Charles slipped his wheelchair through the entrance of McHaney's Grill. He waved to the waitress, "Good morning Amy," then settled in behind a choice table. The nimble waitress made her way through the lunch crowd and placed a glass of water within his reach.
"Would you like the usual Charlie?"
Before he could answer, two men entered the restaurant. One wore a suit and tie, the other a comfortable sport coat. An uncomfortable exchange of nods occurred between Charles and the man in the suit.
"Amy, why don't you surprise me today." He pushed the menu to the far end of the table and sipped at his beverage. "Okay Charlie." She dashed across the room to help seat the two new arrivals. They took their seats and Amy scribbled their drink order. The man in the sport coat spoke, "You recognize that man?"
Amy returned to their table with two full glasses. Milam drew in a gulp of warm herbal tea, "I do Greg. His name is Charles Hickam."
"If you two are acquainted, why don't we join him?"
Tea nearly spewed from Milam's nose and his glass hit the table with a thud. "No Greg. That guy's in a rut and isn't too sociable these days. It's understandable but I don't think we need to bother him today. I'd like to continue our conversation regarding Wilhelm Properties."
"We'll get to that. Tell me about this Charles fellow? He seems fit and able. I mean, I see that he's in a wheelchair, but it looks like he's been at it for a while. What's got him down?"
Milam let out a dejected sigh but regained control of his tongue, "Hickam was the man I hand-picked to lead the 2002 Mount McKinley expedition."
"Isn't that the trek you financed but were forced to cancel at the last minute? I heard you lost quite a bundle on that venture."
Milam nodded, his hand tightly wrapped around the glass of tea, "That's the one. You see, Charles was a professional climber and for years dreamed of leading an expedition. He administered the project like a champion. The night before he was scheduled to travel and meet the team, he took his family out for a celebratory supper. On their way home a drunk driver crossed into their lane and slammed their Explorer head-on." Milam gulped down the reminder of his cooling tea. "The guy lost his wife, son and both legs all in a matter of seconds."
Greg's eyes saddened, "That's certainly enough to drive anyone to despair. I'm surprised he's come this far in such a short time. He seems pretty happy."
"I suppose he is. The story is that while he was going through physical therapy he meant some Christian doctor. You know the type, Jesus this and Jesus that. Anyway, Charles started going to Church and 'found Jesus.' Pretty typical for a man in his condition I suppose."
Greg looked up from his menu, "What do you mean? I know many Christians who haven't gone through what he's had to endure."
"That's probably true but it always seems like a crutch to me, no pun intended. I've been pretty successful in this life without having to rely on some supernatural power. Enough about Charles though, I'd like to know where you'd like to fit into the Wilhelm project."
Just then their waitress reappeared at their table, "What can I get for you today gentlemen?"
Greg read the nametag on her dark green polo shirt, "Actually Amy, I've decided to skip lunch today." He placed the menu down then stood to leave. "Milam, I don't think there's a place for me in Wilhelm."
Milam tried to stand to block Greg's exit. Instead he tripped and knocked the empty glass to the floor.
Except for Charles, the sound of shattering glass went unnoticed. He looked up and saw the man in the sport coat walk toward him. His outstretched hand held a business card. "Good afternoon Mr. Hickam, my name is Greg Adams." Charles retrieved the card then glanced at Milam who was furiously walking out the door.
"My company recently broke ground on an adventure camp for disabled children. We're in the process of looking for a director and I've heard great things about you. No need to answer today but I'd be honored if you would give me a call."
Charles looked at the card and noticed a small fish printed in the corner.
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