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The Five-Year Itch
In a small, windowless kitchen, a young man sat staring at the ceiling, reevaluating the stages of his life. His existence was starting to become a trivial exercise of survival, deprived of meaning and excitement. On his twenty-ninth birthday, in his stuffy little apartment, he was indeed feeling the pangs of desolation and loneliness.
As a budding software developer living on the south side of Manhattan, Jack Simmons kept wondering if life could bring him better avenues. In his ever-dreadful routine, he quickly started to realize that opportunities for fame and fortune were hard to find. He had been living in that dingy little apartment for a year now and felt repulsed by the problems he had to endure: a bedroom wall full of cracks, a stained kitchen ceiling, a small bathroom with tiles as cold as ice, a creaking wooden floor, and leaky faucets. It was an old building, dilapidated and in need of serious repairs, probably built in the late 1930s — the Depression years. But the rent was cheap, and it was conveniently located near his work. Not owning a car, Jack found the twenty-minute walk to his office beneficial as an exercise routine. The tenants were also nice and valuable; they were just like him — average folks just trying to make a living.
Jack was starting to realize that something was missing in his life. He felt burdened by his lack of female companionship and under a pressure that was hard to contain. Like everybody else, he'd had several acquaintances in high school, but times had changed, and it was becoming harder to find a suitable partner since he wasn't a fan of going to bars. A hard and decent girl was an elusive catch these days. Women were either too career-oriented, married, looking for a fling, or dull and deprived of substance. Maybe his criteria were too high, or he was scared of rejection. But he was in his prime years, and he felt the need to be touched, caressed, and loved. His few odd dates, organized by friends, were no longer sufficient to contain his appetite for love. The blind dates set up by acquaintances were merely attempts to get rid of a chaperone or a delusional sister.
Snapping out of his introspection, he realized that time was ticking. It was already a quarter after eight, and he had to be at work by nine o'clock sharp. He grabbed a peanut butter sandwich and gobbled it in an instant. Then he threw his pajamas in a corner and jumped into the shower. Five minutes of scrubbing was all it took for him to be totally clean. He then brushed his teeth, shaved, combed his hair, and hastily put on a white polo shirt and navy-blue pants. He locked the door of his apartment and rushed all the way to work.
As soon as he got to his seventh-floor office at Innovate2Future, Jack slowly pulled out his chair, sat down, and started thinking. His office was a ten- by-ten-foot square room on the south side of the building, overlooking the Hudson River. He appreciated the view but sometimes found his work tedious and monotonous. He had been a software developer for more than five years and still had not come up with the perfect game that would make him rich and famous. While he thought the company was demanding and cheap, it did nevertheless recognize success by giving a small royalty on a fruitful innovation.
Jack still hoped his new project — a game called Mega Fury — would be his ticket to fame and glory. It was a series of adventures, plagued by knights and dragons, about fighting for the conquest of the world in medieval times. The concept wasn't new, but he was enhancing the game with the dragons and exceptional graphic animations.
As he sat motionless, absorbed in his thoughts, his two best friends sneaked in behind him and scared Jack half to death. They were Michael Hagen, a junior high friend and now work colleague, and Arthur McIntosh, who'd become a close friend when he joined the company five years ago.
"How is our good friend Jack Simmons today?" Arthur said jokingly. "Daydreaming again, I suppose?"
"Maybe fantasizing!" Michael exclaimed with a wink.
"By the way, Jack, don't forget our lunch date today at noon, okay?" said Michael as he headed out the door.
"I'll be there," Jack said.
As his friends faded from view, Jack got up and prepared to go to a meeting. As he walked to the door, his eyes fell on a small replica of the Statue of Liberty, which served as a reminder of his dreams. He'd bought it a few years ago for just that purpose, but so far, his hopes of accomplishment had been in vain. Just when will that happen? he thought. He shook his head and made his way to the boardroom to join the rest of the team.
Inside the dimly lit boardroom, which could comfortably seat up to fifty people, Jack quickly scanned the faces of the Innovate2Future staff and saw looks of anxiety. Computer programmers, designers, marketing specialists, and supervisors were all waiting nervously for the meeting called by senior management.
From the corridor, there suddenly reverberated an indistinct rumbling noise that seemed to come from the other side of the door. Everyone tried to decipher the conversation to no avail.
The door swung open, and a short but imposing gray-haired man appeared. His air of discontent and displeasure gave everyone a chill.
James Powers, the company's regional manager, stepped in and called for everyone's attention. He introduced the gray-haired gentleman as Shawn Roderick, president of the corporation. Roderick wasted no time with formalities and, after a quick, sweeping look over the group, began ranting about the company's poor performance. The dismal profit, plummeting sales, lack of vision, and failure to meet the current goals were exasperating him.
