John Ramer

John Ramer

A Story by Rachid Amrani
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He could hear the voices of people talking somewhere but didn’t know where the voices came from. There was something beeping in the room, he could hear it.

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The day before Thanksgiving John Ramer was sitting in the living room rocking back and forth on his recliner chair as he impatiently toyed with the TV remote. He dreaded the fact that he couldn’t find a single TV channel worth watching though he had upgraded to the premium package, which cost him a whole lot much than what he was paying for the regular package. He had called the cable company a couple of months ago to complain that the picture on his flat screen TV would abruptly freeze and stay that way for a while. He explained to the customer service gal who took his call-trying his best to sound as much cheerful as he could though cheerfulness was never one of John Ramer’s traits- he explained to her that the abrupt freeze caused him to miss important fragments of the season games and the car races, not to mention the Western TV shows that he watched over and over. He came close to scolding her when she made the mistake of putting him on hold.

“I’m not holding,” He told the gal in a firm voice. “Now you listen to me, if you don’t send one of your guys by tomorrow morning to fix the problem, I would have no choice but to return the box. Have yourself a good day.” He then hung up the phone, and under his breath cursed the broadcast satellite service providers and their CEO’s.


By eight o’clock A.M. the next day, a van bearing the cable company’s logo pulled into the Ramers’ driveway. Gripping a tool box in one hand and clutching a laptop with the other, the driver, a young man wearing a uniform, stepped out of the vehicle and rang the door bell.  He was greeted by John who answered the door. He held a steaming cup of coffee in his hand and was still dressed in his sleepwear.


“Mr. Ramer, my name is Neil, the service tech. I was sent to fix your cable box. I understand you’ve been having some issues with it.” He shook hands with John who nodded acknowledging what the man had said about the issue with the TV.


John found the young man very professional and courteous. He actually thanked him for coming to look at the cable box and held the front door open until the young man stepped into the house. Something he would’ve never done to anybody else including family members. Dorothy, his wife, would have dropped her mouth open in astonishment had she witnessed the way her husband talked to the service man. Etiquette was just not John’s thing.


Once inside, the tech guy flipped the laptop open and began to type something as John stood by the TV stand watching and sipping at his coffee. He opened the tool box and pulled out some of the electronic devices and cords that John had no clue what they were for. He turned on the TV and examined all the cords connected to it. The blue lights on the cable box were blinking. He unhooked the cords from the back side of the box and connected them to one of the devices he had in his hands. He pulled out one of the cords and replaced it with another cord he extracted from the tool box.


He knew what he was doing, John could tell.


“How often does the picture freeze, Mr. Ramer?”

“I would say about every five minutes.”

“Does it happen when you’re watching a particular channel or does it happen with the other channels too?”

“It happens no matter what channel I’m watching,” John replied firmly.

The young man nodded and then inserted the cords back into the cable box. He turned on the TV again and began to flip through the channels but made sure to allow at least five minutes every time he changed the channel. John was at shock that the picture did not freeze this time as it did before the tech guy came.


John didn’t ask the tech guy what had caused the technical issue. He didn’t see a need to any inquiries. The screen was no longer freezing and that all it mattered. The tech guy was gathering his tools to ready himself to leave when John made the gaffe of asking him why he couldn’t get the OTS channel.  His neighbor who lived across the street had OTS, John told the tech guy. The tech guy knew exactly what John was talking about. OTS is a channel that runs old TV shows around the clock. The TV shows date as far back as the eighties, seventies, and even the sixties. They’re decent and funny shows by John’s standards, unlike the current TV shows where the scenes are laden with profanity and nudity.


The tech guy picked up the laptop from the floor, held it up and typed something. Then a web page came into display.  He clicked on the packages tab and a long list of channel names appeared on the screen. He scrolled down and when he spotted the OTS channel he clicked on it. He then turned the laptop sideway until John was in the position to see the screen and said, “Mr. Ramer to answer your question,” John was holding the cup of coffee with both hands though the steam had abated. “The OTS channel is listed under the premium package. It’s a great channel believe me, my grandparents who are retired now have it and they really enjoy it. Good family TV shows that you wouldn’t find in any other channel.”


John just nodded his head, as though the tech guy’s sale skills had taken him by surprise. “And you don’t have to sign a new contract or anything since you’re already a subscriber…you will keep all the channels you have now and you will get ninety five additional channels including OTS.” He then pointed at the price column with his finger. Drawn by the sight of the Dollar signs and numbers, John peered closer at the laptop screen and began to rub his forehead.  “Let see…it shows here that it would cost you fifty dollars extra, not bad! If you would like, we could upgrade your package right now…All I need is your cable bill and then you will be all set.”


John kneaded the cup of coffee with both hands as he thought about what to do and what to say. He wanted the damn OTS channel so bad. His neighbor had it, why shouldn’t he, he pondered. He wondered what Dorothy would say if he upgraded to the premium package. She had got up early in the morning, brewed some coffee and brought him the paper and then left to meet with a couple of her friends for breakfast. “You did what John?...What did you that for?...We’ve already have over 200 channels, half of which we never watch...The what?...The OTS channel!...What’s special about this OTS channel…There are all kinds of TV shows on the channels we have, John, why add more channels…The neighbor has it?...So now, we’re competing with the neighbors…You should’ve at least consulted me first before you did it, John…is that too much to ask?” He could visualize the bitter argument with Dorothy, but he wanted OTS so badly, and he was not backing off now. And then he went looking for the damn bill, something he would regret for the rest of his life. Dorothy would tell him when she got back home from her social with her friends that the tech guy had sweet talked him. She reminded him like she had done each time John had “screwed up” that he always made it easy for the solicitors, the door-to-door salesmen, the telemarketers, the fundraisers, the local election campaign volunteers, the religious cults, and even the boy scouts, to fool him. “They’re sales people, John,” she would tell him, “they sweet talk you and tell lies to get you to buy their products and sign up for their services.” He loathed the fact that she was always right though he would never admit to it. A man’s pride thing, Dorothy knew but she made certain to keep it to herself.


He set down the cup of coffee that was half-empty now and had gone cold on the kitchen counter by the coffee maker and picked up the cardboard box where Dorothy kept the stack of the bills and began to go through them. He was never the patient type when it came to locating things around the house. A minute of searching and then he would quit and call Dorothy for help, “I can’t find it, dear.” That was probably the only time in a long time when John would call his wife dear: when he felt desperate for her help. It wasn’t that John wasn’t a man of the passionate breed as to women. He was a passionate man, alright. He just found it hard to channel his feelings through the language of words. Seldom did he utter the words “I love you,” but Dorothy knew from the bottom of her heart that John cherished her more than anything else in this entire world. And so she had learned throughout fifteen years of their marriage not to expect much of him as to the display of affection. It bothered her friends, but Dorothy didn’t lose sleep over it. Not a bit.

They met in what one might call “unusual circumstances”. John and Dorothy did. He was on his way to the lumber factory where had had worked ever since he turned eighteen. Both his parents worked there as well until they retired. It was a physically-demanding job that wore him out, but in return it provided him with a steady work and a decent pay by that time’s wage standards. Paid holidays, 401 (K) retirement account and two weeks paid vacations annually that John never took because he had nowhere to go and hated being home doing nothing. It made him feel worthless, or by his own words: an unproductive member of society. The factory where he worked was in a different town, about sixteen miles away from the apartment complex where he rented a single-bedroom apartment. He didn’t mind the drive except in the winter time when the snow would start to fall and the roads would turn slick.


