People are always anxious to blurt out how they’re so grateful for where they came from and who they are because of it. They talk about their lives and struggling to make ends meet and eventually conquering said adversity. If you would have asked me where I came from I would have lied. If you were smug enough about it, I may have smacked you in the jaw. The truth is, I did come from nothing. I’m not proud of it, and I never will be. The only thing that matters is I’m worth something now.
I grew up in hell. Maybe worse, at least I never woulda been cold there. I know I grew up surrounded by the devil’s advocates. It was Detroit in the 90’s, a pretty generic slum, but most don’t dig their way out of the six feet you’re destined to die in. Walking a mile in my shoes growing up meant the soles were either flapping off or I was barefoot looking through goodwill piles I could steal.
I was pretty much abandoned by my white trash, crack head mom. Took to the pipe and was gone to the world, especially me. Around eight years old I enrolled in the foster home setting, which did not treat me well. No one was going to adopt that late and all the kids around my age knew it too. There was a lot of anger and hate in those formative years because of it, moving well into my teens. All of us festered in those places, fighting for respect and stealing what we could. Some did worse things than I, and I had good friends buried down the street from the homes I was in.
Shit, winters were the worst though. Always walking, always cold. I never had enough to keep me warm and that’s probably why I’m sitting here on a beach in Florida writing this. I never want to go back to cold that seemed to gut you right there on the street. So cold it felt like ice was cutting your skin until you went numb. I almost died that way once when I was twelve, so cold and numb you get tired. After that all you want to do is let go and fall asleep, dooming yourself to never wake up again. Thankfully someone found me outside the door to the house at two in the morning, checking to make sure the doors were latched.
It happened to be my friend Kyle who let me in that day. Couldn’t pay for friends like that. Not those days, and certainly not now. Him and I woulda gladly died for the other, and at times, we almost did. He died about 3 years back in a factory accident. Hadn’t spoken to him in 16 years, but apparently he turned to the bottle and was on the job. Recipe for disaster. Detroit is the kind of place that could turn a man to that. Especially with our childhood.
When I was 18 things changed. I was rattling around from job to job, slinging coke a little bit and just trying to keep my piece of shit one bedroom off the market. It was a hot day in August, I was sweating my ass off peddling product at night. I saw smoke start spewing out a smooth, black Cadillac rolling to a stop. It wasn’t right for this kind of neighborhood so I sat back and watched. Slowly he got out and surveyed where he was at. It was an old, white guy in a suit and tie.
He seemed to be a little drunk and started for the corner of the street, I knew that would be a terrible idea. I followed, a plan forming in my head. As soon as he turned the corner as I knew would happen, someone yelled followed by a bunch of whooping. I quickened my pace and saw the man come back towards me around the corner staggering blindly. Behind him about four guys showed up laughing their heads off as they spoke amongst themselves. They got closer and closer and so did I.
As soon as the first one laid a hand on the guy I shouted, “Back the fuck up!”
As I spoke I reached in my shorts and pulled out my gun, a black .45 that looked like it was sure to put a hole in just about anyone. They did, in fact, jump back in fear. I ran the much older and bigger thugs around the corner and out of sight as they yelled about crazy white people. The funny thing was…my gun wasn’t real. It was a spray painted air soft gun I had just bluffed with. Talk about desperation.
The old guy thanked me up and down as I led him to my pad and he collapsed in my bed. I sat and waited, numerous ideas coming to mind. He woke up about six hours later ready to vomit. And he did. Multiple times.
His name was Elmore Fischer, a CFO of Clayton Industries, which was a giant in plastic manufacturing. He could not think of any way of repaying me for his life, after I recounted the harrowing event (embellishing, of course.) I then played the sob story card like a broken record. I probably could have won an Oscar.
That day he sent a car for me and it brought me to his home which was North by the lake. Big surprise, it was a gated community. He had recently been divorced again and therefore lived in this mansion alone, besides all of his staff. Elmore took it upon himself to adopt me and teach me the different trades of his business. He had taken a small, back road shop with a small office and made it one of the top tier plastic manufacturers in the country.
Without any real formal education I had to start from scratch, but I inhaled that sort of knowledge because I had a background of whatever shady business I had been involved with in the past. I learned and learned quick and was soon making sales calls, setting appointments, and even scheduling interviews for hiring…he trusted my judgment of people. This isn’t to say everything went well.
