The Unlikely Sort
There was a time when I could have been considered a good man. I had a wife and family. I had a house with a picket fence. I had a good job and college education – the only one in my family who did. I guess you could say I had it all, the ideal life of a middle-income man. Yeah, that was me, a law-abiding upstanding citizen working for the man and just living out the proverbial American dream.
My older brother John used to say I was the hero of the family; always with a note of sarcasm, and of course an expletive or two thrown in. I wonder what he’d think of me now; sitting here on this park bench, waiting for cops to come and take me to jail.
I’m not sure what it was that put me over the edge, how it was that I went down this road from upstanding American citizen to criminal. Well, I do know, honestly. It was that stupid “Reset your password” on my desktop.
I know that sounds innocuous, but it’s not really that simple. It’s just that when the boss is on your ass, barking at you when you’re trying to log in; along with the million other things you got going on, the simple thing can be the very thing that causes the cork to pop.
I say it was a fast road, but really it started about a year ago. That’s when I lost my last job. I had been with the company for seventeen years, completely unaware that, even though I was the accountant, it was the executives that were really working the books. I found out the day the IRS came with the FBI in tow and took away the president and two of the vice presidents.
Turns out they had been ripping off customers for years. People’s savings, pensions and investments all gone in Ponzi schemes and executives stuffing their wallets. The company president and Chief Financial Officer got charged with investment fraud among other things. I got hauled in for questioning as well. The FBI couldn’t believe I wasn’t involved, being an accountant, but I wasn’t. I had no idea anything untoward had been happening at all. I wasn’t charged with any crime but, needless to say, I was out of a job.
I had trouble finding new employment right away. Imagine having no way to explain what you’ve been doing for the past seventeen years other than working as an accountant for a firm where the execs were arrested for investment fraud. Doesn’t look good on a resume. Even though I was never charged, I guess it was hard to trust someone in my position. No one wanted to hire me as an accountant, so I had to start looking elsewhere for a different type of employment.
I did find a new job eventually but being unemployed for months with very little income is not conducive to a healthy marriage, let me tell you. Not that the wife and I were on the best terms to begin with. We hadn’t been for years. Since the kids grew up, she didn’t really seem to have much time for me. Not that I deserved it.
I think we had been drifting apart for a long time, but I never noticed. I guess for most of our marriage, I didn’t pay much attention. I’d go to work, bring home the bacon as they say, and thought for some reason that should be enough. I guess it wasn’t. She left me four months ago; said she couldn’t stand watching me sit around the house feeling sorry for myself anymore. She can be such a bitch at times.
She didn’t even seem to care when my brother John got killed last month. “He was probably drunk,” she said. It was true, he used to have a drinking problem, but Jesus, why did she have to be so cruel.
He was my brother, and it was a workplace accident. He fell off a scaffold on the construction site he was working. One of worst days of my life, and my wife of twenty-two years was heartless. She called a couple of days later asking about the funeral. I told her to go to hell. She didn’t show up on the day and I was glad. I probably would have told her off.
I went to John’s funeral with my younger brother Mike and our dad. Mom had already passed on a few years back and, for the first time, I was happy that she was gone. Seeing John laying in that coffin would have devastated her. It was hard enough on the rest of us.
John was a good man. My holier-than-thou wife didn’t think so, but I don’t care what she thinks anymore. He didn’t live his life to acceptable society expectations, she used to say - whatever the hell that means.
He got in some trouble with the law when he was younger; nothing violent, just some shoplifting and selling pot. They sent him to jail for a couple of years, but he got out early on good behavior. He never got in any more trouble after that but did have an issue with drinking – did a couple of stints in rehab.
He’s been clean for a while though, except for the occasional social drink. He met a new woman and got married a few years back. They have a five-year-old son. It broke my heart to see him at the funeral, crying for his daddy.
I’ve been thinking about John a lot lately, and myself too actually. He went to jail for stealing a few hundred dollars in goods. I worked for a company that stole millions from investors. At least John’s shoplifting charges didn’t rob people of their life savings.
As I said before, I wasn’t involved in the fraud. I can’t help but ask myself though how much I really knew. I worked in accounting, for Christ sakes. Surely there had to be some unexplained deposits or irreconcilable balances that I missed.
Then I ask myself if maybe I never missed anything at all. Maybe I just didn’t want to know. Perhaps I was too much of a coward to question anything, or possibly I just chose to shut up and mind my own business.
