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The Check

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He had always had his mind set to becoming a millionaire. The media, the celebrities, the sports stars, they all shared one thing that made their lives so irresistible: money. Cars, clothes, houses, and parties were what he dreamed his life to be. Money provided this, so he was determined in attaining it. He had learned education led to money, so he worked hard in his scholar years for the opportunity to go to college and earn the career that would provide for his “high life”. It was not easy, though. He had to step on, cheat, and lie to a lot of people to get what he most desired. He received his degree, and managed to work his way up to a high position in a large company. He was young and had loads of money, so he used it for his own benefit, partying in fancy cars with wealthy snobbiness, always wanting more. At work he would make sure he stood out among other employees, always thinking about the next raise or the next promotion which would lead him to more and more money. And if it meant sabotaging other people’s work and cheating his way in, then it was by all means necessary. There was nothing that was going to come in his way of living the life he had dreamed of since he had been a kid.

So one day, after returning home from work, he discovered a peculiar object next to the door of his luxurious car. He found a check. He bent over to have a better look and discovered it was written in his name from the company where he worked in. It seemed to be the pay for the promotion he had been striving for: a corporate position in the company. He thought for a moment if it was phony, but he recognized the corporate seal and the signature of the executive responsible for wages. It was a huge amount of money, almost twice of what he was earning in his already high paying job. He pondered for a moment why the check would be all alone and signed if he had not earned the position yet. It all seemed very strange, but of course he wanted that type of money and he did not care if it was going to be paid in advance or by accident. As he reached over to pick up the check, however, it moved. It must have been the wind. He repeated his attempt to retrieve it when somehow it moved again, and again for a third and fourth time. He was starting to get frustrated when he noticed that the check had led him to the street, where he then noticed the check was somehow tied to a rope. Someone was pulling on his check. But he was determined to attain his money, so he kept on following the check. How could he let go of the opportunity of getting an early and considerable raise? But he would continue to follow the check and it would still keep on moving, as far as to the exit of his community and onto the main road. How far could the rope be going for then? How come the check did not stop moving? He started running and the check kept on mimicking his speed, pulling away at the same rate of his pace. He later stopped running when he noticed the check had led him to the entrance of the downtown city region of where he lived. The check had managed to travel that far? It had to be a trick; it was becoming almost a nuisance to him. But for the amount of money the check offered, the chase had to be worth it.

Now clearly the downtown area is not exactly the best place to be running around chasing a big check tied to a rope, but it did not seem like anyone was noticing his adventure for the runaway check. At that moment, it made a sharp turn into a dark, desolate alley. He hesitated for a moment at the view of such an obscure place, but found the courage to enter the alley. Although it was dark, the check was faintly visible enough to follow. At the exit of the alley lied the rundown area of the town, a notorious spot for bums and homeless people. Now he really had to rethink his chase, it was a very dangerous area. A man like himself is robbed many times a day. But the check was worth the danger and the trouble. As he turned the corner, he suddenly spots one of the bums holding the check.

“Hey! You let go of that. That check is mine!” said the man, irritated by how a bum had managed to grab his check that easily.

“That’s a lot of money man. You mind sharing?” whispered the bum weakly.

To this day, the man had never paid attention to bums. Even on his good days. So imagine at that moment, as exasperated as he was. “I would never share that, especially not with you!”

“C’mon man I have cancer. I haven’t been able to get the money for the medication. I know you can help me just find it in your heart to gimme some.”

“I said no you bum! Just give me my damn check!”

“If that’s the way it is going to be, then fine.” As the bum said this he let go of the check and it scurried along rapidly in its usual pace. The man could not believe he had lost it again. He flicked the bum off for his carelessness and continued running until he exited that shabby area of town. The check then led him to a small shopping plaza where, from a distance, he noticed a man dressed in all black stalking a woman on her way to her car. The expected happened. The thief pounced on the defenseless woman, aiming for her purse, right as the man was passing by with his famous check. The lady noticed him and yelled “Help! Help!” and he considered assisting her for a moment. The check then started picking up more speed; if the man hesitated to save the woman, he would lose the check. In the lady’s moment of despair, the man just said “I’m sorry! But I can’t stop, I’m in a hurry!” The lady was shocked in disbelief and disgust. The thief then took out a knife, seeing the lady was putting too much of a struggle, and stabbed her in the back. The lady screamed in agony, let go of her purse and watched how the thief ran off with his prize. The man was petrified, and he hesitated for a moment as he noticed the woman was now seriously injured, but he decided to keep chasing the check. The lady, soaked in her own blood, yelled “If that’s how it’s going to be, then fine!” The man then remembered that was the exact phrase the bum had said when he let go of the check. But the check was already significantly away from him, so he decided to run to catch up to it. He found it heading in the direction of a nearby park.

As he followed through the park, he heard a soft, wailing sound. He was walking now calmly because the check was going in a steady, easy pace. He followed the noise to a tree where he found a teenage boy crying under its branches. The man was about to pass by like if nothing, when he noticed the boy was in the process of cutting his wrists with a small pocketknife. Alarmed by this, the man yelled “Oh my God, what are you doing kid? Don’t do that!”

