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No Better Day
By Timothy J. Elliott
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Timothy J. Elliott
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTrevin Lambrose went slack-jawed before the Internet, scrolling through the terrible headlines, recoiling as each horror hit his senses like a hammer. He'd wandered off the Photoshop assignment, wanting to see what was going on in the real world, once again drawn into the dread of what was happening out there. The story chronicling the 45 shootings and 9 murders in the city over the weekend almost gave him a stomach ache.
With the exception of the constant drama in a deteriorating society, life in here—in the office—had become a drag. He craved more from his vocation, from his own life. Plain and simple, he needed a change, and he wanted to take those he cared most about with him. Maybe his new "girlfriend" (Could he call her that yet? Was it too premature?), would help calm his growing unease. She'd been his shining light since they'd met at the book store a couple of months ago, the one thing keeping him on track. When he got depressed, like now, he thought of her smile, her unbelievable smile, her truly, uniquely captivating smile. Truly, there was something almost magical about it, the way it entranced him. He couldn't wait to behold it again, churning up those alluring freckles, so countless on her face, so incredibly enticing.
"Look!" an intern called excitedly, snapping his reverie. "The colors are even weirder today."
Trevin knew what was in the sky, everyone did. The weather had become very unusual lately, light, color and diffusion so strange it took one's breath away, especially toward the end of the day. The intern was expressing how bizarre things had become—again. No meteorologist had yet sufficiently explained the phenomenon.
His mind still foggy, Trevin reflected on the particularly spiritually uplifting sunset the evening before. The effect on him had made it tough to come into work this morning, the anticlimax of a new, boring day positively hum-drum. The effect had triggered so many wonderful memories from his youth that he'd become completely lost in them, almost spilling his drink off the balcony.
Sweet memories from his youth ...
The riotous interns were once more gathered at the agency's largest window overlooking the city of Chicago, gawking at the vivid display like children. Trevin became too distracted to work any longer. He put his computer to sleep and disappeared into the men's room for a reality check. There, in the mirror, he saw in his angular face a betrayal of unexpected wear and tear for a man of only 36.
To himself, he flatly said, "Three years. Three years I've been here already. An eternity. But ... I should be grateful to have a job. This recession's a freakin' killer."
There was a newspaper on the counter, the front page reading: "How Long Will It Last?"—a blatant reference to the eroding state of the economy. With the ongoing wars, violence and despair spreading around the globe, Trevin couldn't answer that question to save his life.
Never quit a job without one lined up, he heard in his mind, a mantra recited to him from various colleagues throughout his adult life over and over. Maybe joining the interns at the window would have done him good. Man, he was in a foul mood today ...
Somebody tried the door and gave up. Good thing he'd locked it. After splashing cold water on his face, Trevin rightly returned to his boring cubicle, slipping on the iPod and immersing himself in Beethoven and work. Art had to get done. Commerce had to be made.
A few minutes later, when he was almost in an Alpha state, someone approached from behind and rudely plucked the earpiece from his head, causing him to first flinch, then whirl in his swivel chair angrily. The fantastic art he was generating for a logo design dropped from thought.
"Glen!" Trevin barked. "Didn't I tell you never to do that again? What the—?"
A cloying smirk greeted him. "Take it easy, Tarzan," Glen said, motioning with his hands for Trevin to relax. "I'm just messing with ya ..."
"Exactly!" said Trevin.
Ignoring the jab, Glen asked, "Got here early again today, huh? Trying to suck up to Solorio? Someone said you got here by seven."
Trevin considered the imposition of the remarks. He was always a nice guy. Firstly. "Glen," he said smoothly. "I don't suck up to Solorio."
"Why not?" said Glen. "He's the boss."
Trevin braced himself, staring at his peer's fleshy fat face. "Glen, if anyone's sucking up to the boss ... Not that I care, but we've all noticed you spending a lot of time in his office recently."
"Just keeping in the loop," Glen said, then sideswiped an argument by changing the subject. "He decided on no layoffs, for now at least. Hopefully that luck keeps up."
Trevin changed the subject also, keeping his voice low. "Interns didn't finish anything. Again."
Glen looked at the gaggle at the window, drawing a guess. "They're mesmerized. Do you blame them? The skies are eerie, man."
"How's the copy coming along, Glen? Solorio needs this mock-up ASAP. We need more accounts, money's drying up."
The pudgy 35-year old took a step back, assessing his colleague. "I'm on top of it," he answered. "Saw you surfing the net, looking at the shitty headlines again. You gotta take your mind off that crap, guy, you'll drive yourself crazy."
"And you're watching what I'm doing on my computer. Thank you, Glen; I'll consider your advice."
