Plan B, better have one!

His mediocrity reached new levels.

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

The bank officer didn’t mince words. He explained that their application to re-mortgage their home wasn’t going to be granted; they were already in too deep. Their income wasn’t enough to make possible their request.

“You’re such a bull shitter Bob. Jesus, you’re a fucking coward on top of everything else. You just cowered in front of that prick at the bank. Any other man would’ve given him a piece of his mind. I mean, it must feel awful that you can’t provide for your family, Bob. You think your older brother would’ve caved like you just did? Huh?” Emily half smiled, as would a sadistic female torturer as she delivered this last blast of invectives at her husband of twenty-two years.

Her latest tactic was to drill down about how much better Bobs’ brothers were, a new low, and the pain went deep.

The simple fact was that Bob had no material ambitions, never had. He enjoyed driving a reliable car, even going so far as insuring he always had a good, used 4Runner. His wife never stopped complaining of her ageing Volvo. It saddened him that she could find so much to complain about her car, wanted a new one, a better one, that the other women all drove superior vehicles. Bob was never caught up in the rat race.

The things she’d said to him during the last several months ran the gamut from being a coward, a pussy, a loser, a failure, a useless father, that he was looked down upon by their families, he was trash, even smelled! Yes, smelled! And was a liar. There were others that weren’t coming to mind just then.

At what point does a man finally say: “Fuck this. Fuck you, bitch.” And does something about it. And no, I don’t mean kill the bitch from hell. Although he had imagined certain things happening to her, such as a fatal car wreck, or an accidental poisoning, or shit, she takes her own damn life. Immediately feeling like a low life.

After all, he was amazed at the stew she boiled in all of her own making. She chose to make poor decisions, never completed college, got caught in a brief affair with her hair guy. He suspected that she was back on her damn pills again. He could tell by her behavior when the shit was no longer giving her a kick. She’d turn mean, really mean and then go to her wine.

He thought about a possible response to her comment: ‘Yeah bitch and had I done that we’d never be allowed again into that guys’ office, what do you know?’ Dared not say it as it would bring on a torrent of screaming insults, the weekend would be a total failure.

A failed weekend for Bob was when Emily hated his guts more than the usual. The idea of him sitting in his recliner to catch the games was laughable. She would make sure that such ‘peace’ became impossible.

It reached a new low when she started doing what he called the sleep torture. It started in late afternoons, as the evening approached and she was starting her second bottle. He knew what was to come at bed time. Bob would first and incredibly nod off to sleep. She would wait for this. Once he was asleep, she’d poke him gently in his side and start a fight over one of countless issues.

This premeditated torture had a devastating effect on Bob. The next day, it was all he could do to keep his eyes open. The constant yawning and nodding off over his lap top gained the attention of some of his fellow workers.

It seemed like just about anything set her off.

Could’ve been his failure to attend their 12-year-olds soccer game. Might have been about that hot sales, twenty something that smiled at him at Walmarts. Could’ve dug deeper, such as his shitty salary at his accounting job. How after fifteen years he’d been passed over by younger and better men for higher paying jobs.

She went after him, alluding to his shoddy physical appearance. An unruly cowlick now brought on a forceful flow of insults. His worn out Hush Puppies. He’d quit his soft ball team because Emily turned it into a session of pure hell. She was one of several wives and girlfriends that showed up for games to cheer along. In the last few years her involvement had the added agenda of wearing revealing low cut t-shirts, cutoff jeans that reached crotch level. She had the finest pair of legs and most delicious breasts, and she made sure every man there at the park took her in.

After yelling at him about these things, the whole idea was so that he couldn’t fall asleep. She seemed to know about sleep deprivation torture. Perhaps had he shown a potential for a violent snap, not hit her, but rattle the cage so to speak might have pushed her back a little. She came on, relentless, crying, screaming, insult after insult. He’d finally get out of bed and get her three of her special pills. He kept them hidden from her, didn’t throw them out for times just like this one. In twenty minutes she’d gone off into dream land.

He’d discovered that the mix with alcohol had a super effect and wham! She was out, but he never went past the three.