Powers tried without success to placate Roderick by citing the many ways in which the staff and management had lent support toward the company's enterprise. Then, suddenly, desperate for a rescue plan, he asked Jack to highlight his new game. He demanded that Jack Simmons stand up and make a presentation of his upcoming project.
Jack felt as though a lightning bolt had struck him. Shaking, he struggled to look as composed as possible as he stood up. His knees trembled, and little beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He knew that all eyes and ears were focused on him. After taking a deep breath, he got hold of himself and began to describe the game, Mega Fury. He was certain of the game's uniqueness and its ability to revolutionize the industry and knock out the competition in this new era of high-tech globalization. As he grew more and more confident, he felt some kind of exhilaration — a kind of high, an adrenaline rush. He could sense the attention being given to his project and felt more assured in highlighting its benefits. He felt content every time he saw Mr. Roderick's nods and steady gaze as he detailed the selling points of his game. After his short but sweet fifteen-minute presentation, the meeting was over, and it was time to head back to his desk.
Everyone went back to work, heaving a sigh of relief. At his desk, Jack was going over a stack of schematics, when he realized he had to meet his friend at the diner.
As he entered the restaurant, his eyes searched the crowded eatery for Michael. Because it was lunch hour, people were rushing to get through the meal and get back to work. It wasn't long till he heard someone calling him from the background.
"Over here, Jack!" the voice said, trying to compete with the noise within the crowded place.
Jack followed the sound and spotted Michael close to the kitchen door, near the washroom corridor. "Couldn't you pick a better spot than this one?" asked Jack.
"Wow, look now! If you were on time at least once in a while, maybe I could pick a better spot," Michael retorted.
Jack looked at his watch and realized he was fifteen minutes late — again. "Sorry. I got caught up with a dossier and didn't realize the time slipping away. Anyway, let's drop the argument and order something before lunch is over," he said, somewhat embarrassed.
After chomping a few hamburgers and french fries, they still had a few minutes to spare before heading back to work. In the heat of the conversation, Jack admitted to feeling depressed and disoriented in his life lately. His mother would soon be selling the family estate where he'd grown up and moving to a retirement home. He became pensive and told Michael he was finding it hard to deal with the fact that the family home would soon become a memory. In addition to his looming family affair, he was also concerned about pressing financial problems that needed attention, or the bank would soon be at his throat.
Michael listened intently and then patted Jack's hand lightly. "You know, Jack, I think you have to get your life in order and brush off some of the accumulating thoughts in your mind. Take a little break from work, and get some new perspective on your life. It doesn't have to be an expensive outing or vacation, just a small getaway to get your focus off your daily worries. Who knows? Maybe you'll be able to see better possibilities. Count your blessings — like the presentation you did today at the meeting." Michael continued trying to cheer him up. "At twenty-nine, you still have a long time to improve your life and change the course and direction."
As Michael highlighted some of Jack's attributes, Jack started to become more alive at the prospect. "I think you're right, Michael, and I have the perfect spot to realign my bearing. I will go to my mother's house this weekend to help her with the packing. Maybe the old country air and a bit of soul searching will do the trick. I can reconnect with my mom and childhood memories before they slip away. After all, my dad's passing away a few months ago is still fresh in my mind, so reconnecting with my mom could prove to be a positive benefit. It will give her a little bit of comfort to have some company this weekend." Jack spoke with a tone of satisfaction that hadn't been present earlier.
"Why don't you come with me this weekend?" Jack asked.
Michael hesitated at first but realized his friend needed his support. "Okay, I accept, Jack."
"Let's meet in front of my apartment on Friday after work around five o'clock."
"Sounds great. Friday it shall be, but let's go back to work before that new pushy supervisor, Josh Connelly, scolds us," Michael said.
Upon returning to his office, Jack noticed a few additional files had been added to his desk. Reviewing so many new program schematics would surely delay the implementation of his new game. The pressure was mounting, as he had made a promise to the company president, Mr. Roderick, of financial gain. After two long and exhausting hours in front of the monitor, he started to feel gloomy and in need of a coffee break. In the lounge, he found Arthur seated on the couch, reading a newspaper.
"What's in the news?" Jack asked Arthur.
"Not too much, really. Just the usual stuff," replied Arthur as he folded the newspaper and put it back on the coffee table.
"How's your day going so far?" asked Jack. "Did you meet that new supervisor appointed to us by management? Personally, I find him to be obnoxious and conceited."
"Well, I guess you're not alone, my friend," replied Arthur. "It sounds like half of the office thinks he's a pain in the butt. However, be careful 'cause he seems to be the favorite of the regional manager."
"What do you expect? Management always sticks together, even if they know they are wrong," retorted Jack.
"Anyway, did you see Lucie Lapierre from accounts receivable this morning? How did the date go last weekend? Was she a hot date?" Arthur asked, excitedly awaiting an answer.
