Difficult Choices

by Howard Faxon

Tags: Ma/Fa, Romantic, Fiction,

Desc: : put yourself in the place of a man given the keys for an account worth over a billion dollars. ethics or greed? libertine or responsibility? A surprise finish. Hopefully, edited version to come soon.

I sat just within the sliding glass doors of my apartment watching the lightning as the energy of the day's 95+degrees thrashed itself across the heavens and earth. I slowly sipped my bourbon and water as the evening's entertainment seemed to reach a crescendo. I noticed that the hair on my arms and head was stirring. My hairs stood straight out from my body "Oh, shit. This doesn't look good..." <CRASH> I woke up obviously in the hospital--no place else goes beep-beep-beep with your heart--I hope. Various and sundry parts of my body ached, were numb or were on fire. I expected that the 'on fire' meant first or second degree burns. I 'hoped' that the numb places were not third degree burns. Despite a terminal case of dry-mouth I returned to sleep. I woke up. someone was poking me with a needle. "What's the matter, honey, every hole filled with some damned thing so you've got to make another?" I heard a metallic crash, followed by several bad words. I was in good form. "That won't get you into heaven but it might get you into the Friar's club." Footsteps rapidly left. Haven't I told you? I was blind as hell.

I pawed around, logically searching for a remote that would summon aid. I found a dongle and started pressing buttons. I heard rubber soled shoes coming my way and smelled a bit of perfume. "Hello, whoever you are. I require a brief description as to my wounds and prognosis. Withholding said information will magically change me into an irascable, belligerent son-of-a-bitch." Said rubber shoes performed a strategic retreat. I cleared my throat and began howling out Cruxshadows' "Winterborn" lyrics as I plucked tubes, needles and things out of me. I eased out the goddamned catheter and heaved it across the room. I felt preternaturally aware of everything I did and all of my body.

I heard the rapid approach of footsteps. I sat up in the hospital bed and pointed towards the last place from which I heard the shoes slap the tile floor. "Who the fuck are you and what's going on?"

I believe I floored whomever it was. It was a long moment before I heard a reply. "I'm Doctor Meadows, the physician assigned to your case. I believe that they should have rather assigned an exorcist."

Well, he thought well on his feet. "Nay, Horatio. A chirurgeon may aid my cause but a priest would doubtless blight me. Now, good doctor, I require a precis of my condition and outlook. Out with it, man!"

Blind as I was, I couldn't see the quick grin on the doctor's face. "Other than a near-fatal case of black bile you've got six paths burned across your corpus by lightning. Your eyes are flash-burned and should respond to treatment within several days. You have blisters across your face, belly, back, groin, calves and feet. You are going to be one uncomfortable son-of-a-bitch for a while, and bored out of your skull until your eyes heal. I advocate meditation."

"What, I can't even jerk off?" "Nope, not without gloving your penis." I shuddered. I knew that gloving meant catastrophic skinning... "Would you please have someone from the local library visit me with a list of books on tape?" "Certainly. It would definitely beat a recitation of a black-metal death chant..." "What, have you no appreciation for the wilder things in life?" "Please, some concepts transcend humor and demand psychiatric intervention."

Arr. He got the last line.

Two weeks of Grisham, Clancy and various other masters of drivel later I was evaluated as able to care for myself. My eyes had recovered nicely. I found myself discharged from the hospital and at wit's end. My skin was healing yet drawing tight in huge scars. I could not return to work as climbing stairs would incapacitate me in short order and my office was on the third floor of a walk-up. Ghastly. I retired with medical benefits and claimed my retirement fund in one big chunk. Yes, I knew that Uncle Sugar would be quite insistent on taxing it come April.

As I perused my programming texts in C and Perl I realized that my understanding had grown by orders of magnitude. Getting zapped by god's own cattle prod seemed to have had its benefits.

Each morning, just before I awoke, I dreamed that I was the judge in a court-room. The dream became more distinct as time went on. Within two weeks I believe I had the gist of it--I had a decision to make. I could either continue as I had done before, in debt-slavery to my Visa card, working day-to-day, never exceeding a nominal sense of well-being, or I could claim a treasure. There was a huge sum--a nearly unimaginable sum--over 1,800,000,000 dollars -- sitting in limbo in a forgotten government account that some now-forgotten project had abandoned along with its buildings, personnel and reason to exit. I could see the access codes plain as day. I even wrote them down.

How would it affect my health? My lifestyle? My interaction with other people? I had few acquainances and fewer friends. My relatives either despised me or ignored me. I felt like a rat in a cage within a vast array of other cages holding other rats. My self-destructive habits had taken their toll, much as a confined rat would bite itself or pull out its hair. My quality of life could go nowhere but down since my forced retirement. I decided that I'd had long enough experiece being scraping-by-poor and the alternative seemed worth living with the disadvantages. Because of the way the funds were set aside I would only pay approximately 15% in federal taxes. I resoved to move to a tax free state before claiming it.

I wanted to live among the mountains. I'd visited the Canadian Rockies as a youth and my impression of their impersonal dignity had never left me.

With a bit of judicious dart throwing I came upon Jackson, Wyoming. The town itself was too kitchy with the ski and vacation crowds, and in general had too damned many people so I delved into the possibility of buying into local ranch or ex-military properties.

I lucked into a property that had just come on the market. It was asub-surface cold-war data relay/repository site in the middle of forty acres.

After changing my residence to the state I bought and moved into a one-story house on the outskirts of town. After waiting a month to let the paperwork settle I claimed the funds. I would need them to pay off the house, fund the purchase of the building site and pay for its renovation.

It was inevitable that within a short period of time I would be found to be a 'person of interest', thus under scrutiny many people and agencies with their hands out, some more belligerent than others. I contacted a large banking institution and signed agreements to employ a money management and investment team to limit my exposure. I was to receive a seven-figure living expense check each year excluding specifically enumerated large expenses to keep me from being terminally fleeced. The accounting was to be audited by a third-party company on a yearly basis to keep my fund managers honest. There seemed to be a standard package which they maintained to prepare a newly 'disgustingly rich' party for living with the lifestyle changes involved without being battered by many problems that could have been foreseen by the initiated. I was told that I was a fool if I ever drove a vehicle again as it would put me at risk of being sued into insolvency. I was informed that it would be truly wise to hire a reputable security consultant that could plan and implement a security system in depth, contact well-known and bonded contractors to make modifications in my residence and vehicles, manage the hiring of security personnel through reputable agencies that performed deep background checks and would manage the security clearances of all staff.

I swallowed that bitter pill, understanding that my responsibilities demanded that many liberties were no longer under my direct control. I kept my head down and acted like Joe Normal. I took out my angst on the firing range. I bought a few firearms and practiced until I was proficient, then practiced some more. A certain amount of supressed anger never left me which showed in my short manner with 'enquiring minds'.

.... There is more of this story ...

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Fiction /