Marshall was aware of three things: the complete absence of moisture in his mouth, his raging headache, and that he was still wearing the clothes he put on the day before. He eased up onto his elbows and looked around the room. Even though everything was dark, he was home. He was on his couch in his living room. His breath tasted of vomit. His back ached. He groaned and pressed on his temples trying to remember how much he’d had to drink.
Trying not to rattle the contents of his stomach, Marshall gingerly sat up. He let his head fall toward his knees and rubbed his eyes with both hands hoping to wipe away the fog. Sighing, he decided he needed to find out what time it was. He couldn’t tell if it was early morning or late at night or somewhere in between. He groped the coffee table looking for his cell phone, but he came up short.
“I’ve got it over here,” a strange voice said.
Marshall’s terror-fueled heart pumped adrenaline so fast through his body, he thought he could feel it rushing through this blood. Eyes wide, he came to his feet with his fists clenched. “Get out of my house!” he yelled. “I’m calling the cops! I’ve already called them. They’re on their way here right now! You better run!”
The man at the kitchen table was masked by the darkness. Marshall could only see his silhouette. His voice playful but dangerous. “You didn’t call the cops,” he said. “Because I’ve got your phone, remember.”
“I’m going to get my gun,” Marshall threatened. “You better get out of my house before I shoot you in the face.”
“You mean this gun,” the man said, placing a heavy object on the table. “Found it a little bit ago. You should probably keep this in a lock box or something. Just having it in a drawer. I mean, anyone can get their hands on it.”
The adrenaline was fading. Marshall could feel his headache returning and his knees warning an imminent surrender likely followed by a collapse. He gave in and sat back down on the couch. “Please don’t hurt me,” Marshall said. He wanted to cry, but the alcohol seemed to have sucked all the moisture from his body. “I’ve got plenty of money. Just take whatever you want and go. Just don’t hurt me.”
“Look at the great and powerful lawyer,” the man laughed. “A lion at the bar, a tornado in court, but a kitten at home.”
“Come on,” Marshall complained, as he allowed his head to fall back onto the couch. “I’m hung over. The room is spinning. And you smell like puke. Or, I smell like puke. I don’t even know. One of us smells like puke, so just take whatever want and leave.”
“I’m not here to rob you, Marshall James Fitzpatrick,” the man said. “I’m here to discuss your sins.”
Marshall pushed back up to his elbows. “Is this some kind of Scrooge thing? Are you, like, the ghost of Christmas Past or something?”
“No,” the man said, irritated.
“How’d you know my name then?” Marshall said, feeling proud of his skills of deduction, even while suffering from an epic hangover.
“Because I have your wallet,” the man said, waving something in the air.
“That makes more sense,” Marshall said, closing his eyes, but only for a moment as he was jerked back to life when the man pounded his hands on the table and screamed “Wake up!” with all his might.
Marshall jerked up again, holding his hand over his mouth as he fought back the vomit rising in his throat. After an acidic burp, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves. Marshall knew he needed to somehow take control of the moment. Looking back to the man at the kitchen table, Marshall said, “Listen. I had a lot to drink tonight. So if you’re going to shoot me, aim for my head so this damn headache will go away. If you’re not going to shoot me, take whatever you came for and go. I promise. It’s insured. I won’t even tell the cops you were here.”
“You arrogant ass, I told you, I’m not here to rob you. I’m here to talk about the old man you beat up in the park today,” the man said.
The room began to spin. “Old man in the park?” Marshall said to himself. He forced down another alcohol filled burp. “How much did I have to drink?”
“You had two double shots of whiskey, a Fancy-Free, a Paper Plane, a Manhattan, and something called a Vampire Blues.”
“That’s a lot of booze,” Marshall said. Pinching his eyelids together, he opened them and tried to see through the darkness to get a better look at his capture. The man was slight with slouched shoulders.
“It was nice of you to buy all those women so many drinks.”
“That’s how I roll,” Marshall said, leaning back and closing his eyes.
