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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Thriller/Suspense · #987190
A brief creative thriller on saving or ruining lives
This hasn't been clear to the readers who have already read my piece, but the point was to include a DIFFERENT word beginning with "ex" in every sentence. It was NOT to sound intelligent or to be a great story, it was a creative experiment.

Great Expectations

         “So, are you excited about going to college?” Jack asked.
         “I suppose,” I replied, expediting the food Jack was preparing. “I just hope my roommate’s not a political extremist or something. I’ve always found people like that to be so exasperating!”
         “Nah, you’re exaggerating. At least you probably won’t have someone who thinks he’s an exarch of the Roman Empire, like I did in college. Every time I stubbed my toe he’d try to give me extreme unction!”
         I laughed, but inside I was expatiating the thought of a horrible roommate, and hence a horrible first year of college. I wanted a good college experience. But I suppose the worst thing that could happen is to go back to being an executive of this modest restaurant, which wasn’t so bad. I sort of liked this place, where everyone could exchange opinions and stories and everyone liked each other – I think.
         My favorite person in the restaurant had to be Jack – our conversations exhibited intelligence with no loss of virility. Both of us were very extroverted, and enjoyed sports like no other two people. We even played on an extramural soccer team together, which is how I met him and got him a job here. Jack would have been an excellent roommate if we had gone to the same college, but 6 years difference and 2000 miles would separate us in only a few months.
         “Hey Jon – Your Excellency is requested at Table 24 for a price inquiry,” a voice said, which I quickly interpreted as Melanie’s as she walked by. I shuffled over to 24, excogitating on how I’d never had a price inquiry worth dealing with. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with customers, really, so I hoped this time would be an exception.
         “Hi guys, is there a problem here?” I asked, expecting a loud, incoherent barrage of invectives. Instead, I received a calm answer from a very cosmopolitan gentleman, who was between cosseting his expectant wife (or so I assumed it was his wife) and pointing to the bill.
         “I believe you’ve charged us an exceedingly high price for a minor addition,” he said. I knew as soon as I examined the bill which charge he was talking about. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate our waitress’s courtesy and the expeditious food service. But a whole dollar for extra cheese is a ridiculous price!”
         “Well, we try not to charge too excessively in proportion to the cost of the food, sir,” I said. “The cheese we added costs us about 75% of what we charge, which I hardly think is exorbitant.”
         “That’s execrable! Two slices of cheese is hardly worth 75 cents, and I demand an exemption from that charge.”
         I can’t believe I’m arguing over cheese, I thought to myself, and exhaled deeply. “I can except you from the charge this time, but generally we have to charge for an additional amount of anything.”
         “Seriously, I excoriate this system where a restaurant can charge whatever they want for food without telling the customer!” the man continued. He was exacerbating the situation, telling the world loudly so that everyone could hear his frustration. I didn’t answer him, and went to the computer to expunge the charge. He was still being extremely loud, but at least he would be gone soon. I returned to the table and gave the revised check to the loudly exclaiming man, whose pregnant wife was shouting equally as loudly, but for different reasons. In fact, the man had now stopped yelling and was paying attention to his partner, now screaming bloody murder and obviously in excruciating pain.
         “Shut up, just shut up!” she screamed, “I don’t care how expensive our meal is, because my water broke two minutes ago!” At that point the small murmurs of the restaurant became cries of anticipation and nervous excitement.
         Dear God, I thought, This is going to be one hell of an experience. I had never dealt with any such exigency before, so I had no idea what to do. Acting extemporaneously, I fumbled in my pocket for a cell phone and dialed 911. Busy - and we all exalt the police department for being there when we need them, I thought sarcastically. Realizing there was no help out of the situation, my heretofore unwitnessed extempore attitude kicked into action. I exserted my hand to the stressed and frightened woman, and she took it. The man, obviously more clueless than I, helped us out the door as all three of us muttered expletives at the situation. I brought both of them to my vehicle, a ten-year-old SUV which wasn’t in bad shape for my exiguous budget. At least it was spacious, which was exactly what I needed right now.
         “Maybe we should take my vehicle,” the husband said with a tone of uneasiness, pointing to a Precis that I expected would hardly hold one person.
         “I won’t expostulate with you right now; we’re taking this one. I don’t think I should have to explain the reason. Now we have to get this woman to the hospital before she explodes!” I don’t think I could ever express what I was feeling right then. Adrenalin was pumping through me like I’d never felt before, and I prayed I would be able to exhibit enough courage to get me through the night.
         I jammed the acceleration and a plume of exhaust shot out of the rear of the car. The woman was respiring heavily now, and the husband was trying to recall explicit directions from Lamaze classes. The woman paid little attention, however, as her responses consisted of loud exclamations of pain interspersed with curses on her husband. I drove quickly, exerting the most pressure I ever had on my acceleration pedal as the speedometer rapidly arced 180 degrees, skirting in between cars and trying to see in the night. In the rush I had almost forgotten where I was going, trying to weave my way through the obscurity and the traffic, and I could see my speedometer warning me to stop the extreme speeds. With the incessant screaming in the back of the car and the adrenalin high I was on, I couldn’t help but feel dizzy – but I had to execute this job now. I was trying to focus on the road and which exit I was supposed to take for the hospital when suddenly the screaming stopped. Instead, the man muttered “Oh, no” several times, while the woman expectorated phlegm all over the seat. She collapsed on the man’s lap, and the smell of excrement filled the small space. I had no idea to what extent the woman’s health was failing, but it didn’t look good. I turned around briefly and viewed the seemingly exanimate woman, passed out on the disgusted yet sympathetic young man. I turned around to see the extrados of a bridge directly in front of me. I swerved out of the way, but lost control of the vehicle, which was in excess of 100 miles per hour. The last thing I remember was the sound of steel and concrete meshing together, a pitiful gasp from the back seat, and an extraordinarily bright light.

