tagNon-EroticDante's View

Dante's View

byBigdenverman©

I sat down with a bowl of Fruit Loops. I frowned at the mountain of cereal in my bowl and added several spoonfuls of sugar to the top. My hand-held personal data assistant beeped loudly, which meant that I had work to do. I clicked on the message and found that my subject on this day was a guy named Richard, a married man who was apparently considering an affair with a female coworker. I clicked on his file to update myself on him and his life. Then it was time to finish my cereal and get working.

Richard sat back on the reclining chair in his living room, attempting to read a science fiction novel but not getting very far. He was a nervous and excited man these days, a fact that he managed to hide well from his wife and two children. His wife, Sandra, was busy cleaning in the kitchen. His 8 year-old son Adam was happily playing a video game in the next room. His 2 year-old daughter Rebecca was asleep.

Richard had been happily married for more than ten years. He was proud of the family he and Sandra built. They got along well as a couple and were able to survive many of the pitfalls and stresses that comes with family life. Richard enjoyed the stability, but occasionally he missed the intense romantic and sexual moments that come early in a relationship. He remembered how exciting a simple kiss could be and how good it felt to hold a girl's hand. Exploring sex with Sandra way back was deeply erotic and exciting for him. Richard missed those things, but he enjoyed family life so much that he barely noticed.

Then, Richard met Cassie. Richard had been a realtor with a major company for many years. Cassie was hired to join the company as a realtor as well. Richard and Cassie met as colleagues and hit it off right away. Cassie was fun, bouncy and sexy. She had a great smile and a great sense of humor. Richard felt desire well up from deep within right away. This was something he hadn't felt in many years. His natural instinct told him to go after Cassie, but he didn't, of course. He was a married man and never pictured himself an adulterer.

Richard and Cassie talked frequently. They found ways to spend time together. They ate lunch together whenever their schedules permitted. They flirted innocently and casually. They had no intention whatsoever of developing a relationship. Time passes, however, and things change. As days turned into weeks and then became months, their friendship grew into something more.

Richard and Cassie discussed their relationship more as time went by. There was no longer any denying the feelings they held for each other. Richard kidded that if he hadn't been married, he would have asked her out right away. Deep down, they both wanted an affair. Then it happened: Richard asked Cassie if they could spend next Wednesday together at a downtown hotel and Cassie said yes.

That's where I come in. My job is to show people things about their past, present and future. Things that happened or might happen. You know, so maybe they can make a more informed decision. I know its confusing, and frankly, I get tired of explaining it.

The doorbell rang and Richard got up from his reclining chair to answer. He opened the door and there I was, a weak old man huddled up in a trench coat. It had been raining and I really didn't like getting wet.

"Can I help you?" Richard asked.

"No, but I can help you," I said. I then began a coughing fit, which completely sucked the drama out of my introduction. I held up a single finger to indicate that it would be a second or two before I could continue.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah..."

"Can I help you?" Richard was being very polite, and seemed concerned.

"Everything is frozen," I said simply. I lit a cigar and took a few puffs then to help alleviate my coughing.

"What?"

"I hate this part," I said. "Just go around the house and look at everything and you'll see what I mean, then come back and we can talk."

Richard wandered the house. His wife was completely motionless. She was bent over, attempting to put a pan back inside a low cupboard space. Richard touched her on the shoulder, waved a hand in front of her face and snapped his fingers. Nothing. She didn't move. His son Adam was playing his video game, frozen in place, with a kind of befuddled expression as if he had hit some particularly difficult part of the game. His young daughter Rebecca was upstairs and sound asleep, but frozen as well.

He looked at his watch. The second hand wasn't moving, as if the batteries had run dry. He peered outside and noticed his neighbor trying to carry a bag of groceries from his car to the house, but he was stopped about halfway with one leg still hanging motionless about six inches in the air. Under normal circumstances, his neighbor could never have maintained his balance. Clearly, these weren't normal circumstances.

"What's happening...?" Richard asked after rejoining me outside.

"Everything is fine, Richard," I said. He was a little startled that I knew his name. "Everyone is alive and healthy. I just froze time because I need to show you a few things."

"Show me what?"

