He knew the area from years back, a semi-lucrative spin on the hamster wheel that landed him a job wet-blasting mortar out of old brick and applying new sealant in its place. He’d been in Hastings Corner for at least six months and had come to love the regularity of driving the same commute each day. It felt like the past, before Alec was born and when things were on a slow climb out from under the mountain of school loan debt. How he wished for those younger days now. Providing for his baby daughter and post-toddler son proved too much for his youth, and it dissipated quickly from the strain. His hair thinned and he cried nights away while trying to connect the dots between meager pay and how to keep the cupboards stocked. But this had been a good gig, and as Simon walked quickly to the condo building he’d worked on, a plan formed as to how he could ensure the kids got at least the money stuck in his waistband if anything were to go wrong.
He had an hour before his target would arrive at the corner of James and Eleventh Ave. it was just enough time to do everything he needed. And while Daneen needled at the back of his head like the meager sun, so far the kids had let him be, a mechanic ushering in night to replace the spotlight of day. Oh how he wished for dark right then as he pulled away three loose bricks at the base of his old worksite and marveled at his own ingenuity. Hide the stash here, write a letter to Jaimie, then hope to God it never came down to him, his best friend and biggest betrayer, raising the kids. Sure, they might be better off with him and his shrink salary, but the thought destroyed Simon’s already fragile porcelain heart. Daneen’s other love raising his children? His neck swelled and the heat of his blood turned molten as his stomach turned. This was insurance, that’s all. Simon looked all around then slid the brown package from his belt, a goose laying a golden egg out of sight of everyone, but far too out in the open for comfort. His kids stood in his mind’s periphery, silently watching him ensure their comfort as he felt his own waver like a tightrope beneath uncertain footing. Don’t fall. Just keep going. (To be continued…)