dontravis.com blog post #622
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The lesson from last week’s post… don’t marry a harpy.
GOTTA SOLDIER ON
Tweaking the bow tie and rolling my shoulders to settle the tux jacket more comfortably, I inspected myself in the mirror. Had to look just right for my retirement dinner. My wife Mabel had elected to go ahead of me to the Windhaven Hotel with her closest friend, who was the wife of one of my senior vice presidents. The one who would succeed me, in fact. Joe Horgan was a good choice… my choice.
After a final inspection, I turned away from the mirror. Jacob James Childerson still cut a figure at something under fifty. I still had a good number of productive years ahead of me. So why retire, most of my friends asked. Because I’d had enough. Wanted to do something else… what, I wasn’t sure. I liked to paint—landscapes mostly—and was decent at it. Or maybe write. I had plenty to share after taking Childerson Electronics from a small computer repair shop to a business with a thousand employees and multi-million-dollar contracts spread around the globe. Not repairing computers, of course, but by advancing their capacity manyfold through a new chip I’d invented.
Satisfied with the way I looked, I went downstairs just in time to see the limo the company had sent pull up into the circular driveway. I called to our maid Hilda that I was leaving and stepped outside before the driver could even get out of the vehicle. He introduced himself—the limo was a rental—as I ushered myself into the back seat, and we whisked away for the twenty-minute drive to the hotel.
Except it didn’t work out that way. As we approached the bridge across the river, the motor began to knock. In the middle of the structure spanning the waterway, it decided to quit altogether. The obviously embarrassed driver bailed out and stuck his nose under the hood. I joined him as traffic rushed around us.
“Just call for another limo,” I suggested.
“Think I can get it running before another one can get here.”
That didn’t work out either. My wife had called twice, and I was on the verge of trying to hail a cab when the motor finally caught. Didn’t sound too healthy to my inexperienced ears—I was into electronics, not mechanics—but it moved the vehicle along okay. The driver nursed it along until we were ten blocks from the hotel. Then it died with a finality that was evident.
“I’ll walk from here,” I said. “Be quicker than trying to catch a cab.”
Glancing at my watch, I exited the limo and made it to the sidewalk safely. Deciding running wouldn’t look dignified—especially in an expensive tuxedo—I high-stepped it toward the Windhaven. I’d only gone two blocks when a black-clad man ran out of a store and crashed into me, sending me flat on my back onto the rough concrete, my hand clutching my right jaw where he’d elbowed me.
I sat up to take inventory and look for the careless oaf. He was nowhere in sight, and my fellow pedestrians all scurried away, eyes averted. I got to my feet, lamenting a huge rip on the left sleeve of my jacket. Brushing away the dirt as best I could, I took a few limping steps before the cramps let up and then started to run. I was so late the dinner would be over before I got there to make my speech.
The police sirens intruded on my consciousness as I approached the alley at the back of the hotel. I’d cut in there. They had a bell to summon an attendant at the rear entrance, so I could save some time.
I heard a screech of tires and a raised voice as I turned into the alley. More yelling. Loud footsteps. No matter, the bell was within reach. I’d just given it a short ring when somebody crashed into me, sending me to the ground. This time, I rolled and crashed against a garbage can. The force of the blow popped the lid off the receptacle and toppled it over, dumping smelly goo all over me. There was a perfectly good dumpster just feet away, who needed a garbage can?
While still dealing with that, rough hands dragged me to my feet and pinned my hands behind my back.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “Let me go. Get your hands off me.”
“What’s going on is robbery and murder, buddy.”
“What robbery? What murder?”
The policeman, a pug-faced ape running to fat punched a fist into my chest. “Robbery of the Diamond Liquor Store, and the murder of the owner. And if the security guard dies, you’re going down for two murders.”
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why are you arresting me.
“Witnesses saw you running away from the store. Plenty of witnesses.”
A second cop grabbed my face in his grubby hand and turned my head to the side. “Looks like Lou got in a punch before you shot him. Lou Grissom’s a pal of mine, you dirty bastard. You’re lucky I don’t handle this my own way.”
“Who… who’s Lou Grissom?” I sputtered. It was getting hard to hang onto my dignity.
“The security guard,” the first policeman said. “He was an ex-cop. Lotsa friends on the force. You shot the wrong guy, you son-of-a-bitch.”
“What’s going on here?” a voice demanded. We all turned to face the manager of the Windhaven. The hotel attendant who’d answered my ring and summoned him stood at his side.
“Just dealing with a robber and a killer, Mr. Ratchet. We’ll be out of your hair in a minute.”
The manager stepped forward. “You’ve made a mistake. This is Mr. Jacob Childerson, President and Chairman of Childerson Electronics. I doubt he robbed or killed anyone.”
The cops settled down and allowed me to explain about the man who’d run into me outside of what turned out to be Diamond Liquors. When they were finally satisfied, Ratchet had the attendant brush me off as best he could.
“You have to hurry, Mr. Childerson,” he said. The dinner is over, and everyone is waiting for your speech.” He stood back and frowned, his nose twitching. “They’ll just have to wait a bit longer. That tux is ruined… ripped and stained.”
I waved him away. “I’ll explain what happened. Just get me to the ballroom.”
When I entered the big room, packed with officers and employees of my company and their mates, everyone stood and applauded. Then as I stepped to the podium, the applause died, replaced by audible gasps.
Joe Horgan’s jaw dropped. He frowned uncertainly, then smiled and let out a laugh. “Jake, you old dog, you’ve only been out of a job for a day, you haven’t had time to become a bum yet.”
The audience roared with laughter. My lifelong reputation as a practical joker had caught up with me. Nothing to do but go with it. Soldier on, you know.
I stepped to the microphone and told what had happened, putting a humorous spin on it. Everyone gasped and oohed and aahed and laughed. It wasn’t the speech I’d intended, but it worked well, I think. Like I said, a guy’s gotta soldier on.
Only thing was… when I glanced around, everyone at the head table had retreated a safe distance. Guess they figured I’d carried things a little too far by rolling around in garbage.
Mabel told me later—after we arrived home in separate cars I might add—it was my finest hour.
Birds of a feather, I say.
Stay safe and stay strong.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
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See you next Thursday.
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