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Byron Edgington

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Short Stories
· Paper or Plastic

· The 60s plus 50

· Final Sky, Chapter 5

· Bui Doi (The dust of life)

· The Messenger

· Final Sky, sample chapters

· The Predator

· The Walls Come a'Tumblin'

· Baggage

· Fortune and Men's Eyes


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· Silent Sky: From 9/11/202

· $1,000 for 1,000 words

· I didn't crash till I quit flying


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Blogs by Byron Edgington

Off Ramp: Weekly Short for 12/01/2014
12/6/2014 7:54:13 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

A modern Scrooge story, with a satisfying ending.
Off Ramp

By


Byron Edgington



Charles Stanton clipped the seat belt with a satisfying thunk, careful not to snag his Countess Mara tie. He pulled the door shut with a pleasing whump, and silence enveloped him in the plush interior of the E400 Mercedes. “Love this German engineering. Eco-friendly, too, Janet. See, I’m doing my part.” With three taps on the keypad the engine turned, then hummed, and the tach rose to exactly 800, the only indication the vehicle had started. He mashed the radio button on the steering wheel, the Blaupunkt touch-screen combination radio/DVD/Bluetooth unit bloomed and the stock report crawled across its LCD screen. “….Berkshire Hathaway ever been this high? Some enticement, Mister Klein. Five shares, man…” Stanton savored the feeling of triumph when Simon Klein had offered him the prized stock so he’d turn down Humber, Bergman’s offer. Stanton slid the shift into reverse and backed out, careful not to ding Janet’s Land-Rover, and flipped on his Gucci sunglasses. With another tap at the steering wheel, the double door on the garage rumbled down. It was eight-sixteen. He angled out of the drive, slipped down Fox Hill Road and stared at the rearview to make sure the garage door had closed. A stab of anger shot through him when he saw the upstairs curtain whisk shut. “C’mon, Brandon, shape up…”
Stanton drove the same route every day—down Fox Hill, slight left at Merriwell, half mile to the light, a quick left to the 315 on-ramp, then six miles to the Kinnear exit. At eight-twenty-two he left the freeway, coasting to the light at the bottom of the off ramp. As always, the scraggly fellow with his cardboard sign was already standing there. Two feet on a side, the cardboard poster bore black magic marker, “Homeless: Plz Help. God Bles.” Watching the beggar’s every move, Stanton slowed the Benz to a crawl on the off ramp, trying to wait out the light, ignoring the honking Jaguar behind him. It didn’t work; the signal stayed red. “Damn.” The street person sidled over, standing right outside his door. “Not too close, buddy…sixty-grand sitting here.” The rough, bearded guy seemed to own this particular corner. Wearing his tattered Army surplus fatigue jacket and greasy Red Sox baseball cap, he fixed Stanton with red-rimmed eyes and raised his hand-lettered sign a bit higher. Stanton shook his head, no. The man lowered the sign. Then his hand came up, he did a crude sign of the cross gesture in Stanton’s direction and slogged to the Jaguar behind. Charles suppressed a grin. “Ought’a have a Visa swipe on your iPad,” he whispered, his fingers tapping for the light to change. “Let people charge, buddy, and they’ll give more.” Guilty glee shivered through him at the idea, and he thought of Brandon for some reason. “Come down here to the off ramp, Brandon, and see what can happen. I taught you better, shape up! Flunking geometry? Seriously? Hanging out with that low class Russell kid… Taught you better. Shape up.”
The light changed. Charles exhaled, looked for opposing traffic and steered the big Benz down Kinnear. He eased into undergound parking at the tower and angled into his space. ‘Reserved: Charles J. Stanton esq.’ Stepping from the Mercedes, he grabbed his attache’ case, slipped into his Balani suit jacket and straightened his tie. He eased into the elevator. The door snapped shut with a satisfying thud, the car hummed upward to eighteen, and he stepped off.

