“In your professional opinion?” I looked out the window and waited for him to respond.
“My opinion would be just that, an opinion. As far as medical facts go, it’s hard to…” the doctor began to explain.
“I did not ask for medical facts. I requested an opinion, entertain me,” my voice was remarkably calm considering the response I expected to receive.
“I’ve never been one to give opinions, but if you insist,” the phone went silent as he paused for a moment.
The sound of breathing confirmed his presence on the phone. I gazed through the glass and into the courtyard as I waited for a response he was obviously uncomfortable providing. As I scanned the grounds for landscaping imperfections, he began to speak.
“It’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty, but my opinion would be as follows. Foregoing any treatment, I suspect between six months and a year. Treatment, as I have continued to express, could be one hundred percent successful. We have seen great successes with treatment, especially at this stage. You are well aware of my professional recommendation, and I reserve hope you’ll change your mind,” he paused, hoping for a favorable response.
“Thanks, Doc. Six months it is. I’ll make arrangements holding onto the hope of one hundred and eighty days of splendor. Have you anything else?” I smiled and turned from the window as I glanced at my watch.
“Well, I’d like to go on the record as stating that treatment could be successful. Take some time to consider what may be if you would subject yourself to…”
“I hate to interrupt Doc, but I have a quick question. Treatment aside, what are the chances of living? Let us say…of living through this without treatment? A miracle, if you will?” I asked.
Silence filled the room.
“Zero. There’s not a chance,” his voice broke the silence and provided the answer I expected.
“Duly noted, Doc. Thank you for your time,” I said as I pressed the button on the center of the phone’s screen, ending the call.
I needed to get busy. I had a wedding to plan.
PARKER. Throughout my latter years of high school, I had hope of receiving a formal education at a University and becoming one of the many professional adults that were gainfully employed in the United States. Upon my graduation from high school, I received an academic scholarship to the University of California – San Diego, and eagerly moved halfway across the United States to attend college in the warmth and comfort of southern California.
I had no expectation, however, of completing college and being one of the three and a half percent of the population which was unemployed. In retrospect, attending UCSD and receiving a business degree was probably not in my best interest. Humanities, Fine Arts, Social Science, or one of the many other options would have suited me more favorably from a marketability standpoint in the eyes of a potential employer.
Being eighteen years old, a senior in high school, and making decisions regarding our future as an adult professional should not be allowed. What we believe we want at an early age and what is practical are two totally different things. We are far too young and inexperienced as a senior in high school to understand our future, and far too stubborn to admit it.
After a month of unemployment, I made yet another great decision regarding my future and began seeking employment through advertisements on Craigslist. Although I had avoided the infamous Craigslist killer, I had encountered approximately one hundred scams, half a dozen jobs paying less than minimum wage – in cash, and no less than three offers to act as a male prostitute.
I now sat in the law office of Sullivan, Heicht, and Astur waiting on Mr. Astur to see me. This morning, after two solid weeks of searching the same advertisements, a new ad was posted. The manner in which it was drafted made it very interesting and highly unlikely it was a scam. As I glanced around the lavish digs and waited for Mr. Astur, I was quite certain this was real. I opened the advertisement on my phone and read it again, making certain of the requirements.
YOUNG ATTRACTIVE EDUCATED MALE WITH HIGH MORAL VALUE
Employer seeks a young educated male who exhibits a high degree of moral value. Applicant must be between 5’-9 and 5’-11, dark hair, and not a drug user. Occasional consumption of alcohol is acceptable.
Must have current driver’s license free of infractions. Must be a college graduate. Must be right handed. Must be single, yet willing to entertain the thought of being in a relationship. Must be willing to follow directions and capable of being trusted. Applicant, if accepted, will be required to sign a twenty-four month contract of employment.
Job requires seven days a week of availability.
Compensation package: $80,000/year, company provided transportation, business related expenses, and health insurance.
