book three: "reward"

 

     “Wooesh,” said the wind. 

      It tugged and twirled all around his body, exhilarating every pore. Although a multitude of images and ideas were ferociously careening through his head, Mr. Dunderton felt more lucid and perceptive now than ever before. He seemed to be taking in everything around him and was able to process what they were and what their purpose was. Dunderton could only dream of such clarity in his daily life. This was amazing! He felt like that word he heard many years ago, the one he had taken no second notice of. On any given day, Dunderton could not tell you that word. Any other given day he would tell you to go away. Today, Dunderton would say that word was enlightened. 

     Coexisting at this same moment of temporal oneness with all, and all with one, was the electrical overload of impulses surging passionately in his head. The jumble of mental activity buzzing and popping, popping and buzzing, began to focus into recognizable form. Not all the images, of course, but every third or fourth one. First, there was Gwen; grinning ridiculously with her freshly darkened hair tussled from sleep. In her eyes shone the light of comfortable comradary; the special brightness that intimacy affords those fortunate enough to be in love. Then his brother, tearing ecstatically through the silver package and golden ribbons towards the coveted prize within, letting out exclamations of excitement and satisfaction. The joy radiating off his face reflected the tranquility and peace of the rest of his family around the tree. 

     Now, yesterday morning was playing in his head. Not the whole morning exactly, just the seemingly insignificant discovery of the tote bag. The girl that had turned it in had done so reluctantly. It was obvious that she could certainly use it as an accessory to her greatly impoverished closet. Her closet was starving, she pleaded with her eyes. Such American pathos made Dunderton tired. 

    The perils of the privilege is such a pertinent problem in today’s society. What ever are we to do? 

     He sighed 

    “I will take that, Kirstie,” Dunderton sighed. 

    “Ok…” she half turned and then swung back to face him. 

   She was slow to speak and still let her eyes gravitate towards the left side of him and the floor beside. Like a child, she began to formulate her desires in a way that she thought would gain her victory. 

    “I actually found that when I got here. It… it was here when I got here today. It must have been from last night…” 

    A smile began to grow on her face, as she herself became convinced of this logic. 

   “Yea, in fact…” she stopped mid thought and the smile died. 

   Dunderton was utilizing his best managerial technique and she was caught in his clutches. He cocked his head oddly, slightly to the left yet pointed it down enough so that his eyes peered out over his round spectacles. 

   The eyes said no. The eyes said stop. But most of all, the eyes said go away. 

   In order to enforce this latter point, Dunderton crossed his arms, slowly and deliberately across his skinny chest. His manager polo wrinkled ever so slightly under this gesture. 

   “Back to work boss”, she squeaked, and then was gone. 

  If this world allowed for physical manifestations of cartoon humor, a cloud of smoke would accompany this, perhaps the sound of a passing high speed jet as well. Dunderton let a smile visit his face and sat the tote on his desk. He sighed again, heavy and heartily, and sank back into his routine. He pulled up the emails and started his descent into customer complaints and corporate suggestions. Days like this he used to question his motivation, but not anymore. No feelings one way or the other, just there, existence for the sake of existing. 

  “Ugh,” he said to no one. 

Then the tote bag shrieked like a monkey. 

   Not a USA bred, maintained and contained zoo animal, the kind willing to let mankind know exactly what they think of the system by hurling excrement. No, this was the call of a monkey who did not know any better; the naïve, ignorant call of the wild. Immediately after the shriek, the tote bag farted. The low vibratory cadence hummed like a drill on virgin wood. Then the howl again, primitive and cruel, giving Dunderton a nice dosage of chills on his spine. 

The tote bag was now alternating monkey shrieks and wood farts. 

   Dunderton put up with this assault on his auditory senses only long enough to realize that the owner of the tote was calling their cell, which they had also left behind. The culprit of the debacle was in the tote somewhere. He snatched the bag back up and began looting through it. The noise continued…  

   Didn’t this asshole have voicemail? How can the ringer still be going? 

He continued his search, pushing past eco-friendly lipstick, a little blue book, various writing instruments and such…. and the damn phone continued to ring! 

EEEAAAHH! EEAH! AH AH! 

BRRRRAAAAP! 

   Finally, the strain was too much. It was all over. Dunderton turned the tote on its side with one hand and hauled the bottom end up with the other. The contents cascaded onto the desk and keyboard in violent disarray. There was so much crap in this thing! Ridiculous. 

   “You ok Tim?” called a cook absently. 

