I thought I would try a writing experiment of sorts. Someone mentioned to me when I said I was having trouble feeling inspired to write, to focus on something different that usual. It would allow me to get back into writing and it would at the same time spark creativity and expand my writing repertoire. I decided to try it with this inspirational fictional short story. It contains some profanity and mature dialog which sensitive readers may find offensive. It is a long read so I split it in sections in case you don’t want to read it all in one go.
In the cold and unforgiving streets stood a young man who knew these streets too well. These same streets Mike had good memories of shooting hoops with his friends were now the same streets he saw misery and heartache wherever he would look. Troubled kids turned gangster turned lifers. Hurting kids turned drop-outs turned addicts. Neglected and unloved kids turned rebellious and promiscuous turned offenders and prostitutes. These were the people in society that society wants to forget about. The ones people look at with harsh eyes and quickly look away, minds filled with judgement. The underclass, The undeserving, The lowest rung of society, trash, and a host of other euphemisms many in society choose to label them as.
Mike stood there because he burned every bridge he had for help, was a heroine addict, and had a rap sheet for burglary, aggravated assault, soliciting a prostitute, D.U.I., disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He hadn’t seen his parents in years. Yeah pretty sad back story there but I not the time for the details. His story is not unlike many we have all heard before when troubled kids fall between the cracks. Most will not even look at him, let alone try to talk to him. Few indeed would actually allow themselves to feel empathy for him. “He made his own choices,” they say, “he only has himself to blame”. Then again this societal rejection has only pushed him further away from society and it is very difficult for him to let anyone in.
You know the inside of a man’s heart and soul. That which takes away the façade of an arrogant and confident man and exposes the confused, unsure, and insecure young man he actually is. By his years a man but in some ways as if he were still a boy. That single tear he quickly wipes away as if something was in his eye when asked about his life; to not show the hurt he has tried to distract himself from with drugs, alcohol, sex, money, and whatever else it took to dull the senses to that which hurts too much to feel. Those man-made and natural highs that soothe away the pain, at least temporarily. That which allows him to see his life before him and in the past and how he needs help out of his seemingly hopeless situation. To let others in would mean them knowing his vulnerabilities, his insecurities, his flaws, his mistakes, his vices. To admit what he has denied. To acknowledge that which he rather not acknowledge. To allow his potential adversaries to see superman’s Achilles heal is kryptonite.
On the other side of the city Richard sat at his executive desk in his very posh office. Smoking a Cuban cigar, wearing a $1,000 dollar suit, and $800 shoes, he leaned back phone in hand and had a conversation with his accountant.
“What do you mean they recently removed some deductions in the tax code? I thought that was not supposed to happen for a while. There raising the rates next year!!! Those greedy Washington bastards trying to “spread the wealth around”. Their giving it to lazy liberals and welfare leeches and parasites feeding off our wealth we created. Well I suppose we should just surrender our wealth and join the new Socialism. You know those 99 percenters bastards protesting downtown. Damn it those folks are truly a disgrace and disgust me. They are jealous because we work hard for a living and are educated, meanwhile they are moochers and so damn ignorant its shameful. Oh you don’t really want to talk politics? Don’t tell me your going soft on me Sam. Okay I will see you at the golf course this weekend good luck.” Richard said before hanging up the phone.
“Mr. Sampson you have a 10 o’clock meeting about the donation to the children’s crises center you have announced in a public interview the company would make,” said Richards secretary as she placed the donation form on his desk. “That is very sweet of you to do so,” she said.
“Sally at the end of the day it’s all about PR. We recently were involved in a lawsuit involving child labor in one of our factories in Bangladesh. Apparently internal E-mails got leaked about our knowledge of the situation and failure to act. We were absolutely vilified in the liberal press. I can’t have people going around thinking we don’t give a crap about poor and abused kids. This is all about saving face. The truth is Sally I would have much preferred to give that money to open up our new factory in Singapore.” Richard said as Sally shook her head and walked away disappointed in her boss.