All interested applicants apply to email address as provided. Parties of interest will be interviewed accordingly.
I had read the advertisement multiple times. One thing that fascinated me was the lack of description regarding the anticipated employee’s required skill sets. There was no listed expectation of the employer concerning the employee’s job performance. I turned my phone off, placed it into my pocket, and let my imagination run wild.
Actor. Hit man. Bodyguard. Personal assistant.
A personal assistant to a Hollywood type could be very entertaining. I allowed thoughts of working as a personal assistant to Hollywood’s finest fill me. Mila Kunis has always been fascinating to me; maybe I would be her assistant. Ashton’s schedule probably prohibited him from spending a sufficient amount of time by Mila’s side. A personal assistant could solve all of her concerns regarding Ashton’s absence. As I closed my eyes and attempted to resurrect an accurate profile of Mila Kunis, I heard footsteps.
I blinked my eyes and looked up from the floor.
I watched, somewhat fascinated, as an extremely attractive thirty-something year old brunette dressed in a dark navy skirt and fitted blazer walked toward me until she stood directly in front of me. As she stopped walking and smiled, I stood and returned the smile.
“Parker Bale?” she smiled as she raised her eyebrows in what was more than likely false wonder.
“Yes. Parker Bale,” I responded as I slowly extended my hand.
“Call me Lisa. Mr. Astur and Mr. Ward are waiting. Follow me if you will,” she glanced at my hand, blinked her eyes, turned, and gracefully began walking down the slate hallway.
As the sound of her heels echoed down the hallway, I followed. Her walk was interesting to say the very least. Each step was as if it were predetermined. It did not appear she was walking by choice, but that the tile floor was sucking her feet into the exact location they needed to fall into, allowing her to complete perceived walking perfection. I alternated glances between her feet and the hallway in front of us until she stopped walking.
“Gentlemen, one Parker Bale,” she smiled as she motioned toward the open door on her left.
I stepped in front of Lisa and into the doorway. Two men, one approximately mid-sixties in age, and one I suspected in his early-forties stood from their respective seats and smiled. The elder of the two was dressed in a business suit and tie. The younger wore jeans and a V-neck T-shirt. As they stood, I walked around the corner of the large table and extended my hand.
“Kenton Ward, my pleasure Mr. Bale,” the younger gentlemen said as he shook my hand and smiled.
I turned to face the elder of the two and held my hand in front of my waist as I made eye contact with him. With his lips pursed, he studied my eyes. The few seconds that passed seemed like moments as I waited for his hand to grip mine. The gold specs in his green eyes provided him a certain peculiar presence. As his hand gripped mine, he smiled.
“Hec Astur,” he lowered his chin as he spoke.
Heck Ahhhsture. The manner in which the name rolled from his tongue gave him a greater degree of intrigue. As he released my hand he pointed to a chair positioned on the other side of the table.
“Please, have a seat,” he said as he motioned to the chair.
“Thank you, Lisa. Close the door if you will,” he nodded his head slightly toward the door.
I heard the door close softly as I lowered myself into the ergonomically engineered mesh office chair. As I rested my forearms onto the arms of the chair, I slowly inched the chair closer to the table.
“Would you like a beverage? We expect this may take half of an hour,” Mr. Astur asked.
“Water if you have it,” I responded as I struggled to position my chair the perfect distance from the edge of the table.
“Bottle or glass?” he raised his chin as he asked.
“Bottle please,” I responded.
Mr. Astur turned to Mr. Ward, smirked, and walked toward the rear of the large room. As he walked away, Mr. Ward looked up, into my direction, and smiled while he rubbed his hands together.
“Mr. Bale,” Astur hesitated as he handed me the bottle of water.
“I represent Mr. Ward from a legal standpoint. I have drafted a contract for one employee which will bind him to the conditions of said contract with Mr. Ward. In a moment, Mr. Ward will go over his intent regarding employment, but remember,” he paused as he slid a half inch thick pile of paper across the table.