         I woke up completely exhausted. Light blinded me at first, but my eyes adjusted and the view of my environment expanded into a small hospital room. I explored the room visually - it looked more like an operating room in a science fiction movie. It felt almost like I was preparing for a psychotic dental surgery, a lamp in my face and exodontia on the horizon. My emotions were hardly explicable at that moment. It was confusing, not knowing what had happened; it was frightening, because no one was around, caring or tending to me; and in some sense it was exhilarating to look around like a baby in his newly discovered surroundings, trying to figure out what these strange things in a strange place were.
         When I regained my focus, I remembered what had happened in the car, and was immediately surprised that I still existed. Then my thoughts turned to the young couple who had accompanied me and the devastation I must have exposed to them.
         If that woman, God forbid, is dead, I swore, there would be absolutely no way to expiate that mistake.
         At that moment a doctor with a well-groomed, silver-streaked beard and small, rimmed glasses walked in, gave a quick exam of my eyes, and shook my limp hand.
         “Good morning, sunshine,” he said in a deep voice that exuded gentleness and amiability. “You did okay, son, but if I could have had it any other way, I would have exhorted you to wait for an ambulance.”
         I tried to protest, but my voice came out in murmurs and extralinguistic babble.
         “I suppose you have an excess of questions I cannot answer, but I can try to start you off,” the doctor continued. “The pregnant woman in the car’s wounds were too extensive by the time we got there to save her. The explosion that resulted after the fuel tank caught fire sent all three of you out of the car, but she was sent across the road directly into a tree. I won’t expound upon the details of that, but needless to say it was a tragic sight. As for the man, he was sent into a bed of ferns, and the accident was exsanguine on his part. He suffered no internal damage, but he has several external bumps and bruises. In an amazing coincidence, he was wanted for tax evasion and embezzlement in Virginia, and was extradited there yesterday.
         “It seems this situation has gathered national attention as well when you inadvertently exposed a criminal and two people have been left dead. It’s been quite an extravagant ordeal to keep them out of the way. They’ve been itching for nearly two weeks for any exteroception on your part so you can give them a statement on what happened. Meanwhile, that woman’s family has been threatening to exact revenge on you with a murder charge, though I think it highly unlikely such a case will follow through. I think all of us would like to hear an explanation, including me, but right now we’re going to make sure you don’t have holes we didn’t patch up, and give you some natural sleep. Don’t expend too much energy which you will likely do just from blinking; your body system is out of whack. From what the police can extrapolate from witnesses, you tried to be a hero. But let me just assure you that, from my and many points of view, what you did was admirable... and dangerous, but excusable. It does not exemplify everything that should have been done, but I know you’ll be just fine.”
The doctor extended a hand to me, but when I found I could hardly lift my own hand, he gave me a light pat on the head as one would a faithful pet, and walked out. He was obviously experienced in comforting people in these kinds of situations, and his speech left me relieved yet pained. I had unintentionally performed an execution on two innocent lives, one without even having a chance to breathe Earth’s air or see the person who had kept him alive for nine months. I had kept oxygen from the poor child, had disrupted all the exons and introns working their magic, and had made cells stop dividing. I had cut off a baby from existence just by trying to help. I extended my head to see a clock reading 6:36 PM, laid my head back onto the pillow, and fell asleep with a crystal of a tear in my eye.