When that company got shut down and I lost my job, John was of the few people who knew without a doubt that I wasn’t involved. So many others gave me sideways glances, not sure what to think. John was sure though.
“You’re a good man, brother. There’s no way you would rip those people off. It’s not in you,” he said. He told me everybody that knows me knows I wouldn’t do that. I wanted to believe him, but those sideways glances sure made it hard.
“You’re too much a fucking hero,” he said. I asked him why he called me that. I always thought it was an insult, but he assured me it wasn’t. He said it was because I was the only one of us three brothers that got a college education and lived my life on the straight and narrow. He said I made Mom and Dad proud. I had a family, a nice house, a good paying job, and I never got in any trouble.
I didn’t think that made me a hero and I told him that, but John said he was proud of me as well. I wonder what he’d think of me now. Man, I really miss him.
So, like I said, I did find another job eventually. I work in bookkeeping for a payroll loans company. It’s the only place that would hire me. I went from working for shysters who were illegally stealing investors’ life savings to working for swindlers legally ripping off thirty percent of people’s paychecks. From lake scum to pond scum, I guess.
The pay is crap too. The only people they rip off more than their employees are their customers. But I guess I should be grateful. It’s a job, right?
I hated working there and was always bothered by what a scam it is. Watching the smiles on the customers faces when they leave with their cash, knowing damn well they won’t be smiling when they have to pay back thirty cents on the dollar in interest. The entire system makes me sick.
Yeah, I guess you could say I got a lot on my mind lately – marriage breakup, my brother’s death, shitty job that I hate. I hardly even talk to my kids anymore. They don’t have much time for me, except when they’re looking for money. They probably won’t even miss me when I go to jail.
You’re probably wondering what happened today and why I keep saying I’m going to jail. The truth is, I stole one hundred thousand dollars from my employer. If you’d like to know why I, the family hero, would do such a thing, just bear with me and I’ll tell how my day went.
I got up this morning, turned on the coffee maker, like every day, and went for a shower. When I came back to pour up a cup, I discovered the grinds had jammed in the spout and the coffee was all over the counter and floor. So, I didn’t get my morning cup, and I had a big mess to clean up before I could leave for work.
Obviously, that’s not what set me off; but let’s just say it wasn’t a good start. I rushed out the door after I finished the cleanup, and started the commute. My car never made it two blocks before I ran into a traffic jam. Not only did I not have time to stop for a coffee along the way, but I was late.
When I arrived at the office, the boss was waiting for me at my desk wearing his daily scowl and giving me shit for not showing up on time. I’ve never been a violent man, but there’s just something about that guy that makes me want to shove him face-first into the paper shredder. He really grinds my gears, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, when he finished throwing his little tantrum, he told me he needed some reports drawn up for a meeting he had at lunch. So as requested, I sat down at my desk and started working on the reports. I would have gotten through them a lot faster if the boss didn’t keep harassing me every half hour demanding to know when they would be finished.
I did eventually get it done, but when I went to retrieve the papers from the printer, I discovered there was no ink. I replaced the cartridge and walked back to my desk to print again. That’s when I got the first “reset your password” message. It didn’t bother me that time as I was used to having to do it every month. I did the reset and attempted to print again, but this time I heard the paper jam in the machine, so I went and fixed it and walked back to my desk to make a third attempt.
By then the boss was hovering again and it was nearly lunchtime. I could see that my coworkers were waiting for me to finish, so I told them to go ahead. There are four employees in the front office including me. Three of us go to lunch at the same time, and one must stay behind. We lock the door to customers for the hour, but someone has to be available to accept deliveries. It wasn’t my day to stay behind, but I volunteered so I could get the reports finished and get the boss off my ass.
My coworkers went to lunch. I printed out the reports for boss then locked up the doors after he left for his meeting. I went to grab my lunch out of the kitchen, figuring I’d just eat at my desk today. When I got back to the front office, I saw the driver from the cash delivery company at the front door.
I let him in, signed for the delivery and locked the bag of cash in the safe at the back before heading to my desk again to attempt to have my lunch. When I sat at my computer, once again I saw “reset your password.” I had no idea why it was coming up. I just did it half an hour before. Anyway, I tried to reset, but for some reason it didn’t want to work; kept telling me what I was typing wasn’t acceptable.
