Change In Life
At four o'clock, Amos Blum would begin his 'closing down ritual'. He assumed it struck his co-workers as odd that he was still working at five.
Amos did not appreciate that no one noticed him, nor was aware of any of his rituals.
At six, the cleaner arrived, making her way from the offices at the top. When she
was two rows away, Amos left his desk. For no particular reason decided to walk
down the six flights.
As he yanked open the stairwell door, the pressure within seemed so great; he
had a momentary thought of retreat, but if the cleaner saw him hesitate, she
might think less of him.
Unknown to Amos Blum, the cleaner could not have picked him out of a line up.
Amos hurried down the stairs, confused by his odd behaviour. But today was a day of confusion.
Yesterday, Monday, he had arrived home spot on five thirty to find himself alone. This had never happened before.
His wife, Lucy, should be placing the meal on the table, his daughter, Barbara, being called from her room. This was how it had always been.
But it was not like that yesterday.
Just a note;
"I have taken Barbara to the Caribbean
for three weeks. Look after yourself."
He had thought it a joke.
Where would his wife get the money to take herself and their daughter to the Caribbean? Why had they left so secretively?
Nothing had warned Amos that on Monday morning, when he left for work he would return to an empty house.
Yesterday evening he had sat in 'his' chair in front of the television, holding the
note, looking into space. At some point, he passed into sleep to awake at dawn,
fully dressed, down to his shoes.
Confused, he moved into the bedroom. His wife's cosmetics were gone. He assumed items of clothing but could not have been sure which.
He stumbled to the bathroom, into a shower, eying his flabby body. His ugly slack
body which had once been called athletic. He tried to wash a semblance of reality
into himself, but failed.
Amos went for his razor; but his wife shopped Monday afternoon. She hadn't shopped, so there were no razors, hence he could not shave.
When he'd first met Lucy he'd worn a beard. A small one which he'd liked. His hair had been a light brown but his beard was blond and he felt the contrast clever.
Lucy thought he ought shave it off, and he had.
For fifteen years he had.
He emerged from the shower with a quandary. He always wore the same outfit on
Tuesday he had on Monday. But having slept in the clothing he could not wear it.
This meant he would have to wear his Wednesday's outfit, but as Lucy did the
laundry before she shopped on Monday his Wednesday outfit would be in the
Amos surmounted the obstacle by pulling out clothing he never wore and doing
the best he could. The black slacks were too tight, the striped shirt never fit properly.
He went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. Though he hadn't eaten dinner yesterday he was not hungry.
Amos was upset and would never eat when he was upset. However, knowing he had to eat he tried to force half an English muffin. He felt pain in a molar and decided with all this extra time he could go across to the dentist.
There was a dental clinic directly across th street, it opened at 7.
Amos popped across to the dentist and made the pain sound worse than it was.
Considering he hadn't been looked after for a while, he had a substantive cleaning.
The result of this was that he arrived at work twenty minutes late. He assumed everyone agog that Amos Blum was LATE.
No one noticed.
At his desk he contemplated this 'vacation' his wife and daughter had taken. He decided it would be wise for him to also take a vacation.Three weeks of an empty house, laundry, cooking and cleaning was unbearable. Better he went away.
Of course, he didn't have the money to go to the Caribbean, and by the way,
where was that?
Obviously Lucy had not wanted to tell him.
He could not afford to fly anywhere, but he could drive up to Lake George.
Last year, on their holiday, he'd taken his family to Lake George, to a particular
motor inn. He recalled other people, not guests, who would drive in for the day,
then out. He could do that too.
Perhaps he could sleep in his car.
He could drive up, park amid the guests, enjoy the lake, buy a meal or two, sleep in his car, so as to get another day of pretend vacation.
The worst that could happen is that he'd be told to drive out and if forced, take a room. It was not that expensive. One small room for the night. He could put it on the credit card. Yes. Perfect.
He approached his boss, asked for two weeks, his due vacation, which he'd planned to take next month. He had a few lies ready in case questioned, but
Mrs. Pillar told him to begin his vacation on Monday.
He began packing on Thursday and though he wanted to leave after work on
Friday there was a bit of a rain and he spent that night at home.
Journey to Lake George
He began his drive to Lake George at seven on Saturday and arrived at ten, proud to have found the Motel easily. He didn't recall the security guard at the gate before and his heart sank. No doubt they were preventing strangers from using the property.
"You're late." The guard said to him.
"Excuse me?" Amos retorted, sure the guard was going to ask, "Are you a guest?"
"You were supposed to be here at nine." The guard emphasized, "Mr. Wagner's been waiting for you in the Office."
"Oh.", Amos played along, parked in the management only section, emerging from his faded Chevy in better humour than he'd been for quite sometime.
He sauntered to the Office, entered.