“Oh Sally I am feeling like one of those awesome sandwiches downtown and like giving my new Bently a spin. I’m always afraid to go downtown with all the low-lifes that hang around there. Afraid I will get mugged or my car stolen you know. Mr. Bellini’s sandwiches are worth the risk though. See you later,” said Richard as he went out the door to the parking lot.
Richard drove down the road past all the luxury apartment suites and into the more downscale apartments until he was in the heart of the inner city where all the low-end apartments were. It was as if he left one world and went to another.
“Yo man, that is a sweet ride you got. How much it cost yo?,” yelled a man to Richard as he parked.
“Why you want to steal it?,” Richard said annoyed at the question.
“Fuck you man. I don’t want to steal your cracker ass car. You think because I’m black I’m a thug huh dawg? Well you best get your ass out of here before someone beats down your old white ass,” the young man shouted.
Richard shook his head, went in, ordered a sandwich, and left. He fearing someone would steal or damage his car. Richard revved up the engine and sped off trying to show off. As he was speeding a young man crossed the street and Richard tried to stop but ran right into him. Richard heart was beating out of his chest as he got out and saw the young man unconscious and bleeding.
“Oh shit I killed the punk,” Richard said as he scrambled for his phone to call the paramedics.
Just then Mike opened his eyes a bit and asked what happened and where he was at. Richard beyond relieved he was alive explained to him he was hit by a car because he wasn’t watching where he was going. The truth though obviously was Richard wasn’t watching where he was driving and speeding. He trying to get himself out of legal trouble though tried to pin the blame on him. Oh crap what if someone saw me speeding and hit him, thought Richard? What if I go to jail? What if my business I worked so hard for is ruined? Not one thought went through his head if the young man was okay or not.
The paramedics arrived and rushed Mike to the hospital. Richard decided to shortly after drive to the hospital as well. Not to check on Mike but to try to bribe the guy or his family not to pursue legal action or a lawsuit.
Richard walked in the door and saw Mike hooked up to all kinds of medical equipment. Mike was sleeping so Richard being on a tight schedule decided to try to shake him awake.
“Hey wakeup guy I need to talk to you,” Richard said
“Dad?” Mike said as he tried to wake up
“No I am not your father. My name is Richard and I am the one that hit you after you walked right out in front of me not watching where you were going. I tried to stop but couldn’t in time,” Richard said
“You’re the one that hit me dawg? Damn I feel like I got hit by a bus for reals,” Mike said as he placed his hand on his head that was hurting.
“No just a Bentley,” Richard said with a quick grin.
“A Bentley? Sick dawg that is a’ight,” Mike said trying but failing to give Richard a high-five.
“What? Sorry I don’t speak street talk. I have no idea what you just said,” Richard said questioningly.
“I said that its wicked you driving a Bentley man,” Mike said.
“Wicked?” Richard said confused.
“Yeah meaning it’s awesome you have a Bentley yo,” Mike said a little annoyed.
“Oh thanks,” Richard said quickly shaking his head and looking away.
“I bet you some rich executive yo and have your own private jet and shit,” Mike said questioning.
Damn it thought Richard I shouldn’t have mentioned the Bentley and wore such a nice suit today with my Rolex.
“I do alright,” Richard said trying to downplay his wealth.
“I bet you got some hot secretaries too right bro? Just keepin it real,” Mike said laughing and again trying to high-five Richard.
“Yeah I guess Sally is pretty,” Richard responded.
“That’s my man. You bangin her dude?” Mike said with a smirk.
“My secretary and I have a professional relationship sir and only a professional relationship,” Richard said offended.
“Professional? Yeah I am sure it is “professional,” Mike said quoting professional.
“Obviously you have never worked in the business world. I could be sued or have my career ruined. I have more important things to worry about than women like meeting with new business clients,” Richard said angrily.
“Oh, so your gay dude?,” Mike said.
“No I am not a homosexual sorry to disappoint you,” Richard said annoyed.
“You sound like a real jerk yo,” Mike said.
“Yeah and you sound like a cocky piece of white trash trying to pretend he is black. Newsflash you are not black and wearing your hat backwards is so 90’s. What you a dealer or something or just an addict two-time loser?,” Richard said then shortly after regretting what he said.