 John drove a dark-blue Chevy pick-up truck. He fell in love with it the moment he spotted it parked in the dealership’s lot. The odometer on the Chevy showed 39000 miles when John drove it out of the used cars dealership yard. “It’s a very dependable vehicle for somebody who has to commute the extra miles to get to work,” the owner of the used cars dealership told John. Of course because of its low mileage, the dealer was asking for $3,500. The money John didn’t have. It wasn’t that he was underpaid or anything. No. John worked long hours and always volunteered for overtime when production was at its peak level. But he was also a spender. He smoked the best cigarette brand in the market and drank the most expensive beer, and on most days dined in restaurants because John was not much of a cook and regarded cooking a waste of time. He didn’t believe in saving money either, and why would he worry about saving when his employer put funds in his 401(K) retirement account? But he didn’t have the $3,500 now to pay for the truck, which the dealer explained to him that it shouldn’t be an issue because he could always apply for an auto loan so long as he had a steady income. His pa and ma offered to help and told him they would be more than happy to loan him the money to pay for the car. “This way you don’t have to pay for interest,” his pa explained to him. But John didn’t want to have anything to do with it because now that he was an adult he felt he ought to depend on himself and not accept any handouts from anybody including his parents.


He went to the local bank just like the car dealer told him to do and applied for the loan. The female rep at the loan office made copies of his driver’s license and the last three of his pay stubs. He was approved on the spot because his credit history showed John had never defaulted on his bills, and also earned enough income to make the monthly loan payments. She printed out a sheet of paper and explained to him the figures: the term of the loan was three years during which an amount of hundred dollars would be deducted from his paycheck monthly. She explained the interest rate, the loan value, the loan balance, and other financial terms that John did not understand and did not bother to ask to be clarified as not to sound benighted. He understood how much he would be paying monthly and how long he would be paying for the car, that all it mattered to John. He signed at the bottom of the loan contract and was given a copy to be kept for his own records.  The pretty rep then prepared the check and handed it to him. They shook hands as they stood up. She smiled and congratulated him for the car and thanked him for doing business with the bank.  He took the check right to the dealership and found the dealer in his office talking on the phone. He pointed to an empty chair across from him and John sat holding the check in his hand.


The dealer apologized to John for making him wait and then went right to business.

“Are you ready to drive this baby out of here, John?” He said pointing toward where the Chevy was parked.

“Yes, sir, I am,” John replied, a tone of excitement in his voice.

“Let do it, then,” the dealer said and chuckled. John chuckled as well.

John handed the dealer the check. The dealer took it, scanned it for a second and then put it in a file holder. He then tucked the file holder in a small metal cabinet. He produced a sheet of paper and explained to John that it was in fact the certificate of the title of the vehicle and asked him to sign it, which John did.

“Congratulations John,” the dealer said, “You’ve just purchased one of America’s best automobile models. It was nice doing business with you, buddy. Now go and drive that baby out of here.”

They both laugh loudly like old-time buddies.


That day John put fifty miles on the pick-up truck, driving it on the highway and the county roads; doing fifteen miles above the speed limit and passing slower traffic while letting a thick cloud of smoke behind him. The sound of the engine and the tires and the country music blaring through the radio gave him a sense of freedom he had never felt before.


A few months after purchasing the vehicle, John was on his way to work driving his Chevy when he sighted a car parked on the side of the road with its light flashing. He eased his foot off the gas pedal, applied the brakes and slowly wheeled the pick-up truck to the side of the road and parked it behind the flashing vehicle.  A Chevrolet’s compact SUV, John could tell. It was early in the morning because John always worked the first shift. There were other commuters driving on both directions. But nobody bothered to stop and check on the disabled car. John being the good Samaritan he was did just that. He turned on the hazard lights on his truck, stepped out and walked toward the driver’s side of the SUV. The glass window was rolled up and as he peered inside, he could see someone behind the wheel. He gently tapped on the glass with his fingers and then the window began to slide down. A female who looked she could be in her mid twenties stuck her head out and looked up at John. Her eyes were filled with tears.


“Are you alright, ma’am?” John asked the gal. John was always courteous when he talked to the ladies, and the ladies found him to be a “gentleman” as his ma phrased it.

“My car…my car died on me...” she managed to say wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Must be the battery,” John responded immediately. And John had a great deal of knowledge about auto mechanics. Ever since he was a boy, his pa taught him how to toy with cars. They lived in a mobile home and they had this junky car parked on the yard that his pa no longer drove. So, after school John would spend hours twiddling with the hand tools, loosening screws and valves, pulling the parts out and putting them back on. Until his ma would call him and tell him supper was ready. “Look what did you do to yourself,” his mom would tell him when she noticed his garments and his face were soiled with grease. But his pa was proud of him and would always summon him for help if he happened to be working on the family’s car.


“Wait here. I will be right back.” John told the gal, and walked toward his truck, hopped on the driver’s seat and started the engine and then parked it with its front facing that of the SUV’s. He dug for the battery jumper cables which he always kept in the back of his truck. John was a firm believer of the concept of “unforeseen circumstances” and so he always made sure he was prepared for the unexpected. He kept two flashlights in his truck, spare batteries, a shovel, a blanket and a pillow. He also kept a rain coat, a pair of pants, and even a pair of socks. He found the cables and popped the hood of his Chevy open and then connected the two clamps to the battery. The gal was still inside her vehicle watching him. He was an angel sent from Heaven, she thought. He appeared tall and had a strong physique with broad shoulders; his beard was clean shaven. He was a handsome man, Dorothy would later tell the girls at the grocery store where she worked. She was still eying him when John came toward her and asked her to release the hood lever. “I think it would be safer for you if you’re outside the vehicle while I do this, ma’am” John told her. He attached the other two clamps to the SUV’s battery and went back to his truck. He started the truck again and let it run for a few minutes. 


“You can try it now. It should start,” he called out to Dorothy through the roaring noise of the running engine.

She inserted the key in the ignition and turned it clockwise and then the SUV came to life.

“You saved my life,” she told him when he came out of his Chevy to unhook the jumper cables. She asked for his name and introduced herself. They stood on the side of the road while their cars were in motion; and talked about their jobs, the weather, and the traffic as though they had known each other for a long time. He found her easy to talk to and sweet and she found him a man of manners unlike the junkies she had romanced. John wished he could converse with Dorothy longer but he also knew he couldn’t afford to miss work. He asked her if she would like to go with him to the county fair. Dorothy blushed and thought it was the most romantic thing any man had ever asked her.

She was standing on the front door of her parents’ house when the Chevy pulled to a stop on the street later that day. Wearing a pair of blue jeans, brown leather booties, and a neck blouse, John found her to be attractive. Her lips were reddened with make-up. She smelled fresh as he came down the steps and approached him and John liked the scent of her perfume. Everything about her ignited the desire in his body and he tried hard not to show it. They exchanged the pleasantries and John being the gentleman he was opened the passenger’s door for her and held it open until she was seated and then he closed it. She smiled revealing her white teeth, and thanked him. As he hopped on the driver’s side of the Chevy, it struck him that he should’ve brought flowers. But it was too late now, he thought. Besides, I don’t want her to get used to receiving gifts, he said to himself. John started the vehicle and pulled away from the curb. On the drive to the county fair, they talked just like they had done when he assisted her with the car trouble on his way to work. She talked about her job at the grocery store. She had worked long shifts this week and was ready for the weekend to be here so that she could rest and do the things she didn’t have time to do while she was working. She talked about her family as well. She was the third of two sisters and one brother. Her father was a trucker and her mother was a bookkeeper at the public library. John thought it would only be proper to share things about his family as well, which wasn’t much. Both his parents worked at the lumber factory where he worked, and a sister in high school who was four younger than he was.


