A quick story about a small act that goes a very long way.
|Drew Hauser was giving this day one last chance. He pulled his battered Accord into a parking spot in front of the converted warehouse. Feebly-glowing neon letters spelled out Ac ion Ho k y above the doors.
"This is it," he muttered as he pulled his hockey stick, equipment bag, and backup hockey stick out of the car. "If there is any justice in the universe AT ALL, we're gonna get a flippin' win tonight!" Drew's team, the Haverford Failers, had lost their last sixteen games despite being demoted to the rink's D league. "One stupid good thing has to happen today," Drew growled.
Things had gotten off to a roaring start when he woke up alone, hung over, and late for work. Things had disimproved when he'd gotten pulled over rushing to the office. Things had further deteriorated when he'd been loudly berated by the district manager in the middle of a meeting. Things had gone completely into the toilet when the Phillies had lost.
Drew kicked open the door to the rink with determination. "You listen here, universe," he shouted in his head. "You owe us a gorram win! I don't care if I have to kill someone. I'm gonna MAKE something good happen today!"
* * *
Drew sat on the concrete steps in front of his building, wallowing in the stink of sweaty hockey gear, fast food cheeseburgers, and failure. His apartment didn't have air conditioning, so he ate outside.
Unbidden, the 8 - 1 loss replayed itself in his mind. He'd had a great view of most of the action from the penalty box. "Muppet hugger!" He growled, pushing damp strands of hair off his forehead. "MUPPET HUGGER!" He threw what was left of his jumbo soda into the street in a spray of sugary ice.
The day had been an unending nightmare. Drew decided it was time to turn to alcohol's cold, hoppy comfort. He picked up the box containing his still-warm apple pie and shouldered his equipment bag. "Muppet hugger," he muttered one last time and turned to climb the stairs.
"Are you done with that?" asked a quiet, tiredly hopeful voice behind him. Drew turned and saw a homeless man pointing at the half-finished mega-size fries he had left on the steps. The bum wore a patched brown overcoat and gray knit cap, even in the summer heat.
"Nah, help yourself," Drew answered.
"Thanks," the bum shuffled forward and picked up the box with a grimy hand. His eyes seemed somehow odd to Drew, like the man was seeing more than was Drew saw. Probably on drugs, Drew thought.
"Here," Drew said, holding out the apple pie. "You're probably having a worse day than me."
The bum took the dessert and bowed his head. "Thank you kindly," he murmured.
"Sure thing." Drew went up the stairs to his apartment and his beer.
* * *
Xyrif checked the alley one more time. Satisfied that he was alone, he huddled back behind the dumpster and fumbled beneath his overcoat. Finding the activator was always difficult on this body. Finally, his seeking fingers depressed the button.
A black curtain slowly descended over Xyrif's vision. He felt his consciousness turn inward, then slip away from his body. He felt nothing. He was nothing. Then, contact. A gentle touch at the edge of his perception that grew until it filled his thoughts. He was one with the Vytheran All-Mind.
"DIRECTIVE?" Came the question, not in words.
Xyrif answered in kind. "Cancel previous destruct order for third planet of System 291."
"My previous directive was . . . premature," Xyrif hesitated to point out his mistake. He had a responsibility to uphold, though. "This past solar cycle was extremely trying, and I allowed one data set to sway my judgment. This planet warrants further study before we decide."
"DIRECTIVE CONFIRMED. ARMADA DIVERTED. CONTINUE OBSERVATION."
Xyrif's human eyes opened. Relieved to have averted a mistake, he went back to work.