The meeting was long and tiresome. He fidgeted in the high, leathered back chair. His mind wandered away—far away from his family obligations and this stinking place—to a place where the warm sun glistened each day on the rolling waves along the sandy shore.
“…and I know everyone is waiting patiently to hear about this year’s bonuses,” stated the hefty man shoved into a gray pinstriped suit. “Due to the fact that there was a dramatic drop in sales, it has been decided by corporate to suspend the bonuses this year.” Grumbling filled the stuffy conference room. “Now, now, to ease the pain a bit, we are distributing a five hundred dollar Visa gift card to each manager. Thank you for your attention.”
Tim Haller snapped back to reality. Great! No bonus. He was counting on it to pay off a couple of credit card bills. His wife, Kathy, would be extremely upset. But then again, when it came to the lack of money, when wasn’t she upset?
Few people remained, inching their way out of the room. Tim rubbed his burning red eyes. Across the table, the young and eager Josh Helmet adjusted his stylish tie, then flashed his pearly whites.
“What are you grinning about?” mumbled Tim. Sometimes happy people annoyed him. Especially when they were just about to hand him bad news.
Josh abruptly got up. He leaned both hands on the table. “I wanted to let you in on a secret.” Josh moved in a little closer. “I’ll be living the good life soon—settled a ten million-dollar contract in California. You know, I just might transfer out there. Weather is beautiful, women gorgeous and available, surfing at night, golden beaches, aah, that’s the life…right, Timmy boy?”
Tim’s middle finger instantly popped up. “I think you got me confused with someone who gives a crap. Go gloat about your success to some other schmuck who sucks ass like you,” growled Tim. And with that said, he stood up and pushed back the chair hard against the wall.
“Okay, okay, simmer down, now, can’t help it if you have a ball and chain…or wait…two balls and a short, thick chain.” Josh chuckled as he stepped out of the room, leaving Tim alone.
“Damn,” whispered Tim.
He felt drained—drained of life. Josh was right. It seemed the last two years his life had spiraled down the toilet. Two small kids and a wife who never gave him a moment of peace. The only time it was quiet and serene was when everyone was fast asleep for the night. Sometimes he lay awake on purpose, just to hear the silence. Sure, he loved them—loved them all. But what if…if only he never got married and hadn’t had two kids right out of the gate? If only money came easy without working so hard…would his life be so different? More rewarding? Exciting? He let out a huge sigh.
The meeting had lasted well beyond quitting time. He straightened the mess on his desk, then walked silently to the elevators. The large office complex was extremely quiet, even for 7 o’clock at night. He glanced down the empty hallway as he waited for the heavy metal doors to slide open.
A second later, they swished to the side, and Tim stepped in. A familiar melody echoed inside the steel paneled walls. He quickly pushed the button marked Garage. The creaking elevator responded to his request. He closed his weary eyes. What would life be like without his overbearing family? He definitely could see himself relaxing in the warm sun, with a tall, ice cold drink in his hand. His toned, bronzed body resting on the cushioned wicker lounge chair just a few feet from the lapsing ocean waves. Beautiful, sexy women strolling along the beach, glancing his way, checking out his manhood straining against the tight, revealing Speedo. He smiled.
Unexpectedly, the elevator jarred to a halt. Tim’s eyes flew open wide. The emergency bell emanated a screeching warning sound, hurting his ears. Tim frantically pushed the Help button over and over again. Nothing. Suddenly, the piercing noise stopped. Beads of sweat lined his brow. His breathing now settled into low, shallow breaths. Dare he move? The aged elevator creaked and moaned in protest. Slowly, Tim looked up, as if he could see what was about to happen. The rusted steel cables pulled and resisted restraint.
“No!” he shouted. All at once, the wired mesh of unstable lines snapped. Instantly, the safety shelves slid into place. The entire elevator jolted to an abrupt halt. “Thank heavens,” mumbled Tim. Then as he reached for the emergency phone, the rusted bolts cracked, releasing the heavy metal tomb to spiral out of control.
Tim’s stomach surged its way up deep inside his chest, finally reaching his throat. The extreme force of gravity pulled him further and further down. He could barely breathe. He squeezed his moist eyes shut. Visions of his beautiful wife and two loving children swirled through his mind. He could hear his son, Jacob, call out to him—“Daddy, you’re the best!” And as quick as Jacob faded in, he faded out. Suddenly, he thought he could hear his tiny daughter, Danielle, clapping her tiny hands, giggling, saying, “my Daddy, my Daddy, come play.” But before his sanity was ripped from his consciousness, swirling images of Kathy came to life, calling out in a desperate cry—“Darling, please come home! We love you!”
Tim desperately held on to the foggy visions of his loving family. “No!” he shouted out in agony. The plummeting metal tomb fell aimlessly. “Please, please.” His voice cracked, then sobbed hysterically. He begged and pleaded with the emptiness of his destiny. “My family needs me! I need my family!” Tears of despair streamed down his burning cheeks. Then, as if his cries of hopelessness were miraculously heard, the racing elevator came to a wretched stop. Instantly, the doors whooshed open. Tim slowly pulled himself up and staggered out. Both security men behind the reception desk stood up.
“Mr. Haller, are you alright?” called the younger man. Tim’s legs were shaky.
“The elevator…I was trying to call…it fell…” His words trailed away.
“Elevator? What’s wrong with the elevator, sir?” asked the other security guard.
Tim couldn’t believe what had just happened. Did no one hear the alarms? What about the loud noise of the elevator itself racing down to the bottom floor? Suddenly, it dinged once again behind him. Tim turned around. The doors opened wide. Two executives stepped out and moved towards the revolving glass doors.
“What in heaven’s name is going on here?” Tim asked.
“Can I call you a cab, Mr. Haller?” asked the first security guard.
Tim swirled around to face him. “No…no, thank you. I drove my car.”
And with that said, Tim eagerly pushed past the man and made his way to the deserted parking garage. Once inside the minivan, he wept with relief. How could he have thought those awful things about his wonderful family? In an instant, he could have lost his life, but more importantly, his family.
A familiar melody chimed from his cell phone. Tim slowly raised it to his ear.
“Hi honey, we’re holding dinner for you. The kids can’t wait to see you. Oh, and I miss you, sweetheart,” said Kathy in a cheerful voice. “Dearest, are you alright?”
Tim hesitated a brief moment. “I’m fine—now. I’m on my way, I’ll be home soon,” replied Tim in a low tone. “And Kathy,” he whispered, “thanks for loving me.”
And with that said, Tim started his car and headed for his true destiny, this time without any regrets.