“I live by myself in an apartment,” John told Dorothy, proudly. “Ever since I got that factory job, my old man wanted me out.” She laughed at the “old man” reference and he laughed at himself too.


“I don’t think my dad wants us out,” She said as she smoothed her blouse. “Both my brothers are in their twenties and he hasn’t asked them to move out yet, and he might never do. He’s the protective-type father.”


John nodded while keeping his eyes fixed on the traffic ahead of him. They were still conversing when the fairgrounds building came into view. Time flew by so fast in the companionship of a lady, John could tell.


When they pulled into the parking lot, John made certain he opened the door for her and again she found it very romantic. They walked to the main gate and purchased their admission tickets from the clerk who was confined in a small booth.  John pulled out his wallet and paid for the tickets in cash. The fair was swarmed with people at that time of the day. It was after four o’clock in the afternoon and a lot of the folks had already got off work and took their kids to the fair. And it was noisy, so noisy that John and Dorothy had to yell when they talked to hear each other. They bought popcorn and soft drinks from a vendor’s stand and walked and stopped to watch the circus, the livestock barn, and the pig races. She had the best time of her life, Dorothy confessed to John when he dropped her off at her parents’ house before the sunset.

“Your vehicle should’ve broken down a long time ago,” John told her, and they both laughed as she started to walk up the stairs to the front door.


They spent a lot of time together afterwards, and they kissed and embraced and held hands but never made love. It wasn’t that John didn’t initiate the sexual intimacy or somehow Dorothy didn’t have the urge for copulation. They were both young and wanted it more than anything else, but Dorothy bless her heart was under the belief that giving in to sexual temptations during the course of their romance might just ruin their love relationship. John the gentleman he was did not contest her theory and went along with it though he wasn’t certain how Dorothy came to that hypothesis. And so he suppressed his desires when she came over to his apartment. They talked and watched TV and they cooked though Dorothy did most of the cooking, but they made sure they keep their distance from the bedroom.


Until they wed.


They had the wedding ceremony at Dorothy’s church. John didn’t have a church since he wasn’t the worshipper type. On most Sundays, he slept late and tried hard to sober up from the Saturday nights hangover. All Dorothy’s family was in attendance as well as John’s parents and his sister and an aunt and an uncle whom John didn’t remember he had. The pastor performed the ceremony and they exchanged their vows. John dug into his pocket and pulled out a ring with a sparkling diamond atop of it and put it on her finger. He kissed the bride as was told by the pastor and the crowd in the room erupted in cheers. He was nervous but looked happy. After the ceremony, the guests flocked to the reception room where a buffet set up by a local catering business was waiting for them. They filled their plates and their glasses and they ate and drank to the groom and bride’s happiness. There was plenty of food and those who couldn’t settle for one plate got up and refilled their plates again.

Dorothy’s parents’ gift to the newly-wed couple was two train tickets to Chicago and a sum of money worth three hundred dollars enclosed in an envelope, enough to cover hotel and dining expenses. They wanted their daughter to see the Millennium Park and the Cloud Gate and to do some shopping while she was in Chicago. John, however, wished they didn’t gift them the tickets and the money. Going to Chicago would mean he would have to miss work, something he always hated to do. He didn’t like to be away from Michigan either, and never cared for the trains and buses where somebody else was in charge of the steering wheel. It stripped him from his freedom, as he put it. But he couldn’t decline the gift, not when Dorothy wanted to go to Chicago really bad. John asked for Friday off; filled in the leave of absence form and turned it to his supervisor first thing in the morning. In the space reserved for the reasons of absence, John listed: Leaving for Chicago to spend the honeymoon. At the end of the shift, the supervisor informed John that his leave of absence had been approved. “Have fun, tiger,” were the words the supervisor used as he walked out of the assembly line. And John knew exactly what his supervisor meant by his statement.


They took the four o’clock train bound for Chicago. John’s pa drove them to the train station because he didn’t want John to leave his pick-up truck at the station’s parking lot. He was under the belief that some vagrant or thief might break into it, hot-wire it and drive it away. He told John he would come to the station to pick them up on Sunday when they returned from their trip. Once they were aboard the train, John let Dorothy take the seat by the window. She wanted to watch the scenery and he was happy to please his bride. When Dorothy wasn’t watching the scenery, they talked and sometimes they laughed.


The train made several stops along the way. By the time it arrived to Chicago it was dark. John estimated the trip to have lasted three hours. He pulled their luggage from the compartment above their seats, which wasn’t much: Dorothy’s purse and the suitcase where she put her clothes and her bathroom supplies. John brought the backpack with him, the same backpack he took with him to work. They flagged a yellow cab and asked the driver to take them to the Midwest Inn, a 3-star hotel in a commercial plaza not far from downtown Chicago. It wasn’t one of those fancy hotels where a man with a uniform and a bow tie came to the guest’s room and serve food and drinks.  But a sign in the main lobby announced that the hotel offered free breakfast to its guests. The sign listed the buffet hours as from seven to nine.  As they walked toward the main door, John could see the cluster of restaurants and stores in the plaza, including a liquor store with its sign blinking. And then the craving for a cold beer swept over him. He had not had any booze since the day before the wedding. Dorothy knew John drank “occasionally”. It was the term he used when she asked him the day she saw him drinking beer at his apartment. He explained to her that he only drank on the weekend after a long work week. That he was by no means what one might call an alcoholic and that his habit was manageable. She let him know that she didn’t mind him drinking as long as he did it in moderation. She advised however that he lay off the tobacco, which John promised to do. They checked into the hotel and the clerk gave them the keys to their room. They took the elevator to the second floor and found their room, number 21, on the right side of the aisle. Dorothy said she was tired and needed to bath. Said the water might relax her. She disappeared into the shower but didn’t bother to close the door behind her. John could hear the splashing sound of water coming from the shower as he lay on the bed, still fully dressed. They had copulated a few times on Wednesday night, but neither of them felt they got enough. John thought they would make up for the loss on their honeymoon. He was watching TV when Dorothy emerged from the shower, wearing her pink night gown. Her hair was wet and she let it slung on her shoulders. She lay on the bed next to John. He turned off the TV and glanced at Dorothy.


“What?” She said. John grinned. “Nothing,” he said, “It’s just that you look stunning in your night gown.”

“It’s just a gown,” she said.

“I know but it’s the girl beneath the gown that is taking my breath away right now.”  She blushed and smiled.

“So what’s now?” She said as she rubbed her hands through his hair. He wrapped his strong arms around her waist and started to unzip her gown. She helped him undress and they made passionate love until they were drained.


They spent Friday and Saturday and half of Sunday in Chicago sightseeing, dining out, and shopping. When they got back to the hotel at the end of the day they made more love. They couldn’t ask for a better honeymoon, Dorothy would later tell the girls at work.


That was fifteen years ago. A lot of things had happened and changed since then. Now he was fingering the stack of papers looking for the damn cable bill. He found a bill but it was three-month old. The tech guy didn’t specify it had to be the most recent bill. Just said he needed a bill. He handed it to the tech guy who was staring at the laptop screen while browsing the company’s web page.


“This is the only one I found. It’s three months old.”