I took another cigar out of my trench coat and lit the tip. Richard didn't like that.

"Do you have to smoke? Isn't that why you're coughing so much?" Richard asked.

"Listen, kid...if I can stop time, do you think a cigar is going to kill me?"

Richard was dazed and didn't know how to respond. For good reason. It isn't every day an old man rings your doorbell and freezes the world.

"Life is a road with many forks," I explained. "I can show you where many of these forks go."

"Forks?"

"Yeah, forks. People make choices, and their lives branch off in different ways. Do you prefer branches rather than forks?"

"No, I understand forks. Like forks in a river."

"Yeah, like that. God, I love cigars."

Richard began to ask a question, but a bright white light suddenly blinded him. Richard screamed. He didn't understand what was happening. The light was all-consuming and seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. Richard felt helpless, unable to take action. But then, the brightness stopped.

"Holy fuck, what the hell was that?!?" Richard yelled.

"Sorry," I said. "I should have warned you about that."

"Holy shit..."

Richard's voice trailed off. He looked around. They were in someone's home. A home he had never seen before. He saw a man, perhaps 45 years old, serving dinner. He was completely unaware that Richard and the old man were in his living room watching him. He apparently didn't see the bright light or hear anyone yell, either. The smell of barbecued steak quickly filled the room. I suddenly felt hungry again.

Richard's wife Sandra walked in and sat down. She yelled for the kids, and sure enough, Adam and Rebecca followed. The kids were older. Adam was clearly a teenager, with long blonde hair designed to make him look just a little rebellious. Rebecca was older, too, and looked so mature and cute.

"Uhh...this is...my family..." Richard stammered. "What the hell is this..."

"In this fork of your life, you get caught having an affair with your new coworker. You know, Cassie. Your wife divorces you...lets see..."

I check my personal data assistant for the exact information. I was alarmed by the dried Fruit Loop that was stuck to the screen. It was blocking my view and I scratched it off.

"...about one year later, it seems. She meets this man shortly after that. They get married a few months later."

"Where the hell am I?!" Richard asked angrily.

"You are living on your own. You have an on-again, off-again relationship with that Cassie girl. You share joint custody of your kids."

Richard stopped and just listened for awhile to the table conversation. They talk about everyday things for several minutes, but something snapped in Richard when he heard the man tell Adam that he needed to make sure to study for his science test.

"That's my job...raising my kids...I don't want that guy telling my kids what to do..."

I sat silently while Richard stewed. I wanted to light a cigar, but didn't. I did have a pocket full of cherry flavored cough drops, and I slipped one in my mouth. This would be a bad moment to have another coughing attack.

Richard stood up. He wanted to do something. He knew it wasn't possible for him to effect the reality that was unfolding in front of him. All he could really do was watch.

Sandra's new husband then promised to read Rebecca a story before bed. Richard's anger deepened. I felt for the kid.

Richard looked at me.

"This isn't right. Those are my children. They should be looking up to me, not that guy. I should be spending time with them. Raising them. Not him! This is...not...right."

"This happens an awful lot, you know," I said.

"What happens?"

"Divorce. Kids getting shuffled between parents, between step-parents. Its common."

Suddenly Richard turned angrily to me.

"I don't believe this. I don't believe ANY of this. If I got caught, Sandra and I would have worked it out."

"She got hurt pretty bad, kid."

"I'm leaving, I'm not listening to you..."

Just then, the bright light returned. Richard squinted. I decided it was time to change the scene. The sight of watching his children being raised without him was too much for Richard to bear right now.

When the brightness stopped, they were in another house. A child was on the floor playing with blocks and a woman was sitting nearby typing on her computer.

"Who the hell is this?" Richard asked, still upset.

"Oh, this is a woman I tried to help last week. The child is 4 years old and has a very promising future. But her mom is too distracted to do anything with her."

Richard watched for awhile, then walked over to the computer and saw that the woman was playing some kind of computer card game and chatting with people. The child continued to play with the blocks for several minutes more, then rolled over and began sucking her thumb.

"Why are you showing me this?"

"No reason, I just knew you were getting angry back there. You needed a break."