"No, I didn't see her. I was swamped with so many work assignments this morning that my head was spinning. Besides, sorry to disappoint you, Arthur, but there were no sparks. She's a nice girl and everything but not my type. She did, however, try to give me a kiss after the movie, but I excused myself and left," said Jack.
"Maybe the ambiance wasn't right. She seems like such a nice girl," Arthur said.
"I agree. She's a great coworker, but our relationship is merely professional," replied Jack.
"It's going to be your loss, Jack. One day someone will sweep that flower right off of her feet, and you'll be sorry. As for me, I found my pearl when I reunited with my high school sweetheart. We plan to be married as soon as we have enough money saved for the wedding," Arthur said proudly.
"Well, that's great news, and I sincerely wish you and your fiancée the best of luck. You know, Arthur, there is a girl I like in the office. Do you know Nicole Henderson?"
Arthur's jaw dropped in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding me, Jack! That double-faced backstabber from the marketing department?"
"She's not so bad, Arthur," Jack said as he tried to defend his case.
"Give your head a shake, my friend, and get back to your senses. She is more conceited and snobbish than that new supervisor. As a matter of fact, I think they are going out together," replied Arthur.
"I think you're a bit jealous because you also saw her in those tight, lovely dresses."
"I wouldn't touch that girl with a ten-foot pole. Her heart is cold, and she couldn't care less about you — or anyone else in the office, as a matter of fact," said Arthur, furious.
"Do yourself a favor, Jack: when you go home tonight, take a cold shower, and get a reality check." That was the end of the conversation.
Having worked diligently all week, even with the mounting pressure of his new supervisor, Jack started to feel a sense of relief as the weekend grew near.
Late that afternoon, he felt good and relieved of the stress that had been constantly nagging him all week. Eagerly looking forward to his holiday back home in Pennsylvania, he felt a renewed sense of optimism slowly enveloping him.
As soon as he got back to his apartment, he started packing and quickly grabbed a few things for the weekend. While waiting for Michael to arrive, Jack tried, in his mind, to rehearse a few words that would stir a conversation with his mother. Since the passing of his dad, communication had been limited to platonic words related to the weather or medical conditions. They said little concerning the death of his father.
His soliloquies were cut short when Michael, at exactly five o'clock, arrived in his black 1987 sport Duster. His prized possession had been recently washed and waxed, and he'd cleaned the chrome mags and dusted the red leather interior. Jack opened the trunk and carefully placed his suitcase beside Michael's old duffel bag.
"Get in, Jack, so we can be on our way!" yelled his friend. "It's still a couple of hours before we hit the old green Pennsylvania countryside."
"Whatever you say, sir," quipped Jack as he opened the door to get in. Jack and Michael had plenty of time to talk on the way. Michael talked about his upcoming projects at the office, while Jack highlighted his need for a rest from his demanding supervisor.
"Don't let him get to you," Michael said. "He's just going on an ego trip to give himself some importance. Anyway, when can we expect to see your mom home? Last time I was there, we were kids, and so many trees have grown since."
After a few road refreshers, Jack pointed out to his friend the origin of the house. His grandfather had built the dwelling in the late 1930s after winning the land in a poker game. It wasn't long before he'd fallen in love with the scenery, including pristine lakes and a deep valley. In the morning, the mist set in, and the air was fresh and clean prior to breakfast.
Jack lamented that he had never realized how peaceful the area was until the foreboding sale of the house.
As they neared their destination, Michael decided to make a quick stop for fuel. Jack, sitting alone in the car, contemplated numerous stories of his mother, his family home, and the passing of his father. He'd had many cherished moments as a child, but he soon realized that life was now turning to a new chapter. He couldn't believe how the years had taken such a toll on his mother, a once young, energetic, and vibrant woman. She had become frail and passive and was now awaiting death. How could such a strong and wonderful woman give all her love to him during his twenty- nine years? His thoughts were interrupted when Michael opened the door and got in with a large, steaming cup of coffee. "You sure you don't want one?" he said.
"Positive. Thanks anyway," replied Jack.
As they slowly approached the rustic country house via an uneven paved road, the car veered to the right on a narrow side entrance leading to the house. It was a gravel path lined with a log fence made from broken-off trees stacked on each other. Within seconds, Jack could see the porch light and a faint beam of clarity emanating from the kitchen window. After parking the car in front of an old elm tree near the dwelling, they grabbed their belongings and proceeded to the front entrance.
Excerpted from "Fantastic Adventure Of Carta"
Copyright © 2018 Yvan Leger.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Five-Year Itch, 1,
Chapter 2 The Challenge, 22,
Chapter 3 The Intrigue, 47,
Chapter 4 The Preparation, 72,
Chapter 5 Journey of Discoveries, 101,
Chapter 6 Breach of Trust, 124,
Chapter 7 Escaping the Madness, 156,
Chapter 8 Continuous Nightmare, 184,
Chapter 9 The Shadow of Death, 212,