He had four kids who were all much older than I. The relationship between them and their father was strained to say the least. I wasn’t sure which belonged to which mother, but it didn’t matter. His exes had everything they needed from the divorce packages they got with Elmore’s multiple infidelities. Two girls and two boys who were all spoiled brats that never worked hard a day in their lives. You could see they were the kind of people to hold a grudge over the old man’s head, and they did, in order to receive weekly or monthly stipends. They hated me.
I could not tell if it was jealousy or some sort of threat I posed on the family fortune, probably both. As Elmore’s health declined due to a particular fancy of the bottle, I picked up more responsibilities and was even allowed in board and shareholder meetings. He came to love me, unlike the children who spited him from so early on. I cared for him those days, and one day he called me into his bedroom as he was resting after a particularly bad spell.
“You’ve done so well in so short a time. You exceeded all my expectations and I could not be more proud of you. I hope you know that you will be receiving more than experience out of this. You will have a job at Clayton after I am dead and buried. And I want you to know a piece of my inheritance will be left to you as well. You have spent more time in this house than all four of my offspring combined and have been so willingly, not with your hand out like a beggar. You continue to work hard and will have a life like this of your own.”
I was grateful beyond words. Even after he was better I worked harder for him. I would put 18 hour days in all the time and he saw the fruits of my labor. I boosted sales singlehandedly with all the research I put into practical uses of industrial plastics, and those that could input them in their applications as a cheaper alternative to metal. After the initial sales, our VP took over and rose our current customer purchases 60% The board of directors were extremely impressed and I was sure I was on my way.
Then the old man became really sick. Ill to the point of no return. Decades of abuse to his body and mind were taking a toll he would never recover from. At this point I was already in the will to receive the house, an allowance of money per year, and a job managerial sales position at Clayton. Then, as I was going to say goodnight to him before popping off to bed myself, I heard his oldest son Victor speaking with him in soft whispers.
“Look dad, I know we’ve had our differences but you gotta trust me. The kids no good, I had him looked into. He’s got a rap sheet a mile long and many counts of assault against him. He’s doing this to take your money, he probably stole that information or threatened people to get it. We’re you’re kids and you know we would never hurt you. He is using you. We’ll go over the will tomorrow and put the money where it belongs.”
He began to pick up his things to leave and planted a kiss on his father’s head. I silently tiptoed to my room and silently screamed into a pillow. My rage was unparalleled. That lying, conniving fucking asshole was going to take the money I worked for. I wanted to rip his head off, but that would have made things worse. If we were in the street, he wouldn’t survive the night. After a long time I cooled down and thought of what I could do. A sick thought implanted itself in my head. I didn’t want to turn to it. And then I thought of those lonely, cold nights wandering the streets.
I couldn’t go back. If I did I would die out there. I would never feel that hunger again, or that biting cold. If I was to survive I would have to adapt. Unconsciously I rose to my feet and planted each one into the ground and through the quicksand I felt on the floor. Slow motion was an understatement as I moved down the hall. It was darker than I remembered it to be and a much longer distance. Everyone had long since left or had fallen asleep.
I came to the door and pushed it open, hesitating before moving in. Every color and item comes back to me in vivid detail. The plush maroon carpet between my toes, trying to stop me moving forward. The bedside light was still on as it cast an eerie glow throughout the oversized bedroom. There he lay, Elmore Fischer, seemingly asleep and looking at peace for the first time in weeks. I moved towards the man who was my livelihood as well as my savior.
“I was wondering when you would come.”
I was startled, to say the least. He grinned wide and bright and maintained the twinkle in the corners of his dark eyes. I wasn’t sure whether to leave or stay but he continued anyway.
“I know you can’t go back to that life. And I know in my condition there is only so much I can do to secure your goodwill. They have been feeding me those damn pills, it makes me all loopy and I can’t concentrate. I don’t know what I would say or agree to tomorrow when they come for me to change what I already know, and I don’t know what kind of lawyers those leeches have to back them. What I do know is that the entire board of directors has my support and they know my feelings about your future. You saved my life and now it’s my turn to return the favor. Come over here.”
It was all I could do to speechlessly move towards him to his side. He grabbed my hand and just nodded. I grabbed the beta blocking pills on his tableside, which the nurse said not to overdo to both of us, lest they stop his heart. A single tear slid down my face and splattered on my outstretched hand with the bottle. He smiled the whole time he grabbed more of the pills than his heart could take. I held his hand until it went cold.
I didn’t sleep at night for four months. I got everything that was given to me in the will, despite the children’s attempts to stop me. I went on to take over as the CFO ten years later and make millions. I don’t like to look back at the past in those dark days before I became who I am today. I’m not grateful for where I came from, just grateful to an old man who gave me a shot and I took it.