         Some previously unwitnessed philanthropy extricated itself from me that night upon thinking of the woman and her baby, and 11 hours later when I awoke, it was left hanging above me to admire like a baby mobile. It prompted me to think of an excerpt from Hamlet: “What a piece of work is man…” In my fragile state, I was so overjoyed that my doctor had so much expertise that I began to cry.
         How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties: I had no reason, I had no faculties, and I was hardly an exemplar of talent or virtue, even though I had tried to save someone’s life.
         In form and moving, how express and admirable: Yes, they were two that deserved to admire and be admired in the future...
         ...The paragon of animals; and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?: the media extols my actions, yet I am nothing to myself. Whatever emotions the incident had extracted from my mind were strong ones. I let the emotions run for so long, excavating my tear ducts and my soul one molecule at a time until I had no energy left. When I finally stopped, I was rocking back and forth in a nearly fetal position, from the exterior looking like an autistic child or a victim of insanity. My feelings of loneliness and isolation were explicable only by a novel by Camus or Sartre. Simultaneous fascination with mankind and existentialism left a prodigious schism in my mind.
         At the very moment I decided I should stop feeling so sorry for myself, a man whose size would have no expression on its own stepped in my room. He was sweating from the long exercise routine he had just done in apparently walking from the elevator to the room. There was no detail excluded in looking remarkably like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, only he wore a classy suit and carried a black atache case. A member of the exclusive club, “Star Wars for Lawyers,” I thought. His presence cheered me up significantly, and my morale was only heightened when he spoke in an exotic yet geeky fashion, which confirmed my suspicions that he was a nerd and a lawyer, and apparently Polynesian.
         “It’s so exciting for all of us to hear that you have come through everything all right,” he said, enunciating everything clearly as if he were talking to a speaker of Zulu. “My name is Anitelu Delai, and I am a lawyer, here to protect you from exploitation. Your situation has gained much media exposure, and – are you all right?” He had seen my red and swollen eyes, which only moments before were extravasating several different fluids.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I said, but I could barely finish my sentence before he was exulting me for my “courageous behavior” and “admirable actions.” He had a funny little accent that I kept chuckling at as he rolled through his expansive laundry list of praises and apotheoses – he made everything guttural and put a “T” before several of his vowels, making it sound more like “coolr-tay-jee-us be-xhayve-ti-or.” I wasn’t really paying attention until he got to the important stuff, explicating the ways of the court system and the unlikely situation that would come up from a manslaughter charge. I was actually sort of shocked at how quickly a charge could be made against me, but then again I wasn’t exactly sure how long I’d not been conscious. I was glad that an expert was on my side, even if he looked and spoke strangely. He seemed proficient in legal matters, his vocabulary was well developed, and while I was noticing these unimportant characteristics, he was presenting an exhibition of papers and diagrams.
         “There is no extrinsic evidence, only that given by police, who are on your side. If you sign on with me right now, I guarantee you will be exonerated from such ridiculousness, and make sure your professional reputation is in no way harmed by these noisome charges.”
         Once upon a time I thought I was a great expository writer, I thought. This guy must have excelled like Stephen Hawking when he was in school.
         There was a little something fishy about it, because it sounded like he was trying to sell me a used car at a 50% off every make and model extravaganza! than to protect me from the law. I was reluctant to sign anything, but I decided he had no use in exploiting me - I had little money, and I was about to have even less when I went to college. A catch-22 presented itself to me right before I picked up the pen, however, because if I was exculpated, I would have a really hefty sum to pay off in addition to college. This Delai guy seemed to know what I was thinking, and assured me, with another used car salesman-like attitude:
         “With little or no expense to you, my rates are very manageable.”
         I prepared myself for a spiel about no down payments and the wholesale liquidation prices, but read the documents, signed on the dotted lines, and prayed I wasn’t going to be a horrible mad science experiment.

         Fortunately, I found myself six months later free of all legal nonsense and ready to go on an excursion to escape a strenuous first semester of college, with good friends none other than Jack and Anitelu Delai. I never thought that I would be going skiing with a line cook and a Polynesian lawyer, fiercely arguing exegeses of Shakespeare’s works and Biblical interpretations all in good humor. I really never thought I would be so interested in extropy, a word I hadn’t heard of until Anitelu mentioned it to me one night in our hotel. I suppose it is the general expectation that we learn something new every day, though.
I hope my story serves as an example for those of you out there who have ever doubted their natural instincts to help people. My one piece of advice is, if a conscience-questioning, nerve-wracking, ethical train wreck ever presents itself to you, it is very expedient to take advantage of it. Things may be rough for a period, but remember that the inner feeling of a good deed never expires.
© Copyright 2005 Jonathan (go0danplenty at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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