"Mr. Wagner?" He called, expecting, 'who are you?' and then he'd explain the guard's misdirection.
"Glad you made it!" Beamed a short fat man, extending his hand, "that was some pile up!"
"Tell me about it." Amos replied, feeling so clever his remark could be taken both ways.
"When nine o'clock came and I didn't see you I was pissed until the news came on
about the seventeen car pile up I was worried you might be in it."
"You're ready to begin, Jack?" Said Mr. Wagner, "or would you like me to go over
it a last time?"
"Go over it." Amos requested, really enjoying the game.
"The room rates are here, listed where anyone can see them. Check out time is Noon, I don't care what time the guests arrived. And we don't rent by the hour. This is a family place. Any one wants a quickie, not here! Your room is here, you sign for your meals. Your usual hours are from eleven in the morning to seven at night. You get a break when you can but you're on call twenty four hours in case anything happens. I'll be with you today and tomorrow, then you're on your own. Questions?"
"And you don't mind if I use the facilities? Swim? Mingle?" Amos asked, as if confirming.
"As long as you do it outside your working hours. Can't have the manager in the lake when guests are checking out."
"You're off on Mondays, but not this Monday, cause I won't be here. I usually fill in for you on Monday. As I told you, it's a six day job."
"Oh, by the way, would you fill in another form?"
"What happened to the first?"
"I put my coffee cup on it." Wagner gave apologetically showing him the big brown circle on the short application form.
Amos gave the form a quick study, but needn't of, as Wagner left it on the desk. Blum couldn't match the handwriting, saw an old typewriter. Luck was with him. He was now Jack Morgan. He debated changing the social security number, decided not.
Amos considered the consequences of his masquerade, the worst, embarrassment.
If he could pull off Jack Morgan he had a two week semi-vacation. Better than sleeping in his car and scrimping on meals.
He completed the application, balled up and tossed the original in the bin, making sure to tear off the signature, for there was no way he could copy that scrawl.
Amazingly, Wagner entered with two cups of coffee just as he'd gotten rid of 'the evidence'.
Impressed Amos had typed the application, he ran off his mouth for a while in the vein of 'good old days.'
Coffee completed, it was now a walk about. There were the rooms, the little restaurant, a few shops, the pool and the lake ahead. A life guard was on duty from nine to five, a groundsman from seven to three. The restaurant opened at six thirty in the morning and shut at eight in the evening. The bar section opened at three p.m. until eleven.
Amos was introduced to the waitresses, shop attendants, then brought back to the office and directed to his room. It was a nice room. Clean and large with a television, phone, and private bath. He chuckled at his good fortune, though expecting the real Jack Morgan to stand up before sunset.
That night, lying in bed, rubbing his stubbly face, he could not believe his luck. It was as if fate was opening doors and he had the courage to enter.
He woke easily at six and to the lake. He plunged into the water and began to swim as if he were still on the Midwood High team. It had been too many years since he had swum so he was exhausted when he made it back to land, collapsing on the shore.
He must have slept for the voice came from a distance; "You really shouldn't lie in the sun without protection."
He opened his eyes, and there was a pretty blonde girl not five feet away. Instead of pretending he hadn't heard or dismissing her remark he replied; "You're right."
"Here, try this." She said, tossing him a tube.
He didn't read the label as Amos Blum would do, he used the cream, for Jack was an easy going careless fellow.
You're the new manager." She said. "I work in the gift shop." He gave her another
"I was a brunette yesterday." She said.
Uncharacteristically for Amos, Jack said; "That colour is beautiful on you."
"I bought Summer Blonde, rich gold." She blushed.
"I like it. I always wanted to be a blond myself," he smiled, then went to hide his
teeth, for they were yellow and discoloured, but at the last second he remembered
they were blinding white.
Now wasn't that fate?
To have gone to the dentist before meeting a pretty girl and smiling?
The girl smiled back, replying; "There's another box of Rich Gold," her blue eyes
very deep in his.
"I'll pick it up." He replied, then, boldly, "have you had breakfast yet?"
"Let's go, shall we?" He invited rising, sucking in his belly, which was not as vast
as it had been considering his near starvation of last week.
"My name is Connie Janelli," She said, "in case you didn't remember."
He put out his hand and pulled her up. She was a bit shorter and plumper than
he'd expected but still very nice. He dropped her hand belatedly then recalled
leaving his wedding ring and watch in his room.
Another bit of the Jack style contra the Amos.
After a pleasant conversation over a decent breakfast, he walked her to the
shop, bought the last box of Rich Gold and carried it to his room, then took up his post.
Looking through the newspaper, the victims of the accident were listed.
Dead, one Jackson Morgan.
There would be no comeback.
Jack Morgan was a common name.
It could be a coincidence.
For extra safety he tossed the paper into the garbage, just in case Mr. Wagner might see it.
