“It happens that way sometimes. When all is going well and the world, it seems, is at your command and then, Wham! It all falls apart.”
Erika James looked at Edgar as if he would understand. Edgar replied with an expression of sympathy. There was no real remorse on his part; at least not for Erika.
He cleaned out his space, dumping most of his meager belongings into a small cardboard box. As he left the office he turned to capture a parting glance of his boss — former boss. She was sitting behind her mahogany desk immersed in a phone call, making a deal. He didn’t care. Not any longer.
Edgar turned the key, heard the whine of his Volkswagen sputter to life and flipped on the heater; then the radio. He turned it off. He was in no mood for music. He took a moment to wipe the lens of his thick glasses with his shirt before pulling out of his space at the far end of he parking lot, then pushed the button to secure the door locks.
The drive back to his apartment was uneventful and, for his part, Edgar felt numb. Getting fired was becoming routine.
Jostling with city traffic was always a challenge. Today it was a place to lose himself; a small part of a steady stream of steel flowing along an asphalt riverbed.
He wondered how he would pay his rent, then why Erika was successful; why he was not. Evolution, he decided, after seeing a decal on the back of a minivan. It was an image of a fish with feet wrapped around the name, “Darwin.” He was on the losing end of random chance; a victim of natural selection. He pondered his place in the scheme of things, then concluded that he had no place. He was a mistake; a waste of space.
His cell phone rang. He flipped it opened, recognized his mother’s phone number and decided not to answer. Come to think of it, he decided, “I just don’t care about anything.”
Edgar jammed his breaks and sighed in relief. He nearly rear-ended the bus. Traffic was stopped. The familiar aroma of diesel fuel permeated his little car. He clicked on the radio. Again. Happy Hal was selling furniture with no payments until July. Edgar paid little mind. He just sat back and considered the image of the familiar man staring from his reflection in a large store-front window.
In a melancholy moment of morose, he finally admitted what everyone else always knew. “I’m just a waste of space.” This time he spoke the words aloud. He rested his head, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
“Do you feel as though you are a waste of space?” The voice of Happy Hal on the radio arrested his attention. At first he was startled, then amused. What are the chances, he thought, staring at the dashboard.
He closed his eyes again.
The deep baritone voice continued, “Yes, my friend. You see yourself as a loser. But have you considered that you are your own worst enemy?”
“The world hates me,” Edgar muttered with eyes still closed. “I’ve never hurt anybody and they treat me like . . .”
“Oh, yeah!” the voice said. “What about your mother. You hung up on her. How do you think that made her feel?”
“I didn’t hang up on her. I just didn’t take the . . . “
Edgar opened his eyes wide. Someone’s playing a joke. He was sure of it. How were they doing it? he wondered.
“You’re right about one thing, Edgar,” the radio said. “You are taking up space. So why not make the best use of it?”
“Okay! Who are you? Where are you? How are you doing this?” Edgar smirked. The voice ignored him.
“Be responsible for yourself, Edgar. Gotta problem? Look for the solution! When life throws you a hardball, don’t duck. Swing!”
The sound of a fireman’s axe crashing through the passenger window caused Edgar to stir out of his groggy haze. But only for a moment. An ambulance paused nearby, it’s lights flashing. A police cruiser sat behind Edgar’s Volkswagen. The officer was directing traffic. Paramedics pulled him from his car and laid him on a stretcher. An oxygen mask was strapped to his face. Someone noted the fumes could have killed him.
A fireman thumbed through Edgar’s wallet.
“Make space for Edgar Smith!” he called as they loaded him into the ambulance.
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