Borrowed Time

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Borrowed Time Page 10

by Antonio D. Sommerio

  Again the clanking of bells could be heard as Jacob entered, this time, into a small liquor store not too far from home. The prices here were more than reasonable and surprisingly it was the only place for miles that had a decent winery. Two Arabic men stood behind the counter showing no movement waiting for Jacob to speak. “Evening gentlemen, can I have your finest Merlot…and a bottle of Jack Daniels please?” Simultaneously the two statues now scrambled about the store momentarily, before returning to the counter with what he’d requested. With the exchange of currency for goods Jacob left the store bidding the two men another good evening, as they returned to their original mannequin-like state.

  Nearly stomping up the stairs leading to his door Jacob was hoping his ruckus would grab the attention of a certain neighbor. Tempted to knock on her door second, he instead found himself purposely fumbling with his keys giving Sheryl time to hear the deliberate commotion. Alas nothing, apparently she didn’t want to be bothered, was asleep, or still gone. Nevertheless, Jacob had alternate plans tonight, which upon entering began with placing his whisky in the usual “emergency location.” Hopefully he’d have no need to reopen that drawer anytime soon…hopefully.

  Making a short trip to the closet Jacob laid everything he would need for tomorrow on one side of his bed. This time he would wear the double-breasted charcoal masterpiece he’d acquired at Feretti’s and a special tie that Theresa had given him on their second anniversary. Everything looked perfect as he walked to his pantry and grabbed a box labeled “various,” opening it. Amongst many trinkets, he reached deep inside grabbing a book. Jacob forever favored the Fiction/Fantasy genre and this one entitled The Holberg Collection, was on the best sellers list (well at the time he purchased it anyway).

  The book itself was of remarkable quality. The hardcover was dressed in a woven satin cloth that almost set identical in color to Jacob’s Merlot he’d now began to pour. The letters were crafted from a gold foil, which accompanied a brilliantly detailed golden quill lying in the center of the cover. The display in its entirety, gave the cover more a hand-made feel rather than being mass produced. And so settled, the middle-aged man decided to conclude his night with a soothing glass of wine and a good book.

  “You know you’re only so good at taking hints my dear boy.” Jacob nearly choking recognized the decrepit voice that now echoed throughout his home. “Unfortunate as it may be, you have to ask yourself whether or not you had a choice to begin with.” Slowly peering into his kitchen Jacob could see Ernest grabbing a wine glass from the cabinet and wiping it with a paper towel.

  “How are you…I mean where did you—”

  “Shhhh.” Earnest interrupted. “If I’m correct you don’t have a lot of time left, so maybe you should just listen and let me do the talking. You have a complex Jacob and boy is it a severe one. Day in and out you fault yourself for what happened to your wife. So, in turn you try to be as efficient as possible…especially when it comes to helping others. You find solace in sacrificing your time and sometimes even your sanity to help those in need. You know what that’s called Jacob?” asked Earnest now extending his glass and staring at the wine bottle. Jacob (ghastly pale and partially terrified) nervously poured for Ernest while listening carefully. And then, there it was again, that same dilapidated smile as the old man slowly raised the glass. After a slow sip, which seemed to take an eternity within itself, Ernest gave another short grin before continuing. “Ah, 1951 what a year, and the taste…superb. I can even grasp a small hint of rose. Yes, yes glorious indeed,” said Ernest extremely pleased. Jacob looked at the bottle to see Ernest had the year exactly! “Oh yes my boy, I’m good with time. Not as well off as you are of course which brings us back to our previous conversation. You have a Hero complex Jacob Parnell and while it may not be deliberate, you must be aware of certain consequences. There must always be a balance! Although your acts are selfless, it would prove wise to ask yourself one question…is it truly worth it? You will find the answers you seek by combining two of the artifacts together. I thank you for your hospitality but I’m afraid I must bid you farewell Jacob…you have yourself a good morning.”

