Wishful Thinking Part 1

Greg Barton placed his chin in his hand and slouched forward in his office chair. The clock above his office door showed there was 20 minutes left in his shift. While the last 20 minutes were always his least productive, they meant the end of the day was soon approaching and he would soon be able to go home, crack open a beer, and relax in his armchair.  Greg knew he wouldn’t be able to get anything else done today, so he closed the spreadsheet he was working on and opened up a web browser.

“Barton” came a voice from the other side of his office door. It was loud, succinct, and followed by a single, quick knock. “Hello Mr. Hague” Greg said, as a man with grey hair and a stern expression entered the room. He muted the cat video he was watching and stood to greet his boss. Greg held out his hand, but Mr. Hague just looked at it and placed his own hands in his pockets. “Listen Barton, it’s nearly time to leave, so I’ll be quick. One of your interns formatted a website for one of your clients completely wrong and since they left three hours ago, I need you to stay behind and fix it.”

Greg did his best to remain stoic in the presence of his boss, but after he left without another word, Greg crumpled down into his chair, resting his forehead against his folded arms on the desk. He gazed down into the crumb-covered scratchy carpeting and regretted, yet again, not seizing the opportunity to defend himself.

By the time he had finished fixing his (now former) intern’s mistakes, it was much later than he had anticipated staying that day. The sun had set and it was past dinner time. He only hoped that when he came home Peggy, his Border Collie hadn’t torn the place up…again.

Greg grabbed his coat and began the short walk to his apartment. He was not used to the small city in which he worked at this hour. A car slowed down and followed him for a bit before speeding off and running a red light, a homeless man was raucously playing a few upside down trashcans as if they were a drum set, and a dog walking by him trailed an owner-less leash behind it. Greg took the lapels of his jacket in his hands and pulled them closer to his chest.

He continued walking, doing his best to avoid contact with the dead eyes of those that passed him. Greg was about to turn and walk up the stairs to his apartment building when he noticed a small brown square wedged between the concrete steps and recycling bin. He bent down to pick it up and discovered it was a wallet. He considered his options for a brief moment before opening it and attempting to identify to whom it belonged.

Greg’s gloved hand rapped three times on the door of apartment 27. “Mr…” he squinted at the license card inside the worn leather wallet “Mr. Harmond?” The door suddenly opened, just a crack, restrained by the chain lock several inches above Mr. Harmond’s head. “Yes?” He said quietly, darting his eyes back and forth. He was an old man with large glasses that magnified his eyes to twice their normal size. He wore a green Irish cap on his head with small sprouts of wiry grey hair poking out from the sides.

“Hi, sir, my name is Greg. I found your wallet. I just wanted to make sure it got back to you safely.” Once the elderly man spied the worn accessory, his temperament changed completely and his entire face was engulfed by a toothy smile.”God be praised! Thank the Lord for the blessings He hath bestowed upon us.” The door suddenly slammed shut and Greg could hear the chain slide out of the lock on the other side.

“Come in, Greg, come in. Can I get you some tea?” Mr. Harmond says, swinging the door open wide to a neat but cluttered apartment. “Oh, no thank you. I just wanted to return this to you.”

“Very well, maybe just some scones then? I’ve made them myself, fresh this morning!” The smile Mr. Harmond had spread across his face was so enthusiastic and thankful that Greg knew he would regret not joining the old man for at least five minutes. “Alright, I suppose one scone won’t take long.” Greg stepped into the apartment, the smell of carpet cleaner and cat litter immediately hit him. He turned to Mr. Harmond, handed him the wallet, and went to take the seat at the table Mr. Harmond was gesturing towards. “Thank you” replied the old man with a bit of a bow. Mr. Harmond placed the wallet in his pocket and shuffled over to the table. A large plastic red platter of scones sat between them he grabbed one from the top of the pile, placed it on a napkin, and slid it across the table to Greg. As he proceeded to do the same for himself, Greg took a big bite, expecting a soft, flaky bite, maybe spiced up with a blueberry or raisin. Instead, the scone fought back against Greg’s teeth and he needed to use his molars to bite through the pastry. Mr. Harmond nibbled around the edges of his scone, still with a serene look on his face.

“So, do you live in this complex?” Mr. Harmond asked. “Yes, I do” replied Greg competing with the dryness consuming the inside of his mouth. “I live on the third floor” he finished before daring himself to take another bite. “Ah, I see. How long have you lived here?”

“About a year. I really like it so far. It’s nice that we don’t have to pay for utilities. You don’t find that very often.”

“No, indeed you don’t the Lord has blessed us abundantly, has He not?” Greg simply smiled and nodded, a few crumbs falling from the corner of his mouth onto the table. “How about you, Mr. Harmond. How long have you lived here?”

“Oh, so long I can barely remember; at least 20 years.”

“Wow, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

“Yes, my cat, Genevieve and I have lived here peacefully for quite a while, God be praised.” Greg smiled again, willing himself to keep the last bite of his scone down. “Would you like another scone?” Mr. Harmond asked. “Oh no, thank you. My waistline won’t forgive me if I do. They were delicious though.”

“You’ll have to stop by for more some time” Mr. Harmond said, excited at the prospect of a new friendship. “Absolutely, for now, I have a long work day to sleep off. Have a good night” Greg says and stands, wiping crumbs from the wrinkles on his shirt and pants. Mr. Harmond’s face falls a bit as he sees the crumbs fall onto the carpet in front of Greg. “Greg, I’d like to repay you for finding my wallet. The only picture I have of my son is in this wallet and I was a wreck when I found out it was gone. How much seems fair? $50? $100?”

“Mr. Harmond, I couldn’t take your money, really, I just wanted to make sure it made it’s way home.”

“Oh, I know!” The old man said excitedly before standing and walking over to the mantle of his fireplace. “Here, this is for you.” Without waiting for a reply, Mr. Harmond placed a snow globe in Greg’s hand. It was a heavy globe, one made of glass and hand painted. Inside sat a small village with cobblestone pathways between them. The base was blue and had intertwining vines circling it. The two ends of the painted vines ended around a gold placard that read “Is mian liom” in a calligraphic font. “Wow, this is beautiful. What does this inscription mean?”

“Those are the Irish words for ‘I wish.’ It was said this globe could give you powers and make your deepest desires come true; some say at a terrible price.”

“You’ve never tried it?” Greg inquired “Goodness no! I don’t believe in that crockery.”

“Well” Greg began, “I suppose if you insist.” Mr. Harmond nodded and patted the young man on the back. “I do.” he said, with the smile that lit up his face, leading Greg to the door. “Have a good night, Greg and thank you for the company.”

Last Week’s Story: Master and I

Next Week’s Story: Wishful Thinking Part 2

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