Roger Neilson seldom walked to his destinations. Instead, he opened the garage door of his generic suburban house, waved the family goodbye in his suit and tie, and backed the car out onto the sleepy residential street heading to the main road towards an exit for the highway. Three miles to the grocery store, five to the restaurants, and a solid twenty to his work at the city offices. An hour after sunrise and the highways were filled with humming vehicles going to wherever the distance demanded.
He was half-way to the corporate district when the line of traffic paused. He braked the wheels to a painfully slow pace and sipped his thermos of coffee, then turned on the radio. “President-elect Donald Tru-“ he turned it off, because these stations all had the same babble about politics and his mind wasn’t energized enough to even care about it. Without music or talk, to drone out the mechanical vibrations, he sat and pondered the meaning of the mass exodus to the city. “What are we doing? Isn’t there more meaning to our routines than a constant ebb and flow, to and fro?” He also seldom waxed philosophic or poetic, except when something weighed too much on his mind.
Lately he had been doing a nightly practice of chronologically remembering everything earlier in the day then recording his success or failure, and this was recommended by a strange coworker for stress. As time went on he improved, but his notes only managed to horrify him and increase his stress. The truth he found showed that he was a common and boring person. His schedule changed not day to day, week to week, or month to month. He had been living an almost clockwork existence, much like his car, and did not know how it might be changed.
The family were still attached to him, but they were not interested in him. His son and daughter came home from school on the bus and retreated to their rooms for whatever it was that they did. His wife was loyal, but the fire of their love had been quieted to a lingering ember. His hobbies were… Sunday football? There must be something else!
A quick and angry honk from the car behind him woke him from daydreaming and he rolled forward at a meager five miles per hour.
Pulling into his usual parking spot, he noticed through his window a group of men hassling one of his coworkers in a dark niche near the building where the dumpsters were kept.
“B-but I don’t have any cash! All I got is cards!”
“Crackuh foo, you bettuh gib us sumfin. ‘Else we gonna stomp ya right hur!” Threatened one of them as he raised his fist.
“H-here take my watch. Two-hundred-dollar watch, just don’t hurt me!”
At this Roger got out of his car and hastily walked toward the scene. Another thug spotted him and yelled, “Yo dawgs we gotta a punk ass beetch dat wanna get a stompin’!”
“Aw sheeit!” hollered each of them in turn.
Roger retaliated in an authoritative tone, “You damned thieves get away from him or-“ he stammered and looked down unaware of what he would do.
“Or what? Ahaha dis cray crackuh is weak, jack his shit!” Then the group of four left the previous man, bereft of his watch, and crept slowly towards Roger. He instinctively planted his feet into the asphalt and raised his fists as a guard. One ran to his right and threw a hook at his ear, but he dropped his knees fast, then returned with an uppercut that landed under the jaw of the assailant. Crack!
“Awwww!” Cried the attacker as he staggered back with hands gripped on his broken jaw. The other three then rushed up to him, and, outnumbered, he ran down the lot to the entrance of his office where a guard would be. Unsurprisingly his coworker had fled and was nowhere in sight. Roger ran hard with eyes forward until he reached the door. He swung inside and yelled at the fat security guard eating donuts at his desk.
“I was just attacked by four black thugs in the parking lot! Come quick!” The guard got up and pulled out his pistol. The two went outside, but nobody could be seen.
“Well they were just here a second ago. I punched one of them hard in the chin when he attacked me.”
“If anything happened then we’ll find it on the cameras. If what you say is true, then they fled and are probably well on their way back to the slums.” Later everything was confirmed that Roger said and the other employee came back and gave his side of the story. The coworker was smoking a cigarette when the four were walking in the lot, and periodically they stopped for some minutes at different cars. He suspected them of stealing radios and he called to them in a hoarse voice. They ran up and began badgering him and that’s when Roger intervened.
“If it wasn’t for you, man, then I would’ve been a goner. You saved my life!” A gratified Mr. Neilson drove home that evening, after talking with the police, to his peaceful enclave, far from the decadent metropolis where he earned his bread, and related the day’s events to his family. Astonished, they put many questions to him. Was he hurt? Did they catch the bad guys? How hard did he punch the criminal? For once since his youth, Roger was a curiously uncommon individual, and the lingering ember became a growing flame.