He found himself sitting up in bed, as though observing her body, his reality from just beyond his physical vantage point. Her snoring was a mix of both comical and overwhelmingly pathetic, sad. In the soft glow of his bed lamp he admired, loved her beautiful, still defined olive skinned arms set peacefully at her sides.

Like in a zoo, a sleeping tiger right next to the viewers’ wall. The lucky zoo goer given an unusual chance to gaze unhurriedly at the incredibly wild, striped beast. It came to him that it was the same desire the zoo goer felt seeing the beautiful, sleeping beast. Wanted to hug it, rest one’s head on its mighty back. The notion of expressing one’s love would’ve resulted in waking a furious tiger. Who knows, it could be that the majestic tiger is one of this planet’s most amazing creations. Its ferocity, a capacity to rip out one’s entrails without pause. Void of any dark maliciousness.

The tiger’s beautifully whiskered mouth awash in your blood. The mighty cat doesn’t care, doesn’t feel. Doesn’t think like that. It just knows how you taste, nothing more.

The perfect killing machine in so many ways.

Now watching Emily lay there, a soft, almost snore, pretty mouth open to allow passage of breath. That breath which purveys life to her, to that form called Emily. Bob observed. Her diminutive, bare shoulders, unprotected or vulnerable, he thought. Asleep, she was like that tiger.

He reached over carefully, pulling up the comforter to cover her bareness, to keep away the chill. How could someone so beautiful, so defenseless in sleep, or so it seemed, be so capable of causing such grief?

His reverie was brought to an immediate halt by the realization again that it was him just as much as her. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her.

Emily might not bite, but Bob would wish he’d never had tried to wrap his arms around her. How can we be so wrong in our suppositions or maybe they’re just our wishes and fantasies pushing us to do that which in the real world would prove a huge mistake.

Something within stepped back. Then he reached to turn off his lamp.

And yet, he knew it was all his mind playing games, somehow allowing him to conceive that there was a great love there and that his definition of happiness lay just around a corner. Bob often went back into the past to recall the glorious days the pair had enjoyed. They hadn’t always carried this hate. It was as though she simply stopped believing in him.

It occurred to him that this kind of thinking was right on the border of macho thinking. All it took was a small misstep. He asked if he had believed in her. His answer was yes, he had, and this too had gone awry. What had been a happy, sex filled life, picnics, canoeing down Crystal River, camping and fishing in family had become a living hell. What he had to offer all those early years no longer held anything for her.

He’d heard of this happening. Sometimes it was the man who lost interest. Maybe the wife gained way too much weight, and the man had maintained the physical line, going to the gym religiously and then one day sure enough bumping into his perfect ‘soul mate’, not his wife. Stuff like this happened all the time!

He was frustratingly aware that without a shadow of a doubt, countless, perhaps the majority of couples, existed in this place. The difference being one couple’s ability or agility, or sleight of hand, to side step certain buttons just enough to avoid cataclysm.

From somewhere the thought reached him that perhaps he could’ve chosen the career of marriage counselor, or psychologist specializing in married couples. The money! But money, for the sake of money, never drew him. His imagination grew his one doctor clinic into a multi office building with twenty or so doctors.

Despite himself, he was still able to think about those things that brought him tiny moments of lightness.

In the early years Emily was in college and was on track for getting her Business Bachelor’s degree, specializing in marketing. She wanted her masters. They ran into financial trouble after Emily’s parents had divorced and along with their end was also canceled a hefty inheritance which had disappeared into thin air because of how things got split up. Bob’s parents passed away in a car accident years before. Somehow their immediate deaths formed a part in his deciding to go the ‘simple’ route, that of a low level accountant.

After all, the only human he’d ever hoped to make proud, to say to him: ’You’ve done well my boy,’ was his old man.

He found the middle road to his liking.

&&&

“Hey Dad, thanks for the mitt, I really needed it. This was expensive, a professional Wilson, fielders glove, wow! This is really cool, Dad, thanks again!” Jason, their 12-year-old was one of three kids, two just turned teenagers and Jason.

“You deserved it son, I’m proud of how great you’ve been playing. Besides, that other glove was about as worn out as it could get.” Bob and Jason headed home from Dick’s Sports. He’d picked up his boy at school so that they could get to the store before going home.

