The cost of success

January 10, 2012
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
John wasn’t walking down the street the way people normally walk down the street. He was walking the way a dead man wouldn’t: jauntily and with a hop in his step. He smiled to everybody who he passed, white teeth grinning out at the townsfolk. They smiled back, enchanted by his cheeriness, lured by his success. His yellow tie hung over his crisp white shirt.

He turned the corner, waved hello to the Mrs. Johnson and her children they passed by, and continued down the street. He was not thinking about bad things the way the whole town was not thinking bad thoughts on this bright and cheery morning. He continued on towards the grocery store, his shadow stretched behind him on the white sidewalk.

The bells didn’t jingle as he opened the door because there were no bells hanging from the door. Instead, an electronic chiming echoed from within as the automatic doors swished open. He strolled into the store, still smiling his white smile as he waved to the cashier. His shoes squeaked against the white tiles as he walked down the isles, filling his basket with various foods, a few bananas piled on top of cans of corn and cauliflower, boxes of cornstarch and cereal and flour, a jug of milk. He found a stack of shiny red apples, grabbed one and rubbed it against his shirt, and took a deep sniff. He frowned at the strong scent that he didn’t smell, and put the apple back. He went to the cashier, chatting idly as he swiped a shiny black credit card through the grey scanner, and continued out the door with his groceries now wrapped in a plastic bag.

He walked down the street to the corner. He stopped as a shiny black car rolled by, then crossed the street and walked into the small doctors office. He greeted the secretary and opened a frosted glass door that read “John D. Smith, M.D.” He stashed his groceries underneath the industrial steel desk and pulled out a pile of paperwork. The digital clock on his desk didn’t slowly tick away the time. The blinds were drawn, the stark white walls and linoleum floor illuminated by a glaring white fluorescent light that had automatically clicked on when he entered.

He worked throughout the day, smiling to his patients when they entered, explaining to them what exactly they had done to their bodies this time, wrapping them with white bandages, prescribing little yellow pills to them, handing prescriptions scrawled in black pen on a white scrap of paper. He assured everybody that they would be just fine, didn’t talk about the important things, didn’t tell them they were going to die the way everybody will, and they in turn wrote him checks for every imaginary death he prevented while ignoring the only real one.

After work he continued home, dropping by the large black bank to deposit the new pile of checks he had accumulated today. He hailed a yellow taxi, the only one in town, and traded small talk with the cabbie as he drove home. He could see his house before he got there, separated from all the other grey suburban houses by the bright yellow back hoe in his back yard. He climbed out of the taxi with his groceries and walked around to the back of the house to see how it was coming. His shoes didn’t leave tracks in the grass he didn’t walk on, using the grey stepping stone path that had been installed for just such an occasion.

He found his backyard reduced to piles of dirt that surrounded a large hole where the swimming pool was going to do. He had ordered the swimming pool because he already had a new dishwasher, a shiny stove, a wife and two children, a white picket fence along his front lawn, and because he worked all day to earn money, and people were supposed to spend the money they earned. As he watched the construction continuing, he looked down into the hole. Something caught his eye then, so out of place it looked alien, like a foreign species had left it. A single wild red rose grew out of the dirt in the bottom, it’s petals half opened, looking like a coy maiden hiding behind her hair. John was entranced with it. It’s green stem came up from the ground, strong and straight. He remembered the green of the Christmas trees his family would cut down every year when he was a child, the green blanket he slept under in college, the twinkling green of his wife’s eyes. He thought of the conversations he had shared while looking into those eyes, thought of her cheeks flushing red when he had presented her with a sparkling blue diamond.

The thorns on the rose protruded erratically, climbing up the stem like notes on a bar of music. John thought of the old guitar he had, bright pink, a leftover of his wild college band. It was stuffed away somewhere in the garage, and John decided to pull it out later, maybe teach his son Jack how to play it a little bit. AS he continued to look at the rose, he felt empty in comparison, wondered what he had done today, yesterday, every day for the past 25 years. Wondered where his dreams of being an astronaut, a firefighter, an artist had disappeared to. He felt as if something big was bearing down on him, like he was just beginning to waken from a long sleep, to peel open his crusty eyes. He heard shouting in the background, wondered if it was his childhood shouting at him for giving up, and then 2 tons of concrete began to pour into the bottom of the pool, crushing the delicate rose under a wall of heavy grey concrete.

John blinked for a second, then looked down and realized he had gotten mud on his new, black leather shoes. He walked inside disgustedly, leaving his shoes at the door, walking across the white carpet in his black socks, and deposited the groceries on the granite countertop. He called out a meaningless greeting to his wife, then went to his office, whistling as he walked. As he sat down in his chair, he felt something trickling down his face. He wiped away a spot of water from his check, momentarily confused, then dismissed it as he dove into the world of home finances and mortgages. His mouth smiled as he worked, the same way that his eyes didn’t.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback