Monday, March 16, 2015

My first short story as an adult: An ode to Kurt Vonnegut

Requiem for a Hero Part I:

The satisfaction the hero felt in carrying out his personal brand of justice was scientifically comparable to the chemical reaction in the brain of an Olympic competitor winning a gold metal in their respective sport. He could, in many scientific circles, be described as an adrenaline junky. He was constantly chasing the natural rush of brain chemicals that came from delivering a quick and satisfying conclusion to the injustices of the world, no matter how minor.

He took great pride in himself and his impeccable morality. He did the right thing even if most people would think the ingression he was correcting was silly at best. One time he used his powers of deduction and reason to locate the owner of a $5 bill that he found windblown against a trash pile in an alley he happen to be in while surveilling an opportunity at getting those brain chemicals he so desperately needed. He had dreamed up a story while he searched for the owner of the cash. In his brain's narrative the person who lost the money was a little old lady on a fixed income who had out lived the rest of her family and the return of the cash would mean the difference between eating enough calories for her frail body to make another week and going hungry, risking escape into the dark abyss of non-existence. The hero imagined the old lady had been given the bill as change while filling a prescription at the local drug store and being too week to place it back into her billfold had opted to try and hold it feebly while still operating her walker and making her way slowly to the bus stop. He could see it clearly in his heroic minds eye that a burst of wind had torn the bill out of the old lady's age weakened hand and it landed neatly on the trash pile in the alley where he had found it.

The reality, as the hero soon found out, was that the owner of the bill was a stock broker who had given the bill to a homeless man holding a cardboard sign with a long and sad story about the various hardships that had befallen him written in black permanent marker. The stock broker hadn't read the sign, he'd simply dropped the bill on the top of the slouching man who had passed out from too much of his drug of choice, a common street drug sold to him by the low level employees of a local crime boss. The stock broker had given the money to the homeless man as a way of feeling slightly better about the large income he drew out of manipulating the worlds economy. He felt instantly better about himself and his place in the world and decided to treat himself to a beer and maybe a ham sandwich at a local pub as a reward for being so selfless. The stock broker had in fact played a small roll in the hardships listed on the homeless man's sign.

The homeless man had a minor mental disorder that was easily treated with prescription medication, but owing to a downsizing at his previous employer, he had been laid off, lost his health benefits and could not afford the medication his malfunctioning brain required. This event sent him into a spiral of self medicating with an addiction to a common street drug that worsened his brain's condition beyond the reach of modern medicine and led to his eventual homelessness. The cheap street drug released, temporarily, some chemicals in the homeless man's brain that made him forget that other brain chemicals where out of balance.The broker knew none of this because, as mentioned, he didn't read the sign the homeless man had propped against his unconscious body.

The downsizing at the homeless man's company had been triggered when the stock broker, seizing an opportunity at a large payday, had sold a very large portion of stock in the company based on a rumor he had heard from a colleague while peeing in an trough urinal at a baseball game. The colleague had told him that the companies earnings would be below market expectations. The large sell off of stock by the broker caused the machinery that actually operated the markets to view this trade as a trigger to sell more stock in the company and several other companies that did similar business. The drastic and sudden drop in the company's stock price triggered a panic in their upper management. The management thought they where doing a great job and in fact where in the process of preparing the annual earnings report that would inform the world that they had done such a great job at managing the company that it would, in spite of rumors to the contrary, be meeting market expectations. That didn't seem to matter to the stock market, and the CEO of the company in a very prudent and decisive move issued an order to downsize the corporate offices to ensure to the stock holders that management was making good use of their money and not wasting it on corporate excesses. None of the upper management where laid off, of course, and the company's stock quickly rebounded with the news of reduction in corporate overhead and solid earnings. They didn't rehire any of the employees that where laid off. They simply found a way to be just as profitable without them.

The bill the stock broker had dropped on the homeless man had simply blown away in one of the cities many and sporadic gusts caused by it's impossibly tall buildings. Neither of the last two owners of the bill had missed it's absence at all but the hero delivered it just the same, after all, it was the right thing to do.

