By Bob Faszczewski
This damned inventory count took two entire business weeks—would you believe it? Two whole weeks. I think I am totally surrounded by incompetent fools. I have a good mind to fire them all and start over from scratch.
After extracting myself from this den of stupidity I have to claw my way through this insane LA freeway traffic, after stopping at my favorite bar for a quick one to drown out the day of course. Then I exit into my suburban neighborhood.
Oh no! I forgot! It is Halloween night and I will have to stop every two minutes to let the little entitlement-seeking munchkins in their inane and counter-creative costumes cross the streets in front of me.
What’s this? Three of the little brats have the colossal nerve to knock on my car door?
Oh well, getting close to my neighborhood. Maybe they belong to some of my Palmsdale neighbors. Perhaps if I am nice to the little buggers their daddies will throw some business my way.
After all, every financial enterprise needs office supplies, and I might deceive them into taking “a deal” with a couple of fat contracts. I’ll do my best to hide the fact that my discounts really line my pockets, while I build in extra charges to make the bottom lines much higher than those of my competition.
“Hey kids. Tired of walking house to house? If you come with me I’ll supply you with all the goodies you want and you can stop Trick-or-Treating for the rest of the evening. Don’t I know you from Stoneheart Court?”
The urchins get into my car and slam the doors—figures, they’re from new money—no class.
Wait just a minute. These are very weird costumes, even in this wacky age.
Why would any child among the “me-first generation” want to dress up like three charity seekers—Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa?
“Thank you so much. You show us the kindness expected from someone who realizes we all exist on this earth as members of the Brotherhood of Man,” the MLK-lookalike gushes as they clumsily plant their behinds on the Corinthian leather of my newly-purchased Lexus.
“You will store up many credits in the next life for the small token of kindness you bestow on humble servants in this life,” said the Gandhi lookalike.
“The Lord will shower blessings upon you, and you will treasure them way more than the material rewards with which He thus far has caused to rein down upon you,” Mother Teresa’s double said.
“You really play your roles well,” I said. “You must have collected a lot of Halloween goodies if you gave performances like that for the local homeowners.
“Let’s get going, though. I have had a horrendous day slaving away in an office filled with the biggest bunch of dummies in the Western world. You can drop the acts. I already told you I will give you plenty more when we get to my home.”
“You should be more kind to your fellow man,” the MLK clone said. “We all are members of the same human race. As I once said, ‘We need to judge others by the strength of their character rather than the color of their skin.’ In a broader sense this applies to all who inhabit this world with us.”
“I brought those who many thought were the scourges of this earth—totally discarded human beings—to the top of their mountains because I taught them how to stand up for the wonderfulness within,” Gandhi’s stand in said.
“We all are children in God’s kingdom,” the one in the Mother Teresa costume said. “All of us deserve to live our best lives and to be welcomed into our Father’s arms at the end of our earthly existence.”
“Oh come on. The people you impersonate died many years ago. Do you actually expect me to believe that three of the most highly regarded figures in the history of the world somehow surfaced again in this upscale California neighborhood?”
Even if I hadn’t stirred up some alternative universe or had too much to drink, why would three of the most charitable people in history want with me?
“The world today has become too skeptical,” the one in the MLK costume said. “That is why our tickets were punched to come back and teach our lessons again to you as our representative in the 21st century.”
The Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi “clones” nodded in agreement.
“I feel like I am in the middle of a modern version of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol,” I said. “It looks like you somehow conquered the barriers of time to drag me into some realization that I should be treating my employees and everyone around me better. Is this the message you preachers want me to understand?”
“You seem very unhappy sir. Do you really think this attitude brings you even close to the satisfaction you seek? The sooner you learn to recognize the goodness in others the closer you will come to attaining Nirvana in this life or the next,” Gandhi’s doppelganger said.
As strange as it seemed, it looked like I had fallen into some type of time warp and resurrected the spirits of these three great historical figures.
“Okay, I guess you’ve got me. You believe you have rewound the clock and come into the 21st century to teach me a lesson. Say I think you are legit, what do I need to do to send you back where you came from and get my life on the right track?”