  Jacob then found himself awake glass half full and heart pounding with the book in his lap. It was yet another addition to the obscure dreams he’d been having. “Still to this day I can’t read a few chapters without falling asleep,” he said disappointed. Ernest’s words were still echoing in the back of his mind as well. However, to make sure he was fully awake, Jacob went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard. The other wine glass was still in place covered in a very thin veil of dust.

  “Shit!” exclaimed Jacob running into his bedroom, his thoughts now on another issue he’d previously overlooked. He grabbed the suit pants from the bed and put them on followed by the jacket itself. “Oh no,” he moaned. It was just as he’d feared now remembering Sergio asking him if alterations would be made to the suits. The pants were extremely long and un-tapered and the jacket needed a couple adjustments to the shoulders. Jacob grabbed his watch, which displayed a very early 4:42 a.m. “At this point, anything’s worth a try,” he said as grabbed his phone. He then took Sergio’s card calling several times only to receive his voicemail. “Dammit! Ok, one more try.” And in that final attempt, a very tired and groggy Sergio answered.

  “Buongiorno…eh…who is this?” queried the exhausted voice on the other end.

  “Sergio this is Jacob, Jacob Parnell from the other day. I bought eight suits from you at Feretti’s, remember?”

  “Oh yes sir, is there something wrong?” The poor man’s voice was growing croakier and more fatigued with every word spoken.

  “No, not at all but I need to ask a terribly important favor of you, starting with…do you have the keys to the store?” At this point Sergio set up in his bed intrigued and curious.

  “Yes, I do sir but we do not—”

  “I know, I know but this is urgent.” Jacob interrupted. “You see I need alterations made to just one of the suits for a 9:00 a.m. meeting today. Now before you answer just know this, if you say yes, I will compensate you for your time.

  “Compensate sir?” asked Sergio.

  “Will four hundred dollars be enough to get you out of bed early?” offered Jacob.

  “I will be at Feretti’s in forty-five minutes!” replied a very pleased Sergio. With that Jacob hung up the phone and hit the shower.

  Upon arrival, Jacob could see Sergio standing in front of Feretti’s with cup in hand sipping slowly. He was neatly dressed, suit pressed nicely just as he was when Jacob last shopped there. Remarkable, he must sleep in his suit, Jacob thought to himself, for very little time had elapsed since their conversation over the phone.

  “I can’t thank you enough Sergio,” said Jacob smiling and shaking the man’s hand. “I will be sure to let the owner know about your loyalty and dedicated service you’ve provided for me.”

  “It is my pleasure sir. As we say where I am from, ‘nessun problema’! Now let’s get you looking spectacular for this meeting, shall we?” Jacob nodded while patting Sergio on the back as they entered.

  The sun glistened through the windows casting perfect lighting as the man began his work quickly whilst remaining completely proficient. With the humming of several classical tunes, Sergio seemed to glide gracefully while completing his task, making it seem quite effortless.

  “What are you humming, if you don’t mind me asking?” queried Jacob.

  “Very old but beautiful song, it’s called ‘Aprile’ by; Francesco Tosti. But I do it no justice, wait one moment please.” Sergio then carefully handed Jacob his equipment and disappeared into the backroom of the store. Seconds later Jacob was greeted with the delightful song being played through the small stores intercom. “Do you like?” asked Sergio returning to his work.

  “It’s delightful, and you weren’t so bad yourself. I on the other hand couldn’t carry a tune if I tried.” By so
ng’s end Sergio was finished and Jacob (entirely please with the end result) shook Sergio’s hand once more while placing four 100-dollar bills discreetly in his palm. With his mission complete, it was still very early as Jacob debated whether he should get breakfast or return home for a small cat nap before his meeting.

  The still of the morning slowly began to evolve into the rush that was normal for a busy weekday. “A hot cup of java should spruce things up enough!” Jacob said excitedly. Not wanting to get too comfortable Jacob went to the nearest drive-thru grabbing a cup of the morning’s special, complete with cream and sugar. The day was faring well thus far and proved even better as he returned home to find Sheryl at his door.

