Friday, January 13, 2012

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter 52

If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. --  Friedrich Nietzsche

I peered out the rear window of the van.  Images of abject poverty stared back.  Fugitive glances from huddled shadows, stray dogs, and an old woman talking to herself on a street corner.
How the hell did I wind up here getting ready to raid a reinsurance company?
Portugal, along with other countries like Greece and Spain, is leading the way down the financial abyss.  While technocrats meet and reassure the world this time it is really fixed, the kicked cans clatter down to the street and this is what it looks like.  I shuddered and looked back at Mike and Angus.
I laughed to myself and spoke up.  “I was minding my business trying to drink myself into oblivion. Next thing I know -- BANG! I'm careening down the streets of dystopian Europe with a couple of friendly thugs.”
“You say something?” answered Mike.
Mike and Angus both laughed.  We drove in a seemingly random pattern of turns and sudden stops.  Angus checked his mirrors frequently.  Mike kept his eyes forward and scanned the approaching rooftops.
“I know how you feel, Laddy,” muttered Angus.
“What’s that?”
“I said I know how you feel.  I look at the mirrors some mornings and wonder, ‘How the hell did I wind up here?  Doing this?’”
Mike nodded.  I slid a bit as Angus suddenly gassed the van.
Angus resumed.  “I knew my Da was a soldier, and a brave one at that.  He was awarded the Victoria Cross, you know.  A Ghurka.”  He swerved at the last minute and shoved the van into a narrow alley.
“I was looking for a way to pay for college,” Mike observed.  He added, “My wife  -- my ex-wife -- was my girlfriend in high school and she was going to a big school.  My family was poor and I knew they couldn't afford tuition, so I enrolled in Naval ROTC.  The Marines in the unit were sharp and …” -- he paused again --  “she liked their dress blues.”  He looked straight ahead for a while.
Angus pulled up to the back of a building and put the van into park.  We sat, engine idling, and stared at the Insurance company building.
He spoke first.  “Well, Lads, however we gained this path, we are here and have a job to do.”  He turned the engine off.
I looked at my watch.  11:59. 

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