“First we will have to wind back the clock of your life to a time before you became so obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder,” MLK said.
“Puff”—a smokescreen obscured my vision and it seemed like a cloud transported me to my childhood.
There I saw myself as a young boy, playing catch with my dad in the backyard of our Midwestern home.
“I remember this. I really loved baseball. Here I’m practicing for my pitching debut in the neighborhood Little League. The love of the game and the fun I had playing it gave me so much enjoyment. I didn’t even care if I won one game. Being with my friends and coaches brought me true happiness.”
“Remember this scene and all the kids you grew up with,” Gandhi said. “These memories will come in handy later.”
Then suddenly my Little League scene closed as quickly as it opened and off we went on another adventure.
We then landed in a postage stamp-sized backyard in suburban Chicago.
“I recognize this. The tiny split-level home is the one Blanche and I lived in when we first got married. We started out happy as two songbirds in a new nest. We didn’t realize, however, that Blanche had breast cancer and I lost her after only eight years of marriage. That shattered my world.”
My three friends then took me on a tour of my “climb up the ladder of success.”
They showed me hooking up with the major department store chain in Los Angeles and then becoming regional manager and then vice president.
I thought success would bring me happiness, but, as they pointed out, every new step in my career only brought with it more responsibility, more loneliness and a boatload of regrets.
I made a great deal of money, but felt myself resenting more and more everything that I thought would bring me true fulfillment.
Our little excursion finally ended in the backyard of my “castle” in the California suburbs and I realized I might have had the castle but I felt no better than a worn out serf with little joy left in my life.
“You don’t have to continue with this existence,” Mother Teresa said. “You have a tremendous amount of imagination, and the fact that fate brought us together here demonstrates that you have some idea about the contributions to the greater good that will help you fill that void in your heart.”
I went back to work the following Monday with a renewed interest in my employees as not only cogs in the corporate wheel but also as human beings trying to do the best they could in their everyday lives as I was.
Employee life outside of work once had centered around the corporate baseball team, but that had fallen by the wayside when the firm, with me leading the way, had decided that “enhanced executive salaries” would do more for the company’s bottom line than “recreational frivolities.”
I now realized that productivity had started taking a nosedive as soon as I had put these changes into place.
So, armed with my enlightened spirit, I re-instituted the employee baseball team and agreed to become its manager.
Our team became a real powerhouse. We won the industrial championship, and, amazingly enough, productivity soared and we recruited a new army of executives attracted by the new-found cooperative atmosphere in our firm.
Also, at one of the employee baseball games, I started talking with the sister of our regional sales manager and we found we had many interests in common. After about six months of dating we got married, I sold the “castle” and I bought a beautiful home in the LA suburbs—maybe not a castle by some executive standards, but exactly what we needed to make our happiness complete.
My three “spirit guides” stayed with me for about three years.
Then, one night, as I drove home from work down the same street on which I originally had picked them up on Halloween, they told me to stop the car. They said goodbye and suddenly disappeared.
Just as I pulled into my driveway, however, my glove compartment fell open and I found a note, which read:
Now that you have gotten the message we think you can carry out our plan on your own. Don’t forget that one of the most important lessons you can learn in life is how to pay it forward—MLK, MG and MT.
Bob Faszczewski is an accomplished journalist with more than 30 years as a reporter and writer for some of the most respected community news organizations in suburban Northern New Jersey. He also holds a paralegal certificate and worked for many years for Lexis-Nexis, one of the premier legal reference publishing organizations in the world.
He now resides in Berlin, MD, where he has written a number of short stories both with a murder mystery bent and exploring the relationship of time travel to improving circumstances for those in the current era and generations in the future. Many of his futuristic heroes and heroins are descendants of outstanding historical figures.
His collection of futuristic short stories, “Taming the Timeline,” is expected to be published in the Spring of 2020. In addition, the following short stories by Bob have been published in the following online publications:
. “Bloodstains on the Ledger”–Ink and the Sword.com
. “Tragedy near the Corpse Light-or Because of It” –Mystery Tribune.com
. “Cadaver in the Forest”–Adelaide Literary Magazine
. “Heard it Through the Grapevine”–Flash Fiction.com