Monday, November 11, 2013

Challenges from The Condo #6

Challenges from The Condo #6

Chapter 2: A Gated community


The Condo: or...Life, a Sequel by Dalma Takács is available from (Pap. $17.99; / Kindle ed. $9.99)

The morning after the party Jasper drove to the airport to catch a flight to Orlando.  He had told Marguerite he was going on a short business trip—a very boring trip, he had said—to meet with a very boring client, no, not a woman, he assured her and laughed. Marguerite did not seem to think that was funny. Probably the party had made her more edgy than usual. Well, the surprise would make up for fifteen years of missed opportunities.
        He glanced at the passenger seat where Marguerite had left her purple fringed scarf. He tried to remember the last time she had sat in his car. Perhaps when they went to the office party at the Sheraton. Each time he had decided to pick it up and give it back to her, he changed his mind. Next time we go somewhere together, he had told himself, she'll find it. That scarf must have sat here for six months, he mused. I'll give it to her when she comes down to see the condo. When he left his car at the airport, he took the scarf and put it around his neck.
He hoped she would be in a good mood. He wondered why Marguerite had to be so uptight about everything. Uptight was the only word he could find to express his frustration with other people. Alone in the car, comfortably isolated from the thousands of frustrating people in the line of cars churning carbon monoxide on the road behind and ahead of him, Jasper thought of his mother, how uptight she had been about everything—his friendship with Jim Faraday, his decision to stop going to church. “One day you are going to meet your Maker, and what will you say to Him?” she used to say. He wondered idly what his mother was saying to her Maker at that moment. Her Maker was probably too busy making more people to replace all the bodies killed by war and famine and the tsunami. He must be one busy CEO to run an operation with a growth rate of twenty percent per annum. He chuckled as he thought of what his mother would say to this reflection. He felt slightly guilty, but also relieved that he no longer could make her uncomfortable. Actually, his mother had been comfortably agnostic throughout his childhood. Perhaps that was why she became so uptight when she found Jesus.
Jasper almost felt sorry he no longer believed the stories of Catholic school. Life was so much simpler when he was young. But he was grown up now, and he knew that heaven and hell are not places for the dead but feelings inside the living. Losing his business to the recession was hell. The war in Iraq was hell. Seeing his first baby was heaven. Burying his first baby was hell. Been there, done that, he thought. Having enough money to buy a condo in Florida was heaven.
In Orlando he rented a car and was looking forward to a leisurely drive on Route 75 to see his condo.
When he stopped for lunch, he looked at the ad again. With Marguerite's scarf still wrapped around his neck, he went over the details:  
Paradise Point Condominiums
A popular destination for upwardly mobile buyers looking for a second home—that’s us.
A gated community offering all the amenities for the luxury of time well spent—sounds good.
Offering both privacy and social interaction as desired—we’ll pick privacy.
Fully equipped fitness center with private fitness trainers—maybe if we run out of conversation.
Health care on the premises—in case the fitness center leaves you disabled.
Stimulating cultural programs—we’ll sit those out.
State of the art computer access—all we need is access to each other.
Private lake, restaurant, spa, swimming pool with poolside bar—in a word, heaven.

An hour later he was back on the road. The French fries and the Tabasco sauce were churning in his stomach. He wished he had taken his antacid before getting back into the car. The sky was becoming overcast. I hope it’s not the hurricane, he thought as splotches of rain hit the windshield. He turned on the wipers. In a few minutes the wipers were paddling in a stream. He grasped the steering wheel with both hands. His eyes straining to see the lines on the road,  he was cursing the idiots who passed him in the deluge. He felt a stupid longing to reach the next bridge. That one second of freedom from the beating rain while he passed under the bridge seemed like a glimpse of heaven.
Suddenly, the supporting concrete pile of the bridge was right in front of him and he felt his tires skidding to the shoulder. There’s no way I can stop in time, he thought as he floored his brake pedal.
The next thing he noticed was the silence. He looked around inside the car. His seat belt was still attached, and the windshield was open. The rain had stopped. I must have passed out, he thought. I hope the cops get here soon. He wondered if he had any broken bones or maybe even a broken vertebra. He was uneasy that he felt no pain. Maybe I’m paralyzed.
Finally he saw an ambulance pull up next to him. He was surprised that he had not heard the siren. Could it be that I’ve lost my hearing, he wondered. Two men got out and approached him.
           “You’ve taken long enough to get here,” he said.
“We got here just in time,” one said.
“You don’t look like paramedics,” he said. The men were dressed in long white robes with wide black belts and looked like a pair of judo instructors. One was a severe-looking tall man with black eyebrows and a drooping moustache like Genghis Khan’s. The other was a middle-aged man with a round face and a paunch to match. He smiled at Jasper as he opened the car door.
            “Out you come, guv’nor,” he said in a comfortable Cockney brogue.
            “Don’t you have a stretcher or something to put me on?” Jasper said. “I think I have an injured back.”
“Do as he says and don’t argue,” said Genghis Khan. “We must be on our way.”
Jasper was stung by fear. These men were definitely not paramedics. Trying to stall for time, he said, “Thanks all the same, but I think I’ll wait . . . ” for a real ambulance, he added mentally.
“This is a real ambulance, sir,” the round-faced man said. “Just turn your body to pull your legs from under the steering wheel. Once your legs are out of the car, you’ll be free in no time.”
“I know how to get out of the car,” Jasper muttered.
“Then get on with it, man.” Genghis Khan was not impatient. He just seemed like a man used to being obeyed.
Jasper's temper flared. “If you force me to move with a broken back and I end up paralyzed for life, you’ll have a whopping lawsuit on your hands, you can be sure of that!”
The two men looked at each other, and Jasper was astonished to see them break into a hearty laugh. He felt like child who has unwittingly said something that only adults find funny.
Tune in next Monday to find out if Jasper reaches his condo.


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