“The contract governs,” he blinked his green eyes and sat down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said as he straightened the pile of papers in front of him.
“I’ll keep this informal. As you have probably wondered regarding your requested attire for this meeting, I wanted you to be comfortable. Are you comfortable, Mr. Bale?” Mr. Ward spoke slowly, clearly, concisely and properly pronounced every syllable in each prospective word.
“Quite,” I nodded as I removed the lid from my bottle of water.
Upon sending my initial email in response to the advertisement, I was advised to ‘wear whatever you’d be comfortable wearing to meet a woman for a cup of coffee at the Barnes and Nobles in the Gas Lamp district’ to my job interview. An address and a meeting time were provided. Sitting here now, dressed in Khaki’s, a wrinkle-free dress T-shirt, and light blue Sperry’s, I felt uncomfortable in the presence of these two men who peered over the table as I took a drink from my unreasonably cold bottle of water.
I smiled as I placed the bottle of water between my legs and slowly screwed the lid onto the top.
“Mr. Bale,” Mr. Ward paused and clasped his hands together slowly.
“Chivalry, as they say, is dead. After repeatedly witnessing behavior that is contrary to what I believe is gentlemanly, I have decided to hire an assistant if you will. If you were chosen, it would be my intent, in summary, to live vicariously through you as I attempt to mold you into a gentleman. Does or would this type of arrangement interest you?” he asked.
Mr. Ward was a very calm yet full of energy. To watch him, one would think his brain was going a hundred miles an hour. To listen to him speak, he was very matter of fact and appeared astute. He had done nothing to prove his intelligence yet, but I was certain he was a very intelligent man. As I thought about his question, and formed my response, I glanced at Mr. Astur.
Slowly, I turned to face Mr. Ward.
“Chivalry, sir, is not dead. Although magnanimity isn’t commonplace today with the generation of men my age, it certainly exists with some. I would, however, agree we could all take lessons in nobility, generosity, and how to live selflessly. Am I to understand that it is your intent, sir, as is expressed in these contract documents, to form me into a better gentleman?” I asked as I picked the pile of documents from the table.
“Impressive response Mr. Bale. I currently have you at one hit and one strike. May I ask why you have chosen to place your bottle of water in your lap?” Mr. Ward asked.
I nodded toward Mr. Astur as I placed the contract onto the table, “Mr. Astur has a coaster in front of him to place his water on. You, sir also have a coaster. When Mr. Astur delivered my water, he did not offer a coaster.
As cold as the water is, and considering the temperature in this room, I chose not to chance damaging the top of this wooden table by placing my water on the surface of it.”
I smiled, satisfied my answer was impressive. As Mr. Astur nodded and smiled Mr. Ward unclasped his hands and rubbed his cheeks with the tips of his fingers.
“Why did you choose a bottle of water over a glass when offered?” Mr. Ward asked.
“Both you and Mr. Astur have bottles on your coasters, sir. I was attempting to be polite and trouble free,” I smiled as I nodded toward the two bottles of water.
“Trouble free,” Mr. Ward repeated as he shook his head.
He pointed to his water, “Have I or has Mr. Astur taken a drink since you’ve been in the room?”
I thought for a moment. They had not.
“No sir,” I responded.
“You requested a bottle of water because we had bottled water? You wanted to be like us?” he asked as he stood from his chair.
“Yes sir,” I responded, not knowing what else to say.
“A lure, test, trick, gimmick, whatever you prefer to call it,” he paused as he pointed to the bottles of water on the table.
“Drinking water from a bottle is akin to eating beans from a can, cereal from a box, peanut butter from a jar, or wine from a bottle. A beverage is contained in a bottle for shipping and storage. It should remain in the bottle until it is poured into a glass, at which time it could be enjoyed. Do you drink your wine from a bottle, Mr. Bale?” he asked as he slowly walked around the corner of the table.
“No sir,” I responded.
