Somewhere on this earth...a man wakes up after heart surgery. He is unsure if his medication is causing him to hallucinate or if he is just dreaming. He finds himself talking to someone in his hospital room. An unusual fellow who paces a lot and has fierce bloodshot eyes. The man seems rather hot under the collar about something.
"I sacrificed a lot to get where I am today."
"Really?" the pacing man says.
"Yep," the man in the bed replies.
"How?" He looks at the charts on the walls, then nods to himself.
"Well, I worked all my life, saved money, invested, spent less time with the wife and kids, stayed at the office late, didn't exercise enough – and now here I am waking up in this hospital hooked up to that darned beeping machine!"
"So you traded your time, your effort, in order to obtain something you wanted? Something you thought was worth the effort?"
"Well, since you put it that way – yep. That is exactly it. And look where it got me at 42! Ha ha." He shows the pacing man the tubes taped to his arms and points to the monitors. All manner of colored lines dance on the screen.
"You think they'd make the damed things bigger," he says. "So I can read them."
"Please...let us go over what you really mean. You have not made a sacrifice – it's a trade. We don't like to hear that. True sacrifice means giving much more than you got in return. You, sir, received so much more!"
Beep beep beep. "Great, you got my heart jumping again. What are you doing, trying to tick me off? Send me off early?"
"No. Just trying to estimate something. Hoping for the best outcome."
"Hell of a time to do it. Just let a young-old man ramble. Especially one who is pumped up full of pain killers and hooked up to all of these darned tubes."
"You have never sacrificed anything. Not a thing. Never. I mean, that is, if you are a reasonable human."
"Jesus, I'm gonna call the nurse..."
"You are human, right?"
"The last time I checked."
"You don't have any mental health problems, right?"
"No, but I have heart problems" Beep beep beep!
"Aside from your medicine, you are sober?"
"What kinda question is that? I ain't all here, if that's what you mean. Are you a doctor?"
"I'm a Specialist, to answer your question."
"Okay." He sees that the pacing man is concerned about something or maybe bothered -- like he needs to make a point, but can't get it across.
"I mean you are well read, talk to people, and your only source of news is not CNN, RT and FOX, right?
"I read the Bible, old fashioned paper newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today – what ever is available."
"Have you some education? Read a book or two besides the Bible?"
"Don't have the time or the inclination. Novels are a waste of time. Time is valuable."
"Don't watch much T.V. then?"
"How about the Internet?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you surf the net?"
"No. I have emloyees do all that. I'm just an idea man. I know how to get around the 'WWW', however. Why do you ask?"
"Part of the healing process is mental – in the head. My job is to make sure it's screwed on straight for the future."
"So you are a Shrink?"
"I prefer 'Coach'".
"Whatever, but you're still a Shrink to me and I never wasted my time with you guys either."
"That's a shame."
"No it's not. Now, I'm gonna press this little button here and have the nurse remove you."
The nurse walks in. "Yes, may I help you?"
"You're darn right you can! This... Where is he?"
"Sir?" The nurse asks. She looks around the otherwise empty hospital room and smiles.
"Where's that guy? He was standing over there. The guy in the gray suit with the funny clipboard and pad thing."
The nurse looks around. Smiles again. "Sir, I think you are dreaming again. The medications you are on are a bit strong – to keep your heart rate even. They can cause you to have strange dreams..."
"But I'm awake!"
"I understand" the nurse says. "I'll let the doctor know that you are having trouble." She leaves. She goes over to the Nurse's Station and makes a call. He can see her there, but she turns away.
"How did that go?"
"I am a Specialist, like I said, but I don't work here."
"Am I dreaming you?"
"That is just what a dream would say."
"Probably, but let us get back on task. We don't have a lot of time."
"Okay, dream – yack away. Or are you a drug-induced apparatiton?"
"As I said. I'm a Specialist. I've been called an apparition on occasion, but I assure you I am very real."
"Crap. You're not gonna shut up are you?" He waited on moment. "What is your name?"
The man ignored the question.
"Now, where were we? Yes, you were telling me about your great sacrifice. Please. Go on."
Exasperation. Why not? I'll talk to my drug induced dream, he thought.
"Well, like I said. I went to work early. Crap, sometimes I was at the office at 3:00 A.M. I wouldn't even make love to my wife for weeks, even months at a time. I'd get home at midnight, sleep a few hours, get ready and go. I did this for 20 years!"
"Not good. Not good at all."
"You're telling me. My kids grew up. My business boomed. I sent them to the best schools – my kids. We went on nice vacations, when I could find the time. My son is in Law School. My daughter, she's studying to be a doctor. But I never saw them much... But what is your name?"
"Are you crying?"
"It just helps. Guilt is a measure of sacrifice. You often feel it when you give up more for less."
"Really? Well, since I want to get under your skin I'm gonna have to say what I really feel, Mr. Specialist. I'm just saying that because you won't tell me your name."
"And that is?"
"Don't get all happy. I don't feel a lick of guilt. Working hard all of my life makes me feel good, not bad. I traded my time for something I felt was worth it!" Beep beep beep... "Darned machines."
"Not good. Not good at all."
"What are you looking at on that pad?"
"I'll get to that in a moment, but first, I need to focus on loss."
"Yes, the loss of something. Did you sacrifice the time you could have been with your wife, for example? Did you feel she was not worth more of your precious time?"
"You really know how to get under my skin, Mr. Specialist."
"Please. Indulge me."
"I never sacrificed my time. I did what I felt was good for all of us. She always understood. We have a good marriage."
