Where did it go, that fearless abandon, actions verging on recklessness? When did he last experience the heady exhilaration of freedom? And why life had dealt him such a blow were things Henry thought about between calls confirming patient appointments. Formerly, he was training to be an orderly and now, the only thing he could do is sit at a desk.
Good times were gone; their place filled with the endless monotony of a job that left him exhausted as he drug himself home each evening. Drug himself home to the small house in which he grew up and where he now lived with his aged mother. Things had been different before the accident that totaled his motorcycle and left him broken and unable to continue at work. He moved back home where his mother cared for him, while he mended. The head of the hospital asked him back in a diminished capacity, he accepted. He stayed with his mother, as that was convenient for a while and then a while turned into several years. But convenience had turned to feelings of being trapped. He longed for the old days.
As Henry made his way home one evening, he thought about home and hoped his mother was feeling better. He had left for work while she was asleep. A quick call confirmed his mother was feeling well and that dinner would be waiting and could he please buy some bread at the nearby deli. He dropped the phone is his pocket as he neared the entrance to the subway.
The stairs were a bit of trouble, but he ignored the pain in his hip and managed with the help of his cane to get to the lower level. The subway had its own weather, cooler even on the warmest days; the atmosphere heavy with accumulated odors were offensive to him.
People jostled for a spot to wait for the doors to slide open. Henry at the edge of the crowd, stepped forward, barely making in through the doors before they closed. He grabbed the overhead bar to steady himself and bumped into a tall thin man. The man wore a dark three-piece suit and a hat with the brim set low on his forehead that looked slightly familiar.
Henry got off the subway and up the steps. The air was refreshing as he stepped into the street and his mood brightened thinking about the dinner that would be waiting for him when he got home. He thought he might pick up a bottle of wine along with the bread.
He didn’t notice at first, but the thin man fell along side him matching his steps. Henry still musing about dinner and later, reruns of Twilight Zone, ignored him as he quickened his steps.
“Name’s Jasper,” said the man keeping stride.
“I know your name,” Jasper said when Henry kept walking. “It’s Henry.”
A shiver ran down Henry’s back, despite the fact that he was now perspiring after his walk up the stairs.
“What’s wrong with your leg, Henry?” the man said.
“You know my name, you must know that too,” he said.
“Just to verify is all. I’ve watched you lately. You seem lonely,” Jasper said.
“None of your business,” said Henry trying to walk faster and be rid of him.
“Oh, I don’t wish to intrude, but I do think I could help you. If you will only listen…”
Henry stopped, out of breath, and stood with his weight on his good leg. “Just leave me be; whatever you want, I’m not interested.”
“Hear me out. I have something that could help you.”
Help me, how?” said Henry. “And how do you know my name?’
“I know a lot about you Henry. You don’t like me, you are even afraid of me. I know that you live with your mother. I know you don’t have a girlfriend. You don’t like your boss, even though he was nice to you and offered you a job. You feel guilty because of that. Am I right, so far, Henry?’
Again the prickles up his spine. Henry started to walk on.
“Wait, I have something for you,” Jasper said.
The man took a card from his pocket and fingered it while he walked beside Henry.
“What’s that?” said Henry.
Jasper extended the card, “Chance for a future. What I’m offering allows you to know another person’s thoughts. Seems impossible, doesn’t it… ”
“It’s only a piece of paper.” Henry held it like it was hot lead.
“Ah, but the information…how to download an app on your I-phone…”
Henry tried to shove the card back into Jasper’s hand. “That’s crazy,” he said.
“Not crazy,” Jasper said. “Not crazy at all. It’s an app I designed. Tried to get a patent for it, but no one would believe me. Now I just want to recoup a little of my cost. Whadda you say? Want a crack at it? You can have it for twenty-three dollars.”
“How doe’s ….”
“It’s all there on the card. Just follow the steps. Number’s on the back if you need to call.”
Henry opened up his wallet and fumbled for bills and counted them; exactly twenty-three dollars; again the needles down his spine. Jasper took the money, pocketed it without counting and strode off in the opposite direction.
Henry felt a little foolish, rather like the boy Jack, who traded all for some beans. There would be no bread or wine tonight.
As part of writing 201, I am editing a response to a prompt. It’s a work in progress. Next installment in a few days. Critics welcome.