The bright afternoon sun seemed magnified by the rich fall foliage found throughout the city. Bob loved seeing people, families raking up dead leaves in the streets of Redding’s neighborhoods. Even the smell of the drying, colorful leaves was enough to activate happy, long since forgotten times. They lived not far from Lake Shasta and it was there they used to go on family outings.

“Is mom going to be pissed though? I mean, you know, she says we don’t have any money. I don’t want to make her mad.” Jason kept his eyes on his dad, waiting for a reaction.

“Hey kiddo. Look. You might be right, so let’s just do this, hide the glove in your back pack okay? That’s probably okay, she’ll never suspect you got a new glove.” Bob looked over at his boy. Just then it came to him that giving his son his blessing to lie to his mom was typical of his life. Immediately he reflected that his own sibs would never encourage their kids to lie, not even a white lie.

This was, according to his thinking, just another extension of his chosen mediocrity.

“Uh, okay, I guess. It doesn’t really feel right though. Is it really okay to do that, Dad?” Bod was proud of Jason as he was of his other two kids. They were good kids. Somehow they rode above or way to the side of their parents’ non-stop fighting and tearing and ripping at each other. Bob felt grateful that for whatever reason these kids brought a mature equanimity to the situation. He had no doubt that other kids in other families might very well start falling apart at the seams in the same toxic situation.

Bob was painfully aware, too, that his kids were more likely forced to live their lives with a fabricated and before its time, maturity. Their sense of integrity shaped and conditioned by their parents’ less than stellar examples.

“Son, I understand what you’re saying. But we’re really not doing anything terribly wrong. You need that glove and that’s that. I know you want to do things honestly. I’m proud of you for that. But I think you can understand why we have to do things like this sometimes.” He hoped his boy would process this and find some acceptance. He added: “So Jason, let’s agree that even though we won’t tell your mom that what we’re doing is honest. I don’t want you to feel we’re doing something dishonest who knows, maybe a tiny bit sneaky, but it doesn’t hurt anyone, okay?” Jason nodded agreement.

Bob wanted to add: ‘yeah Jason, you’re a wonderful kid and please accept the understanding that what I’m teaching you sucks.’ They drove the rest of the way in silence.

This, of course, was now several years past

In college Bob had chosen accounting as a surefire career to insure material success. Oh he knew he’d probably never get to sing: ‘we’re in the money!’. But it would be enough so that he and his eventual wife and family would have enough to live comfortably. He felt he’d achieved this until a year ago when once again a new hire was given a better role in the company. His wife’s attacks had become a daily night mare.

Mediocrity seemed to be his personal shadow, if such a thing were possible. Mediocrity was his ball and chain. He knew this. He used to think rather loftily, though not full of himself, that his willingness to accept his place in life was simply good strategy. He felt he practiced a sort of equanimity. He couldn’t quite put his finger on exactly when it was he’d switched to accepting that he was a mediocre fellow living a mediocre life.

The lower mediocrity.

It became a nagging insight of late, as though his love for his wife shed revealing light on the miserable situation. He felt that her faults, her eventual ungluing, were in fact mostly his fault.

This was around the time he decided he’d take a step or two.

The company he worked for had grown exponentially. Those in the drivers’ seats had astutely and luckily chosen certain growth options and bold avenues for the company. Some of their newer customers, now going on three years, were in two trucking firms out of Detroit, Redding and another huge cheese producer from Madison. Bob was asked to perform his tasks for these new customers in certain ways which, if ever brought under a certain light, might uncover practices that could result in legal issues.

Bobs’ skill set included establishing an internal accounting structure, which he did for the three entities. As these companies were really one company, Bobs’ job was streamlining an information gathering system and creating an efficient book keeping between the three.

It wasn’t long until Bob saw a clear path to helping himself with certain funds which spun off from his firms’ activities with this new client. At first Bob couldn’t believe how easy it was. He tested it over and over again and was finally satisfied that unless certain things happened, he’d never be discovered. This new found glory, however, was dependent on that he never be promoted above his current activities. Shortly after his company took on this three part client, he saw that the entity was operating in a questionable manner and its profits were off the charts astounding.

