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A Twist of Fate

Charlie Taylor sits alone at his kitchen’s table, surrounded by stacks of countless bills. Medical, utilities, collections. The television rambles in the adjoining room. Charlie’s wife sleeps almost lifeless down the short hallway in the bedroom cluttered from years of paranoid hoarding.

“Charlie! Can you get me a glass of water? My mouth is dry.” Cries Charlie’s wife hopelessly. Charlie answers without hesitation “Yes! Dear, in a minute.” Charlie picks himself up from the unsteady chair that squeaks and crack from Charlie’s quick movement. He grabs a clean glass from the crowded drain pan. Filling the spotless glass he then carries it to the bedroom to his wife in waiting. “Thank! You Charlie. I don’t know what I would do without you.” She replies in a weak voice. She grabs the glass with both hands gulping its contents, she gasps in relief when she finishes.

“Oh! I needed that.” She sounds in relief. She then questions, “What are you doing Charlie?” “Oh! nothing, I’m just going through the bills to see what we have.” Charlie’s wife appearing troubled responds sadly, “All doctor’s bills right? How do you put up with someone like me Charlie? You could of have a better life wife someone else, but instead you gave all that up to be stuck with someone like me.” “Don’t! say that,” Charlie scolds. “If I was sick I know sure as hell you’d be right here by my side. I don’t want to hear you say something like that again. Things will get better, you’ll get better, wait and see, God hasn’t forgotten us.”

Sarah smiles softly, replying, “That’s what I love about you so much Charlie, you never quit.” Charlie smiles a bright smile then tucks Sarah in like a young child. “You go to sleep now my little bugger,” Charlie replies softly. “Get your rest. I’ll make something for you to eat later, something you’ll really like.” Charlie exit’s the bedroom, returning to the wobbly chair by the kitchen’s table. “Damn! If I could only get the money to pay some of these bills.” Charlie whispers in frustration shaking his head. “If I could only find a job, maybe I could breath a little bit. Oh! God why can’t things get better? Help Me,

Please! Help us.” A moment of silence passes when a voice from the television in the adjoining room catches Charlie’s attention, he listens closely. “Government sources say the economy took another turn for the worst last moment as the nations unemployment rate rose another 1%. Figures show that there are now 20 million unemployed Americans. The soup kitchens are doing double time, charities are exhausting their reserves as the poor and homeless take refuge anywhere they can find a handout.” Charlie rushes into living room to quell the intrusive voice. The voice and picture quickly flash into history with a press of Charlie’s thumb. Quick moments pass when an annoying repetitive knock is heard at the door.

“One! Minute.” Charlie blasts heading towards the door to silence the insensitive knocker. Charlie unlocks the countless locks pulling the door open. “Oh! Mr. Broomtree” Charlie acknowledges with surprise.

“Yeah it’s me Taylor.” Broomtree boasts, “Do you have my rent yet?” Charlie speechless for a moment, then responds, “Mr. Broomtree, I told you earlier that I would have your rent at the end of the week. Listen! Mr. Broomtree, I’m only a week late. I’ve been working on getting your rent. I’ve always been on time with your rent, can’t you cut me some slack here? Times are hard for everybody, give me a break here. Give me till Friday. Please!”

Broomtree leers at Charlie responding, “Okay Taylor, I’ll give you till Friday and only Friday. If you don’t have my rent by then I promise you I’ll have both you and your sickly wife tossed out on the street. I don’t give a damn! About anyone’s situation I got to think of myself too.” Charlie pales, then answers half-heartedly, “I promise you Mr. Broomtree, I will have your money.” In true form of his nosey, miser like personality, Broomtree momentarily pokes his nose into Charlie’s apartment like an old bloodhound.

