This story is by Mike Mower and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
His livelihood ripped from him, and subsequently his home, Brooks Akenside, AKA Brooksy, found himself lost as it were, on a dark course into a seemingly bottomless pit.
He had been beaten up, kicked around, and stolen from in life; but this time it was different. It all happened at once.
After years of living and working on the South Fork of Eastern Long Island, and the shores of Seven Mile Island in South Jersey, everything as he knew it had ended. He found himself with no viable income, and struggling to find a means to sustain the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and sanity.
He was now in the fight of his life. Emotionally, vocationally, spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially, he was not well. At the heart of his unwinding was the ending of his career. Essentially he was disappeared from his corporate director position as part of a corporate shake up. They call it that for a reason; boy did it shake Brooksy up. The aftermath it would leave in its wake was debilitating and paralyzing. The home soon went into foreclosure, Brooksy’s best friend, an Australian cattle dog was adopted out to an anonymous family, and Brooks Akenside essentially foreclosed upon himself. He gave up and surrendered.
The garage of an acquaintance became his residence. He now carried an ill-gotten Constable badge in one pocket of his trousers, and the red-fabric badge of a well-known underbelly “organization” in another, both courtesy of the same acquaintance, Jimbo.
“CLEAR!” Jimbo shouted, after entering the front hall.
“CLEAR!” Brooksy shouted, as he rounded the top of the stairs.
(And so on, throughout this residence until it was determined to be unoccupied, and the car keys located, and guns holstered.)
Brooks was relishing distractions such as this. Portraying a Pennsylvania State Constable to obtain a stolen car that belonged to Jimbo lent a sense of newfound purpose to this man. And all the better, Brooksy’s license to openly carry his Springfield Armory sub compact semi-automatic 9mm was actually coming in handy.
Yet the man could not rest peacefully. His insomnia was strengthening, lessening any remaining perceived control he felt. Sure, drinking more wine than recommended would help him fall asleep, but once asleep he’d fall victim to nightmares depicting the reality of having lost everything. Brooksy was even losing faith in his long-held belief that being “passive-competitive” was what had helped him through life thus far.
Brooksy wasn’t content to be a run-of-the-mill “dark horse”. Both the text book and Urban Dictionary definitions were partly accurate. Though to him, he was a passive-competitive dark horse – something he had worked at being from little up, to help this underdog win.
Create the mood, the POV, the believability….that they, and by “they” Brooksy meant most everyone in virtually all situations and interactions…..would underestimate you, and write you off as a serious competitor or adversary. Then take them by surprise.)
This approach was crucial to becoming a sleeper, a dark horse, a fly up the creek. So, it worked until a point. That point where the bottomless pit embraced him.
Could he have been wrong all of these years about this strategy? He could not have been wrong all of these years! He was certain of it!! After all, couldn’t he attribute his recently-achieved elevation in status in the red-fabric bandana club to it? In any event, the inherently good fabric in our man began pushing back on the red kind after circumstances such as this one with St. Vincent:
A good, yet poor soul, dubbed St. Vincent: “You aren’t here to kill me are you?”
Donnybrook (Brooksy’s code name for all things red-fabric club) could only return a confident, silent stare.
St. Vincent: “I won’t let you just do it. I will fight back.”
As Brooksy was readying for sleep, there on the couch in the sweltering garage, he could delay the inevitable nightmares by staying awake and thinking about how this pit had wholly swallowed him, and how he could grapple his way out.
The ambient temperature was dreadful, and the ambient light could only be credited to a glare coming through cracked windows from above a telephone pole outside. The heat and the fractured light from the mercury-fueled lamp atop the pole created the perfect ambiance to stew on things.
Halfway into a box of wine and nearing a state of twilight slumber “Dammit Dog” came to mind…..
The dog had been stuck in traffic; cars zipping by. Only one thing to do:
- Dart out and grab the thing!
Brooksy ran into traffic, scooped it up, and charted his way through a sea of cars to the other side of the highway.
“HELL YEAH DAMMIT!!” he yelled, as he looked down at the creature, gently placed on the good ground beneath him.
Was the dog against cursing? Maybe. Was “HELL YEAH DAMMIT” an attack command? It must’ve been, for the dog went on an unholy attack.
Eyes, teeth, and frothy slobber aimed at his shins led to a fight, flight or freeze dilemma in “good ‘ole Brooksy”. A light shooing did not work, and neither did a couple of harder kicks. This scene did not sit well with some casual observers who were approaching. And thus their approach became much more than casual. After a few expletives they began beating up the human for kicking an innocent dog. That’s when Brooksy’s flight reflex kicked in.
As our man relived this, he surmised that this “Dammit Dog”, did not want to be removed from traffic that day.
- It was arguably pissed for being removed from a chaotic world it found itself in, only to find itself in a new and unknown chaotic world.
- It reacted in a predictably unpredictable manner.
He realized there were some parallels with his own situation.
- He was rightfully in a chaotic uncharted sea of upset when he was summarily removed from a chaotic job, and then subsequently his home.
- He reacted in a predictably unpredictable manner. Although he never would have predicted he would have been involved in a life of downright horrible, let alone legally “questionable” matters.
- He realized that he had dark-horsed himself. He had underestimated his ability to stay strong in the face of unfathomable adversity.
- Armed with the acceptance of this he might be able rise above this pit without a bottom.
Our Brooksy decided to distance himself from Jimbo. He had to. How else could he get back on a fairly straight and not so broad-in-the-beam path?
He began hanging out at the local members-only men’s club a lot more than usual. It was his go-to respite for a number of reasons.
- He could work out there if he wanted
- Shower as needed
- Play poker with the guys
- And, drink more than needed
Being there morning, Noon, and night he actually began to feel quite at home; something he hadn’t had a sense of in a long time. He could exit the escape room that was “living in Jimbo’s garage by day”.
The Club manager even asked him to interview for a job!
Manager: “Have you read the posting for the general maintenance position?”
Brooksy: “Yes, three times.”
Manager: “Are you handy?”
Brooksy: “For anything not within my skill set, there would be many resources I can use to fill the gap”.
Manager: “When can you start?”
Of course Brooks Akenside was not mechanically inclined in the least. Our betrodden good-guy-turned-ne’er-do-well had broken a cardinal rule of his passive-competitive approach to life thus far; he oversold himself.
But he thought this might be a chance to earn money for food, and even feed his passive-competitive beliefs that he had lived by. He could put some new clothes on his back, as well as don a cloak of sorts, under which he would no longer feel paralyzed. And, it might allow him to shelter in place from the escape room that was “his bottomless pit”.
Moreover, he calculated that his daytime respite could serve as an overnight haven as well. That would be critical to exiting the escape room that was “Jimbo’s garage at night”. Aside from getting out from under the world of anything remotely underworld, he would not be relegated to LIVING IN A GARAGE!
- He could exit at closing time,
- Wait for the closing bartender to leave,
- Use his employee keys to enter,
- Watch TV, do laundry, and sleep in the living room until it was time to work at 5:00am.
Brooks had found a way to take care of his immediate basic needs, and then some. He enjoyed having another home to take care of. It wasn’t the same as the beloved home he lost, but it was a start.
The self-foreclosure of giving up on himself was over. He could even continue to use his passive-competitive skills as any consummate dark horse would. He would do so to distance himself from his Bloods brother Jimbo, and get on with life.
HELL YEAH DAMMIT!