Charles Bennett’s fingers started fidgeting. Another four-hour business meeting, and he was about to crawl under the table, out a window, anywhere.
“So Bennett, did you manage to get those environmental records that need to be suppressed at the hearing?”
A boy was playing with a golden retriever under a big maple tree outside the nearest window. Charles reached for his thermos, took a sip. Its contents burned nicely in his throat. The boy was throwing a tennis ball, and the dog retrieved it every time.
“Charlie! Bernard asked you a question!” Charles took another sip of Bourbon watered down with cola to dilute the smell on his breath.
“Documents?” he said. A gust caused the maple leaves to flutter. “Those leaves are so green,” he muttered, “So utterly green! I’ve never really looked – so, so green.”
“The bloody documents that could stop this project dead in its tracks if you don’t do something about them!”
“The fucking EPA shit, Charles!”
Charles reached into his brief case and handed a folder to Caldwell, a man in his late thirties wearing a perfectly expensive wrinkle-free navy blue blazer. Caldwell took and started flipping through it. A puzzled look came over his clean-cut face. He started laughing hysterically, “What the bloody hell is this?”
Bernard, older and heavier, reached over, grabbed the folder and examined its contents. “Where are the documents? And what the fuck are these? Poems? This is nothing but a bunch of God damned poems!”
Caldwell took the folder back and read for a moment. “And they’re bloody awful,” he said and laughed again.
“Oh my God,” Charles said and grabbed the folder back, “How on earth did these get in here?”
“Ok Bennett, we’ve been watching you screw up for a while now, and it’s time for some answers,” Caldwell said stroking his red tie. Outside, the dog and the boy were gone. Clouds again covered the sun, and a steady wind tossed the branches of the tree. He looked back at his coworkers. There was nothing but judgment in this room. He gulped a good mouthful of alcohol laden fluid and looked around him: Caldwell, Bernard, and their henchmen were trying to ruin everything, the forests, the lakes, all that was beautiful in the world. Everything would be smashed under their bulldozers. Charles could stay silent no longer. “What am I doing here? What the hell have I been doing all these years?” He asked aloud, “This is, this is wrong!” Everyone at the meeting, which was to be nothing more than another in a series of productive, boring sessions, stared at him. “I can’t!” he shouted, “I can’t do this anymore.” He grabbed his briefcase and his thermos and ran out of the room.
“Where the fuck are you going?” His boss Bernard shouted, “get back here, you idiot!”
But Charles kept going. He fled past the secretary at her desk and out the door and got in his car and drove away. He did not stop driving. He passed through town to the interstate highway and continued down it determined to keep traveling until he saw something worth stopping for. He went on for six hours, past truck stops, exits crowded with restaurants, gas stations, and chain hotels, past hills obscured by drizzle and fog from the low pressure front that had just moved in. He drove on and on, past a “Welcome to Pennsylvania” sign, and a “New Jersey State Line” marker and down the New Jersey turnpike until he had to exit because he had to pee. He used a gas station bathroom, gassed up and then went off on some dark side road, still afraid that Bernard and Caldwell had somehow managed to follow him. Night had set in, but he kept on until the road ended in a sandy parking area. Aware he was near the ocean, he stopped and got out with thermos in hand, now quite sure that he had escaped his persecutors, and walked into the wind toward a roar ahead. He followed a glowing track of sand, which soon widened onto a beach. Darkness engulfed his mind, shocked at having traveled so far in such a short time. In the black air, he realized he was alone, absolutely alone. Everything was awesomely different here, as if the secure, warm car were not just a few yards away. The primal forces of an indifferent universe had instantly become bald and threatening to one accustomed to feeling so safe. Rhythmic, collapsing waves were just ahead, but he could barely see their ridges flashing like pale lightning before their thundering resolutions.
He took off his shoes and socks and continued into the open until his feet touched damp sand. He could barely see the water turning so close beneath the clouds in the misty emptiness. Wind laced with raindrops blew in his face. Cold sand numbed his arches as it molded to their form. Suddenly, a wave rose immediately in front of him, a wall of falling water reaching almost to his feet, one great featureless shape roaring and hissing, instantly replaced by another.
Then, the monster grabbed him with its frigid, groping hands running over his feet pushing them with terrifying force and pulling them toward its deathly domain. His heels sank into the sand as the froth retreated. This water, connected to the whole world, one with all its ports, wars, and shipwrecks, with humanity’s violent history all the way back to life’s murky source, pulsated on his toes. He stepped back. How magnificent the power before him, yet he could not help picturing himself instantly sucked in and tossed and smothered by the obscure waves, lost and helpless, suffocating in the ocean’s lightless depths, trapped, dying alone, hundreds of miles from home. Another wall of water, taller this time, rushed over his feet and ankles and tugged at his knees and thighs, trying to force him into its watery realm. Horrified, he turned away and dashed toward his car, up and away from the vast churning caldron and back to dear, dry security.