?"
"I think I have an idea," said Luke.
"If that little piece was lying there under the ground, that means there is more of it in the area that is sitting there waiting for someone to take it. And God knows how much more of it exists in that place. Or how much time we have till someone else lays his eyes on it and then it will be all gone. Of course, I made sure to cover its tracks with more soil to the best of my abilities," he said scratching his head, "but who knows if someone finds something accidentally. We can't let that happen, do you understand?" he asked with eyes full of tensity.
"I think I understand perfectly well," Luke said blatantly.
"It's not going to be easy to pull it out but I think I have a plan". He leaned in closer again. "We can enter the place on Saturday night and scan the area discreetly. If anyone notices anything we can claim that we work overtime and this way we can have another day to follow it up as well on Sunday. Quite a low risk given what we are playing for here don't you think? And if anything appears, we can just cover it all up and head out before anyone knows it. What do you think?" he asked with a big joyful smile.
Luke took his time glancing Mark up and down and nodding his head. His face was still sullen as it was during the whole time and not even one time did he navigated away from it with a different expression or emotion.
"It's a good plan," he said. "But I'm out."
"You are out? What do you mean you are out?"
"It means that I'm not interested in the job and that you get to keep the full amount of it on your own," he said tapping playfully on his arm. "Lucky you."
"No, I don't think you understand," said Mark. "This is free money we are talking about here. With almost no risk at all. What is there not to like?"
"It's not that I don't like it exactly," said Luke, "but rather I don't care about it at the moment. I have other things in mind to think about."
"Luke, what is the matter with you? What is more important than getting rich. Isn't that what you've been working on, for all your life? Do I need to remind you of all the trouble you have gotten in, for not having enough money in reserve or the difficulties of trying to get your children to university with the crumbs you are getting? Please come back to your senses. I cannot do this on my own."
"That is not nice of you at all," exclaimed Luke. "Why did you have to bring up the subject of my kids?"
"Because it's the truth?"
Luke's expression mellowed into a lugubrious tone and he shook his head unwilling to indulge the thought. "Well that was a hard period indeed," he agreed. "But that was a long time ago. And plus money is not really the issue here."
"No, money IS the issue," protested Mark yelling a bit louder than he wanted to. "Money is the issue," he repeated in a whisper. "They have been getting from us for all of our lives. Stealing from our hard work while we sweat our guts away for them to get richer. Do you think this is a fair scenario? Do you really think that's fair?"
"Mark this is not about fair," uttered Luke and leaped up from his seat. "You are sitting here blaming all the rich people who steal from you. But what does it make you if you get this chance to steal this money yourself?"
Luke goggled looking at Luke with his mouth open as he turned around and walked towards the door. And by the time he reached outside, he noticed that the man in the black car was gone and the spot was finally free for him to take.