  “If I knew you were going to be here I would have brought two,” he said grabbing her attention.

  “Geez, you scared me. I thought you were inside,” she replied.

  “Last minute adjustments, big day today,” Jacob announced while holding up the suit.

  “That’s great, well I’m beat. I was just stopping by to let you know I’d made it back.”

  “Well I appreciate that. I was beginning to worry,” he said smiling warmly.

  “Aww, that is so sweet…come here, I want to tell you something,” she said beckoning him with her index finger. As Jacob stepped closer, Sheryl took his hand leaning him forward resting her chin on his shoulder. Jacob could feel her breathing heavily in his ear. “You are my hero, thanks for caring,” she whispered softly brushing her cheeks against his. Her breathing had begun to slowdown, her head becoming heavier by the second. In but a few moments, Jacob realized she had fallen asleep.

  “Come on sweetheart,” he said softly grabbing her by the waist. As its importance had now been overruled, Jacob laid the suit over the banister and picked up Sheryl cradling her as he opened her front door. Exhausted but aware she wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head upon his chest.

  “I don’t know where to go,” he whispered.

  “My bedroom’s on the right,” she replied lightly.

  Jacob stepped slowly as he maneuvered past an easel and several tubes of paint that lay scattered about the living room floor. As he crossed the threshold, he could see Sheryl’s beautiful canopy-style bed. Draped with lace and complete with satin sheets, it was as extravagant a place to slumber as any he’d ever witnessed. The mattress conformed perfectly welcoming her curvy body as he gently laid her down. She turned on her side giving a slow moan as she positioned herself for comfort. With her legs together and knees slightly toward her chest, Jacob could see the ending of her smooth stockings and lovely laced garter. Her thighs and buttocks now lay exposed, revealing what Jacob could only previously fantasize about in his mind. With hands jittering and heart pounding from arousal, he carefully grabbed the end of her skirt pulling it down slowly now covering the delightful and tempting view. “You’re such a gentleman.” Sheryl mumbled. He then stepped over toward the bedroom window closing the blinds. The room darkened nicely as a shadow fell over her incandescent skin. With a final sigh, Sheryl abandoned her attempt at seduction and fell into a deep sleep. Jacob tip-toed toward the exit but stopped after inadvertently bumping into the art easel holding a canvas. Hands now sturdy once more he carefully positioned it as it was while studying it more closely.

  Although it was apparent, the work was still early he could make out the setting, which appeared to be some sort of medical facility or hospital room. One lone patient lay with IV in arm while several others stood around the bed-ridden figure as if offering support. Other than that, there was just one lone window in the room with light forcing its way through the blinds and onto the figure. Sheryl proved to have quite the creative gift, blending different hues of blacks and whites together to create an almost depressing and eerie…but hopeful mood. Intrigued, Jacob wished he could see more as none of the mysterious occupants had faces yet and could only be partially identified by their clothing. It seemed that Sheryl had unknowingly acquired a new devotee as Jacob was more than anxious to see the finished work and pondered what inspired such a piece.

  “What a morning,” Jacob said to himself closing Sheryl’s door. It seemed time had caught up with him and he should now ready himself for what hopefully will be, one of the proudest days of his life.

  With his usual routine proving proficient as ever, Jacob found himself once again on time in the presence of his mentor and long-time friend Harold Pinkerton.

  “I wasn’t sure if you’d gotten my message, but I was hopeful. You look grand my dear man, classy and professional. I’m impressed.” Mr. Pinkerton stood in front of Jacob with his hands on both Jacob’s shoulders. “Let’s get this show on the road, shall we? Everyone is waiting in the meeting room on three.” As both men exited Pinkerton’s office Jacob was greeted to the desolate emptiness that he’d remembered as the main office floor. Each cubicle was empty and uninhabited with utter silence being the only thing that accompanied the two men as they entered the elevator.