“It would do,” the tech guy said with a smile. He held up the bill in his hand and then began to type the information on the laptop. “It would only take a second, Mr. Ramer,” The tech guy said. John didn’t tell him to take his time because he didn’t want to reveal the fact that he got all day long and had nothing else to do. Ever since the accident, he’d made his share of enemies. Neighbors and former co-workers who loathed him because they had to get up at four o’clock every morning to work the assembly line while John would still be asleep or sitting on his recliner sipping at his coffee while staring at the TV. He had got up early every morning to go work. Done it for years until five years ago when a drunk driver run the stop sign and hit John’s Chevy right on the driver’s side. It was a two-way stop intersection and John didn’t have a stop sign. So he just assumed like he had assumed the other hundred times when he reached the intersection that whoever coming the opposite lane would stop accordingly. There was also a sign right below the stop sign that displayed two arrows pointing to opposite directions cautioning the drivers using the lanes with the stop signs that the drivers using the cross lanes did not stop. Cross traffic does not stop, was what the sign precisely said. It was a big and visible sign that anybody could see.  John was driving back home from work, meaning he was driving East and when he got to the middle of the intersection another vehicle that was heading North came flying and hit his Chevy, and that was the last thing he could remember because as he would tell the cops when he got out of the coma everything had happened so fast. The force of the crash caused John to sustain severe traumatic injuries to his brain and head. The medical report also listed skull fractures and internal bleeding. He suffered back as well as neck injuries. The other driver suffered injuries as well but his injuries were graded as less severe compared to John’s injuries. A driver stopped and called 911.


Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene shortly afterwards. And since the crash took place outside the city limit, the sheriff department took charge of the investigation. An ambulance transported the injured to the local hospital and their families were notified.  The responding deputies took photographs of the scene including the two wrecked vehicles and interviewed witnesses and an initial accident report was prepared.


Dorothy received the news while at work. When she made it to the hospital, they were still operating on John in the emergency room, trying everything they could to save his life. With the tears rolling down her cheecks, she begged the nurse to let her see him, but the nurse explained that only the surgeons and the nurses and the technicians were allowed inside the operation room. She paced the waiting room and the hallway restlessly, praying that her husband, her John, would pull through. Her parents embraced her when they arrived to the hospital, and she cried and cried and they did what they could to comfort her. John’s parents came shortly after so did his sister, Tina. The nurses were professional and compassionate. They updated the family on John’s condition regularly and told them that John’s injuries were very severe but he would more likely make it through. Only then that Dorothy sat beside her mamma. It took four hours before the operating surgeon finally emerged through the door to talk to the wary family. Dorothy stood up first and walked toward the surgeon who wore light blue scrubs, a mask hanging loose around his neck, and a pair of black rubber clogs. He introduced himself as Dr. Neff. “Mrs. Ramer,” he began to say as Dorothy looked at him with a pleading expression on her face. “Your husband was able to make it through. I’ve been operating surgeries for twenty years, Mrs. Ramer, and I’ve never seen anything like this.  I would call it a medical miracle because when they brought him in, his injuries were very severe. He lost a lot of blood and due to the force of the crash his skull was severely damaged. Had they brought him just a little bit later, he would’ve more likely died. He’s a fighter, Mrs. Ramer, your husband is…” Dorothy didn’t know what to say or what to do as the surgeon relayed the good news to her. She sighed and shed more tears and then embraced the surgeon and solemnly thanked him for saving her husband’s life.  And the surgeon blessed his heart didn’t resist and let her convey her emotions. “Would it be all right to see him, doctor?” John’s pa asked. “Certainly,” the doctor said.  “They are taking him to the intensive care unit as we speak which is on the third floor. One of our nurses would take you up there to his room. Now I have to warn you, due to the severity of his injuries and the after-surgery complications you might find his facial features a bit disturbing. But with time and treatment, things should improve. He’s also still sedated, so it would be another four hours before he would be able to open his eyes or talk. That’s of course assuming his body system responds to the treatment he’s receiving…” They all nodded, thanked him again and then the surgeon excused himself and disappeared behind the operation room door. More likely to save another life. They followed the nurse who spoke with a foreign accent. She led them to the elevator and they all went up to the third floor. Once they were on the third floor, the nurse pushed open a door with the words “ICU” inscribed on it. There was a nurse station halfway down the hall that buzzed with medical equipments and telephones. Nurses with their scrubs sat behind the computers busy typing and holding the telephone machines against their ears. They didn’t look up as the family walked by trailing behind the nurse.


John was lying on a hospital bed, dressed in a blue diamond gown with IVs on both his arms, and at least three tubes stuffed into his mouth. There was a monitor on the right side of the bed that beeped and blinked constantly. There were bruises all over his face, and stitches lined his shaved head. His ankles and hands were confined in white plaster casts and his eyes were closed shut while his chest rose up and down continuously.


It was Mrs. Ramer, John’s mother, who broke the silence after they walked into the room. The nurse had showed them how to use the buzzing button which laid on a stand by John’s hospital bed should they need assistance.  She then left the room.


“John, it’s mommy. Can you hear me, darling?” John didn’t respond and didn’t move. He tried to open his eyes and when he couldn’t, the expression on his face changed. Mrs. Ramer took his hand and slightly squeezed it. The touch seemed to have awakened him some because he moved his lips and tried to open his mouth as though he wanted to say something. Mrs. Ramer hung on to his hand.


“It’s all right, son. We’re all here. You’re going to be all right.”

Dorothy was standing behind Mrs. Ramer with her hand covering her mouth, while doing everything she could to fight back the tears. She had visualized John’s condition when the surgeon warned them, but what she was seeing now was way worse than what the surgeon’s words had formed in her mind. She walked closer to his bed, leaned over and gently kissed him on his forehead. His skin felt warm against her lips. She whispered the word “honey” in his ear. He moved his lips just like he had done earlier but no words came out of his mouth. John’s sister, Tina, began to sob and her mamma rushed to her and held her in her arms until she finally quieted down.


A male nurse came into the room, greeted them and introduced himself. The hospital magnetic tag pinned to his chest identified him as Kevin, Registered Nurse. Kevin fumbled with the tubes, checked the oxygen bag, and examined the monitor screen. He took notes on his laptop while mumbling something to himself. He initiated small talk with the family as to free their minds from the somber mood of the moment. The RN told Mr. Ramer who was wearing a Chicago Bears jersey that he was also a big fan of the Bears. A die-hard fan was what he said. He joked that the Bears fans were a minority in this part of the country since just about everybody cheered for The Detroit Lions. Mr. Ramer commented that though the Bears had only won two games out of the five the six games they had played this season, he would never change his football loyalty. “Win or lose, they will always be my bears,” Mr. Ramer put it. The RN nodded and grinned. He was a pleasant young man, Mr. Ramer thought. Before he left the room, Kevin explained to the family that John was still in what he called a “clinically semi-coma” but otherwise he was responding to treatment. He estimated based on the readings of the monitor ventilator that it would be at least another two days before John would regain his full consciousness. That the nurse staff would update the family regularly as the doctor made his periodic evaluations on John’s medical condition.


“There is a coffee machine down the hall if you folks need some coffee,” he said, and as he headed toward the door he pointed to the little buzzer and asked that they pressed the button should they need anything.


The clock on the wall read 8:30 p.m. John was still in his “semi-coma,” as the RN said he would be. He had moved his lips a few times earlier and might have tried to say something but he was too weak to utter anything. A voice came through the speakers and announced that the visiting hours would end at nine. John’s mother and his mother-in-law offered to stay overnight at the hospital.  Dorothy didn’t see a need for them to stay but thanked them any way. They both respected her wish. Before they left, John’s mother kissed him on the forehead and tapped lightly on his shoulder.


“Get well soon, son,” she said almost in tears. “Mom and dad will be back tomorrow to see you.” They all embraced Dorothy and prayed for John’s recovery.