Richard calmed down and watched. Time elapsed. The child was left alone as the mother continued to type on the computer. When the child started to make a noise, the mother picked her up and bounced her on one knee while she typed.

"That woman is addicted to her damn computer...her poor kid is just left alone..."

"I know."

"Does she ever read to her, or take the child places or teach her anything?"

"Nah. She does pretty much the minimum she has to in order to make this all look okay, but the kid is hurting and lonely..."

"You said you tried to help her..."

"I failed."

"What did she say?"

"She told me to leave her the fuck alone and mind my own business."

I began to cough again. Loud, deep, hacking coughs. Richard reached into my coat and pulled out a cigar for me. He was a good kid, maybe there was hope for him.

"What will happen here, to this little girl?" Richard asked.

"Well, its hard to say, but many of the forks show that she will probably drop out of high school."

"That's disgusting. Sandra takes our kids out, to the museum and zoo, to play with other kids...she teaches them things...she's a great mom..."

We watched the scene for a long time. The woman finally logged off her computer and began doing dishes and cleaning.

"You wanna go see something different?" I asked.

"Oh...this time you've decided to warn me before the lights come and blind me?"

"Leave me alone. I'm old and crotchety."

Another bright light. Richard was prepared this time and covered his eyes. The light finally faded.

They were sitting near the third base line at Coors Field, the baseball stadium in Denver. In front of them, the Rockies were playing the Mets and leading 6-2. Richard looked around at the spacious stadium with all of the people. The weather was warm and clear, yet another flawless Colorado day.

"Why are we here?" Richard asked.

"I'm sorry," I answered sheepishly. "I'm a just a little hungry and they have the best hot dogs in the world here."

To Richard's amazement, I ordered six foot-long hot dogs topped with onions and peppers.

Then the bright light again. The baseball game vanished and we were gone.

When the light faded this time, we were sitting at a table in an upscale restaurant. I put my six hot dogs down on the table. I picked one up and took a deep bite, and immediately wished I had bought more.

Richard leaned forward.

"Why are we here? You wanted even more food?"

I ignored his question.

"Can you hear the couple sitting in the booth right behind you?"

"Yeah..."

"The woman is your daughter, Rebecca. The man with her is her fiancé...Braden."

"Her fiancé?"

"Yeah, she is 21 now. Braden is 28."

Richard considered the situation and was almost overtaken with emotion. Her 21 year-old daughter was getting married soon. It was almost too much for Richard to handle. He listened in while I enjoyed my hot dogs.

"...hey, look, Becky, I might get promoted soon. Then we'll be able to save up money for a car and maybe even a house someday."

"But...I always thought I would finish college, you know? I mean, I love you and would do anything for you, and if you want me to quit school I will, but I just want to know we'll be okay..."

"Listen, Becky, I'm not like your family. They all want money and shit, and that's fine for them, but I don't give a damn about that. I just want you. Let's just have fun and party and enjoy life."

"I really want to be a veterinarian, though. Isn't there a way I can do that? I'm almost halfway done with the program..."

"Becky, look, no...we can't afford that, besides I'll work and you need to be home...we love each other, right?"

"Maybe we should wait to get married..."

"No, dammit. No. No! Do you love me or not? Fuck, I can't believe you..."

"Yeah, of course I do. Don't be angry...I'm sorry..."

"Then quit your damn whining. Dammit, Becky, you can be so stupid sometimes."

Richard got very angry. His face turned red and his fists clenched. He wanted to get up and go after the guy. I couldn't blame him. I looked at Richard, mouthing the words "Should we leave?" to him, and he mouthed back "no". He calmed down.

"Why does she like this guy?" he asked me.

"I don't know."

"This doesn't make sense. This guy is a total prick. What fork are we seeing?"

"Well, it's a fork where you have an affair with Cassie and don't get caught."

"I don't get caught?"

"No, you don't. The affair ends after several years and your family never finds out."

Richard chewed this over. It didn't make sense to him.

"Then why is my daughter going to marry this asshole? Are you saying this is inevitable whether I get caught or not?"

"That's hard to say. I can tell you that if you don't have the affair at all, Rebecca never meets this guy."

"I don't get it..."

