MAN OVERBOARD

★ ★ ★ ★

A new comic serial about a man, his life and the path of most resistance

‘The End’

By Leif Ecklert

Wednesday and Thursday lasted forever and went by too quickly. Wednesday I went to the local pharmacy and rented every walker, wheelchair, and cane they had. Surprisingly they only had two wheelchairs to rent. I wanted four, but since I had to actually buy the rest I settled on three. Several hundred dollars on my Discover Card. But, the ends would justify the means.

“Can you deliver those to Reverie Leather Thursday afternoon? Make sure you bring them around to the back, not the dock. I need them delivered to the alley entrance.” I gave him the address and drew a little map showing how to reach the alley and told him I would meet him there.

Jumping in my car, I drove to the Hertz out by the airport. “I need a multiple person passenger van, it needs to hold at least nine people, they might be handicapped.”

“OK, we have a van with a wheel chair lift. It costs an extra one hundred and seventy-five a day.”

“OK, they aren’t handicapped,” I said.

“If you can bring in your handicapped window placard we can give you a 75% discount,” he said, typing furiously on a keyboard.

“No, they aren’t handicapped.” I said, hoping everybody and everything would fit.

“OK, that will be two hundred, seventy-seven dollars and ninety-eight cents.” I handed him my Visa card, thinking Natasha was going to kill me, but at least I could live with myself. “I’ll send someone to pick it up Thursday evening.”

Friday came, and I was ready. In my way, not really ready, but not really not ready. I was as ready as possible. I drove over to Metal Mashers, where Natasha had convinced Justin, the owner, and her boss, to let me use the conference room. My rental van was sitting in the parking lot, the cast was assembled, the play could begin.

Wilson Fabrint, the reporter who had kicked over my apple cart and started this whole ugly run for city council was there, with a camera man, and a sound guy.

“This is going to be big,” I told him.

“Yeah, that’s what you said. It has to be better than the kennel show they sent me to cover. Make sure it is big enough to get me out of my Waste Water Plant Improvements section next week. That place stinks,” he said.

“I’ll do my best, man.”

Justine was there, with her husband, in a wheelchair. He didn’t really need to be in a wheelchair, but it would look good on camera. They were only two members of the supporting cast. I had every old timer from Reverie Leather there, every wretched, disheveled, basket-case the original owner had hired just because he was a sucker for a sob story. Over half of them were using walkers, canes or wheelchairs. It was a scene Dickens would have envied.

Half of the room was lined with people who looked as though they had escaped from hospice care. The camera was panning across the old, wrinkled, worried faces, taking in the forlorn, sad eyes. It was perfect.

City Councilperson Jankowski walked in and saw my “refugees” and glared at them, she saw the camera crew and smiled magnanimously, she saw me and grinned victoriously. As she was walking up to me, the plant manager from Reverie Leather walked in from the Executive Suite, where Justin had been keeping him busy. He glowered at everybody, a slow burn as he looked at all the people I had enlisted from Reverie Leather. All the people who were sitting around, not working.

But, he saw council person Jankowski and they instantly smiled, a conspiratorial smile, underhanded, deceitful and exactly what I expected. They had made a deal. In that smile I saw capitalism running out of control, I saw greed smashing and taking. Money doesn’t talk, it stampedes.

But, it was also the smile of victory. My hands started to shake, and I could feel a drop of sweat run down my back. Cold, uncomfortable sweat, scratching and scraping and freezing its way down skin heated by terror and the awful power of hindsight. I looked at them, they had all the cards, they had all the experience, they had every advantage. I was fighting above my weight. I wished I had told Natasha my plan. She could have talked me out of it. Now, there was no way out, except crushing defeat and humiliation. In for a penny, in for a pound.

I took the mic in my moist, shaking hands, almost wishing it would electrocute me. It didn’t.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Councilperson Jankowski for coming. We have fought a good fight, and she has been a noble opponent. Last week, though, after a meeting with the principals at Reverie Leathers I was convinced that I could not continue my run for local office,” I said to the camera.