“I may not be rich like you dawg. I may not have a secretary and a pretty boy haircut. I may not drive a cracker car like a Bentley, but you know what dude? I am smart enough to know you came here to pay me off so I won’t sue,” Mike said.
“Is that so? Sorry to disappoint you young man but I am not giving you a dime. Why don’t you work for a living and earn it doing something legit? How about cleaning your life up and going to college?,” Richard said.
“College ha, I ain’t into that cracker ass college and white boy career paths,” Mike said.
“I got news for you bud, your white YO. Besides you don’t have to be white to go to college and get a job. My accountant is black and my cleaning lady is Guatemalan.” Richard said.
“You banging the cleaning lady?,” Mike said smirking.
“No, is that all you think about is sex?,” Richard said.
“No not just about sex, sometimes I think about what if my life could have turned out different?,” Mike said.
“Turned out different? What are you 22? 23? You still have your whole life ahead of you. Look I am sorry what I said earlier, honestly I look down on people from your side of the tracks. Truth is though which I really never talk about I came from those same side of the tracks. My family was dirt poor, my mother used to clean houses, and my father when he wasn’t drunk would take odd jobs. I guess all these years in the legal than corporate fields have hardened me and made me forget where I came from.
I caught my break when my uncle passed away and he left me a large portion of his inheritance being unmarried and having no children of his own. He died in an industrial accident at his factory. I used to work for him during the summer and him and I became quite close. He taught me about every machine there and about all the legal and tax forms he had to fill out. He could be a tyrant at times to his employees and he was anything but a good influence to me growing up but neither was my old man who I rarely saw. The things my uncle let me get away with and all the criminal activity he was involved in could have got him thrown in a jail for a long time. He was though like a father to me albeit a very dysfunctional one. He had a lot of daemons and vices I guess you could say but he took me under his wing and taught me about business and life. At times it seemed I was the only one he trusted and only friend he had. He was an eccentric kind of guy so no one really questioned the situation of his nephew just a kid helping run the company and me hanging around adults rather than kids my own age. Truth is I never really got to be a kid and hang around many so I guess it’s why I turned out the way I did.,” Richard said after seeing some reflection of his younger self in Mike.
“Wow sounds like you had a kind of different childhood yo,” Mike said.
“You have no idea,” Richard said after reflecting back on his unique and troubled upbringing.
“Well I ain’t seen my dad in years last time I saw him he was drugged out on the couch in his underwear watching football. Mom was in the kitchen screaming at him what a loser and deadbeat he was. He finally got up, got dressed, and left never even saying good-bye to me or my mom. He just came in my room as if to check on me one last time and left and I haven’t seen him since yo,” Mike said.
“How old were you?,” asked Richard.
“Seven,” Mike said.
“Tough break kid,” Richard said while wiping away a tear he tried to hold back.
“I’m 19 and been living on these streets for the last few years. Yeah my mom did the best she could but I made her job a lot harder. I didn’t have any siblings yo but I made up for it with my acting out. I tried my first beer and cigarette at 9, my first joint at 11, and I have been an addict ever since. I went from pot, to coke, to heroin but I tried them all I think by now. By the time I was 14 I was always running away from home and hanging out on the streets. Thing is I was really running from myself so it never helped when I did run to better my situation. I did a lot of stupid things and in desperate times did some fucked up things to get my next fix. Time I was 15 I was a full-blown addict, I would do almost anything for my next hit. When I was 16 I am embarrassed to admit I did a favor for some older guy in the bathroom stalls who promised me some drugs. The joker just gave me a 20 and left. I would steal electronics and shit from people in the neighborhood and stores to try to sell for drug money. I even beat up a guy or two and took their wallets when I got desperate enough. Drugs have fucked up my whole life. I been locked up a couple of times and so now am an ex-con. Hell I couldn’t even get a job at McDonald’s. I ain’t been to a doctor in years so who knows what shit I have wrong with me. I ain’t been in school since the 9th grade so I don’t know smart shit and all. I’m just a loser so yeah I understand you hating on me,” Mike said.
