Reblogged from Don Massenzio:
I am having a blast writing these short stories. This one is a bit different. I’d love to give the background for the idea, but it would give away the story’s ending. Needless to say, the moral is that people are not always what they appear to be and their motives for doing things can come from many sources.
I appreciate those of you that read last week’s story. (Especially those that sent edits). I am going to continue to do this as long as I can come up with story ideas.
Please enjoy this latest effort, Channel 19
Ernie Patterson stopped into a Dunkin’ Donuts on Market Street in Philadelphia for his usual, a large regular coffee and a coffee roll. It wasn’t exactly the breakfast of champions, but at 82, he had resigned himself to eating whatever he wanted. Back in 1977, when he had ballooned up to nearly 300 pounds on his six-foot frame, he made a lifestyle change. He didn’t want to check out in his 40s like his mother. At that weight and with his lifestyle at the time, he was well on his way to doing just that.
He had made a drastic change that began with five years in India studying various meditation and yoga methods. This change, plus the lack of fried, unhealthy foods, had returned Ernie to his fighting weight of 180 and, when he returned to the states in the mid-1980s, he was in the best shape of his life.
For the past ten years, though, as he continued to travel the country, he had reverted to his comfort foods. He figured he had earned the privilege.
Ernie had traveled the country for most of his life. For the past 40 years, however, he had freed himself to do it on his own terms traveling from city to city as the wind, and the need, carried him. This week, he was in Philadelphia. It was uncharacteristically hot in this part of the country, but an early August thunderstorm had cooled things off a bit this morning. Ernie was from the south where thunderstorms just made things a bit steamier until the real cool down in the late autumn.
Ernie paged through the contents of a folder as he sat at the small round table sipping his coffee. He perused the details of the latest candidates for his services. They were a couple in their mid-70s. They lived in the Philadelphia suburb of Chesterbrook. The Scotts, Herb and Valerie, had purchased their home back in the 1970s and had it paid off by the early 2000s. Their two children were grown and gone but getting them through college was expensive and the couple had little to live on due to an ill-prepared retirement. The fixed income barely covered food and ever-increasing utilities. After these things were paid for, the constantly rising real estate taxes in the Chesterbrook area had become too much to keep up with. The Scotts were severely behind in tax payments and, despite a second mortgage, they were on the verge of losing the home they had lived in since 1975.
They considered selling, but the tax liens meant that all of the money would go to the bank. They were in final foreclosure and the house was due to go up for auction on September 1st. Their children had given them half-hearted offers to live with them, but Herb and Valerie knew that it wouldn’t work out and they wanted to avoid being a burden in their declining years.
Ernie couldn’t help but notice that many of the ‘clients’ his organization dealt with were in their declining years these days. When they first started their work back in the mid-1980s, it was more about giving people a jump start to realize their potential. Now it seemed to be about helping them survive comfortably in the twilight of their lives. In fact, they were starting to run low on qualified candidates as they began to die out. Ernie guessed that they would have about two or three more years in this business before they completely ran out of candidates.
It was about 8:30 AM and people were starting to file into the restaurant on their way to work. The noise level increased noticeably and Ernie decided he would begin to make his way back to the hotel, pick up the rental car, and take the 40 minute drive northwest to Chesterbrook. Ernie loved his job. It wasn’t really a job, actually. He did it by choice, but every visit to a candidate was as exciting for him as the first. He has a spring in his step as he walked the three blocks to the hotel. He gave the valet his ticket and climbed into the Hyundai Sonata that he had rented. The irony was not lost on him of driving a car made by a Korean company. He was a child during World War II and the Korean War, but now there were so many products in the U.S. from both countries. Times had certainly changed, and so had Ernie.
As Ernie pulled onto the interstate, there was virtually no traffic on his side of the highway. The other side had the last remnants of the morning commute from the suburbs into the city. After he settled in with the flow of traffic he reflected on how much he enjoyed driving. He always had. He had started his working life as a truck driver and after 20+ years in a different career, he went back to driving a truck all around the country. He had bought his own big rig and the cab was decked out to be more of a traveling camper than a truck. He enjoyed the sights and sounds of every state in the U.S. He even rented a rig to drive when he had a client in Hawaii. He had given up the truck five years ago when driving a big rig became too much of a chore for a 77-year-old. He hated to do it, but at least he still got to drive once he flew to a destination. Flying didn’t give him the solitude he wanted, but it was greatly improved when a member of his team presented him with a set of high-end noise cancelling headphones allowing him to tune out the world.
Ernie exited the highway in Chesterbrook and followed the GPS on his phone to the neighborhood where the Scotts lied. GPS was another game changer for him as he used to pull over and go through pages of an atlas to find his way. Now a pleasant, but cold, female voice told him where to go.
Continue reading: Channel 19 | Author Don Massenzio