“Well, you’re batting five hundred so far. Not bad. There’s something about you, Parker Bale, I like. I have yet to identify what it is, but you have a very good presence about you. Do you want the job?” he asked as he stood beside me and picked the contract up from the table.
“I’m not certain what the job consists of, sir,” I looked up as he flipped through the pages of the contract.
He inhaled a slow breath through his nose and exhaled through his mouth.
“You would be provided transportation and money which would be used to find a woman to develop a relationship with. In a sense, your job is to find the perfect woman for you. Preferably once a week, but no less than twice a month, you’d be required to bring her to my home for dinner. All of your dates, meals, transportation, clothes, entertainment, as well as any gifts to her would be provided as a part of the contract at no cost to you. Through the course of developing the relationship, you and I would visit, discussing your intent, direction, feelings, and processes. I would make recommendations to assist you in assuring you always act in a gentlemanly manner,” with his hands at his sides he paused, raised the contract, and flipped through the pages.
“Is that it?” I asked.
“In a nutshell, yes. Are you a risk taker, Mr. Bale?” he asked.
“I suppose it depends on the risk, sir,” I responded.
His explanation of the job sounded interesting. Driving a company provided car and spending company money. And my job would be to eat, drink, and buy gifts for women. Through the course of working, I would also earn eighty thousand dollars a year. It sounded too good to be true.
“I’m going to make you an offer. We have interviewed seven applicants, and have two more scheduled,” he flipped through the papers he held, pulled the page from the rear of the contract, and placed it on the table.
“Sign that agreement, Mr. Bale and I will pay you one hundred thousand annually. The other benefits remain. This is a one-time offer,” he motioned toward Mr. Astur, who reached into his jacket pocket and produced a pen.
As Mr. Astur reached across the table with the pen, I swallowed nervously. One hundred thousand dollars was very tempting, but I had reservations. Not having read the conditions of the contract potentially exposed me to unfavorable legal language. I gripped the bottle of water nervously.
Mr. Ward placed the pen onto the page of the contract.
“Mr. Bale. Yes or no?” he asked as he motioned toward the pen with his index finger.
“That’s it? Taking women on dates and attempting to find my perfect woman. Nothing freaky or crazy?” I asked as I swallowed again.
“There are a few additional conditions and requirements, but no. Nothing freaky or crazy. Finding the right woman, that is all. Yes or no, Parker Bale?” his voice was soft yet stern.
I picked up the pen, removed the lid, and placed the tip onto the page of the contract in the location marked employee. I studied the pen.
I looked up at Mr. Ward, “May I ask what interest you have in this?”
“You may. I have not always been a good man, Mr. Bale. In fact, I was quite the opposite. Additionally, I have not always been financially able to do such things. Today, I believe I am a good man, and I am quite wealthy. This experiment, if you will, should benefit you, the lady of your choosing, and satisfy me in that I have assisted two people find what it is we all seek,” he paused and raised his eyebrows.
“Love,” he smiled and pointed to the pen.
“Yes or no?”
I looked down at the page. The greatest rewards in life are provided to those who take the greatest risks.
I signed my name, placed the pen on the page of paper, and slid it to my right. Mr. Ward smiled as he scribbled his name beside mine in the location marked witness.
“When do I start?” I asked nervously.
“You already have,” Mr. Astur responded as he slid a set of car keys across the table.
The blue and white logo in the center of the key was a dead giveaway.
“And, now that you’re hired, here’s the first rule. I am Kenton,” Mr. Ward paused and motioned to Mr. Astur.
“He is Hec, short for Hector. We’ll address you as Parker. No more Mister this or that. Any questions?” he asked.
I thought about what I may want to ask as I gripped the bottle of water sitting between my legs. As it came to me,
“I do have a question,” I paused as I raised the bottle of water from my lap and placed it onto the table.
Both men looked at me intently.
“May I have a glass? The thought of drinking from this bottle is repulsive.”