  “How many were you able to have attend?” Jacob asked now speaking for the first time.

  “I’ll tell you a secret to gathering the masses. There are two very effective ways to ‘persuade’ your employees to assemble, even on a non-working day. First make attendance mandatory with a small penalty for those who still choose not to attend. The other choice is of course (Pinkerton paused while waiting for the elevator door to open) is this!”

  As Jacob stepped from the elevator, he was bombarded by the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee and sweet pastries. Every last Pinkerton Industry employee seemed to be there. Some Jacob hadn’t seen since he’d first started with the company. Everyone sat with plenty of conversation stuffing their faces with the various delectable snacks then sipping java carefully afterward.

  “As you can see Jacob I always do both. I mean let’s be serious, you can’t exactly threaten people while there all on empty right?” Mr. Pinkerton smiled for a short moment before readying his game face.

  “Good Morning, and thank you all who are in attendance today for this monumental announcement. This company has achieved and seen much success over the many years in operation and for that I thank each and every one of you.” Jacob took a seat next to Pinkerton drowning out his speech with his own thoughts. But as the man spoke nonetheless, his audience all seemed to be captivated by his words. Some even stopped in mid-bite, carefully listening as not to miss a single detail. Could he prove to be as effective a leader as the man beside him? Would they respect him as they’d he? “I proudly present the new CEO of Pinkerton Industries Mr. Jacob Parnell!” Hearing his name Jacob was brought back from the temporary captivity of his thoughts. They all stood while applauding as Pinkerton motioned him to speak to his new subordinates.

  “Thank you Mr. Pinkerton, I would first like to—” Jacob was quickly interrupted by Stanley who could be seen (and heard) across the room with his fingers in his mouth whistling profusely. “Uh…thank you Mr. Burgress.” Jacob continued formally.

  “For a moment while Mr. Pinkerton spoke, his words gradually faded to silence, with my attention diverted. It wasn’t a lack of interest however but exactly the opposite as I sat in pure wonderment, intrigued by his charismatic ways. Everything he did from simple hand gestures to the clearing of his throat was all done with articulacy and class. For a moment, I thought…how could I ever replace such a man? How could I earn the respect as he did from all of you? How could I possibly fill shoes so enormous?” Everyone sat quietly waiting for Jacob to continue. Mr. Pinkerton also took seat proudly as he listened. Jacob hadn’t written any speech or prepared a choreographed rebuttal. Instead, everything he said was coming from his heart, true and honest. Little did he know, that was the key to earning the respect of the people that sat before him. “So, as I stand here today I cannot promise you that I will run this company the way he did. Nor will I make any assumptions of its future success or failures. But what I will promise you is…tha
t I will do what is best for the preservation of not only this company but for the people that truly make things happen day by day…each and every one of you. Again, I thank you all for your support and look forward to having the pleasure of working together with every one of you individually, as well as a team.” With a short bow, Jacob excused himself while being accompanied by further applause.

  “Everyone who needs or wants to leave may do so now. For all who would like to remain, in the next couple of hours lunch and drinks downtown are on me. Any questions I will be in my office.” With that said Pinkerton excused himself as well.

  Jacob sat in his office staring at the wall. This was it, his big day, so why wasn’t he ecstatic? Why didn’t he really care?

  “May I come in?” asked Pinkerton as he knocked on the office door.

  “You seem troubled, are you sure you’re ready for this?” Jacob now fumbling with his watch at first said nothing.

  “I…I was wondering if I could ask you that same question.”

  “If I didn’t think you were ready son then you wouldn’t be here today. But you have to realize it’s not about what I think anymore. You have to find what’s right for you on your own, you know that.” Pinkerton spoke sternly as if partially agitated. “Anyway, you still have plenty of time to give it some thought so I think you should do exactly that.” Jacob nodded as if agreeing.


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