Her mother reminded her to eat. “You haven’t eaten anything since you came to the hospital, dear.” She said. “How about if you go down to the cafeteria and eat something.”

“I will, mom.”


But Dorothy didn’t go down to the cafeteria as she was told by her mom. The only thing she ate that night was a cup of blue berry yogurt Kevin, the RN, brought for her. Food was the last thing in her mind. She slept on the upholstered armchair Kevin moved so that it was closer to John’s bed. He was kind enough to also bring her a blanket. As she slumped into the armchair, she wished she had a book with her to read. Dorothy had always loved books, an area of interest she and John did not share. At home when she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking or doing anything else, she sat on the chair with a book in her hands while John watched TV. She read romance mostly and she always told John that their love story could be converted to a book because it was laden with glamour and excitement.


“You see what books do to you, dear?” He would tell her.

“What?”

“Well you read a book and then you start talking like some poet.” she didn’t take his comment personally because she knew in her heart that John would say things like that in the spirit of humor.

John being John.


 There was a TV set mounted to the wall. Dorothy reached for the remote and turned it on but after flipping through the channels-which weren’t many-for a few minutes, she got bored and shut it off. She leaned back on the armchair, closed her eyes, and tried to sleep but the beeps of the monitor and the voices of the ICU staff in the hallway and the thoughts of her in a hospital room with her husband laying on a bed semi-comatose and with the tubes stuffed into his mouth made it impossible for her to sleep. The nurses’ frequent visit to John’s room made it harder for her to sleep as well. Kevin came into John’s room around 9:45 p.m. accompanied by a female nurse. He told Dorothy his shift was ending and that Esther, the nurse’s name, would take over. They both checked the oxygen bag, the ventilator, and the tubes and Kevin fill in Esther on all the aspects of John’s treatment. She nodded as he spoke.


He turned his head toward Dorothy and said, “John is in good hands. Esther here is one of the best nurses in the ICU.” Esther grinned to the words of praise uttered by her colleague. He wished Dorothy good night and left the room followed by the female nurse who told Dorothy she would be back in another half an hour to check on John.


 The Ramers, their daughter; Tina, and Dorothy’s parents left John’s room in the ICU at nine. They took the elevators down to the main floor. When the elevator door slid open, there was a man standing by the door. He wore a pair of khaki pants that were well ironed and buckled with a black belt. The light blue shirt he had on was tucked inside his pants, and on top of the shirt he wore a black classic-fit blazer. His leather shoes were brown and well polished and he didn’t wear a tie. In his hands he clutched the handle of a brownish leather work bag with a front zipped-pocket. He appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties, bald-headed, and chubby-looking. He was clean-shaven, his cheecks were puffy, and he had a fatty chin.


When the family exited the elevator the man didn’t go in as they anticipated. Instead, he offered his hand to Mr. Ramer and said, “Mr. Ramer, I’m Fred Lewis from Leonard & Lewis Attorney-At-Law, may I have a word with you?” Mr. Ramer was taken by surprise by the man’s intrusion. He had never laid his eyes on this Lewis fellow before nor did he have a clue as to how he managed to dig for his name. He glanced at his wife for a second, turned his gaze to Mr. Lewis, took the man’s hand and shook it.


“Mr. Ramer, I know this might not be the right time for me to intrude, but it would only take a minute. Shall we?” He gestured to a cushioned bench by the elevator. The attorney was professional as not to cause offense to the rest of the family though he implied that he wanted to talk to Mr. Ramer in private. Mrs. Ramer told her husband they would be waiting for him in the car at the parking lot to which Mr. Ramer nodded his head.


“How is John feeling?” The attorney asked when they were seated.

“Under the circumstances he’s doing damn well. Doctor said he made it through the critical stage or whatever the doctors call it. They told us though he’s still semi-comatose, he’s responding well to the treatment. Might take a couple of days before he gets over the coma. It could’ve been worse though.”


“Accidents are an awful thing Mr. Ramer,” The attorney said shaking his head. “Just awful. And you know something Mr. Ramer, those who die or sustain severe injuries as a result of wrecks are not the ones who were at fault but rather the victims of those faults.” Mr. Ramer nodded.

“Each year hundreds of people die in our roads and highways due to auto accidents all because of human poor decisions and judgments. You have people out there who shouldn’t be driving but they drive anyway. Drivers with health issues, teenagers who drive their parents’ motor vehicles without their consent…then you have the repeated violators whose licenses had been suspended by court orders but they drive nonetheless, and then you have the ones who abuse the substances; drugs and alcohol you name it. It’s a war zone out there, Mr. Ramer, and unfortunately your son is the casualty of that raging war.”

Mr. Ramer was at loss for words and just nodded his head more.

“Now Mr. Ramer, this is what I tell the clients that come to our office for legal advice, and I sum it in a short phrase: Lawyer up. I’ve been representing personal injury clients for thirty years, Mr. Ramer, and I’ve learned something: the insurance companies do everything they can to persuade the accident victims to settle instead of going to court because they know lawsuits in most injury cases result in higher compensations for the injured. Now that doesn’t mean I advice against settling, that’s not true at all. But settling or filing a suit would depend on the driver at fault and his status. Now you can’t go to court if the guy or chick who wrecked your vehicle and broke your bones is some lowlifer who can’t even pay for auto insurance.  It would be a waste of time and funds. But when the guy who sent you to the ICU is a big shot dentist who is in the high income bracket then it would be wise to file a lawsuit…”


He lifted his bag from the floor and began to dig for something. He produced a folder file, flipped it open, and said, “Now Mr. Ramer, my many years in the legal profession had taught me that a good lawyer ought to do his homework. I have my ways of getting things fast and as such I have the accident report right here…” He held up the document so that Mr. Ramer could see it. “Says here our guy was driving a blue corvette at a speed rate of seventy miles per hour in a fifty-five mile speed zone. That’s fifteen miles over the allowed speed limit. He disregarded the stop sign and slammed his toy against the Chevy that your son was driving. But here is where it gets interesting; our guy was driving while intoxicated.  When the paramedics transported him to the hospital for treatment, the test the hospital staff administered on him showed a level of alcohol in his blood to have been four times the legal limit permitted in our fine state of Michigan. In other words, the guy was gassed. Now about the toy he was driving, the guy who does private investigation work for us for a fee-a very savvy fellow- said our guy purchased it two years ago and paid $90,000 and wrote a check for it. Now if that says anything, it says that the guy is loaded. But Mr. Ramer we’re not going to court because our guy is loaded.  That’s not our intention and should not be. The financial part is not the motive here. We’re taking it to the courtroom because our guy did wrong. He was driving when he knew he shouldn’t have been driving. Our laws are clear Mr. Ramer, you shouldn’t be driving when you’re under the influence and you must obey traffic laws including driving according to the posted speed limits. They teach us these things at school and it’s all spelled out in the driver’s manual that they hand you at the department of motor vehicles when you take the driving test. It’s written in plain English and anybody can understand it and absorb it.


Now I know he must be feeling devastated about what he did. It’s just human nature Mr. Ramer that we feel guilty after we do our misdeeds and cause harm to other people especially when we had no prior intention of doing it. And being the hot shot dentist he is, he will lawyer up. Hell, he might retain the counseling services of the biggest damn law firm in the state…you know those law firms who represent high profile people and politicians. And his lawyer might come and have a talk with your son, Mr. Ramer. They would talk settlement and they might give your son a generous offer. And they would do everything they could not to take this thing to court. I would do the same thing if I were him, and I bet you would do the same thing Mr. Ramer.”