“So generous with the ladies,” the man quip. “So giving. So kind.”
Marshall opened one eye and said, “Don’t think that I’m missing the sarcasm in your voice.”
The man cocked Marshall’s gun, placing a bullet in the chamber. The sound sent a second rush of adrenaline rushing through Marshall’s body.
“You’re quicker when you’re hungover. Typically you miss all my jokes.”
“I’m sorry,” Marshall said, leaning forward. “Do we know each other?”
“You know who I am,” the man said.
“Were you one of my clients?” Marshall said. “Listen, whatever you think I did, however you think I failed you, I promise, I did the best I could. Some days I’m just not a very good lawyer. Is that the sin you want to discuss? Because, trust me, I know.”
“I not one of your disgusting clients,” the man said with revulsion. “I’d never hire a worthless piece of crap like you.”
“Okay,” Marshall said. “Not a client. Well, that’s probably good. And not the ghost of Christmas Pasts. So what are you to me then?”
“I told you,” the man said. “I’m the one who is going to make you pay for your sins.”
Marshall scraped his tough against the roof of his mouth. “See, you said that, and it’s why I’m confused because I know for a fact I haven’t been to any park today, and I’ve never hit anyone in my entire life, so beating up an old man, that’s not really my style.”
“Oh, it may not be your style, but it’s your fault.”
“Nope,” Marshall said, gaining a small amount of energy from the excitement of a potential verbal joust. This was where he was at his best, making an argument, debating the terms of an agreement, squabbling over the small details of a plea deal. This was his comfort zone. “I left Linda’s house this morning. Or was it Lisa? Lydia?”
“Her name was Liza.”
“Yeah,” Marshall said. “I left Liza’s house this morning and went straight to the office. I was there all day. Then at seven I went to O’Donnell’s and met that chick, um, Sarah?”
“Yeah, thank you. I met Susan. And we hooked up in the parking lot. And then I came home. So, no park. No old man. You’re in the wrong place.”
“You’ve left out a few steps,” the man said.
Marshall’s eyes finally gave him a better picture of the intruder. The man was young and clean-shaven. His hair was a curly mess. “You do look familiar. Were you at the bar?”
“No. No. No,” the man said. He stood, picking up the gun and pointing it at Marshall.
Marshall raised his hands in defense. “Okay. Okay. Just take a second. I’m sure we can figure all this out together.”
“Let me tell you how your night really went,” the man said. The gun shook in his hand and there was a crack in his voice. “I picked you up at Liza Kelly’s apartment, 407 North Charles Street, this morning and drove to your office at 206 West Pratt Street. And then at lunch, I picked you up at 206 West Pratt Street and drove you to Grimaldi’s deli at 258 East Albermarle. Then I took you back to your office. And then, to O’Donnell’s at 141 West Cross Street.”
“Oh shit,” Marshall said. “You’re the driver from that app thing. The, um.” He let out a massive yawn that made his head pound.
“That’s right,” the man said. “I’m your Pick Up Driver.”
“Yeah,” Marshall said with a snap. “Pick Up.”
“I cart you from place to place. All day. Every day. Just waiting for you to call for another ride.”
“I don’t think that’s how that app is supposed to work,” Marshall said. “I think you’re supposed to pick up a bunch of people. Not just me.”
“Shut up!” the driver yelled, thrusting the gun forward.
“Okay. Okay,” Marshall said, holding his hands up in defensive again.
“I wait for you all day and all night,” the man said, lowering the gun. “But do you ever say thank you? Do you ever even tip? No. It’s like I don’t even matter to you. It’s like you don’t even see me.”
Marshall saw his opportunity and hoped he could rally enough energy to take advantage of it. “No, that’s not it,” Marshall said stepping forward with his hands still raised. “I totally recognize you. You’re the driver. Of course. I know you.”
The man raised the gun again with renewed resolution. “Then why did you give me one star today?”
“One star?” Marshall said.