All Bob did was tuck certain things into out of the way slots in their extremely complicated tax forms, basically explaining away the proper investing of certain funds. Bob called these erstwhile accounts the ‘chocolate options’, imagining a huge, tasty cake at the end of it all. A huge corporation named ESNER SA. based in Guatemala City was a recent merger and key participant in the business these US-based companies from Detroit and Madison and Redding were involved in.

ESNER SA was shipping huge quantities of cocaine and fentanyl through Mexico to the US.

Bob was one of three who were sent to Guatemala to visit the company, the groups’ new clients.

Bob stumbled onto this fact purely by accident. A conversation he had with a talkative and drunk low end company officer in a bar in Guatemala at Christmas time. In a way, he ‘had the goods’ on ESNER SA and their US counterpart. A source of imagined comfort was he knew he could ‘bring them down’ as they said on those TV shows.

Bob had over the past year spread out three savings accounts in three banks. These were his. One was in a city two hours away. The accounts were under names of corporations he’d formed complete with proper documentation. Nowhere in the bank files was his name shown as owner. He was an officer for these corporate accounts and had certain access and usage authority.

Bob created a time sensitive structure that, after passing certain milestones, triggered and funneled funds in his direction. By the time his company’s contracted project was completed and they amicably parted ways, Bob was, as they say: set up.

In the course of three years, Bob had become a wealthy man. Whatever guilt rose to the surface he pared away by recalling how it is these companies made their money. He’d taken ‘seed’ money. This seed money he’d invested flawlessly and most successfully. His earnings went through the roof. He decided it was time to put back the funds he had originally ‘borrowed’. He was even able to fold in an interest earned in favor of ESNER SA, the truckers and cheese people.

The unwitting former clients just accepted that it had been a great year. Digging could have found it.

On the home front key to his success was never showing an undue gain in material wealth. He continued to drive his old yet reliable 4Runner. Jason’s new glove. He continued slaving away at his company.

It is of interest to note that several years later ESNER SA in Guatemala came under intense governmental investigation as a part of pressure placed by a DEA dragnet. Part of the never ending yet painfully slow and futile war on drugs. There was so much pressure that the owners saw fit to bring an end to their activities by one night setting its massive compound on the city’s’ outskirts ablaze. The surrounding neighborhood complained of the smell of chemicals and of resulting health issues.

It did not escape Bobs’ attention that with ESNER SA gone from existence that the odds of him being tied to those people suddenly went to almost less than zero.

He discovered a new found peace.

His relationship with Emily had improved. It’s as though Emily sensed something in him, an undeniable joie de vivre, a magnanimousness about him. Sure the height of this larger living may have reached a symbolic peak when on her birthday he took her into the local Kay Jewelers at the mall and announced proudly that she should pick out a birthday gift, just so long it didn’t go over seven hundred dollars.

Bob kept the money a secret from his family. Had his wife known about the added income, the hell he had been living just a couple years before would seem like small potatoes compared to the holy hell she’d unleash now. Fair is fair. It occurred to him that just maybe she wouldn’t have investigated, maybe she would’ve only asked for a fair share of the loot.

Their recently purchased lake side house offered a porch with a view of Lake Shasta and every late afternoon it became their place for being together, to finally enjoy. “Hey hon, here’s one of those weird Micheladas, is that how you call ‘em? Spiced just like you like it. You know you really never did explain how you got a Guatemalan recipe for a beer drink. How’d that happen, anyway?” She let it fade. Bob happily sipped away at the spicy beer mix made in crushed ice, a barely perceived and satisfying slight burn from the Latin hot sauce.

Emily gained twenty or thirty pounds and this had a magical effect on her attitude towards her husband and her kids. Bob thought that it might make for a profitable project to write a book on marital bliss and how this was directly tied to the extra pounds ones spouse laid on. Never before had he felt such happiness, such freedom, to even consider writing a book!

As was said, his one nod to his new found wealth was selling his house in Redding. With the money, and a chunk of the loot bought thier place on the edge of Lake Shasta, near the Sacramento River twenty minutes away. He’d rebuilt the old ramshackle boat house that came with the place. Parked inside was a used though fully decked out, sixteen foot, Bass Tracker Pro fishing boat he picked up at a nearby auction.