Mr. Ramer narrowed his eyes and shrugged. “Because if this thing ends up in the courtroom, our guy will have a lot to lose. There is something in business and practice called reputation, Mr. Ramer. And every business, medical practice and every damn entity that offers products or services strives to achieve. And it takes a great length of time and piles of money to build, Mr. Ramer. So now how would the good citizens of this fine town react when they read in the local paper that their dentist, the same dentist whom they take their kids to receive dental care, how would they react if they learn he was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and nearly killed a hardworking young man who was going to work to make a living…Now the local paper is going to print something about the accident in its police and crime news section. A short piece about four or five lines at the most. And nobody would ever notice. You know these things happen every day and the paper picks it up from the police department and prints it, as a service to the community and to fill up its pages.  But if this thing goes to the courtroom, then it would be a whole different story. A prominent dentist sued for reckless driving, on the front page. And they might even print his picture next to the article. And then when the good people of this town see it, they would take their business elsewhere Mr. Ramer, that exactly what they would do. And then our guy may as well dig his grave and bury himself.”


“Now Mr. Ramer, if they offer John a sum of money that’s too generous to pass then the wise thing to do is to accept the offer and you folks can save yourselves the headache of the long hearings and the jury and all the complexities of our justice system. But either way you decide to go, Mr. Ramer, the other side would pull its tricks and unless you have a lawyer who would fight for what what’s lawfully yours, you would only get a slice of the pie instead of the whole pie. And there is no other law firm, Mr. Ramer that knows how to deal with the insurance companies and the reckless drivers and their lawyers than Leonard & Lewis Attorney-At-Law. We will sue the b******s Mr. Ramer if we have to and we will win.”


The attorney stood up to his feet and so did Mr. Ramer. He pulled out a business card from the pocket of his blazer and handed it to Mr. Ramer who took it and slid it in his wallet. He thanked him for his time and said he would come back once John regains his consciousness.  “The sooner John signs the representation papers the better. Call me anytime for any questions you might have. You can reach me at my office number or cell number.  They’re both printed on the back of the card I gave you. In the mean time, I wish your son can make a speedy recovery.”


They shook hands.  The attorney excused himself and headed for the restroom while Mr. Ramer walked toward the main exit door.

Mrs. Ramer and Tina were inside the vehicle when Mr. Ramer walked out of the hospital. They had been waiting impatiently in the parking lot while Mr. Ramer and the attorney were having their private conversation.


“I thought the man said it would only take a minute,” Mrs. Ramer said when her husband settled on the driver’s seat.

“So did I,” Mr. Ramer answered.

“Who was he and what business did he want with you?” She asked.

“Lawyer. Said his name was Lewis from Leonard & Lewis Attorney-At-Law and he-”

“Ambulance chaser,” Mrs. Ramer interrupted.

“Well now, dear, let’s not call people names.” Mr. Ramer snapped at his wife. “Doesn’t matter what they call them. He’s a lawyer, that’s what he does for a living and the guy like everybody else got to do what he got to do to solicit business.  All he did was gave me some legal advice and offered to help John with the insurance claim and the lawsuit if it gets to that.”

“And of course he wants a piece of the pie?” She said firmly.

“I wouldn’t put it that way, dear.” Mr. Ramer said as he inserted the key in the ignition. “But, yes he’s in the law practice for money, isn’t every lawyer? He said his firm works on commissions though. They represent clients now and they receive their cut after the case gets settled. And if they don’t win the case, well they get nothing.  More of a gamble to them. But he said John would be better off with a lawyer whether he chooses to settle or goes to court.”


Mrs. Ramer didn’t say more and her husband fell quiet, started the engine and wheeled the car out of the hospital parking lot and drove home.


The light in the room stung John’s eyes when he awoke around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, two days after the accident. He closed his eyes and opened them again and every time he did the light blinded him. He gazed around the room, trying to figure out where he was. He felt stiff, dizzy and weak; and his body ached. He could hear the voices of people talking somewhere but didn’t know where the voices came from. There was something beeping in the room, he could hear it. He managed to turn his head toward his right side and then he saw the blue screen monitor displaying curved lines, shapes, and words but he didn’t know what it was or why it was there. He tried to speak but felt his mouth stuffed with something that went down his throat. He held the tubes in his hand and tried to pull them from his mouth but he felt too weak to do so. Nothing made sense to him now. The only explanation he could come up with was that he was somehow abducted and brought to this room to be tortured and that the voices he was hearing were those of his abductors. They were deliberating as what to do with him next, he suspected. He tried to dig into his memory, but the images appeared blurry to him. The last thing he remembered before he ended up in this room was him driving a motor vehicle. He couldn’t remember where he was heading nor could he remember what happened after that. But he knew something must have happened as he was driving the motor vehicle and that whatever happened was what it led him to be laying on the bed in this room. As he was trying hard to solve the puzzle, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching the room.  The thought of the abductors sent a shiver of fright through his body. And he felt his heart pound in his chest. He struggled to keep his eyes open as he looked over at the door. A woman holding a paper cup in her hand emerged through the door. He had seen her before, he pondered, as she walked over to his bed.  She took his hand and lifted it to her lips. It felt warm as though he was running a fever. She leaned down and kissed his forehead and then gently started to pat his shaven head. The tears streamed down her cheeks but she made no effort to suppress their flow. A minute passed and Dorothy was still at loss of words to say. John uttered something through the tubes but Dorothy couldn’t make up what he said. He was still disoriented but conscious, Dorothy could tell.


Kevin, the RN, came into the room and walked over to where the ventilator monitor stood. He glanced over at John who was clinging to Dorothy’s hand, and then said, “Well hello, young man. How you’re feeling?” John grinned, moved his head and made a gesture with his hand. He didn’t try to speak this time. Dorothy always told John he had the most beautiful smile of all the men she had romanced though John rarely smiled. Kevin scanned the monitor for a few minutes and typed notes on his laptop. He checked the tubes and the oxygen bag as he had done before. He explained to Dorothy that John was out of his semi-coma. That now that his condition was deemed stable, he would be transferred to the PCU, Progressive Care Unit, for further treatment. Dorothy’s face glowed to the news of her husband’s progress and studied his face as though to tell him she was proud of him. Kevin left the room but returned shortly after. He carefully unhooked two tubes but kept the third tube.


“Now John, I’m going to ask you a few questions,” The RN said cheerfully though his voice bore a high pitch. “And I want you to take your time when you answer.”

John nodded.

“All right John. Do you know where you are right now?”

“Um…hospital bed?” John replied with a question.

“That’s right. Now, do you know how did you end up here?”

“Accident, I think.” Kevin nodded.

“You’re doing well, John. Now do you know who is that nice lady holding your hand?”

John turned his gaze toward Dorothy and said, “My wife, Dorothy.”

“Perfect,” Kevin said, “That’s all I need, John. Thank you. ”


Dorothy thanked the nurse for all he had done for her husband. He had told her before he headed out of the room that the nurses down at the PCU were just as good and pleasant as the ones on the ICU and would do everything they could to help John get on his feet again. He wished John well and left. Dorothy called her parents and then placed another call to inform the Ramers that John was out of his coma and that he would be taken down to the PCU. They all reacted to the good news with elation and told Dorothy they would drive to the hospital right away.


