Time—-A Mort Laitner Short Story
The Blue Lagoon Restaurant
I stared at the sun’s reflection on the lagoon’s brackish surface as two fried eggs rested on my plate next to three slices of wiggly bacon. On a separate plate, wheat bread, soft and warm, needed a little more toaster time to convert into toast. My golden hash browns were cooked to perfection on the outside, but as I forked through the upper crust raw potato appeared. The cook fried, flipped and forgot to chop. He needed to spend a little more prep time with my order.
As I brought the first fork full of eggs to my mouth, I tried not to inhale the rich nutrient odor emanating from the lagoon. I looked over at my breakfast companion who downed his OJ before my meal had even arrived.
I ate my meal and did not complain as I was completely engrossed in the inspector’s tale.
“Today I’m a Health Department swimming pool and restaurant inspector, but once I wrote books.” Carlos said. He wore a white Guevara, tan Dockers and a relaxed tan on his fiftyish face. Draped around his neck was a silver coin with the Andes Mountains engraved on it. Carlos’ face was etched with spider-lines, indicating a life filled with troubles, but now softened with age and freedom.
He talked about being a writer in Peru. The novels he had read, his love for his country of birth and his old profession.
His written words held power and displeased certain government officials. So much so that one day, two men dressed in dark suits knocked on his door. When Carlos opened his portal, he heard, “Mr. Big-Shot writer, you have three choices, leave Peru, go to jail or you may fall off the roof of your apartment house.” Carlos did not say a word. He did not ask for identification. He had heard the stories about those that did. Fear froze his body as well as his tongue. A bitter taste ran across his gums. He observed the gun shaped bulges outlining these hoodlums’ jacket pockets. He quickly decided on the first option and sought asylum in the States.
I joked, “Sounds like you made the right choice.”
He smiled and stated, “I really had no choice. I didn’t know how much time I had to leave the country, so I feared every second until the plane lifted off. Enough about me, tell me some of your stories.”
I regaled Carlos for a half hour with my Health Department stories.
Carlos looked over at the lagoon, his mind awash in memories of Peru, “You have many great stories. You should write and publish.”
“Sure one day when I have the time.” I replied.
The Knight Center Auditorium
I sat in the darkened auditorium glued to my seat. The University Of Miami School Of Medicine invited me to attend a lecture given by a Harvard doctor/writer/storyteller. This multi-talented man wore an expensive Italian cut suit and an Ivy League smile. His self-assured body language overpowered the audience. The physician spoke about his experiences. I still remember one of his stories about young physicians over treating and over medicating their patients. These young interns inadvertently violated their Hippocratic Oath by causing harm. Their intentions were good but their recommendations lethal.
These hospital stories enthralled me. Mini ER vignettes filled with medical drama given in healthy doses from an eyewitness who cared. These tales brimmed with pain, life-threatening diseases, and death.
As the speaker concluded his speech he said, “My book makes an excellent holiday gift for those meaningful people in your lives, for those who practice in the field of the healing arts as well as the patient in all of us.”
He plugged the book so well that I bought one. As I reached the front of the meet-and-greet line, I asked, “Doc, would you mind autographing your book to Jack, he’s my father-in-law? He practiced dermatology for sixty years.”
“Of course I will. He deserves my book after all those years of practice.” He replied.
The Harvard grad wrote, “Jack, Congratulations on an outstanding career in medicine. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement. Be happy and stay healthy.”
“Doc, thanks for the kind words. One day when I get the time, I’m going to copy your idea and write a book filled with health department stories.”
“Go for it. You’ll find it a rewarding experience.”
As I sat back in my cushioned seat, holding my new acquisition, I pondered. Had anyone ever published a health department story book? Our stories also dealt with life-threatening diseases, pain and sometimes death. I remembered my ten-year-old promise to Carlos. I thought one day I’ll do the research. Maybe I’ll write that book and go around the country making speeches. I sighed, when I have the time.
I jumped out of the cab and froze. I realized where I now stood. This was the spot where a crazed John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley’s bullet missed the President’s heart by one inch but pierced his left lung. I pictured the President’s head being cradled in the arms of a secret service agent as his Caddy limo pulled away from the hotel and sped to the hospital. The President’s press secretary, James Brady, was less fortunate. He took a slug to the head. That projectile forever changed Brady’s life.
I looked on the hotel’s marble walls for a commemorative plaque about this tragedy. I found none.
As I entered the Hilton, I thought about how a single event can change a life.
I walked into the Hilton’s cavernous conference room to listen to Andy Goodman, a communication consultant and trainer. Goodman authored, Storytelling as Best Practice, a thirty-six page booklet on how stories strengthen organizations. On the table in front of my seat sat my copy.
I held my copy on my lap and stared at it. I picked it up and shuffled through the thirty-six pages. Eureka! The thought ran through my brain.
I could write this!
My breakfast today consists of one egg, two strips of bacon, wheat toast and coffee. I’ve given up gambling on hash browns. As I eat, I realize that with the help of my team, we accomplished my goal. Healthy Stories thrives. I kept my promise to Carlos. The Harvard doctor was right. After twenty-one years I finally found the time.
Life lesson learned: During our lives seeds are thrown at us by many people and in many different places, some stick, while others fall to the ground. Some seeds take long periods of time to germinate while others need to sprout in a sequential order. The toughest part is deciding which seeds to catch, fertilize, water and give sunlight to. Your choice may blossom into the sweetest fruit or if left neglected remain an unfulfilled dream.