As Amos stood in the vestibule waiting for guests, he marvelled at fate. Surely some Hand was writing new scenes in a life that had congealed for fifteen years.
At about nine that evening a young man entered. He didn't have the full cost of
Amos appreciated the chap had a girl waiting in the car. He debated whether or
not to let the fellow have the room for half cost when asked;
"Is that car there, yours?"
"Well, I'll tell you what. You let me have the room and I'll duco that car for you.
I have some blue paint and some yellow left over from previous jobs and I could
give you a really smart green."
Amos mouth went into his usual frown.
"Look, I work at Simpson's garage, I'm Andy Beggaly, everyone knows me. I'm not trying to rip you off. Really."
Amos Blum looked at the fellow. He was about twenty, give or take. Probably had gotten a girl drunk or maybe she was hot for him and he didn't want to lose the chance. Though Blum personally had never been in such a situation he could imagine that Jack had.
Yeah, Jack was once young and flirty, and every so often got lucky.
"I'll take a chance on you." Amos said and gave him the key to Villa Twelve.
"You won't be sorry." Smiled Andy.
'Jack' knocked off at ten when old Mr. Perkins came, explaining why he was late.
'Jack' didn't chew him out, and could see it was appreciated.
Amos walked to his room, suppressing the impulse to whistle a tune as he thought
about his day. Seeing the box of hair dye he smiled. Why not?
He decided on a few streaks, see how that went. He had to stay up until midnight
until his hair dried but liked the clever highlights. He looked younger and better.
In fact, with his tanned skin, bright short beard and longish hair he looked at least
five years younger.
In the morning he reached the lake front at eight.
"I wondered if you were coming." Connie said brightly, looking better than she had
yesterday. She wore a deep pink two piece bathing suit which suited her golden skin and hair.
They swam, tanned, and she admired his streaks.
"I should of had patience," Connie decided, "instead of going blond all at once."
"I'll probably add another streak tomorrow." He replies.
Then Andy came up.
"Mr. Morgan, will you bring your car over? I want to work on it as soon as possible."
"Sure. Right after breakfast." Jack replied.
"It'd be better if I had it now so that I can do it before my boss comes in."
"Okay, where's the garage?"
"It's right across the road." Connie contributed. "We can drive over and walk back."
He liked the 'we'.
He and Connie drove across, walked back, to the restaurant as if it were the usual
It became the usual thing.
All Things Must End
Then came the Monday morning. The Monday when he was supposed to be back at work in the city. Back to the life of Amos Blum.
He didn't want to go but felt he had to; Amos had a wife, a daughter, a job, a life,
as it were. Amos Blum was the real person, Jack Morgan the sham. Yet.
He didn't say a word to anyone.
Not to Mr. Wagner.
Not to Connie.
He packed his things, drove out Monday morning at four thirty a.m.
For two weeks Amos lived Jack's life.
He Told Himself it had all been a dream and it was time to wake up
It was nearly nine when he reached work.
He was about to drive into the parking lot when the security guard stopped him.
"Visitor parking is in front."
"I work here." Amos said.
"Who are you?" The guard asked.
Amos stared at the guard whose eyes remained blank.
"Are you going to move your car?" The guard threatened.
Blum drove around to the Visitors area. He knew he looked different, but not that different, did he?
As he approached the entrance he saw his reflection in the glass. He seemed so much taller and thinner than he recalled himself. Plus he was tanned, bearded and Blond!
No wonder the guard didn't recognise him.
Two weeks ago a brown haired clean shaven man with fish belly skin had driven out. No one could expect a double digit I.Q. security guard to make the match.
He walked to the reception desk.
"Can I help you?" asked Darleen, the receptionist.
Amos was shocked when she asked whom he had come to see.
"Amos Blum.." he gruffed.
"I'll see if he's in." She replied.
This was rich!
He debated whether or not to demand to be let in to his cubicle, but considering
the major ulcer of the day would be his wife and daughter, he took the receptionist's remark;
"I'm afraid he's not in yet, would you wait?" with the response: "I'll be back later."
So he misses a few hours of work.
His wife and daughter left him three weeks ago!
That was his priority.
He drove home, or what had been home.
As he entered the vestibule of the building, there, waiting for the elevator were
Lucy and Barbara.
"I bet that slob hasn't washed a dish." His wife sneered.
"I hate being back here." Barbara replied.
"So do I. But it won't be for long," his wife announced with an arch look at his
daughter, who conspiratorially nodded.
"If he's home, just go to your room. If he's not there--."
Amos turned his back as if he were looking at mail boxes as his daughter snapped;
"Oh, he won't be home, he'll be at work," as if work was an unsavoury location.
As the elevator noisily stopped and they entered, he took a breath, then whistling a
tune went to his spiffy turquoise Chevy and drove back to Lake George.