“Where is your wife anyway Taylor?” Broomtree pries. “I haven’t seen her around.” “She’s in bed Mr. Broomtree. She hasn’t been well at all lately. It’s been hard for her, and me.” “Why’d you marry a woman like that anyway Taylor? You’re a good looking guy, you could of done better than her.” Charlie’s blood pressure begins to rise from Broomtree’s mindless questions as he answers quickly, “I wasn’t seeking perfection, not to say my wife isn’t perfect. I was seeking love and appreciation, a life long friend. I receive all these things from my wife. Maybe that’s what your wife, poor woman, thought she was getting in you?” Broomtree appearing clueless about what Charlie is trying to say rambles arrogantly in his departure, “Taylor you have your priorities all screwed up. I married my wife for looks and she threw herself at me. She knew with me she had everything, including money. You must be borderline retard.”

Charlie flips his middle finger to Broomtree’s back then quickly slams the door. “Charlie! Who was that?” Sarah calls from the bedroom. “Oh! It was no one, just some salesman trying to sell insurance.” Charlie responds in a comforting voice. Sarah pleads, “Charlie! Don’t get involved with those people, they’re scammers.” “Don’t worry Sarah, things are hard enough. The last thing we need right now is another bill.” Sarah doesn’t respond.

Charlie takes a deep breath planning his next move. He questions, “What can I do? What must I do to get money? I’m losing my mind here. Can’t pay the rent, can’t pay the bills.” Charlie walks back into the living room as if to seek an answer to solve his financial collapse. Scanning the room he spots a toy gun his young nephew left there days earlier when his sister stopped by for a visit. He reaches for the intimidating piece of plastic, he squeezes the cool handle in the palm of his hand thinking. Maybe? Just once I could walk into a bank and grab a few thousand. No one will get hurt, it’s just a toy. Shaking his head he whispers to himself in disgust, “My God! I never thought I would ever think of going to such an extreme.” He stands up taking a few quick breaths trying to focus and once again he responds, “Just a few minutes, that’s all it would take.

A little note slipped to the teller, then I’m out the door. But that would only be a temporary fix, breath a little easier for a few weeks, then what? rob another bank next month? Charlie takes a seat upon sinking couch, sitting in quiet thought he glances toward the window as the clouded daylight cast its weak glow upon the gray living room’s carpet. Once again Charlie stands and whispers, “I have to do something, I need to survive. God! Forgive me but I need to survive.”

Charlie walks to the bedroom where Sarah has slipped off to sleep. He smiles softly the slowly bends kissing Sarah’s pale complexion. Sarah doesn’t wake. Charlie heads into the hallway, opening its closet he retrieves a wrinkled coat which appears to have seen its share of miserable winters. Slipping into it he struggles with its zipper eventually winning the tug-of-war. He slips the toy gun into its deep pocket. Grabbing keys from the kitchen’s table he quickly opens the door exiting the small apartment. Making his decent down the building’s steep stairs, he stops for a moment to glance at his watches scratched face trying to decipher the actual time. Squinting, he finally makes sense of the aged contraption’s crooked hands. 1:30 he thinks. Good! I can make it to the bank in plenty of time before it closes at three.

Charlie stops on the stairs once again. Again he reflects upon what he plans to do. Again he thinks, I’m desperate, I need money to survive. God! Please help me to do the right thing. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, including myself. I just need some hope, some help….. Charlie exit’s the building’s front door heading for his car. Turning the corner he notices a tow truck raising his car off the ground. “Wait! Wait! Charlie hollers as the tow truck driver turns in surprise to acknowledge him. “That’s my car. What! The hell are you doing?” “Listen! Buddy, I’m just doing my job” The driver blasts. “I have to take this car. If you would have made the payments on it, I wouldn’t have to take it now.” Charlie hopelessly pleads, “Listen is there something I can do to stop this? This car is my life. I need this vehicle to take my wife to her doctors, And to find a job to pay for it.” The tow truck’s operator shakes his head and replies sympathetically, “Listen! I’m sorry. This is my job, this is how I survive. If I don’t take this car I’ll be out of a job too. All I can suggest is that you call the finance company. Talk to them, tell them your situation and hopefully you can convince them you’ll try your best to be on time with your payments. 