    Dunderton did not answer. If he had been paying attention, and that godforsaken phone had not been ringing, he would have reprimanded the man for not addressing him by the proper name of Mr. Dunderton. But, as it was, he continued his pursuit. 

    Finally, his fingers lit upon a gray-green rectangle, smaller than a pack of cigarettes but bigger than most packs of gum. Dunderton sighed with relief and smiled a little. His hands grasped at the base of the phone and he pushed up. Nothing happened. He tried to slide the casing to the side. Still nothing. Sweat began to form on his brow; he could feel it begin to pop up around his closely cropped hairline. He closed his eyes. 

    The phone rang again. 

AhhAH! BRrraAP!! Ah AH… 

    Dunderton brought his fist down on the desk hard causing the tote’s contents to jump and rattle on the surface. He tossed the phone back on the desk defeated. He slunk forward in his chair and put his hand on his face, readying himself for another round with the ringer. Just then, the monkey and the farting stopped. A clicking noise emanated from the phone as it slid in half and erected a small screen from its center. All on its own and all automatically. 

    Dunderton was not impressed. The screen blinked on and a frantic woman looked out of the phone’s screen at Dunderton. 

   “Hello? Hello? ... HUULLO?” said she. 

    Dunderton cleared his throat. 

   “Is there any one there? Hello? Who answered this? Did you steal this?” 

    Dunderton began to speak, “No, I…” 

    “HELLO!?”
 
    “RIGHT HERE MAAM!” Dunderton’s loud bellow caused his cheeks to redden. 

    He was embarrassed until he remembered that she could not see him. He knew that these new phones had to have two parties, both with the phone, in order to see each other. He had read all about it an issue of Modern Day. Ever since the self-implosion of the smart phone industry, and thanks to several acts of lobbying legislation, phones could no longer access their own cameras during calls. They would still record the CALLER of course, they always were recording, but the receiving end had to also have a product manufactured by the cell company in the vicinity. This thought was comfortable, as Dunderton did not own a phone at all anymore.
The others in the back of the store took little notice, not that he would care if they did. They were there to work, not to concern themselves with his affairs. 

    “Have you stolen my bag, you little SHIT,” she demanded 

    “What?” he was genuinely stunned, “Wait, I…” 

    “No you creep! You unbelievable bastard! Do you realize how important that bag is to me? HOW ESSENTIAL!?” 

    “Ma'am let’s take a minute please...” 

    “NO! Screw your minute! You can take your minute and ram it in…” she broke off and then, reluctantly, spoke quieter. 

    “… Did you call me ma'am?” she asked 

Surprised, Dunderton could not find his voice. 

    “Uh, ye...” 

    “DID YOU!?” 

    “YES! YES MAAM! One of my servers found your bag at the table you must have dined at earlier this evening. You see I am the manager at The Blank Slate and I have your possessions for you to pick up at your convenience.”   

     He had to take a moment to breathe. Upon consideration, he was impressed with how well he stuck to the company line. He supposed old dogs might be able to do the twist, or however that saying goes. He waited for her to respond with satisfaction. 

     “… oh. Oh my god, I am so sorry.” 

     “No, no, no…” 

    “Believe me; I really thought someone had taken it….” 

    “No need to apologize ma'am” 

    “… it’s just my things are so essential to what I do...” 

    “It really is fine,” he said, feeling the need to wrap this up. 

    “.. My phone and my papers and my…” 

    “You are perfectly welcome to pick it…” 

    “CAN YOU JUST SHUT UP AND LET ME APOLOGIZE ALREADY!?” 

Click. 

     Silence then. Dunderton sat with his mouth ajar, not knowing what to say or do. He was still contemplating the recent event when the monkey shriek rang out again. Before it could get to the next unholy part of the ring tone, Dunderton reached out and slapped the top of the phone. The ringing stopped and the mechanized ritual repeated. She was back on the screen, this time with kinder eyes and her blonde hair had been straightened a little and put up into a loose pony tail. She was now wearing makeup. 

     “Um,” he said. 

     “Look, I am sorry Mr.…” she began 

     “Dunderton” 

She looked at him as if he was joking. 

     “Dunderton, “she repeated.
     She looked down briefly as if to collect herself, took a deep breath, and then brought her eyes back up to meet where his should be. 

     “Mr. Dunderton, I need my stuff. On another day I might be able to come back for it but…” 

     Dunderton stared at her. 

    “You see I’ve already gotten on the flight. I am en route so often that they just shooed me through security ya know… ha I guess that makes me kind of dangerous... watch out Homeland Security,” 

    A smile touched her lips at her joke. 

