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The World's Most-Kindest Man

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An average fare for a fifteen mile journey in Jacob’s taxi would cost a customer about fifty USNA dollars, depending on the traffic and the time of day. They used the SuperCar application, which was handily pre-installed on every computer ever made.

Most polite customers would give an additional tip to their driver for courteous service, which usually amounted to shutting the fuck up. Fifteen percent—a polite number—would, on average, net the driver seven dollars and fifty cents on top of each fare.

This math did not take into account Jacob’s new fame.

As per SuperCar policy, Jacob was allowed to take home eighty percent of the fare, plus the whole of the tip. Each taxi ride, owing to the speed and agility of the now-common Hyonda Civilia flycar, only took about fifteen minutes. If he worked ten hours per day (or more with unpaid breaks), five days each week, he was going to make thirty-eight thousand dollars each month.

Diana’s job was not merit-based, like Jacob’s. As a public school teacher, she barely brought home five thousand per month.

Rent was forty thousand per month for a one-bedroom apartment. The lease on the Hyonda Civilia was two thousand per month. This left them with one thousand dollars left to spend each month on food, hygiene, cleaning supplies, clothes, medicine, and, well, not much else. Feeding and grooming two grown adults with only one thousand dollars a week was difficult when each seven-hundred calorie meal cost twenty dollars. Thankfully, Diana was able to pilfer enough food and toilet paper from the public school to help them both stay afloat.

All of this became a shit-stain on the bottoms of long-discarded underwear for Jacob Young.

On the street, in the cab, in the stores—hell, even on the screens in their own bedrooms—everywhere, Jacob was being praised.

“No, please—thank you!”

“You deserve every penny!”

“It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation!”

“Really, no—take it! Take it all!”

One thousand dollars here, five hundred dollars there—one customer even gave Jacob the watch off of his own wrist, valuing it to be worth at least seven thousand dollars. Jacob tried to refuse, but the most persistent gift-givers among them, the strangers who had called him by his last name, would simply throw their gifts at him if they weren’t accepted openly. One man even said that if Jacob was going to refuse the traditional digital tip for tax reasons, he was going to have to accept the pile of one hundred dollar bills dropped onto the floor of his Hyonda, or else dispose of the bills himself.

Jacob displayed reluctance in accepting the gifts, but was unabashed about flaunting this newfound wealth in public. He promptly spent a portion of the money on new clothes, new furniture for the apartment, new jewelry for Diana, new shoes for the both of them, plus new dishware and cookware, a new oven and range, a new refrigerator and freezer, and a new transmission for the Hyonda—which had been clunking on takeoff, as of recently.

He began to find increasing difficulty with spending this newfound fortune. The clerk at the clothing store recognized him right away, giving him an employee discount that amounted to a surprising thirty percent. Same for the furniture and jewelry salespeople: employee discounts all around. The guy at the shoe store gave him both pairs of shoes for free—it’s damaged merchandise, you see, we’d just have to throw it awaywink-wink. The clerk at the department store called the manager to meet the famous Jacob Young and she, in turn, made sure that all the dishware and kitchen appliances he could imagine were to be written-off as damaged merchandise—to be discarded in the trash and written-off on the taxes, as far as corporate or the insurance companies would know.

Wink-winks, high-fives, handshakes, and hugs all around.

One day, about a week later, his shift concluded at seven, but he hadn’t made it home until ten. This was unusual for him, Diana brooded. Even yesterday he had been out late, yet still had made it a point to call and tell her so in advance. He had meant to explain to Diana where he was going to be that night, but had simply forgotten to.

At the end of that Friday night—concluding a rough week of work interspersed with many dreamlike encounters where he walked home with free stuff—Jacob came home to find Diana sitting at the dining table, drinking hard liquor straight from the bottle.

“Damn,” he said, freezing in the doorway.

Diana did not look like herself. Dark circles were forming under her puffy eyes. A scowl was beginning to crease the sides of her mouth.

“Damn straight,” she said, totally sloshed.

“I didn’t know you liked whiskey,” Jacob said, eying the bottle of Scottish Whimsy she held on the surface of the table.

“I didn’t, either,” she slurred. “How’d you get home?”

“I drove the Hyonda, my dear,” he replied.

Realizing that he had been staring at her, frozen in the doorway of their apartment, he finished striding inside and closed the door gently behind him. He hung the strap of his leather satchel on the hooks mounted by the door, placing his jacket on the hook next to it. As he moved to the fridge, he felt Diana staring at him with an unwavering interest that began to disturb him.

“Oh?” she said, raising her tone. “I didn’t know you liked to drink and drive.”

Jacob retrieved a carton of juice and closed the fridge. Turning to face his wife from across the kitchen, he tried to understand her sudden display of hostility. Drinking and driving? She’s built-up my whole night without even asking me about it, he thought.

The recessed lighting overhead had been dimmed, the room glowing a coal-orange. He opened the carton of citrus-flavored vitamin juice and took a swig. And coughed.

“What the hell?” he gasped, spitting-out what little juice remained in his mouth.

“What? Not strong enough for you?” she said, her voice pouty and defiant.

“You know that I’ve been sober without a single drop of alcohol for as long as we’ve been married!” he yelled. “Why the hell did you put whiskey in my CitraVite?”

“I figured you’d need a pick-me-up after you came home from a long night of getting fucked-up.”

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

In that moment, the effects of that small sip of whiskey-spiked CItraVite began to affect Jacob’s nervous system. He felt a numbness tingle his lips and a warmth suffuse his core from the inside-out. Quite against his will, Jacob began to feel pleasure—and with it, burning resentment.

He turned around, opened the door to their apartment, slammed it shut, and stormed-off alone into the night. Diana did not run after him.

He slid into the driver’s seat of his Hyonda, told it where to fly with his fingertips, and into the sky he went.

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