Friday, October 07, 2005

Prologue Continued

Twenty-two years later.

Henry sat at the cafe table, staring at his hard hat. He frowned and wiped some sweat off of his brow. Sweat matted his thick, brown hair. The summer had proven to be unusually hot for New England, and Henry didn’t like humid heat. But there was little he, or anyone, could do about it but bear it out. He had a cold beer handy to help cool his insides, so he felt he would manage the heat wave–for a little while, anyway.

He rocked the hard hat back and forth in front of him, absently listening to the rolling sound it made on the plastic table top. Long way from astronaut, he thought to himself. He occasionally would look up to watch the scantily clad people walk by; some of them looking into windows of shops that once could very well have been brownstone apartment buildings.


The man cocked his head. Familiar voice…but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He looked around for the source of the voice.

Two tables away sat a lone man with platinum blond hair. He waved frantically. He picked up his drink and worked his way over to Henry.

Henry frowned. He recognized the man now, but just barely. "Scott…"

"Hey!" Scott sat down at the table, across from Henry. "Long time no see! Funny us meeting up like this. Last time we saw each other, you were gunning for the Air Force Academy, trying to become an astronaut." He gestured to the hard hat. "What happened?"

Henry sighed. He didn’t like talking about it, even to his childhood friend. "My eyes weren’t good enough to be a pilot."

"Oh." Scott’s face remained blank. "Sorry to hear that. So you got into construction?"

Henry nodded, feeling a little numbed by the discomfort of the situation he was now in–trying to explain the past eight years to a friend he hadn’t seen for that entire period. "Engineer. It was my second choice. I spent some time in the Navy, working with the Seabees."

"How did that go?"

"It went well. I made lieutenant, got out, went through a couple crap jobs, then hooked up with this firm." He gestured at the blue and red logo on the hard hat.

"Ah. Don’t know much about them."

"Neither did I. I just marched in, handed in my resume…I guess they were impressed by the guts I showed and hired me."

Scott tried to restrain a laugh.

"What?" Henry frowned and crossed his arms.

"You? Guts? No offense, and don’t take this the wrong way, but you tend to be a little wishy-washy."

Henry’s mouth twisted–Scott was right. Most of the time, Henry would waffle in making a decision. He never felt he had much confidence. But…"When I want something, I go get it. Remember Lisa?"

"Oh, yeah!" Scott leaned back, bemused. "God, for a while there I thought her parents were going to put out a restraining order on you. But she gave in and went with you to the prom. I guess I heard she actually enjoyed your company. Did you two ever keep in touch?"

Henry shook his head. "Went to college and never kept in touch."

"You’ve always been horrible at that," Scott commented, grinning broadly. "I felt lucky…no, no…" He waved his hands around. "Honored…to even get a letter from you over the past eight years."

Henry frowned, his ego bruised. "I sent a Christmas card every year…"

"Ooh! Christmas card! Your childhood friend rates right up there with your weird uncle!" Scott shook his hands in the air. "I’m so impressed by how much of a friend I must be to you."

"Well, you are weird, so I guess that would explain a few things." Henry winked and took a drink of his beer.

"Yeah, like you’re Mr. Normal. Oop!" Scott looked down at his beeper.


"I gotta go. Sorry, dude."

"What are you doing, then?"

"Going for my doctorate in computer engineering."

"You’re kidding."

"Nope." Scott got up from the table. He fished around in his wallet and tossed a business card at Henry.

Henry picked up the card and looked at it. "Professor’s assistant?"

"That’s my boss now. " He gestured at the pager. "I’m doing some research work in Boston before I head back up to Maine. He tells me if things go right, I might have his job in a few years. He intends on retiring soon." Scott changed the subject. "Your parents still live outside of Orton?"

Henry nodded. "My father, anyway. My mother passed away two years ago." He stared at the table.

"Oh." Scott stood there for a moment. "Sorry to hear that." He shook his head wildly and smirked. "God, the world sure has shit on you, hasn’t it?"

"Meh." Henry shrugged and took another drink.

"Well, take care. I’ll keep in touch with you if you keep in touch with me. Deal?"

"Deal. Take care."

Scott waved and walked up to the waiter to deal with his bill.

Henry stared at the brown bottle and frowned. He wanted to tell his friend more, but this wasn’t the time or place. He turned and watched his friend of over twenty years walk down the street towards the skyscrapers. He then turned back to his beer, then looked at his watch. Six-fifteen. No place to go tonight, really.

