Born out of Due Time, Chapter One, Part c
Drop a dime? The investigator recalled Corey Todd’s problem, which took no effort, seeing how few actual clients he had actually had. His girlfriend was pregnant, and she didn’t want the baby. He didn’t want her to have an abortion, but she was not the sort of girl he ever considered marrying, if he ever did want to get married, which he doubted he would. Just the average post-adolescent soap opera in the brave new millennium. Smith straightened up in the chair and planted his boots on the porch floor.
“Well then, let me guess. You are engaged to one girl, but have fallen in love with someone else—a male perhaps?”
“No, that’s not it. ”
“OK, you work for a high tech company that’s illegally collecting data from its customers, and you want to blow the whistle on them but feel grateful to the boss for giving you a job…”
“No, nothing like that. Well, maybe a little.”
“And that little would be…?”
“There is garbage going down at work, and maybe it all ties in, but the job isn’t the problem I came to consult you about. I’m worried about a bad dream I have been having almost every night…”
“What does this have to do with whatever it is you do at work?”
“Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if this dream may have some connection with some strange things going on at the office. I think my boss may be getting shit-canned—he doesn’t know it yet. But if I tell him and anyone finds out—I mean, he could give me away—then I’d get fired along with him. If he is forced out, I could hang on and maybe get a promotion out of this, but only if I don’t get involved. That’s not what I want, but I have to weigh the possibilities. I mean, you get it, right?”
“I suppose I do. In a nutshell, you want to “do the right thing” but look out for number one. That’s it?”
“Look, I respect the boss, but everyone has to cover his own ass first, don’t they? But how did you guess I worked for a tech company?”
“You mean “cover his own ass,” don’t you? (By the way, the real word is ‘arse,’ not ‘ass.’) You think you need Sherlock Holmes to figure out that you are lowgrade high tech? Geeks like Corey Todd hang out with other geeks because no one else—apart from possibly me—can stand to be around them. Who else would listen to that noise you were playing?”
“Hey man, that’s Weezer..”
“Right, outdated Indie Rock, androgynous males whining about the women they cannot satisfy. I might as well be on an airplane, waiting at the gate for the jetbridge to arrive. Then there’s the iPhone in your hand you keep checking on as if it is your spirit guide, when it is really just a security blanket for the illiterate. It all spells geek. So then, my young techie friend of dubious loyalties and conventional bad taste, what do they call you?”
The kid began to stand up, as if he were offended, but changed his mind and sat back down:
“Am I right in thinking that would be S-H-A-W-N, not S-E-A-N?”
“Yeah, howdja know?”
“Lucky guess. Did the parents who named you S-H-A-W-N also provide you with a last name?”
“Yeah, sure. Borowski.”
“I suppose you get your Irish blood from your mother?”
“Irish blood? What are you talking about? My mom’s Italian. But what is this, anyway? You don’t like my music, you don’t like my name. Do your clients pay you to abuse them?”
“So far, you are not paying anyone for anything. You have not even informed me of the nature of your problem—apart from the fact that you think you know right from wrong but don’t have the courage to act on that knowledge. I want to hear more about this dream of yours, but first I have to run an errand. You can tell me the story as you drive me there.”
“Don’t you own a car?”
“Everyone in America has a car. I simply don’t like to drive. Paying attention to the road interferes with my thinking.”
In fact he did not own a car, but that was no one’s business but his own. He directed the kid through the back streets into what had once been a working class shopping neighborhood whose furniture stores, haberdasheries, and local groceries had been turned into massage studios, eyebrow braiding parlors, and pawnshops. Smith watched the kid’s face as he drove. Most people, while they are concentrating on a task, find it hard to conceal what is on their mind.
The kid hesitated. He was clearly disturbed by the sorts of things I had said, and he was trying to make up his mind where to begin.
“Why not describe your dream?”
The kid pulled over to the left but left the car running. As he told his story, it was as if were moving into an alternate reality. Smith knew the feeling. He was cursed with a sympathetic imagination that from time to time overwhelmed him with the lives and visions of other people. A friend had once said he was a Martian, referring to Ray Bradbury’s Martians whose personalities could be trapped by a human being’s desires. For a few moments, he became Shawn Borowski, reliving his morning.
In his dream Zuma once again found himself back in the lakeside village with his family. The world was painted entirely in shades of blue and green. The lake and sky were changing shades of blue, while the trees and grass and fields were shimmering in emerald, the warm and enveloping color of life. He and his brothers were fishing with the older men in the lake, while his sisters were with the womenfolk, picking the tomatoes, corn, and squash that grew so rapidly with very little help from the villagers. It was a community of love and peace, and he never wanted to leave.
Awakening on his bed of reed mats, he was still groggy, still haunted by the dream of his childhood in the village. He slowly became aware of his gentle wife bringing him his cup of Atole—a thick mixture of corn and sugar they drank every morning. His wife’s long black hair floated on the light breeze, and her tan skin, bronzed by the late Summer sun, lit up the room. Zuma was a soldier and an officer, permitted to live in the sacred royal city with the king and his nobles. He had been happy and proud as one of the king’s bodyguard, but in recent days he had been more and more worried about the presence of the barbarian soldiers dressed in metal and carrying tubes that shot thunder killing anyone they aimed at. They were arrogant men, men of greed and violence, nothing like the sacred Aztec nation and more contemptible even than the slaves they had conquered.
Coming to his senses, Zuma could hear commotion in the palace. The barbarians were running and yelling and shooting off their thunder.
“Yaretzi, what is going on?”
“I don’t know. The noise just started as you were waking up.”
“Send the runner to find out.”
As Zuma finished his drink and combed out his hair, the noise grew louder and louder. The boy returned and told an alarming story that the barbarians had seized Mochtezuma and were killing everyone who stood in their way. They had set fire to the palace and were robbing the temple and enslaving anyone they could find. At that point, two gigantic blond men with great swords burst in and struck down Zuma, dragging his wife away, sobbing and screaming. The wood and thatch roof, by now in flames, crashed down on him, and his world went black.
As Shawn Borowski awoke, he was filled with fear and rage. Walking into the bathroom and seeing his blond hair and blue eyes in the mirror, he hated everything he saw. Still groggy, he noticed the bed was empty. His wife must have been making breakfast. As he entered the bright kitchen with its Keurig coffee-maker and microwave oven, his eyes were drawn to The Today Show on the kitchen’s small 40 inch television screen. Why did she have to put that crap on? On his second TiVo, he had recorded programs from the Sci Fi channel last night, and they could be watching a lost episode of The Invaders instead of having to look at the weasel in the henhouse. Where did they dig up this guy? He grimaced as he glanced at the perky young woman with her short blond hair. She could not see his face and greeted her husband with an ironic mimicry of a 1950’s sitcom wife,