Believe me boss, your not alone, this car is the ninth car I reposed today. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people can’t make their car payments.” Charlie hangs his head, speechless, he finds no real comfort in the man’s words. “Listen, could I take a few things from the car before you take it?” Charlie asks. “I don’t see why not.” The tow truck driver obliges. “Do you have the keys? I’ll need them when I return the car.” Charlie digs into his pocket to retrieve the keys, handing them to the tow truck operator the operator grabs them then unlocks the car.

“I just have a few things I need for my wife. There’s a hat of mine in there too. This winter has been just too cold to go without one.” Charlie jumps on the truck’s bed, opening the car’s door he retrieves some papers from the glove compartment. He retrieves a black wool cap from the front seat. “Thanks! Guy.” Charlie replies

“Do what I told you.” The driver responds “I feel for you boss, but like I told you, I’m just doing my job.” “Thanks!” Charlie answers. "I appreciate your concern.” The driver offers Charlie a parting handshake, which Charlie in his goodness accepts. The driver then departs with some hopeful words of encouragement. “I wish you luck boss. I hope your wife starts feeling better real soon. Charlie smiles softly answering, “Thanks! I appreciate that.”

Dejected, Charlie watches his car disappear on the back of the tow truck, appearing as if on display for the whole neighborhood to see. As its distance grows, so does Charlie’s hopelessness. With his head hung Charlie wonders, What else can go wrong in my life? Glancing once again to his faithful but time beaten watch Charlie realizes time is passing quickly, it’s 1:50 an now he must make it to the bank on foot. He calculates the time it will take.

Charlie begins his trek in the direction of the bank, hoping his paper thin shoes can at least add some comfort during his seven block journey. Charlie walks the distance finally arriving in front of the bank. Standing motionless he appears confused. A whirlwind of thoughts tangle his mind. He grabs bits and pieces of the mosaic of scenes spinning through his mind. Questions arise, “What if I get caught? What if someone I know is inside? If I get caught what happens to Sarah? Would Sarah survive it? I won’t take the gun out unless I have to. What if I have to take the gun out? What if there’s a gun-ho guard inside who sees the gun and starts shooting?”

Charlie struggles with his demons for minutes when a passerby inconsiderately bumps him back to reality. He thinks once again about Sarah, to Broomtree, to the bills piled so high they’re nearly blending with the cobwebs on the ceiling. Charlie makes up his mind he heads to the bank’s door. He grabs the handle of the door swinging it open he makes his way into the bank. An elderly guard stands at attention to the left of the entrance.

“Good day sir.” The guard replies politely Charlie smiles a quick smile answering back, “Hey, yeah, how You doing?” Charlie ponders, seems like a nice guy, not gun-ho. Sighing deeply he glances at the bank’s security camera’s. He pulls his wool cap further down on his forehead and takes his place on line. His heart begins beating faster. He feels his underarms beginning to perspire. Pulling down his jackets zipper he attempts to release the stressful heat now overtaking his body. Again he questions, “Am I doing the right thing?” Minutes pass as Charlie finally reaches the teller.

The young female teller with a brilliant smile questions, “How are you today sir? What can I do for you?” Charlie opens his mouth and nothing comes out. “Ba, ba, ba,” Are the only words he can muster. Moments pass when Charlie feels a strong hand upon his right shoulder. He quickly turns. There stands the elderly guard who acknowledged him on his way in. Charlie again responds, ‘Ba, ba, ba.” “Will you follow me sir?” The guard questions. Charlie on the verge of cardiac arrest, sweating from the palms and forehead gets up the nerve to utter a few words, “What’s the problem?”