Richard stops, confused again, trying to fit the pieces together like a puzzle. I sigh, because I know that the pieces don't fit neatly together. People always want perfect answers or some kind of cause-and-effect relationship that explains everything in a neat package.

"What would it take for me to stop this?" Richard asks, tears now forming in his eyes. I sympathize with the kid. It must be hard to watch your daughter marry someone that will be abusive.

"I honestly don't know."

"I know...I'll be distracted too much. I won't have my energy in it...in raising my children... my attention will on Cassie...my affair will be too distracting..."

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"I don't understand..."

I didn't know what to say.

"Maybe Rebecca needed a leader in her life and I wasn't there enough so she found this asshole to substitute...."

I sat silently, trying to enjoy my hot dogs without trying to interrupt Richard's train of thought. The hot dogs were simply delicious, but I developed a need for a chocolate shake to wash them down. I promptly ordered one from the waiter as he passed by.

"Can't you tell me why this stuff is happening?"

I sighed.

"I honestly can't tell you why anything happens, Richard. The world is complicated."

"That's bullshit," Richard said, throwing up his arms. "You are here because you think I am going to have an affair and screw up a lot of lives. You're trying to talk me out of it."

I stopped eating my hot dog and looked at Richard. My shake arrived just then, complete with whipped cream, a cherry and a spoon.

"You're a pretty smart kid, Richard. But you are free to have your affair. I wouldn't dream of trying to stop you. It's called free will. It's the most precious thing in the universe."

"Okay, but you think I'll be making a big mistake. You think my daughter will marry this asshole because I had my affair."

"I don't know why she is marrying that guy. Nobody can prove it was because of your affair. It may be something else."

"Then why are you showing me this?"

"Because, kid, the forks we choose in life touch many things, for better or worse. That's an easy thing to forget."

I began scooping large chunks of ice cream into my mouth.

"Are you trying to help me or trying to eat?" Richard asked.

"Both," I answered truthfully.

"You're a pig."

"Hey, respect your elders."

I left a sizable tip on the table. My chocolate shake was delicious. Then, the bright light appeared again and we were gone from the restaurant.

When the light faded, we were in the backseat of a car. A tall, good-looking man was driving and a well-dressed woman was in the passenger seat. I noticed a chocolate stain on my pants and tried to discreetly clean it with some saliva and my finger.

"Let me guess. My son Adam is the driver. His wife is the passenger."

"Yep."

"They don't look messed up at all. Look, they're holding hands. They seem happy."

Adam appeared to be in his thirties, his wife a little younger. They quietly drove down the road for awhile. His wife clenched his hand tighter, looked at him and smiled.

"I am so proud to be your wife. Ten years, it's been wonderful. I can't wait to see where the next ten take us."

Richard sat back and smiled. My son has been married ten years, he thought. Adam looked so strong. Richard was proud.

"I'm proud to be your husband too, sweetie. I just remember..."

Adam's voice trailed off.

"Remember what, honey?"

"I remember the day I picked up my father's cell phone and tried to make a call. I saw that text that I wasn't supposed to. He was having an affair..."

"I remember that you never told your mom, you protected her..."

"Yeah, but, see, I promised myself that I would never treat my wife the way my pathetic father treated my mom...never...I cherish you, sweetheart. I always will..."

Richard collapsed. The discussion continued in the front, but Richard didn't hear any of it. He was apparently focused on the fact that his son thought he was pathetic.

"Are you okay?" I asked Richard finally.

"Can I ask what fork this is? Does Sandra ever find out about my affair?"

"Here, just a second. I can look it up..." I reached for my personal data assistant.

"No, never mind. Don't bother. It doesn't matter."

Richard collapsed back into the back seat again and stared out the window. He looked sullen and confused.

"All of this, because I have an affair with Cassie?"

"That's hard to say..."

"If I don't have the affair, will all of this be repaired? Will everyone be happy?"

"Kid, there are many more things going on in the world than your affair. Life is complicated. There are no guarantees."

"You know, Cassie is a great woman. It's so cool to be with her and have her in my life...you must think I'm a real loser..."

"You're not a loser. Life is hard."

I was beginning to get hungry again. I craved just a couple more of those hot dogs.

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