"Someone woke up cranky. If you were a woman, I'd say it's that time of the month."
"It's humor, Trev, humor. Laugh a little. Try some, you've lost it."
"I ... better get back to work." Trevin half turned back to his screen.
The copy editor backed off, disengaging. Suddenly, he raised his voice at the interns and starting clapping his hands together. "Okay, everyone, you don't get paid to gawk at the clouds! This isn't a nursery school!"
They scattered. One of the brash youngsters muttered, "Interns don't get paid at all ..."
Before vanishing into his own office, located at the corner, Glen added one more irritating remark to the muscular artist: "Have fun at the old folks' home tonight, better you than me."
Trevin smoldered like a sunburn, waiting for everyone to leave the main office area. He finally got up to take a peek at the splendor taking place over the city. It was positively otherworldly up there. He'd never seen anything like it.
Compassion, he thought to himself. There needs to be compassion.
Glen was an all right guy. Trevin recalled the troubles the nattering butterball was currently having at home with his wife. Glen had told Trevin of the woes often enough.
Yeah ... maybe Trevin's recent "female acquaintance," Constance, could teach him how to be a little more compassionate ...
* * *
By five o'clock, Trevin rushed the door like a cheetah, politely waving goodnight to the temporary receptionist behind the front desk. He hadn't bothered checking on the interns—as was his assigned duty—monitoring them, making sure they'd been pulling their weight, helping to create samples in order to drum up the much-needed new business. And Trevin didn't care. Not tonight anyway. His heart and mind just wasn't here, in the ordinary. He had his precious seniors to connect with.
Glen shot out of his office, catching him at the last second. "Trev! Seen the boss?"
"Nope," Trevin answered quickly, gripping the door handle. "Not once all day. Hasn't that been Richard's way as of late? Gotta run."
Glen went to say something, but Trevin was gone. Befuddled, Glen went back to his own work, but when it came his time to leave, he made sure to leave a Post-It note in the big man's office, letting him know exactly what time their star graphics guy had left the building. It was a tattle-tale message scribbled under the company logo—Lightning Strikes Advertising.
* * *
Like a pro, Trevin negotiated the Kennedy Expressway in his 1997 Chevy Blazer, through the horrendous rush hour traffic, working his way northwest as fast as possible. Around him, he saw—in quick glances—the general anger and irritation painted on drivers' faces. Heads shook, horns honked and rude gestures flew. In his estimation, the sights were part and parcel to his personal theory: People were hurting to the breaking point, emotions ramping up.
When a dense layer of low clouds broke, the powerful sun suddenly blasted through, glaring off his windshield, and Trevin was temporarily blinded. He had to lock up the brakes when traffic ahead suddenly halted. By the time he got going again, his nerves were shot, and he finally passed the clogging construction with frayed nerves and sweat trickling down his neck. The back of his buttoned shirt, and his collar, were now soaked.
After pulling into the massive Lakebreeze Healthcare Campus parking lot, he motored all the way to the back, where he shut off the engine and decompressed, pulling his thoughts together. His heart was still hammering from the near accident. He parked where he always did—just before the forest preserve, where no one was around him. Soon, he knew, the swarms of visitors would be arriving, filling the lot. Currently, there were only a dozen vehicles here, and they were way up, by the front entrance.
As he labored to slow his breath, peeling his back from the upholstery, he gave it his mental all, working the psychological tension out, visually drinking from the serene scene before him. Since it was late spring, almost summer, there was still plenty of light left before nightfall. The funny clouds had mostly left, but more were brewing in the horizon, in the west, where the hint of yet another dazzling sunset struck and soothed his troubled soul. At least he was here—one of the few places he found solace anymore. He got out, listening to the vivacious birds in the trees behind him. He always parked facing west now. It had become his weird little idiosyncrasy, always desiring to be pointing in that glorious direction. To the sunset. To infinity.
This was still the city, and the developers had done a great job melding the facility's form with function. Despite the massive recession (more of a depression, Trevin believed), this was one of the more decently funded institutions around. A lot of private dollars saw their way in here.
But these residents deserve a place like this, he reminded himself. They're better than us, the younger generation. Look what we've done to the world. We're no stewards.
He grabbed his black tote bag full of art supplies and began the long mosey into the building. A particular scent caught his attention straight away, jogging his memory. Someone had recently mowed grass—the lush acreage where he sometimes saw a resident or two wheeling about. The aroma struck a chord, instantly catapulting him back to the days of Little League baseball, where his father and mother would drop him off at the edge of the freshly mowed playing field, and he'd run free as the wind to join his pals. In his mind, he could still hear his parents shouting after him, telling him they'd catch up after parking.