The guard smiles answering, ‘No problem sir. I’m just taking you to see our branch manager. Follow me, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.” Charlie now wonders if he should run when he sees two police officers entering the bank. Oh! Damn, what’s going on? Charlie wonders. Charlie reluctantly follows the guard into the manager’s office, now accompanied by the two police officers. Entering the office the door quickly shuts behind him. In the office, a bald, overweight man sits behind the desk. The two police officers take a place to each side of Charlie, as the elderly guard takes a place in front of the now closed office door. A moment of still and disturbing silence is the only way I can explain the experience now for Charlie. He swallows deeply. “Good! Day to you sir” The overweight man responds. “Good! Morning, uh…Good day, I mean Good afternoon” Charlie stutters. “Is there some kind of problem?” Questions Charlie. “No! no problem.” The big man blurts. “As a matter of fact, today happens to be your lucky day.” Charlie is now growing totally confused. His thought pattern is now adrift in the Twilight Zone. His jaw drops, he wants to speak, but he’s now entrapped in a black hole of nervousness.

Again the overweight man responds, “Take a seat Mr. uh?” Charlie has now forgotten his name and just how to sit down in a chair. The elderly guard walks up to Charlie gently taking his arm. He leads him to a chair to sit down. Charlie in an Alzheimer’s like motion takes a seat with help from the guard. The overweight man once again speaks, ‘Sir I didn’t wish to get you upset by bringing you in here like this. I just wanted to tell you the good news.” Charlie struggles to answer, “Good, good, news?” “Yes! In deed sir.” The man answers. “The good news sir is that you’re the one millionth customer of our bank nationwide, which entitles you to a $100,000 Dollar deposit by our bank in your name into a savings or checking account in our bank. But, if you so desire to deposit that money in another institution. This bank will make out a banker’s check for you this day to do so. That’s why these two fine police officer’s are here today, to safely escort you to any of those establishments.

Charlie feels the weight of his crushing financial debacle quickly lift from his shoulders leading him to feel a hundred pounds lighter, as if he could float to the ceiling. “My! God, I don’t believe this.” Charlie rambles. “You people are so nice to do this for your customers. Of course I’ll deposit the money with you. I can’t believe this you really made my day.” Charlie jumps from the chair hugging both officers and the elderly guard. “And! YOU…YOU… Mr.?” Charlie questions the overweight man. “Mr. Brown, I’m the bank’s manager.”

“Well! You Mr. Brown, I’m gonna kiss you.” Charlie shouts ecstatically. The Manger quickly throws up his arms responding, “That won’t be necessary Mr. umh?” “Mr. Taylor! Mr. Charles Taylor!” Charlie announces joyously. “That’s C-H-A.” “I have no problem spelling Mr. Taylor.” The manager rebukes. “I’ll make sure all your information is spelled properly to the T. I appreciate your decision in depositing your windfall with our bank.” Charlie aglow continues, “Is there something I must sign? I can’t wait to tell my wife about this she’ll be overwhelmed.” “Just a few papers Mr. Taylor then you can be on your way to tell your wife and whoever your heart desires.

The police officers and the elderly guard smile jubilantly over Charlie’s good fortune as Charlie continues to shake their hands for the hundredth time. The manager again questions Charlie, “Mr. Taylor, by the way, I’m curious, why were you at our bank today? I think that would be a noted question our bank’s officers would like to know the answer to.” Charlie freezes searching for a good answer. “The reason I was at your bank today?” Charlie grapples with his thoughts. “Yes! The reason I was at your bank today was to, was to apply for a loan.” The manager then asks, “A loan huh, what was the size of the loan you were seeking?” Charlie quickly answers, “$10,000.…$10,000 Dollars.” The manager nods replying, “Well! You did yourself 10 times better today Mr. Taylor. Congratulations, I hope this $100,000 was an answer to your prayers.”

Charlie smiling answers, “Oh! It was Mr. Brown. It sure was.”

Contributing Story Teller  Daniel Jay Mc Shane [email protected] Story about a man down on his luck, terminally ill wife, facing eviction, during hard economic times. He decides to resort to the unthinkable to solve his financial problems. In the right place at the right time he miraculously steps into a monetary windfall that can help him set his life straight.

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