Since making partner at Feeney, Klein and Doran three years ago, Stanton had risen through the ranks. Last Christmas his boss, old man Klein had slapped his back at the office party and yelled for quiet. “…an announcement to make,” Klein said, left hand resting on Stanton’s shoulder, right hand raising his champagne flute. “Mister Stanton will be relocating, come January. Charles, we’re moving you into Doran’s office. Rest his soul, Blake would prefer you there rather than have that corner office sit unused.”
Janet’s eyes were moist, from the Chivas or the news of his promotion, he wasn’t sure. His wife seemed distant these days for some reason. Wary almost, especially at his long hours and dismissal of her concerns. She took another drink of scotch. “Charles, that’s wonderful! Wait till Brandon hears…”
“Brandon needs to shape…” Stanton flushed, from shame for his oldest son’s feckless behavior, the Moet or from his gratitude at Simon Klein’s gesture, he couldn’t be sure. He sipped his champagne. “Uh…my god, Simon…I don’t know what to…thank you so much…thank you…”
“Not at all, Charles, thank you…for your exemplary service to the firm.” Klein turned to the gaggle of secretaries, temps, paralegals and clerks, sixty people milling around the large conference room. “A toast,” he said. “To the memory of Blake
Doran, and to Charles Stanton, his heir apparent.”
Sixty glasses rose at once, amidst shouts of ‘here-here,’ and ‘yes!’ and ‘good work, Charlie!’
Stanton swiped at a tear and smiled at Simon Klein, the fellow who’d been like a father to him since his hiring. “Thank, you, Mister…”
“Call me Simon, Charles. Enough of this formality. You’re a partner now, and you’ve got the corner office to prove it.”
“Thank you…Simon, I’ll do my best to deserve it.”
Klein walked away, and Stanton swept the room. There was Donna Kincade, the newest attorney, Stanford Law oh-thirteen and assigned to corporate. Justin Lansford, Yale Law class of oh-twelve, and rumored to have been Skull and Bones, headed for patents and intellectual property. His personal secretary, Kelly Wilkins leaned against the wall where the bartender poured champagne and an assortment of hard liquors. Kelly laughed at something the newest clerk had said, that Craig Holliman character, the one who’d stared into the coat closet just as he and Kelly… She put her drink down and clapped at something Holliman had told her. Holliman did an obsequious bow. Kelly toasted him, and the two chinked glasses. Then Kelly drained her champagne, put it down and clapped again. Holliman grinned from ear to ear.
Stanton seethed, from the look of Holliman in blue jeans and a day-old beard, and the way he leaned into Kelly..? “Back off, buster.” He swept the room for Janet and saw her holding onto Simon Klein’s elbow, smiling, head nodding at something Libby Klein had said. He looked back for Kelly. “Gotta cut that off…Nice girl, sweet, great body…but what an expensive… I’ll tell her Monday. If Janet ever…give her up, Stanton. What the hell are you doing?”
“Hey, Mister Stanton. Happy Holidays!” Craig Holliman pushed through the crowd, saluting with his tumbler. “….and congratulations!”
Stanton bristled. “Uh…thanks, Craig. Same to you. Look, I have to…”
“That Brandon sure is a cool kid.”
“Brandon..?”
“Yeah, he knows where to score the best weed. Don’t know where he finds that stuff. Man, that’s some high quality shit.”
Stanton’s back chilled. He stared at Craig Holliman. “You know Brandon..? What are you talking about?”
Holliman eyed Charles over the rim of his whiskey glass. An evil grin spread across his face. “Best shit I ever smoked, Charlie. Be a damn shame if anyone found out Brandon was…”
“Look, Craig…I have to be going…Janet, my wife needs to get home early, get ready for family tomorrow and…”
“Damn shame,” Holliman said again. “Sure is good shit. He must get it from…I don’t know, maybe California?”
Stanton froze. Brandon had returned from San Diego two days before. A job opportunity, he’d said. An IT slot, at a tech startup. “Get you off my back, dad,” he’d said. “Get something for myself if I’m giving college up, right dad? That’s what you said, right?” Stanton tried to drink as casually as he knew how. “How do you know Brandon?”
“Everyone knows Brandon.” Holliman chuckled. “Everyone who wants good shit, anyway.” Holliman’s head wiggled, indicating a corner, the same corner where he and Kelly had shared their joke, and whatever all the applauding and bowing had been about. “Charlie, you’re the big deal maker, right? Guy with the corner office, right?”
Stanton’s back swarmed with moisture. He thought of Brandon’s announcement that he was quitting Ohio State; his trip to California. He’d holed up in his room for the past six months, emerging for the occasional meal or to leave, often for days at a time. He thought of Brandon wheeling into the drive with that almost new Lexus, and his cockamamie story: “A friend let me borrow it for a couple of days, dad, lighten up, no big deal.” He’d kept the car for three months. Stanton saw these so called friends pulling up in front of the house on Fox Hill Road at ten, twelve P.M., even at two or three in the morning, then staying fifteen minutes and leaving in their Escalades, and Mercedes RVs. “….old man’s rich, like you, dad. Nothing wrong with giving your kid a new car, right? Even if you never would, right?”
Holliman nodded toward the corner again. “Quite the cool kid, that Brandon. I hear his old man’s loaded…”
Stanton joined Holliman in the corner, away from the crowd. His heart slammed. Hand quaking, he nearly spilled his champagne. “Look, Holliman, my son is…”
“A felon, Mister Stanton. You know the law better than I do, but if the police find out about this…”
“I do know the law, Holliman, and this is called blackmail.”
“Come now, Charlie, have I suggested..?”
“….have security drop by and escort you off…”
“My, that escalated quickly. Now you’re threatening my job? I never said…”
“You implied some kind of quid pro quo, Holliman, and I know exactly...”
“What kind of trouble this will cause for Feeney, Klein? That their newest partner’s son is a felon? That they didn’t vet Charlie Stanton well enough before…”
“You son of a bitch, I’ll…”
“What, Charlie? Call security and escort me off?” Holliman closed the gap between them. “Mister Klein knows his firm’s legal obligations, Charlie, and if high-dollar clients find out your son’s a felon? Can you say major lawsuit? A lot of those clients’d run like rabbits if this got out…”
“You’re bluffing, Holliman. Go ahead, tell Simon Klein, see who he believes.” Stanton walked away.
Before he went three paces, Holliman drained his drink and sneered. “And what about the fetching Ms Kelly?”
Stanton wheeled around, his eyes brimming with rage. “Leave her out of this, Holliman, or so help me god, I’ll…”
“Tell Janet? Is that what you’ll do? You think I didn’t see you last Thursday afternoon, oh, say five-thirty, when you left the Travelodge on Olentangy and Kelly slipped out five minutes later? Room three-eighteen? Think I didn’t see you scan the parking lot, then climb into that big Benz of yours, and steer toward the on ramp? That’s an E-class, isn’t it? Don’t those babies run about sixty-grand?”
Stanton stared daggers at Craig Holliman. “What do you want?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“Try me.”
“….be mighty surprised.”