Often after coming home from work he’d have a beer, put six more in a cooler, call out for one or more family member to join him, then set out to the far reaches of the large lake to continue his study for the best fishing spots. Just as often he’d be on his own as his kids were caught up with friends and in all sorts of school related productive activities and lessons.

The areas he’d go to varied with the time of year. Middle of summer meant staying further off shore as that’s where the fish went when the water was warm. Spring he worked up close to the shore line, casting his two or three favorite lures, working diligently around the weeds to avoid snags.

He likened the fishing to his current life, staying clear of the snags. A poorly executed cast into a weedy area could mean losing the lure, pricey little boogers that they were. Bob found himself almost laughing out loud at the thought. ‘I could buy the whole damn bait store’.

Bob was invited by one of his daughter’s business classes to give a general talk on accounting, its potential creative connection to a business’s eventual success. He began: “Hi students, it’s my great pleasure to be here today. You don’t have to be stinking rich to be happy. In fact, that just may be the most important piece of advice I share with you today. It all comes down to hard work and keeping your eyes open for positive opportunities…”

Bob played the role to a T.

He knew, though, that all good things come to an end. Or at least inevitable changes presented themselves.

&&&

Outside, the late spring storm was roaring through the Lake Shasta area. A stiff, cool breeze forced Bob to wrap a small flannel blanket around his shoulders. His cold beer no longer seemed to fit the moment. His writing had developed into an almost daily routine. He found that writing about fishing, particularly fresh water, was what most inspired him. He never deigned to fly fish. He smiled at the image thinking of how fly fisher people would take an acceptance to the thought! No, he was strictly spinning reel and spin cast.

Not forty yards away, under the thick cover of the rich pine forest surrounding their property, the man wearing rain gear stilled his breathing.

The hidden killer lived his life by always taking half measures. The important thing was to get the job done, which he almost always did.

Thirty-eight minutes earlier Bob spotted an actuated electronic trip wire from deep in his properties forest. On his porch he made it a habit to have three screens at foot level, his military grade security system scanning non-stop. The movement sensed first at the perimeter a half kilometer away from the lake side and the suspect came to a stop almost forty yards out.

Bob was watching the intruder up close and in living color. He carried a Savage 10FP snipers rifle, probably using.300 magnum shells.

Bob had immediately activated his counter measures, indicated for this kind of threat. Because of several parameters such as time and the nature of the hostiles attack, Bob knew he had to choose an immediate course of action.

Which he did.

The suspect had planned shoddily. His level of mediocraty determined his failures and his future. Because he’d taken half measures to fulfill this contract hit, he had underestimated his prey. ‘He’s a nobody,’ he’d been assured, ‘a low level accountant…’ Yes, It would cost him.

Bob’s second move was to slip on an RMA Armament vest, one of the world’s best bullet-proof gear which fit snugly and was hidden under the flannel blanket.

The three month intensive security training course followed by constant sharpening sessions he took in the deep woods of Georgia prepared him for just this sort of day.

His first move was to ‘activate’ his security counter measures which was to send an electronic signal to his kennel. Four professionally trained Belgian Malinois dogs were seconds away from their objective. These dogs were amongst the SEALS’ favorite attack dogs. One of many attributes was their attack skills, applying in a split second a ‘full mouthed bite’. The German Sheppard like dogs known by their masters as ‘fur missiles’ rarely missed their target.

Rarely, thus the four dogs.

Bob steeled himself to remain seated. A target for the killer. He knew his appearing calm was essential for not spooking the intruder.

Although the risk he was taking was calculated this turned out to be one of the least mediocre decisions he’d ever made.

Bob also was already thinking of plan-B. The modest though large shore line house was always ready for him and his family. Lake Guerrero offered Mexico’s best bass fishing.

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Tom Jacobson

Tom Jacobson

Discovered the world of Medium some years ago. Amazing! Published first book, romantic adventure in Guatemala and Nicaragua, on Amazon. Title Lenka: Love Story.