“No you’re not a loser just a troubled young man who deserves a shot to try to better his life. By the way I have not got your name yet,” Richard said feeling sorry for him.
Sally was standing in the doorway during the conversation as she drove to the hospital when she got a text from Mr. Sampson (Richard) explaining what had happened and how he was going to the hospital. She smiled then wiped away a few tears, as she knew Mr. Sampson had a heart after-all beneath his hard exterior. Neither one noticed her standing outside the door but she heard everything and now understood a bit more about her boss. She felt especially for Mike as her brother died of an overdose when she was growing up and he had been struggling with addiction for years prior. She could hold back her tears no more and Richard and Mike overheard her.
“Sally what are you doing here?,” asked Richard.
“I came when I heard what had happened and heard you were heading to the hospital,” Sally said while trying to regain her composure.
“Sally this is..,” Richard said wondering his name.
“Mike, everyone calls me Mike. Well my mom used to call me Michael but everyone else calls me Mike,” said Mike.
“Used to? What does your mom call you now?,” asked Sally inquisitively.
“Truth is I haven’t heard from my mom in years,” Mike said with the sadness being apparent in his expression.
“You poor thing,” said Sally “You don’t have anyone to turn to do you?”
“Oh I manage okay. I have had to grow up fast on these streets. Yeah I miss my mom and dad as far as that goes but it is what it is. I have no idea where either one are anymore. Last I heard my mom moved and my father died of a heart attack in prison. I don’t really know any of my relatives and I don’t have any I really can call a friend,” Mike said embarrassed of his situation.
“I can be your friend,” Sally said while putting her hand on his shoulder as Mike smirked.
“Careful with this one Sally. At this age he has one thing on his mind and one thing only. Besides I don’t think he has had his shots yet,” Richard said jokingly as Sally and Mike laughed.
Richard, Mike, and Sally spent the next hour talking and Sally telling Mike about her brother. Any other situation these people from different sides of the city would have never met, let alone had a conversation together. Walls that Richard put up looking down on poor people began to come down and walls Mike had put up with society and rich people began to break apart as well.
“Well Mike I feel very bad about running into you and want you to know I am paying your medical bills,” Richard explained.
“Thanks dawg,” Mike said thinking that was the end of it.
“I also have been looking for a new manager for the factory here. I know you know nothing of managing and don’t want a “cracker” job but I think it would be a good opportunity for you. Besides it pays good and has good benefits,” Richard said.
“I don’t know dawg I am not very responsible and shit,” Mike said.
“Well you’re not going to be until you get off the heroine and off these unforgiving streets. I know that idea scares you and you don’t think it’s possible but it is. You need some structure in your life and responsibilities. You also sorry to embarrass you need a haircut and a shower and some major dental work along with some training of how to speak proper and act right. I’m not talking down to you Mike just saying the truth of what will be required if are able to get a job like this. You have to unlearn the laws of the jungle and learn the laws of the boardroom,” said Richard as Mike looked embarrassed ashamed of his physical state and the way he was.
“I don’t think I can. I don’t think I have what it takes. I have been so low and so poor for so long I wouldn’t be able to handle to be in high places and having money,” Mike said.
“That’s because your scared sweety,” said Sally picking up on the fear in Mike’s voice, “You never had anyone give you a chance before and Mr. Sampson, Richard, is trying to give you that chance. You need to get off these streets before you end up dead somewhere or in prison or something. I know you don’t think you have it in you, hun, but you do I have a strong feeling you do have what it takes. You been through hell and back and any young man who can survive all you been through can survive the corporate world. You can do this, all you have to do is let others and us help you.”
Mike said he would try to and after a couple of weeks was released from the hospital. Richard found a good detox rehab clinic and helped Mike get checked in. Sally found a therapist for Mike. Richard and Sally kept in frequent contact with Mike. When Mike was really having terrible withdrawals from the drugs Richard would visit him to keep him company. Sally would bring Mike food he requested and gave him articles to read of people overcoming difficult situations in life. Mike finally got well enough to get off the drugs and streets for good. Richard gave Mike the funds to rent an apartment while he was getting his life in order. Richard helped Mike pay for college, got him a loan, and gave him a part-time job in the factory to help pay the rest. Mike got his bachelors degree in management and finally got enough experience and training in the factory to become the general manager of the factory. Mike still works there today all thanks to an accident turned into an opportunity and two people who dared to care.