John spent the next three weeks in the PCU. The medical staff there did what they had to do to fix him up, and he was responding well to the treatment. They had undone the last tube from his mouth, and three times a day, a physical therapist came to his room and took him for walks with the help of crutches. The way the doctor phrased John’s current condition as that of a “physical disability”. “Based on the tests and the x-rays, it’s hard to say whether the disability is permanent or temporary. However, in my medical opinion, with extensive physical therapy it is possible, and I stress the word possible, that John would be able to walk again in the long-term period without the help of the crutches. It could take weeks, months, or years; we just can’t tell for sure at this point of time.” Hearing the doctor mention the permanent disability terrified Dorothy, but she tried hard to hide it from John who was all ears when the doctor was giving his medical assessment. Later when she was alone in the restroom, she cried and prayed that her husband would regain his full strength.        


The food was delivered to him by the dietary aides who worked in the cafeteria down in the main floor. He ate all his food, and when Dorothy asked the doctor about his extreme appetite, the doctor explained that it was normal for a patient who had just come out of a coma to eat with such voraciousness.  Nobody visited him from work while he was at the hospital though they sent flowers to his room along with a card that bore his supervisor’s name and some of the co-workers. They wrote a few words mostly to pray for him to get well and signed their names. Dorothy put the flowers on the wooden stand by the bedside.  She had gone back to work now that John was feeling better, and she was thankful for Mr. Dudley, the owner of the grocery store where she worked, for letting her take a couple of weeks off to be next to her husband. Her co-workers were sympathetic to the difficult time she was going through. They brought home-made cookies and cards for her to take to John and they made sure they ask about John’s health condition every day.


He had just dozed off when he heard someone enter his room. He thought it was one of the nursing staffs but when he looked up, he saw a tall and heavy-set man whom he hadn’t seen before. He was wearing a windbreaker and a pair of jeans. He introduced himself as Sergeant Kincaid, and that he was assigned to investigate the auto accident. He seemed sympathetic to what happened to John and earnestly apologized for any inconvenience that his presence might cause.  He explained to John that it was a procedure for the police in the case of auto accidents that results in severe injuries to interview those who were involved as to prepare a final accident report. John didn’t mind and informed the sergeant that he would be happy to answer all his questions. Which he did.


“It’s plain as the sun in a broad daylight,” John told the sergeant when he asked him to relay what had happened. “I was driving back home from work heading East and when I reached the intersection on County Road 18 and County Road 5, this corvette that was heading North came flying and slammed into my Chevy right on the driver’s side. Now, the traffic going East and West don’t have a stop sign but the traffic going North and South does have a stop sign. That was the last thing I remember until I got up from the coma in a hospital bed.”

When Sergeant Kincaid was through with his interview he shook hands with John, thanked him for his time and wished him a speedy recovery. He then stood up and left.


And before he could doze off again, the attorney from Leonard & Lewis law firm came into the room clutching the leather work bag in his hand. He had spoken with John a few days ago and had came into terms with him that Leonard & Lewis Attorney-At-Law would be representing John Ramer whether the claim was settled by the insurance company or settled in the courtroom. In his last visit, the attorney had brought paperworks for John to sign.


“It’s a contract whereby you (the client) authorize Leonard & Lewis Attorney At-Law (us) to represent you in any legal matters and disputes pertaining to the insurance claim,” The attorney explained to John as he read the two-page document.  There was a clause in the contract that stated the attorney’s fees would amount to ten percent of the rewarded settlement money. John knew it was too much but he didn’t contest it.

After the pleasantries were out of the way, the attorney dragged the cushioned chair and sat next to John’s hospital bed. He asked him about his progress and commented that he seemed to be doing better. Tired and wanting to sleep, John was too weak to carry on a conversation. The daily walks with the physical therapist drained him out, and not to mention the noise of the medical equipment that kept buzzing day and night, and the voices of the nursing stuff and the visitors. And then the detective and now the attorney. Apparently resting was too much to ask these days, John thought. But he suppressed his discontent and instead listened to what the attorney had to say. The attorney unzipped his bag and pulled out a stack of papers and then spread it on his lap.


“Now John, bear with me, this shouldn’t take long,” was how the attorney began his legal update. “The private investigator I told you about, well he did more digging. Our dentist guy was released from the hospital last week and he is as healthy as he can be. As a matter of fact, he had already gone back to work pulling teeth and making big bucks. He drives a jeep now if you might wonder. Apparently, the corvette was just a toy to drive during his leisure time. But the issue here John is not our dentist has two toys or three, after all we live in a free-market economy, and people have the right to prosper and buy as many toys as they wish, but the issue is that he’s back to his normal life while his victim-he gestured with his hand toward John on the bed-is still laying on a hospital bed not certain if he would ever be able to walk on his own again. Now John I call that loss of wages and we’re going to argue that as well. As a matter of fact he had already file a claim with his auto insurance provider and lawyered up just like I had anticipated. His lawyer called me this morning and we had a very serious conversation. Said his client was sorry for what had happened and that he would do the right thing to mend the damage. Through his insurance, of course. And I explained to the lawyer -whom I have to say was very professional on the phone-that my client sustained severe injuries as the result of the crash and might suffer from a disability that could be permanent which would mean my client might not be able to work again. The lawyer is of course full aware of the gravity of your injuries as he had already obtained the necessary reports. Well his client wanted to agree on a reasonable settlement. And I asked him ‘how much of a reasonable we’re talking about?’ and he offered a figured between $200,000 and $250,000.”


John frowned, and then the attorney said,” Well now John, this is just an initial offer and I’m sure if they offered to pay $250,000 they can afford to pay $300,000 or more. But I told this lawyer fellow that ‘I would have to relay the offer to my client first and then get back with you,’ to which he agreed. It’s your call John, but if you ask my opinion, $300,000 seems very generous, of course after all the medical bills are paid in full by the liable party.”


John stared around the room as though he was seeking guidance in the walls, but the walls were silent. Despite the pain, the figures the attorney had just spelled out allured him. $300,000 was a lot of dough. More dough than John can amass in his entire life. Yes he had a job-or at least he used to have one-and yes he grossed decent money but between his paycheck and Dorothy’s paycheck from her job at the grocery store they barely broke even. As soon as the paychecks arrived, the bills followed. There were the mortgage payments, the utility bill, the electric bill, the gas bill, the auto repairs and the groceries and the list go on. Except for John’s 401(k) retirement account funded by his employer, they had no savings that they knew of. It wasn’t because they didn’t try to save. Extravagance was non-existent in John and Dorothy’s lifestyle after they got married. The only time they dined out was to celebrate their birthdays or their wedding anniversaries. And Dorothy always cooked and made lunch bags for both of them to take to work to avoid eating out. Yet, there was nothing to show for except that they worked harder and harder and felt poorer and poorer. Social mobility was far out of reach for the Ramers. But $300,000! That’s some money, thought John. With the money they would be able to pay off the mortgage which would save them a lot on the interest payments. Of course this Lewis lawyer would deduct his cut. John did the math in his head as he stared blankly around the room: ten percent of a $300,000 comes to $30,000 that leaves him with $270,000. That’s still a lot of money, John thought. What about Uncle Sam? Are the insurance claims taxable? Well he would just have to ask this Lewis attorney, attorneys should know about taxes as well, don’t they? Too many numbers and too many questions were lingering in John’s mind as the attorney waited for his response. He told him he would have to discuss the matter with his wife and his parents first and then would call later with his decision. The attorney responded that consulting family first was the wise thing to do. He rose to his feet, shook hands with John, wished him well, and left.


The check arrived in the mail on a late Friday afternoon, five weeks after John was released from the hospital. It was endorsed by Guard Insurance Company with the address in the state of Ohio. It showed the amount of $270,000 payable to Mr. John Ramer and secured by Bank of America, for insurance compensation. Dorothy drove John to the bank Saturday the next day. They waited on line and when they got to the front counter, a middle-aged female clerk greeted them with a pleasant smile. John produced the check and passed it over to the clerk. She scanned it for a minute and dropped her mouth open to the sight of the six figures written on the check. She asked John for identification which he produced. The clerk processed the transaction and printed a receipt and handed it to John, still at shock that the man standing in front of her was worth $270,000.