The boy, startled, screamed “Who’s there? Get away from me!”

“No stop! Why would you want to do this?”

“I hate life! Everyone treats me like if I don’t exist, nobody understands me, no one cares about me! Everyone has so many expectations, I can’t take it anymore!”

“But look, that’s no reason to…” The man was really compelled to help the boy out until he glanced over and saw that the check had once again started moving faster. He frantically then started running after it; he was not going to let it pick up too much distance.

“Where are you going?” the boy shouted. “I thought you were going to help me!”

“I have to go! I’m sorry, I have something very important to do. Just, don’t do it!”

“What the he**? I thought you were going to help me! Whatever, just leave then! If that’s how it’s going to be, then fine. You, or my parents, or anybody else will never, ever see me again!” The boy started sobbing as he dug the knife into his wrists, screaming in pain has blood started to gush out. The man only turned slightly to look back, regretting leaving the kid by himself in his time of anguish. But he could not allow the check to get away. But he did start thinking about what the boy said. “If that’s how it’s going to be, then fine.” The bum, the lady in the parking lot, the kid…they had all repeated the same phrase. This has definitely been a strange night.

As he was saying this, he noticed the check was leading him to the outskirts of town. He was now tired and hungry, exhausted from chasing the check through the entire city. It had led him so far, and he was beginning to think it was no longer worth chasing.

Just as he was about to give up, the check stopped its movement at the top of a hill. The hill was grassy with one great tree at its peak. This small ray of hope suddenly sparked a surge of energy in the man, so he bolted toward the check, believing he had finally found the source of his misadventure. Suddenly, three men tackled him to the ground and held him tight in an immovable lock.

The man immediately yelled “What the he**…agh, get off me!”

An old man suddenly appeared from behind the tree holding the check in one hand, and the noose which had carried the check so far in the other.

“You, sir, have been living the life of the modern-day human being. A selfish and materialistic human being who worries about meaningless objects which do not last. You have chased riches all your life, and you given all your effort in attaining them. Yet you sabotaged so many people to reach your goal…seems unfair no? Even with this check, you continue to chase things so meaningless, taking for granted that there are other people with problems more important than your own.”

“What are you talking about old man? Give me my check, damn it, and let me go!”

“You still do not understand?”

“What am I supposed to understand? What’s going on? Who the hell are you?!”

“Listen. This whole evening you have chased a check, with money that you have not earned. You have watched people suffer, ignoring their needs, thinking only about yourself and this money. Doesn’t this remind you of your life? Chasing riches, acquiring them unjustly, ignoring others’ needs just to supply your own. In this one night you have lived your entire, wasted, meaningless life. Sooner or later you’re going to die and you won’t be able to keep your earnings.

“Alright, so? It’s my life and it’s none of your business.”

“Three people this evening went through serious problems. You could have helped each and every single one of them survive to see tomorrow, but your lust for money did not allow it. On this day, you are responsible for the deaths of three human beings, just like you, with needs, but much more important than your own. And because of your actions, or more like inactions, you shall die with them.”

“What? This must be a joke right?”

“It is no joke, son. You are as heartless and as criminal as any murderer. You deserve what has befallen these people. You had your chances for redemption, but you failed this test of character. You will be hung from this tree by the same rope that was pulling you and your money to the end. Boys, tie the noose on his head. He had a lifetime to change, and never did.”

“Wait…what no! What are you doing? Stop! The three men quickly tied the noose around the man’s neck and hung him on the tree branch. He cried, begged for mercy, promised to change his life, but to no avail. He died later that night. The check was thrown away and the money the man had attained was donated to charities, since he had no will. Another worker ended up taking that glorious position in the company. The man’s things were simply sold off. Everything he had worked for, was just passed along, like if nothing. Doesn’t seem that important now, does it?



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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

immortal1290 said...
Aug. 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm:
I really liked this. There were no spelling and grammar mistakes, and the plot was very unique. It was very creative :)
 
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Garnet77 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm:
I love this!!! You weaved a great moral into a great story; I was really starting to hate that man.. No grammar mistakes or anything--not that I found anyway. Great story! :)
 
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billgamesh11 said...
Jul. 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm:
Wow!!! That was a really great story!!! My favorite line was "he had a lifetime to change, and he never did." I liked it because you had a really creative idea in the way that you had the main character live his whole life in a day. This was really good for your first story, and I really hope you keep writing!!! Great job!!!:):):);)
 
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eram1029 said...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm:
Thank you so much, that really helps. I like the moral stories so I'll keep that in mind for the future :)
 
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CarrieAnn13This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm:
Great short story!  There weren't any grammar or spelling mistakes, but I felt your piece was lacking something.  Morals of stories should be a bit more subtle, and the moral in this story is very blatant bordering on almost preachy.  Just my opinion, though.  It was still a good short story!
 
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