Monday, December 8, 2008

No Good Deed

Often the phrase is repeated, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And poetic though it is—cute and clever and pleasing to the ear—this saying amounts to little. For if no good is ever intended, than all good is left to chance. And that’s just no good.

But this thought has not yet come to Kenny. All that tomorrow. Right now he is settled into the well-worn ass groove of his sofa. The television on, tuned to CNN and Kenny reads the quick moving ticker at the screen’s bottom. Looking for a clue or a hint. Anything for encouragement. Anything to reinforce his theory.

But all he gets: last night’s hockey scores and something about a tornado that tore across central Kansas. Then the threat level, still yellow, not at all promising. So Kenny flicks off the set and ponders. What, oh what shall he do.

Finally, a decision: action before apathy. If he does not act. If his fear is actualized. The guilt, it will gnaw at his core. More every day until nothing exists at which to gnaw. So, rubbing the small piece of paper between his thumb and forefinger. The little scrap that plunged him into this mess. Rubbing the piece of paper until the ink smears and colors the contours of his fingers a dirty blue, Kenny resolves to make a trip to Henry Clay Middle School in the morning. Personally, he will tell them terrorists have plotted a bombing. On their campus. In three days.

* * *

Any number of things can drive a man mad. One factor, quite possibly, is the piercing, unavoidable cold known only in select corners of our often-temperate country. The sort in which you dare not chatter teeth for fear the impact will splinter your taut, frozen cheeks. Another, waiting in great hurry for your bus, long past the time you are expected at work. Watching bus after bus pass in the opposite direction and wondering what your eighty-dollar Metro Card, what your thousands in taxes have bought.

So, it is understandable if, experiencing both these aggravations, Kenny was not quite himself when finally he boarded the cross-town earlier that morning. And if mistakes were made—and no doubt they were. And if someone must bear the blame—and no doubt that someone is Kenny. Well then, let us remember this: his mindset was colored by forces outside his control. Let us not be too hard on the fellow.

And it was in this sour mood that Kenny found himself in the rear of the bus, staring at his watch and cursing with vile disregard for any who sat near him. Damn this and screw that and other words as well, too distasteful to repeat. And then he saw it. Just a torn corner of notebook paper, some figures scrawled across. Maybe that, but maybe more.

On one side, a possible codename, a location: #108, Henry Clay Middle School. On the other side, something slightly more sinister: 11-21-08 Pop! And today being November the eighteenth, Kenny knew: if he intended to intervene, the road to valiance ever-narrowed.

* * *

So let us jump ahead. Now, twenty-four hours removed from that vexing bus ride. A sleepless night past his ill-fated decision. Now, Kenny sits in the administrative office of HCMS. His ass half stuck in the misshapen groove of a couch where many a sick child has awaited the nurse. He pled his case, delivered the single damning clue to Mrs. Feldworth, the principle. All to do now is wait. Wait, he assumes, to be declared a hero.

But then this, Mrs. Feldworth returns and with a curl of the forefinger, beckons Kenny follow. A sucker for authority, he obliges and finds himself in a nearly desolate hallway—it is, after all, smack in the middle of third period. Nearly desolate, except for Mrs. Feldworth and a freckled boy of about twelve.

“Michael, please demonstrate to our visitor the meaning of your note,” this being Mrs. Feldworth. And his face flushed so red his freckles almost vanish, the boy walks to a dented locker. On its door a plaque reads 108. The kid twists a combination lock right until it aligns with the number eleven. Left to number twenty-one. Right again to eight. Then, pop! And the locker swings open. “Thank you Michael. Please return to the computer lab.” And red as Michael’s face had been, Kenny surely beat it. But such is the road to hell, they say.

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