After the trip to the bank, John suggested they go to a restaurant to celebrate. “We’ve just received a load of money, dear,” John joked. “We deserve to treat ourselves to a good meal.”


Dorothy grinned and helped him get into the passenger’s seat. He was still walking on crutches and needed assistance standing and sitting. They went to The Big Oak, a family restaurant downtown that served American-style food. After Dorothy picked up the menu and scanned the meal prices she made the comment that they should not make dining out a habit. John reached to her hand, squeezed it, and said, “Let not think about that for now, dear. I’m pretty sure we can afford to dine here.”


He gently let go of her hand and turned his eyes to the menu. The waiter came with their drinks and then took their orders. As they ate, they talked about their future plans. They both knew that the compensation money from the insurance claim was by no means their ticket to wealth. That the money could run out eventually. Dorothy thought though it would be best if she took some time off from work to care for John until he was able to care for himself. John was not certain if he would ever be able to work again. The attorney, Lewis, advised that he files for a disability claim and offered to provide his legal services should the social administration deny his claim. He filed the claim and enclosed the medical report that stated clearly that “John’s medical condition constituted a disability due to the severe injuries sustained as a result of the auto accident. Thus the injuries may impede his ability to perform the duties associated with his job or any other form of work.”

It took a two-page long medical report to convince the social administration that John’s health condition in fact constituted a disability. Dorothy drove him to the office multiple times to talk to the person handling his case and every time they met with him, the case worker asked more questions and demanded additional documentations. John told Dorothy that he would probably die before his claim was approved. He updated Lewis on the progress of his claim and the attorney renewed his offer for legal services. “These things can drag on for months, John. Think about what I had offered.” They agreed to wait until John received the final notice on his claim. The attorney was under the legal impression that the awarded compensation from the insurance claim might have something to do with the delay of his disability claim. But they decided to wait anyway.


Two months after John had deposited the insurance proceeds in the local bank, he received a letter in the mail that bore the official address of the social administration office. It read:


Dear Mr. Ramer,

This is to inform you that your claim for disability benefits has been approved. Additional information as to the payment of your benefits will be mailed to you in the next three business days. Please update your information with our office if you had moved or relocated since our last correspondence to prevent any delay in receiving your benefits. Should you have any questions, please call our office or visit our local branch during business hours.

Sincerely yours,

The Social Security Administration

Claims & Benefits Division


John folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope. He let out a deep sigh as though a heavy burden had been lifted off his back. But as he leaned back on the chair, a strange feeling had washed over him. By receiving the approval letter, he had just been given the recognition of an unproductive member of society, he told himself. Taxpayers like his neighbors and former co-workers were the ones who would work and pay for his disability check. Behind his back they would whisper that he was nothing but a liability now. But to hell with them, he heard himself say, I had worked all my life and paid my share of taxes until the damn accident. It wasn’t my fault, he almost yelled.


“All done, Mr. Ramer,” The tech guy said, bringing John back from his reverie. The tech guy collected his tools and before he headed out of the door wished John would enjoy the premium package. And he enjoyed it for a while until he began to lose interest in TV mostly when the football and NASCAR racing seasons were on break.


He toyed with the remote impatiently switching from one channel to another until he found a movie that had just started. Two college students were driving from their college campus to their home state to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Just as the two young men stopped at a convenience store in a small town to pump gas, John heard Dorothy call out from the kitchen.


“John, honey, can you go to the garage and bring the turkey from the freezer. We need to put it in the fridge so that it would thaw overnight.”

John reluctantly rose to his feet in slow motion, his eyes fixed on the TV screen as the two travelling college students entered the convenience store.


“Thank you, honey,” Dorothy said as John walked out to the garage. She was washing the dishes in the sink, with an apron tied around her waist.

John opened the freezer and peered inside looking for the turkey. Dorothy had suggested they smoked it a month ago when the weather was still warm and John agreed to the idea and even did the smoking himself. He remembered he had stored it in the freezer in the bottom shelf to be precise. And that was the first shelf he checked, but to his surprise the smoked turkey wasn’t there. He checked the other shelves, the compartments and all the drawers but still there was no sign of the turkey. He finally gave up and went back inside to tell Dorothy the sad news.

“I couldn’t find the turkey,” He said.

“What do you mean you couldn’t find it, John?” said Dorothy, a startling look on her face.

“Like I said, the turkey is not in the freezer.”

“I thought that’s where you stored it when you smoked it.”

“I thought so, too, but it’s not there now.”

“Well, a smoked turkey couldn’t just walk out of the freezer and take off like that, dear.”

“You didn’t happen to pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge by any chance, did you?”

“I don’t remember doing no such thing,” she said and then she dried her hands in the dish towel and checked the fridge. Irritated, she pulled out all the drawers and shuffled the contents around until she gave up.

“Well it’s not here either…” She thought for a second and then something struck her.

“Remember last week when you told me you had cleaned up the freezer, I think it was a Tuesday?”

John rubbed his forehead and dug into his memories trying to remember what he had done last Tuesday.

“Well…I think I did.”

“And you told me you had thrown some of the food that had been there for a long time?”


This conversation started to turn into an interrogation, John almost told Dorothy but decided to hold his tongue.


She was right though. Last Tuesday, John decided to get productive and break free from the TV routine. That was when he cleaned up the freezer and in the process he disposed of the food that had been stored there for some time. He suspected now he might have accidently dumped the smoked turkey. It was wrapped into aluminum foil and secured inside a zipper bag. If he had actually disposed of it thinking it was the perished food, he wouldn’t have known any other way, John thought. Dorothy was now implying that her husband had done just that. And though she was furious about the whole thing, she was cautious as not to start an argument. After all Thanksgiving was just a day away.

“Well, I have some raw ham in the freezer I had planned for us to have on Christmas,” she said, “ I guess I will just have to cook it in the oven tomorrow and buy another turkey for us to have on Christmas.”


John just nodded. He was still feeling guilty for disposing of the turkey but there was nothing he could do now. He returned to the living room and settled on his recliner. As he stared at the TV, the two college students on the movie were driving across state line into Michigan.

 

 

 

 


© 2017 Rachid Amrani



Author's Note

Rachid Amrani
The writer would like to thank the readers and the users of this website for taking time from their busy lives to read this story. Like my other posted works, this story is purely fictitious. I also would like to point out that the story includes information pertaining to the medical, legal, and insurance fields. That does not mean I claim to know about those fields. The information was gathered merely through my own research. Hope you enjoy the story. Your comments are much appreciated.
Important Note: As you may now it takes a great effort and a great deal of time to write a piece whether it is a story or a poem or any other creative work. Thus, it is very unethical and wrong from all aspects to copy this work or reproduce it in any form. Thank you

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I love this story, and it goes into I lot of detail, and I can tell you have spent a lot of time building the story up, great storyline, well done!

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Rachid Amrani

1 Month Ago

Thank you Mark for taking the time to read the story and provide your comment. I really appreciate i.. read more

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Added on December 18, 2017
Last Updated on December 29, 2017

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Rachid Amrani
Rachid Amrani

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I've always had a passion for story telling. Sometimes I wish I had more time to do more writing but with a full-time job that takes most of my time and drains me out it's very challenging. I'm gr.. more..

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A Story by Rachid Amrani