“Hey Richard I can not thank you and Sally enough. Without you running into me literally I don’t know where I would be today. I do know it would not likely be somewhere I wanted to be. I owe you both so much,” Mike said.
“Mike the truth of it is you saved me too. I spent my whole life only caring about myself. You and your situation taught me to care. Truth is I never really had a good friend as no one really liked me. After all I was not a very easy person to get along with, was always negative, and could be a real jerk. You though put up with me and caused me to become a lot more open-minded about people. It made me rethink a lot of things and for once I felt like a decent person who was trying to help someone rather than just a guy out for himself. I donate to charity and good causes today because I want to not for the PR as before. I don’t look down on people like I did before.
Yeah I’m rich Mike as you know but I was a dirt poor rich man. I had all the money any guy could ever want, almost no luxury was out of reach, I could have easily married an actress or a super model if I decided to settle down, I could go anywhere in the world, I could do pretty much whatever in the hell I wanted.
I don’t have a family though Mike, I don’t have friends well other than you and Sally, I don’t have people who love me, I don’t even know how to do my laundry or go grocery shopping for Christ sake because I always had others to do it for me. I haven’t had to work hard a day in my life since I was a teenager. Everything has always come so easy to me I never learned how to really work hard at something. I haven’t seen a movie in years, read a book other than business books, I haven’t taken the time to be active in my community. Hell I didn’t even say hi before when the kid across the street used to wave to me. I was a lonely and miserable man Mike, a dirt poor rich man.
Let me tell you Mike your just starting out on your career path and new life, so don’t get carried away with success. There is plenty of successful people who suck at life where it counts. They think they have it all but they have nothing. Take the time to enjoy life while you can and try to help others enjoy it more along the way. Don’t spend life being miserable or else you will wakeup one day and realize your middle-aged and squandered your life away. Any man who says if he had to do it all over again he would make the same mistakes again is either a fool or just not thinking it through hard enough. Truth is its better to learn from the mistakes of others than having to learn the hard way. Lastly Mike my advice is to worry much more about your investments in life and the people around you then investments in profit. They will pay off dividends far richer than any amount of wealth you could accumulate,” Richard said as he shook Mike’s hand and waved goodbye to Mike for the last time.
You see Richard was sitting in his office one day and had a major stroke. By the time Sally got there Richard was dead. On his desk he earlier that morning had finished the article about Mike’s interview explaining how Richard helped change his life. The fact Sally knew he read that article about Mike, she knew Richard likely died a happy man. Unknown to Sally or Mike, Richard had put in his will that Sally and Mike would takeover as co-owners of the company. He gave half of his wealth to Sally and Mike. The other half though was written on a signed check with pay to the order of left blank with a letter in with it.
If you are reading this I have now kicked the bucket. You know this death stuff is not all its cut out to be. I rather be eating one of Mr. Bellini’s sandwiches then dead but life doesn’t always give you choices. [Mike smiled and wiped his eyes]. I have left this check for you to do all the good you can with it. How you do that good is up to you. You may also keep it for yourself to better yourself and those around you. It is up to you how the money is spent. I want you and Sally to know I loved you, I wish I told you guys when I was alive. You both meant more to me than you probably ever knew. Take care of yourself and never forget where you came from or where you want to go in life.
Your friend, Richard
Mike took Richard’s favorite pen and wrote on the check to pay to the order of an organization that helps homeless youth get off the streets and better their life. Mike then sealed the envelope and gave it to Sally to deliver it in memory of her friend and boss Richard Sampson.
A couple of weeks later Mike was browsing on-line news articles and came across one about the donation containing a photograph of Richard Sampson with Mike and Sally. Underneath it contained a quote from Richard’s last interview shortly before his death. In large font it read:
“When I changed the way I thought about people and the world around me, my whole world changed”
Alan Curtis Montgomery