“After I picked up at the deli. You gave me one star.”
Marshall thought hard. “I, um, I don’t remember. I guess I might have done that.”
“Oh, you did it. We got stopped at a red light and you said you were going to be late for your next meeting. And you were yelling at me to run it. But I can’t. They’ll know. And then they won’t let me drive anymore. But you were yelling. And I asked you to stop. And I said I was sorry. And then you laughed.”
“Yeah. I remember now. I’m really sorry. There was this client who’s a real hard ass and I was under a lot of stress, and.”
“And you laugh and then you said, ‘That’s one star for you, Bub.’ That’s not even my name. My name’s not Bub.”
“Okay. Okay. Listen. Sometimes I can be an ass.”
“That’s not even my name.”
“I know. I’m so sorry.”
“You’ve ruined my career.”
“Well, I mean, that feels like an exaggeration. Is Pick Up driving really a career?”
“You’ve ruined my life!” the driver yelled.
“Okay. Okay,” Marshall said, taking a step back. “I can see where you’re coming from. But I didn’t beat up any old man in any park. So, whatever this is, I really think you still have the wrong guy.”
“You made me do it,” the driver said. There was a shutter in his voice. “You made me. I didn’t have a choice. I had to get gas to pick you up from the bar tonight and bring you home. But I don’t get paid when I only get one star. So I had to. How else would you get home?”
“Oh, um, wow. Okay,” Marshall said, exhaling and nodding. “So, I don’t really think this one falls on me. I mean, there’s a lot you could have done.”
“All I needed was twenty dollars for gas,” the driver said. “But he just kept screaming. And I asked nicely, but he just kept screaming. It didn’t matter how many times I hit him. He just kept screaming. I had to make him stop screaming.”
“Okay. Listen,” Marshall said, making a second attempt to move forward. “You’ve had a long day. So, why don’t you give me the gun, and I’ll make us something to drink, and we can talk this out, alright?”
“The time for talking is done,” the driver said, raising the gun again. “And there’s only one way this ends.”
Well written. A couple typos in there need to be fixed, otherwise, very good!
Jola Olofinboba says
A beautiful story! I like the way in which the details of the story were gradually introduced. Eventually I got the picture of Marshall, a drunken lawyer who was held captive by his pick-up driver whom he had mistreated earlier in the day. Because of his severe intoxication, Marshall didn’t know when his captor seized his wallet, gun, and entered his house. I enjoyed the part in which the driver calmly revealed how helpless Marshall had rendered himself by his indiscipline.
Generally, I like stories that remind people about the need to avoid acts of indiscipline such as alcohol abuse and being mean to people who serve us. I commend Jeff Elkins for successfully teaching some important lessons with the story Marshall and the Man at the Table.
Congratulations and best wishes!
Great study of how one persons off-hand remark can become a major event to another person. Only a crazy person takes it as far as the driver does. Well done.
Jeff Elkins says
I enjoy the story which can teach people how their actions have consequences.
Some repetitions there and too much explaining.
Jeff Elkins says
I write dialog for a simulation company for my day job. They are always making fun of me at work for how I repeat words to build drama. 😉
Trish Perry says
I thought this was a very interesting concept. The story flowed well and it was easy to visualize the setting and the characters. The dialogue was strong and did a good job of helping to move the plot forward. I wasn’t particularly fond of the ending. I saw it coming early on in the story. Maybe something that had a twist would have been a better choice.
Well written. Nice choice of words.
The plot is a cliche, however, but it is well developed. The ending didn’t satisfy me. And there’s no scene description so I had to imagine the place in a dark vacuum which was hot and smelled awful. Scene description was an element which could add a little creativity to this story. I’m not sure about this, but I think the voice of the story is wrong. The correct or creative narration could be a valuable element here.
Jeff Elkins says
You totally busted me on my weakness. I’m the worst at writing scene description, so usually, I just leave it out and stick to dialog. Thanks for the thoughts.