I was getting more frustrated by second, and my mind just started thinking about things, about everything really – the wife, my brother, the asshole boss and just what a mess my life felt like overall. The longer it took to get that password thing sorted, the angrier I was getting.
Then I started thinking about that bag of money in the back, and how my brother spent most of his life living outside acceptable society standards, just doing things his way, and the moment he decided to go straight and start working for “the man” he got killed.
It was like my fingers just took over my mind and typed in my new password:
Then I walked to the back, took that bag of money out of the safe, stuffed it in my backpack and walked out the door. First place I headed was to the homeless encampment at the back end of the park across the street. I walked straight up to those folk, bid them a good day and started passing out fistfuls of hundred-dollar bills.
After a brief chat with those lovely people, I went strolling through the park, handing out more bills to random folks who looked like they could use a cheering up. First, I came across a friendly young lady who was pushing a stroller with three other kids in tow. I figured she could really use a break, so I gave her a thousand.
Then there was the young man in the suit with the beat-up shoes. He stopped and talked to me for a few minutes. I noticed that he looked uncomfortable in his clothes, so I asked him if he was okay. He said he wasn’t used to wearing suits, but he picked that one up at a thrift store for a job interview he had. I wanted to tell him to run for his life before he got sucked into the corporate swamp and eaten by leeches. Instead, I wished him good luck and gave him five hundred.
When I was done chatting with the young man, I continued walking through the park for the next hour or so, handing out free hundred-dollar bills to random passersby. I was surprised that a few people refused to take them. Maybe they thought they weren’t real, or that I was a criminal, and they’d get in trouble if they accepted.
I guess they’re right, though. I am a criminal, sitting here on this bench waiting to get carted off to jail. I can see two cops walking toward me now, and I’m thinking about offering them the last few hundred bucks I got left in the bag. Considering one’s got his hand on his gun though, they’re probably not in the mood for any jokes from me.
“Why did you do it, Benjamin,” one of the officers asks?
I’m not sure how to answer that question, because truthfully, I don’t know myself. One minute I was regular guy with a shitty job and an even shittier life, next minute I was a thief. As they put the handcuffs on me and read me my rights, the only response I can think of are the words my dear departed brother John often said to me. So, I reply:
“I don’t know, Officer. I guess I’m just a fucking hero.”
For the first time in my life, I feel like he’s right.
About the Creator
Canadian family girl with a recently discovered love for writing. Other loves include animals and sports.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Original narrative & well developed characters
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
"face-first into the paper shredder" - what an image! His voice is really strong, I felt like he was actually talking to me face to face. This is so good 😁
Really Amazing ❤️❤️❤️
That's a powerful character study; you really paint pictures with him. I feel for the guy! Great job.
Cathy, somehow I have missed this one until now! What a great story and powerful ending. Congratulations!
Congratulations on your achievement! I'm so proud of you for all the hard work and dedication that led you to this moment.
I quite like this one...and I think you are a hero!
Would love a 100 dollar bill from Mr. Benjamin. Haha :D Very well written. Love it :D
Love this so much! A modern day Robin Hood. You are brilliant
Anyone interested in romcom or love fiction..... this is worth a try https://vocal.media/fiction/phoenix-and-albatross-a-tale-of-two-wings-y0jigr0zfc
Darn, you raking in all the money. Great story. Life is what we make it.
Great story. Your writing pops off the page. So very good
It's that unlikely, cool!
You're fabulously adept at writing a character who's voice pops out at the reader through the screen - I LOVED this. I can see this making an incredible movie. Congrats!
So so proud and happy for you!! Congratulations! Just finished reading, it's fantastic 💖
Aawww I loved that !! So heartwarming and so sad. I loved your hero.
Excellent story. Very deserving win and you are my HERO!
Cathy you're absolutely crushing it lately! I love the voice of your writing in this story - the 'done with everyone's shit' character makes for such an entertaining read. Loved the punchy ending too that brings it all together so nicely. Congrats on the win :)
Loved this story! Very worthy of your Challenge win. Huzzah! ❤️
Wonderful story and characters, Cathy! Congratulations on your win! :)
Congratulations on the win! I was rooting for Benjamin the whole time, great character work and well written story!
Cathy you absolute legend
Yay! Congrats Cathy. ❤️ This is awesome.
You're on a roll, Cathy! Another big congratulations! 👏🥰
A well deserved win. Great stuff.