Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)
TITLE: Prosperity Is In the Eye of the Beholder
By Steve Uppendahl
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Fast forward through bulging burgers, seasoned steak fries, alcoholic drinks with nifty names, and insincere conversation. Followed by an evening of nameless passion with a beautiful shallow woman whom I might call again if the mood strikes.
I work for an ethically challenged, yet highly effective law firm. I have an exorbitant salary. I have a beautiful house, a high end BMW, I’m good looking, and I date an average of three times a week. I live a prosperous life. Ask anyone.
I choose Olive’s Pit for dates for multiple reasons. It’s a popular place with over priced food and drinks. Women tend to trust a man more if he’s willing to spend some money on her. My apartment is almost thirty miles away; odds are my date’s home will be closer. Meaning most times, if we want to “go back to my place”, the place in question is hers. Which in turn, leads to me making up a plausible excuse to go home whenever I want to. The perfect plan.
Only things aren’t so perfect anymore. Last night should’ve been great. For most men, it would’ve been a dream. But, there was nothing new, nothing meaningful. Not surprisingly, most of my adult life I’ve been running from something meaningful, mainly because meaning brings responsibilities and who wants that? Shelby, Sharon, or whatever her name was, was gorgeous, kind and absolutely hollow.
When we were, uh, finished, I actually put off my standard “I’ve got an early morning meeting” routine. I wanted to stay, but I needed a reason to do so. I actually tried to talk with this woman, to see what she was about, to see if there was any hope for…anything, I guess. There wasn’t. There seemed to be nothing to her. You’d think we’d be perfect for each other. That very thought scared the hell out of me. I didn’t even bother with an excuse. I just left. Even worse, I don’t think she minded.
I take today off. I wear jeans and a sweatshirt. I stroll through the park for hours watching mothers with strollers, joggers with dogs, even a couple having a romantic picnic. Normally, I’d be sickened by such sugar-coated material. Instead I felt something else, longing, envy? I was even mesmerized by a homeless man feeding half his sandwich to a flock of pigeons. Smiling the whole time, he chattered with them as if talking with a group of war buddies.
Walking towards a blind corner I hear yelling and a muffled, yet steady voice.
“Shut up! I want it all, wallet, rings, watches, all of it.”
“Fine, you can have them. Just promise you won’t hurt my family.”
Blindly, I pull out my cell phone and call 911. After the call, impatience and fear curdle in my stomach like sour milk.
“I’m not asking again.”
“Neither am I.”
What is he thinking? Give it up, man. Toss him the goods and walk away.
“You can have whatever you want, but I want your word you will leave my wife and kids unharmed.”
“William! Do what he says.”
“What about you, Dad? Please, Mister. Don’t hurt my dad.”
“What? What’s wrong with you people? Just give--fine. I promise. Now hand it over.”
Silence. Then running footsteps. More silence. Not good. Hearing sirens at long last, I ease around the corner. I stand in awe. Expecting blood and crying, I get neither. There are four of them, father, mother, and two boys in a circle hugging and sobbing. The father leads them in a prayer of thanks. They must be joking.
Later, I wonder. Is there anyone I would risk my life for, or vice versa? Not even close. I come to a disturbing realization. Despite all that I have, all my so-called riches, none of it is truly valuable. Everyone I saw today is richer than me. I have no one. I lead an empty life. Ask anyone. If you can.
Maybe I should do the asking. I grab my long forgotten Bible and begin to read.
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