   Dunderton crossed his arms unimpressed. What did this crazy woman want? One thing was sure: He was not going to be at a loss for words the next time she started yelling. Nope, the situation that so perplexed him a moment ago was now giving way to aggravation. In fact, Dunderton was just waiting for an excuse. 

Go ahead lady, ask me to ship it. 

First class even. 

I will put a freaking cherry on top. 

    He looked at her knowingly, all the while knowing that she could not see that he knew. She looked around, momentarily lost. He imagined she was ringing her hands together, or fiddling with an old engagement ring; from a relationship now dead, sacrificed to business. He knew her type, even in the restaurant world it happened. People get so wrapped in their working life everything else just goes away, disappearing from the mind long before they actually physically depart. This woman was so wrapped up in her work that she was going to encroach upon him to spend high dollar to send something somewhere. 

    Her eyes fixed upon his again. 

How does she do that without knowing where I am? 

    “I need you to bring it to me. I have arranged a private plane to pick you up at 7:30 in the morning. You will board a plane and bring my bag here to Ontario .” 

    “Um,” he said

    The next morning, today, Dunderton awoke to turbulence on the flight. Nothing major considering that the whole condition was absolutely ridiculous. They were flying in a two seater biplane from the previous century, or some similar time. This “private plane” was a relic that deserved to be nowhere but on the ground. The plan was to utilize her friend’s “air craft” to get him to Minnesota where he would board a flight going directly to her location in Ontario. 

     Dunderton was not impressed. 

      “I just want to make it up to you sir. For being so hateful, I just feel so bad,” she had said. 

      “If you do this for me, I will compensate you with two months of your salary, whatever that may be” 

    Dunderton had chuckled slyly to himself at this; surely she did not realize that he made a decent salary even as just a restaurant manager. Just in case, he had gone up a few figures. 

    “Well, that would be five thousand dollars ma’am.” 

    The woman looked at him. 

     “Done,” she said. 

    Whatever was in that tote must be really worth it. He could not imagine what it could be, as far as he could tell it was all knick knacks and trinkets. Of course the essential feminine needs; monthly hygiene products and the like. Regardless, once he saw the plane he made sure and tied the bag down to the bar next to his seat. 

    When he woke up and gathered his sense, Dunderton asked the pilot their status. He talked directly into the mouthpiece in his helmet. At least something on this plane was not obsolete. At least something utilizing today’s technology was on board. 

   “What’s going on?” 

   “Ah nuthin,” said the pilot. 

    His name was something like Pete or Steve. He couldn’t really distinguish because the man kept stuffing food in his mouth while talking. He had done this the entire flight. 

   “Just keepin’ things light,” and smiled at Dunderton’s reflection. 

   Dunderton began to feel nauseous. So this “pilot” was a thrill seeker. Another of today’s youth not happy enough to just let things be. Always chasing some elusive dream, or similar delusion. Dunderton sighed. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. 

                                                                                                                                           *** 

     The pilot looked in his mirror. He observed the man on board behind him. Dressed in an all out ski coat and wearing a woolen beanie underneath his helmet, Dunderton looked like he was ready to go extreme snowboarding. 

I guess he is going to Canada. 

Don’t he know its summer now? 

      The pilot contemplated this for a while, and then he decided he would try it again and this time it would get the desired reaction. He pulled the wheel to the left sharply and aimed straight up. The plane shot up at an angle and careened down suddenly before righting itself. The pilot turned back, smiling, knowing he would have caused a hilarious reaction out of the man… 

But there was no man. 

Dunderton was nowhere to be found. 

Only the woman’s tote bag remained, strapped to a rod with the seat belt. 

*** 

        Careening down through the air, Dunderton thought at first about screaming. He thought that the only thing one could do in an uncontrollable situation was scream. Just lose it utterly and completely. He opened his mouth but nothing would come out. Air was being forced at him at tremendous amounts of speed as his velocity increased. He knew that. He knew from specials on TV, books, a lecture in college, that you lose consciousness during falls because the pressure of the air is so great. While his rational mind knew this to be true, his heart said different. 

        His heart said that he wasn’t supposed to scream at not being in control. His heart, showing slideshow images of happier times, said he was not supposed to be in control at all. He did not need to be in control of anyone or anything because he was a part of the same puzzle that they were. One with all and all with one. The wind continued to caress him, lulling him towards peace. Dunderton closed his eyes. 

      “Wooesh,” said the wind.

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