"Don't you mean that you had a good marriage?"
"Okay. Had. She is dead. Died of cancer last year. I donated half my wealth to cancer research last year, just because of her!"
"So you did scarifice a good portion of your worldly wealth to help others? That seems very altruistic of you."
"Selfless you mean? Boy, you Specialists are sure not highly educated, are you? Where'd you go to school, the Vatican? You one of Karl Marx's followers? Ghandi? Jesus?"
"Selfless is another noble word. And no, those people are students of mine."
"Students? As is present tense?"
The Gold Coin Necklace
"So you are one of the good guys?"
"I like to think so."
"Well, then I'm in deep crap then."
"Why do you say that?"
"I never did anything selfless in my life. Everything I did was for my own damed happiness." He paused then, looking at the pacing man, who now stood still, thumbing his little weird pad device. "And your necklace is a bit off."
"But you gave billions to Cancer Research – after your wife was dead."
"And it made me feel good, dummy! That's pretty darned selfish in my book!...that necklace...is that the River Styx by any chance? On that coin hanging from your neck?"
"I see. It did not cause you the sickness we sometimes see when wealth is wasted on frivolous things? The guilt? The rage? The anger, perhaps? And please ignore my jewelry."
"No. I had a very selfish reason for giving away money. My children. If they should ever get cancer, I want them to have a chance at more life."
"Well, isn't wanting more life greedy?"
"No. To me, wanting more life is good."
"How about wanting this solid golden necklace - a memento of my Homeland?"
"Keep it. Not my taste."
"You do not consider it a virtue to help others in need? Didn't your money for Cancer Research help everyone?"
"Do you mean help complete strangers?"
"No. I couldn't care less about strangers. I care only about people I know – my family – my friends. If my wealth helped strangers, it was only a byproduct of my efforts, but my goal was to help my family."
"Okay. This is not going well. Let us go back to your college days."
"Let me save you the trouble. I sacrificed nothing. I went to school. I traded time and money for knowledge. Knowledge which I later traded for wealth. It was always an upward proposition for me. I never did something for nothing. I was never such a fool."
"That is not the current definition of virtue, in my book."
"What book? You mean that pad? Can I see it? I need to break it for you and stick it somewhere." Beep, beep, beep – but more softly now. His heart was calming. He smiled.
"Why do you laugh on your sickbed? Do you not know who I am?
"You know, I don't care. Whoever or whatever you are, just get on with it. I tire of you."
"Brave words, for a man in your condition, but I will let it go. Now..."
The nurse walked in again. "You okay?"
"Yes, the man in the bed said." The Specialist was gone again.
The moment the nurse exited, the Gray Suited figure popped back into place.
"Crap. Are you an IRS Agent?"
"No, but I train them. Now. Please, let me finish, so I can move on. There are a lot of poor souls at this hospital and I have much work."
"Do you feel that if you do not pay...what is it called in this century? Welfare? Social Security? Medicaid? Well, I suppose any will do as an example. Do you feel guilty when not paying these taxes and selfless when you do?"
"I feel forced when I pay those taxes you named. Not guilty or good."
"So giving to the needy is not something you feel is a good thing?"
"Geez. How long do you dreams last? This feels like forever."
"The needy then?"
"Yes, absolute strangers. Don't you feel bad when a bum approaches you on the street and holds his palm out to you?"
"No. I tell bums to get a job or seek help. I even referred them to the Churches they often stand near."
"Why are you tapping on that pad again?"
"It is your score. I am required to keep it. It is a balance sheet of sorts and I have to say – your balance sheet is rather lopsided."
"Maybe you are lopsided. You also look a bit warm. Want me to ask the nurse to turn the air conditioner down a bit more?"
"Thank you. I will be fine."
"That's good because it is already as cold as hell in here."
"What about it?"
"What is yours? Our records are incomplete."
"Oh, you are a fence-sitter then? That is good. Very good to hear."
"No. I just don't have all the information and I don't think anyone else does either."
"But you read the Bible you said."
"I read cereal boxes too. At least they are non-fiction."
"That is very sacrilegious to say, some people will tell you."
"Yep. I know. But I still say them."
"There is no such thing. Are you a Libertarian then?"
"No. They are a mixed group. At least you know what you are getting from Republican or a Democrat. With those Libs – crap. Objectivists get to the bottom of all the crud."
"Hmmm. This is not good. You are an anomaly. An oddity. No self-sacrifice. No selflessness. No altruism and in my book, no virtue. I do not envy you."
"So I failed your little test?"
"With flying colors. So far."
"There is more!?"
"Is death glorious?"
"How the heck would I know?"
"What was my score? I see that you have turned off your little gadget."
"Why is that important to you?"
"It was an interesting conversation and I hope I can remember it when I get out of here."
"You do not fall under our guidelines. You do not believe that sacrifice is for the good of others. You believe in your own self worth and love life. You do not want to die. You are a lost cause."
"Speak for yourself."
"I try. I try. If people like you take over the world, well, hell would be a very empty place."
"What do...hey where did you go...?"
A moment later the nurses run to the room next door. It doesn't seem good. Doctors push a large cart down the hall. A few minutes after that, everyone slowly exits the room next door. The last man out is a man in a gray suit with a smile on his face. Nobody seems to notice the last guy as he exits into something that even drug induced hallucinations cannot describe.
"Nurse! Nurse!" he yells.
Then nurse pops in. "Are you okay, sir?"
"Fine, fine, but do me a favor will you?"
"Get me the hell outta here!"
Maw of Hades
© 2015 jgshorebird