I was ready. I had my pills. The scotch with which to wash them down. I had even made sure my "Last Will And Testament" was up-to-date. After all, I wanted to make sure my sisters got that Trust Fund. I didn't want it reverting to my son-of-a-bitch father. And my mother? She was taken care of financially, so she didn't need my money. But, Olivia and Chloe? They could use it. I just had to make sure that, legally, there was no way that "actor" who married into my family could get his hands on any of it. I also had all my bills paid. My checkbook was balanced. Even my laundry was done. Everything ready so that my exit would be as painless as possible on everyone involved.
And then that phone call. It was almost a "movie moment." "Providence," my beautiful lady said.
"Hey, Sherman!" said a familiar voice on the other end of the line. "It's George. What's up?"
"Not a whole lot, man." I answered, somewhat impatient to get on with my well-prepared plan, but a bit intrigued, as well. I hadn't heard from this guy since college. And he had been a good friend.
"I'm calling to collect on that debt," he replied, a bit of a playful tone in his voice. George had always been playful. Somewhat of a joker. But, he knew when to be serious. And he was smart as hell. Magna cum laude smart.
The debt he was referring to? I had been in an accident my junior year. Bike versus car. And I had been on the bike -- not the motorcycle kind, either. The kind you pedal. And I had needed some blood, which George very graciously donated to me. He didn't want me taking chances on the "blood supply." As safe as the "blood supply" is, George is a skeptical kind of guy. He wanted 100% assurance that I would be receiving a safe product. And being that he and I are the same blood type -- a fact we had discovered during a lab activity in a required undergraduate biology course -- he wanted to give me that assurance. And he had teased me afterwards, when I thanked him. "Well," he had said, laugh lines crinkling in the corners of his jolly brown eyes, "I look at it this way. Now you are in my debt. I think I got the sweet end of the deal."
As I heard George's voice on the phone after all this time, I felt a bit like making my excuses and hanging up on him. But, he had given me his blood, for Christ's sake. And he had been a good friend -- always. A lot of memories of better times arose out of the depths of my mind. So, I decided to hear him out.
"Ok, George," I said. "What kind of crazy idea have you cooked up now?" Because George -- in his "brilliance" -- had always been cooking up some rather crazy idea or another.
That's when he told me about this trip to Africa he was putting together. George, evidently, had started a bank when he graduated from college. And the bank had actually succeeded. The bank became fuckin' PROFITABLE, in this fuckin' economy. Leave it to old George to pull off a stunt like that. And so my friend, always one to give it all away -- including his very own blood -- sold every single one of his shares in said financial institution and started a non-profit. And this non-profit was opening little one-room schoolhouses in the midst of Africa -- the land of his forefathers -- and he wanted me to go over there with him as a teacher. A fuckin' teacher.
"George," I said. "I have a job."
"So I've heard, Sherman. So I've heard. You're a cop." He sort of giggle-snorted. "I have nothin' against cops, man, nothin' at all. You know that. But -- Sherman, my man -- you're no cop. I remember when you were choosing between Teach For America and the Police Academy. I figured you'd pick the cop gig for the gun and the glory. You always liked that shit. But, man, I'm betting you're pretty miserable right about now. You know why? Because -- I bet -- you're feeling not so appreciated by those whom you 'serve and protect.' You always liked to be a little hero-worshipped, man. Nothing against you. Just the manly ego thing. But, I bet you've discovered it by now. Nobody appreciates cops too much. Even when they try to 'make a difference,' which is what you always said you wanted to do. So -- I'm giving you the opportunity, man -- to actually be hero-worshipped. By a bunch of little kids. And you know why they'll hero-worship you? Because they're too fuckin' young to know any better. Come on, Sherman. How about it? And remember -- you owe me. You don't want my ghost fuckin' haunting you if I die in a plane crash on my way over there. Because -- yeah -- I'm going over there myself. And if I die in a plane crash -- you can sure as hell bet I'll be haunting your sorry ass if you renege on your debt. And, my man, I just wanna see your puny pale self frolicking around over there amonst my beautiful dark-skinned brothers and sisters. The memory of that sight will keep me entertained all through my old age."
As ridiculous as it sounds, I figured I might as well take George up on his offer. I packed the pills away in a safe-deposit box. If things didn't work out, I could still use them. I resigned from the force, sold my house, gave away my stuff, got some innoculations, and was on a plane with my old friend in six weeks. I already had a passport, and George's non-profit took care of the rest of the beauracratic nonsense. I was even given "training" -- if you could call the stack of pamphlets I was given "training" -- in how to teach a bunch of elementary-school-kids a variety of elementary-school-subjects (including English). I was actually starting to get a little excited.
And, yes, in the back of my mind was the idea of atonement. Because, when all was said and done, I knew I had "sinned," if you want to call it that. And if you don't want to call it that, you can just say that I knew I had fucked up. Totally. Yes, I could justify myself, my actions. Like shooting Ronnie. He had pimped out his young daughter, pimped out and beaten the girl's mother, come after Sammy. The guy deserved to die -- needed to die, even -- before he actually killed Sammy or some other innocent person. But, deep down, I knew the crap that I had done. I couldn't escape it -- couldn't escape the guilt. And maybe that guilt, more than anything else, was what made me want to die. So, perhaps, this trip to Africa -- this new work -- could be a way to atone. Leave everything behind -- sell everything, give everything away -- and atone.
To be continued...