The hero's next brain chemical fix, he hoped, would come from a taking down a local high level crime boss. This was the biggest and riskiest operation he'd ever taken on. It had taken him two years to gather the evidence and plan the villains take down. He could have finished the job six months earlier, but because of his impeccable morality he wanted to make absolute sure that the crime boss would end up, without a doubt, convicted by a jury of the his peers. His evidence was, at this moment, rock solid. There where indisputable pictures, audio recordings and video that was beyond the police's resources to acquire, but our hero, in his relentless determination and need for brain chemicals, had taken the time to prudently and legally amass an iron clad case the police would have in hand upon his single handed apprehension of the villain. He could see the accolades in his head now, the news stories, the adulation, maybe even a parade, and, of course, the sweet flood of endorphins and adrenaline he so desperately required.

The crime boss was an old hat at organized crime. He was handed the business by his father who had built it up from a local street gang in the decades previous. The crime boss had grown up in the crime business and was taught well by his successful criminal father in the day to day workings of such a complex and diversified crime organization. Much like the CEO of the homeless man's former employer, he didn't spend much time dwelling in the mundane day to day dealings of the criminals he employed. His job was to look at trends in the markets of the various criminal enterprises the crime family was involved in. He was very good at his job. There was no one better at crime than him. He would spend endless hours reading newspapers, looking for opportunities for his business in the headlines. He knew people at every company in town, including the homeless man's former employer, that gave him keen insight into how the city actually functioned. He knew every shipping container that could be exploited. How much inventory he could take off of it without making too many problems for himself. The exact amount of drugs and stolen goods he could place on the same ship as it headed towards it's outbound destination.

The crime boss had enough of the politicians and police force on his payroll to make his dealings all but invisible to the outside world. He even knew, in contrast to the CEO of the homeless man's former employer, how to deal with the unfortunate side effects of his criminal business. There was not a man in the city who's lifeless body could not be disposed of with shocking efficiency by employees of the crime boss. The CEO of the homeless man's former employer did not know how to deal with the unfortunate side effects of his business, the massive amounts of industrial waste that his company produced, so he simply ordered it dumped into the local waterways of the city. The crime boss not only knew of the CEO, he had extorted money from him to keep his secrets. The hero knew of the crime bosses connection with politics and law enforcement. He did not know of the CEO's existence or his illegal dumping of hazardous waste into the waterways thanks to the hush money paid to the crime boss by the CEO.

The CEO was completely unaware that he would soon be brought down by the EPA for these violations. The crime boss knew of the EPA's case against the CEO because he informed the police himself in order to keep pressure off his own criminal business. The crime boss was mostly unaware of the hero's plans to bring him to justice. He had heard some rumblings from his underlings of someone snooping around so he had hidden a gun in a pop up compartment in his desk as a precaution. The crime boss did not know about the hero. The hero did not know about the gun.

The hero had rehearsed the speech he would triumphantly deliver to the crime boss upon his apprehension. He knew every word and the exact emphasis he would deliver on each syllable. It would be the culmination of all his life's purpose. He would finally be on the map as true hero of the people. He revelled in the anticipation of his moment in the sun. He craved the release of chemicals that this event would release into his brain.

The indisputable evidence that was the fruit of the hero's two years of near obsessive work was all ready in the police stations mailbox as well as the mailbox of a local investigative reporter who also was working on writing the story that would make his career. The story of a crime family that ran the city . The reporter just lacked the evidence, that was now sitting in his mailbox thanks to the hero, to pull everything together.

The hero made his way undetected through the building where the crime boss ran his enterprise. He knew every security measure in the building, except for the gun in the crime boss's desk. He burst through the door of the crime boss's office and, having trapped his quarry and entered so elegantly undetected, began his well rehearsed speech. "Your time as a cancer on the underbelly of this city...." his voice was stopped abruptly by a bullet that burst out of the back of the his skull. The hero's brain had been distracted by the anticipation of the chemicals it so desperately desired that it did not react at all to the crime boss triggering of the hidden compartments release mechanism with his foot, his surprising speed at grabbing and discharging the gun and the accuracy of the his shot. The organ that the hero had hoped would release the chemicals he so desperately desired into his brain where now spread across the back wall of the crime bosses office. The hero made his escape into the dark abyss of non-existence.

The crime boss called over an intercom to his secretary and asked for her to get the employees who dealt with this sort of thing to come up and do their job. The crime boss had an important meeting with the chief of police in two hours and felt it a minor inconvenience to have to explain the mess. He also asked her to order him a ham sandwich from the local pub that was two doors down from the office. The crime boss really loved those sandwiches.
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