Wednesday, December 22, 2004

a hero in Manhattan

It was approximately 5:30 AM when the phone rang. It was probably one of his friends, but Mike picked it up anyway... one of these days, it would be something important, and there was no way that he was going to ignore the call when that possibility exists. His wife was mumbling, in a half-asleep incoherent manner, something about burning the phone in the morning. Without opening his eyes, his hand searched for the phone. He finally found it and put the receiver to his ear.

"Uhh huh."

Suddenly alert, Mike threw the covers off of himself and sat up. He was already in his uniform; this is a man prepared for the worst, and today, his preparedness was going to pay off. He slid his feet into his boots and ran out of the room. His wife annoyedly exhaled a word sounding like "gahh" as she violently wiped the dirt, which had originated from Mike's work clothes, off of his side of the bed. "I have to do everything around here," she muttered as she hung up the phone receiver that her loving husband had left hanging from the table as he rushed out to do his all important work.

There was no time for brushing his teeth, but out of habit, he found himself standing in front of the bathroom sink. He looked into the mirror, seeing his reflective orange vest proudly glistening under the white light of an exposed lightbulb that his eyes were still adjusting to. He took a deep breath and gave himself the pep talk he needed. "This is it, Mike. This is it."

Mike was franticly searching the closet by the front door for his holster. His wife stumbled out and asked sarcastically, "So what's the big emergency?"
Mike's head was halfway in the closet when he responded, "There are cars in midtown honking outside Rand's window, and it's keeping him from being able to sleep."
She rolled her eyes and asked, "Rand who?" She looked down and started searching the pockets of her bathrobe, failing to find a cigarette. "Damn robe."
Mike finally found the holster he was looking for, but it had been in the closet for years. The leather looked old and dusty, but this thing was specifically designed for emergencies such as this. "Rand Gray, honey. Rand Gray."
Her demeanor changed instantly and her hands froze in place. Suddenly she understood the importance of her husband's work. She looked directly at her husband for the first time in years and said, "Rand Gray?! Go, honey, just go!"
Mike was hurriedly trying to dust off the holster as he said, "But I.."
His wife came close, touched his face gently, and waited for his eyes to meet hers. "Mike, just go."
Mike's heart warmed at the thought of someone finally believing in him. He smiled at her briefly and proudly before dropping the holster and turning to his jackhammer. Instinctually, he bent at the knees as he lifted it from its dusty spot on the floor, and quickly made for the door.

The subway just wouldn't go fast enough. People were starting to crowd in to head to work... as if this was just a normal day. Mike didn't want to cause a panic, so he tried to conceal his urgency as he checked his watch every two to five seconds. He got a few dirty looks as people in suits brushed up against his dirty construction clothes, but Mike just silently chuckled at the pettiness of their concerns. These people just had no idea what was happening.

Mike finally emerged from the subway tunnel in midtown Manhattan. It was already 6:13 AM; Rand would have to get up for work at 8:00, and if he didn't get at least another hour and a half of sleep, then... well, let's not even think about that. The sidewalk was already swarming with Manhattan's elite as they herded themselves to their skyscrapers. If Mike was wearing his holster, he'd have free hands to push his way though the crowd, but instead, both hands were occupied with the jackhammer. There wasn't any time for this.

Mike cried out with all his strength, "Rand Gray isn't sleeping, and I'm trying to help! Let me through!!!" A sudden hush fell over the streets of New York, and the red sea of suits parted. Mike's hope was rekindled as he freely ran through the crowd, and the crowd started chanting as one, "Go, go, go."

Suddenly, time stops. We hear a familiar 'click', the image turns grey, and a newspaper spins to the surface of our television screen with the title, 'City Bands Together to Support Local Hero'. A thirteen-year-old boy's hand reaches in and angrily snatches up the paper.

"This story sucks! He only helped a guy who couldn't sleep. He's no damn hero."
"Billy, your language!" cried Billy's mother as she prepared breakfast.
"Give me that." Billy's father ripped the paper from his son's hands and scanned the article. "Son, the man that couldn't sleep was Rand Gray."
The defiance fell from Billy's face as his jaw dropped. His mother fainted, hitting her head on the counter on the way down. Billy's father wanted to check on her, but couldn't seem to pry his eyes from the article.

Mike was finally outside Rand's apartment. He had run a long way with a large object, but he couldn't feel any pain - the body can do some amazing things when the situation demands it. It was 6:24, and he wasn't there a moment too soon. Without hesitation, he thrust his jackhammer into the ground and began his work. "Don't you worry, Mr. Gray, I'll drown out the honking so you can sleep!" Mike knew that his voice was being drowned out as well, but the satisfaction of having saved the day got the better of him.

I was just laying there when the sound poured in. "Jesus Christ, now they're jackhammering?" I groaned to myself as I wondered if shoving two earplugs in each ear would do too much damage.

The doctor checked on the woman's pulse, flipped through some charts on a clipboard, and sighed. He noticed Billy watching him, and reminded himself to smile at the boy. "Everything's going to be fine, Son," he said while patting him on the head, then quickly skittered out the door.

Billy's father was sitting on a chair next to his unconscious wife, intently reading that same newspaper article. Billy looked at his father in disgust and said, "I hate you, Dad." His father slowly lifted his head toward Billy, and two seconds later, his eyes followed. He smiled vacantly at his son and said, "Hmm?"