Like the current weird weather conditions, this phenomenon—this transportation and complete immersion back into his wonderful memories—had been occurring all the time now. It seemed to be occurring especially after staring off into the western light, into desire, after wishing he could go back to the those better days ... forgetting all about his present problems.
God, he wished he could go back.
Chicago definitely could use some rain. The days had become so hot and dry. The long-range forecast hadn't much of it in sight, unfortunately. It had become this way since the formations had started billowing in. Another unsolved mystery. By the time he passed through the automated double doors and into the blessedly comfortable lobby, the euphoric running through the baseball park, cicadas buzzing, friends cheering him on, had been eradicated. Industrial strength carpet sanitizer replaced the grass scent, and Trevin had to shake off the cerebral cobwebs with considerable effort. He now stood in locked formation at the sign-in desk.
"Mr. Lambrose, hello," chirped a young aide manning the station. "Welcome back, the residents are ready for their art lessons." Then the female employee darted a look past him into the lot and formed a wry smirk. "Parked as far away again as possible, I see. Trying to set a record?"
"I just like the walk. Tough day," Trevin replied, sighing. He liked this woman. He liked all the employees here. He wished he could be one of them. Setting the tote bag down, he signed in, letting her reach across the desk and slap the adhesive name-tag on his chest, giving it a tap for good measure.
"Sky still goofy out there?" she asked innocently.
"It's diminished somewhat," he answered. "But it looks like it might be another good sunset. You should get some of the residents outside. Is Allison on tonight?"
"Yes, she's around. Want me to page her?"
"No, I'll run into her, thanks. Can I go in?"
"You sure can. Have a great one, Mr. Lambrose, have fun with your pupils."
"You can call me Trevin, you know." And then he was going to say more, but he realized in his daydream up to the door, he had forgotten her name. She had a smile button over her name-tag. Embarrassed, he thanked her again as she went back to the phones, and he walked past the desk, around and into the front atrium, where he momentarily didn't know which wing to navigate.
Another friendly male staffer, a maintenance man, startled him, making Trevin's decision for him, pointing. "Yo, Picasso! You're down there tonight. You went the other way last week."
As Trevin thanked him and cracked a joke, he made his course correction.
"Creating more masterpieces tonight?" the man asked after him, seemingly genuinely interested.
"Something like that," Trevin answered, still foggy with kernels of happiness from his memory.
It didn't take long to get blindsided by another. Immediately in front of him, a very old resident was being gently pushed in her wheelchair by a loving set of adults. Trevin stepped to the side to let them pass and froze, disproportionately moved by the sight. He recalled his own beloved grandmother, a person whom he was very closed to and was now gone. Trevin said hello to the three strangers as they continued onward, secretly watching as their forms—framed by the entrance—turned to silhouettes against the wavering heat lines in the parking lot, creating quite a picture. So much tenderness there. The feeble woman pointed out her favorite fish in the lobby's aquarium.
Trevin found himself whispering his grandmother's name: "Nan ... I miss you ..."
Never could he walk into a nursing home and at some point not compare the facility to the one his grandmother lived in briefly back home in Rochester before her death. Before he had a chance to fly in from Chicago and see her before she passed away in the hospital. He'd never found peace in that heartbreak.
Consequently then, Trevin's stroll through the hallowed complex became more or less a continuation of the dreamy amble in this evening, taking an even keener note mentally recording everything he saw and felt, trying to absorb the love that surrounded him. Even the tropical plants, spread out evenly throughout the hallway, and the nice art he wished he'd been commissioned to paint, appeared brighter and more supporting this evening. Some sights he'd grown accustomed to: Families talking low in private quarters, caregivers assisting the frailest, nurses checking blood pressure. His heart reached to all the residents, hoping their days were filled with happiness and fulfillment.
Unlike what he was experiencing these days ...
Trevin rounded the bend and saw his first destination of the visit: a private room all the way down on the end. The door was open and a sliver of light from the outside was shedding illumination onto the carpeting, as if calling him. Across from that was the bay window to the courtyard, facing west. Facing west, of course. The sun was just beginning to think about setting out there, Trevin could tell. The hallway was beginning to glow.
Gladys Embery—the super-sweetheart—was in there. A peach in her upper eighties, and as far as anyone knew, had no family to look after her. She was all alone. That's what Trevin had been told anyway. That had always killed him, and he didn't want to take another step before preparing. He loved seeing her, and he had to demolish the miserable daily news from his head and instead concentrate on just benefiting from her wonderful presence. This was invigorating, she was invigorating. From the day they'd met, there was something about Gladys that was utterly engaging. Kind of like his Constance.
Excerpted from No Better Day by Timothy J. Elliott Copyright © 2012 by Timothy J. Elliott. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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