Henry quickly fought down that feeling again–the feeling of purposelessness. Seeing Scott didn’t help Henry’s battle against the dark monster, and having him talk about Henry’s lost dreams only added to the problem.


Daydreaming, Henry walked across the open lot, looking out over the water of the river to the buildings beyond. The sun shone brightly in the midday sky, and several large cumulus clouds silently sailed overhead. A warm breeze blew, smelling sweet of flowers and greenery. The light of the sun played upon the ripples on the water of the river, and the man felt all was well. His mind was at peace, at least for now.

Before him was an old, run-down warehouse. It was attached to a larger string of warehouses where the construction firm he worked for was located. He had heard rumors that homeless people lived in there at one time, but were chased out by the police less than a month ago. Of course, that didn’t mean the homeless people wouldn’t return. He had heard that when the police had raided the building, there had been a lot of drug paraphernalia lying everywhere, particularly crack pipes. One of the superintendents had been available and on site when the shakedown had taken place, and that was how Henry had obtained his information.

He wondered about the building and what was inside. Drawn by some strange, morbid curiosity, he walked towards the building, careful not to disturb anything. He walked into the shadow of the bleak structure and peered into the dim light beyond.

A lot of broken equipment was inside, among other junk: old fluorescent light bulbs, boxes, crates, parts, and one beat-up pick-up truck, sitting quietly in the middle of the warehouse. Most notably, there were blankets and clothing strewn everywhere. Nobody was inside, though, as far as the young man could tell.

"Hey," someone said from behind.

The man turned around to see one of the superintendents standing fifty feet away, looking at him. "Hey," Henry returned.

"Quite a mess, isn’t it?" the superintendent said as he approached the large open door of the warehouse.

He turned back to the chaos within and nodded. "Anyone still live in here?"

"I think so…I heard there’s a guy named Frank who frequents this place. Pretty slippery fellow…every time someone approaches the building, he just disappears. Probably afraid the police are going to come again. As long as he keeps away from the drugs, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about. But I think he is just a boozer. Man, I tell you, when the cops first raided the place…"

The superintendent rambled on about the events after the raid, but something else had grabbed the young man’s attention. There were two lone figures, just a few feet to the left of the entrance…they were toys of some kind. Two stuffed animals of a strange design…they were mounted on sticks, which were weighted by green blocks underneath, designed to keep the toys upright. One was a rabbit, dressed in a green suit, and the other was a goose in a flowery pink dress. Their arms and wings appeared as if they were ready to embrace the man. The image conjured up strange feelings in the back of the man’s mind–something long ago and forgotten–an age when things were simpler and innocent. He pictured children playing with the toys–he could see the merriment in the children’s’ eyes, and for a moment, it was as if the toys showed merriment as well. The toys stood watch over the children as they played and dreamed…

Dreamed. Something was wrong. Snapped back to reality, the young man could see that these toys had been tossed to the side–they were just barely upright, having been thrown on top of a pile of trash. Their fake fur and feathers, as well as their clothing, were covered in what could very well be years of grime. The goose had a boot print on its dress. Their arms and wings were still stretched wide open, but not in welcome–stretched wide open in fear, in despair, and in loss. The children had grown up long ago, and the dreams they and these toys had were discarded, just like the toys themselves. Slowly, a tear started to form in the man’s eye.

Now thoroughly appalled by the disturbing display, he sharply turned around and retreated back to the light of the sun. The superintendent, interrupted by the abrupt act of the man, turned and called after the man. "What’s wrong? Did I say something?" The superintended looked concerned, and continued to call out. "Henry? Are you all right?"

The man withdrew quickly back into the open lot, trying to force down the desperate emotion that was struggling to surface. Those stuffed toys, they were a symbol. A symbol of all the joys lost in life because someone had been cast away and forgotten, just like those toys. Dreams that had been shattered. He looked back up into the afternoon sky…

A part of him wanted to scream out at the universe. He, too, had dreams. Dreams that could never come true for him anymore. He saw those representations of others’ lost dreams, and it brought him crashing down to Earth. How many others out there had their dreams destroyed by circumstances they couldn’t prevent? He vowed to himself, if he could ever find a way, to latch on to whatever dream would come and never let it go. He’d die first before losing his dreams again. And maybe–just maybe–he could help others do likewise.

But how?


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