Charles Stanton snapped his seat belt closed with a satisfying thunk, careful not to snag his Countess Mara tie. He tapped the Blaupunkt on, stared half-heartedly at the stock crawl along the bottom of the LCD screen and eased from the garage. Swinging onto Fox Hill Road he studied the rearview. The upper drape stayed shut. Of course it did. Brandon had left for school in California a month ago. “Computer science major, pop, since I seem to be so good at creating apps.” Charlie grinned at his son’s shaping up, despite it costing him a full share of Berkshire Hathaway. “OffRamp dot com,” Charles whispered. “Crowdsourcing funds for the homeless. Love that boy’s ambition.”
He took the same route he always did, away from the house on Fox Hill, slight left at Merriwell, half mile to the light then a quick left onto 315’s on-ramp, and six miles to the Kinnear exit. Like he had for the last several weeks, Stanton tried to catch the red light. He coasted down the off ramp, allowing other drivers to reach the signal first. And it worked. “Just like that!” He pulled the big Benz in behind a Pontiac, a blue Toyota, a beat up Ford pickup. Just as he had for several weeks he tapped the button, zipped the window down on the driver’s side of the E400. Another button tap and the radio muted.
Harry Mason sidled over, careful not to scratch the car door. “Morning, Charlie,” he said. “Another great day to be alive. Been here since six, and things are looking great. How’re Brandon and Janet?”
“Morning, Harry, they’re fine, thanks for asking. I’m glad you’re doing well. How’s that iPad working for you?”
The ragged man opened his fatigue jacket, revealing the nearly new computer with its card swipe mechanism. He grinned, new dentures gleaming in the morning sunlight. “Let’s find out.”
Charlie Stanton esquire, newest partner at Feeney, Klein and Doran took his American Express Platinum card from his wallet. He handed it out the window of his E-class Mercedes to Harry Mason.
Harry took the card and swiped it. “The usual, Charlie?”
“Put a little extra on it for Thanksgiving, Harry.”
“You’re a generous fellow, Charlie, thank you.”
The light changed. Stanton waved, zipped the window up, took his time. Smiling at his good fortune, Charles Stanton ignored the honking Jaguar behind him on the off ramp.


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More Blogs by Byron Edgington
•  Off Ramp: Weekly Short for 12/01/2014 - Saturday, December 06, 2014  
• Weekly Short Story - Saturday, November 15, 2014
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• Audio Review_The Unheralded King - Sunday, October 05, 2014
• Audio Book Reviews - Wednesday, October 01, 2014
• SkyWriting: Essays on the Art and Craft of Aviation - Tuesday, September 16, 2014
• Silent Sky: From 9/11/202 - Thursday, September 11, 2014
• Great stories and a chance to help - Monday, August 25, 2014
• The Sky Behind Me, a Memoir of Flying and Life, $4.95 for Kindle - Saturday, August 23, 2014
• SkyWriting: Essays on the Art and Craft of Aviation - Monday, August 11, 2014
• Book review: There I Wuz - Monday, August 04, 2014
• Lip smacking mystery - Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make AFTER Forty by Tina Tessina

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