Ella Jankowski and the plant manager smiled and winked at each other.

“You see, Ms. Jankowski has convinced the owners to continue operations at the legacy location, and keep all of these poor, hardworking souls on the payroll.”

As the camera scanned the faces, the wheel chairs and walkers, the sudden smiles and congratulatory hugs, I talked about the landmark building the rich history of the business, I gushed about the generous investment in technology and training. It was good cinema, and it was all I had. One roll, snake eyes or seven. I was beginning to get nauseous. This was, I realized, as a painful explosion of reality slapped me in the face, a stupid plan. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Plant Manager making a mental note of every face in the crowd. Revenge was coming. I began to hate myself.

Jankowski walked over, took the microphone and said, “I am proud to be a part of this. It is this kind of thing that drove me to public service.” She made a flowery, flowing speech about loving Sandusky, and never giving up on the history or the future. It was a moving, powerful speech about fighting to her death to keep the city and its citizens happy and healthy. And it was adlib, and amazing.

She covered the microphone and whispered in my ear, “How did you know I would sell you out?”

“You’re a person, that’s what people do,” I said

“You didn’t.”

“I’m still just a novice. One day, maybe, I’ll learn.”

“It won’t make any difference, they are still going to move the company, probably. And if they do nobody will blame me. I can use this to get elected next time. And you will get fired. Why? You could have saved yourself.”

“I don’t know. I had to try.”

She kissed me, on the lips, a long, lingering kiss, and grabbed my butt. “Explain that to your wife,” she smiled, the happy smile of a person taking a victory lap.

“If she’s still talking to me I’ll try.”

The plant manager stormed over to me, his steely grey eyes blazing with an internal fury. I thought he was going to throw me to the floor, stomp the life out of me. He said low, ominously, “You can’t stop this…” His phone rang, and he looked at the screen, froze, turned away and answered softly, I couldn’t hear what he said.

When he turned back he was smiling. His eyes were bright, cheery, it was a remarkable transformation. He was even more terrifying.

“That was the Chairman he was watching it live online. He said the board was so happy with the potential publicity of employing all of these handicapped losers they were promoting me to Division President. A huge step.”

He kissed me, right on the lips, a long lingering kiss. “Explain that to your wife.” He smiled, it was a happy, wealthy smile.

“They were filming Ethel, from the die room. She stood up from her wheelchair and started dancing. I had no idea she was so limber. So, I’m off the hook. I guess,” I said, wiping my mouth.

“Well, this is such a big raise I guess I owed you.” He laughed.

“Let’s call it even,”  I said.

“OK, see you tomorrow, Lyle,” he said, walking away.

“It’s Leif,” I said, but he was gone, and didn’t care anyway.

When I walked in the door at home Natasha was waiting for me with a frosty mug filled with cold beer.

“Looks like you had a full day,” she said, and hugged me. “You’re shaking.”

“Battle not with monsters, you know?” I said. “It got a little weird.”

“I watched,” She said.

“You saw the kiss?”

“I did, but Justin was listening on the intercom. If I told him once I told him thousand times that is not ethical. But, he is like you, he hears what he wants. And he is like you, sometimes I am glad neither of you listen. But, only sometimes.  I’ll fix you dinner,” she said.

“No, let me fix you dinner. How about bacon and eggs? For some reason I can’t stop thinking about breakfast.”

* * *

Note from the writer: thank you for letting me share my story with you. It has been a true pleasure. If you are wondering how I managed the transformation from small-town boy to a modern-day Saint George the Dragon Slayer I will be happy to tell you. But, you’ll have to buy the book.

Leif Ecklert chased success from Iowa to Ohio. He found glory managing a small department in a small production facility owned by a huge corporation. Married to the woman of his dreams, father of two sons, and firmly entrenched in the middle of the road.

DEAR READER

At The Wild Word we are proud to present some of the best online writing around, as well as being a platform for new and emerging writers and artists.

If you have read the work in The Wild Word and like what we do, please put something in our tip jar.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!