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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Judith Robinson, a recent grad from UC Berkeley, is off to her first assignment as a Mentor. She is young and black, her Mentee is old and white.
But he has requested her. He has Alzheimers Early Stage.
Judith must confront all these problems and deal with them. More problems quickly arise.

Submitted: July 05, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 05, 2017





A Short Story in Chapters

 Nicholas Cochran

Chapter One


Judith Robinson was frightened. In fact, she was terrified. Today was her first visit to James Gardner. Mr. Gardner was  a retired bank vice president who, for over fifty years of his long life, served his employers, the First Bank of California, with honor and distinction, rising from office boy to teller, then to senior management, and finally, vice president. He retired almost ten years ago. 

Doctors on various levels recently diagnosed Mr. Gardner with Alzheimer’s, categorized as Early Stage. Mr. Gardner insisted on living at home, despite his diagnosis. His wife, Charlotte had died a year ago. None of his six children was available to move in and help him with his struggle.

The Precinct Captain, following a majority vote of the precinct dwellers, chose Judith Robinson to be Mr. Gardner’s Mentor.

Mr.Gardner was white. Judith Robinson was black.

The idea for the Mentor Program seized Judith’s imagination from the outset.

Heath Ledger had been her favorite actor. His death from a drug overdose unsettled Judith, who was only twelve at the time. All she could think of, talk about—mutter, was “what a waste.”

With the death of Ledger, Judith decided to investigate how many other actors—male and female—had died of drug overdoses. Death by drugs expanded to suicides. Then came gunshot deaths.

Eventually, Judith was faced with the stark realization that over ten thousand celebrities had died of unnatural causes since the beginning of recordkeeping. When she expanded her demographics to included regular citizens of the United Sates, the figures quickly rose into the hundreds of thousands. 

Judith and her friend Margo Lane decided to conduct a survey, by asking people door to door in a dozen precincts what they thought could be done to eliminate these senseless deaths. Were they preventable?

Despite their initial skepticism, both Margo and Judith were stunned to find that ninety-eight percent of those questioned said that the dead people needed someone around to keep them straight, to talk to, to try and get them to quit drugs or booze or aimless lives.

Judith was finishing her second year at Cal Berkeley when their survey was conducted. Margo, a white woman for Piedmont, was in her third year. Oddly, Margo had been mentoring Judithwith her studies, particularly her problem in translating her black background along with its speech pattern into line with the universal language of education, science, law and government. Judith was studying all of these subjects with the goal of attending law school after finishing her B.A.

Margo was on the same track to study the law and after a couple of encounters, the two women found commonality and discovered that they shared innumerable likes and dislikes in everything from literature to movies to men. They became best friends and as a result of their close friendship, the topic of dead celebrities eased into their conversations whenever a particular movie featuring an overdosed actor was up to bat for discussion.

Following the astonishing results of their canvassing, Judith and Margo advertised for volunteers to help them analyze and expand the results of their survey.

Adam Chastain was the first to call, followed by over a hundred more. Adam was a tall, lean, scholarly–looking twenty in his last year of Political Science. He was also an avid film buff. His interest in the survey stemmed from the same questions that Margo and Judith had asked themselves on the initial occasion of their discovery of the needless death of a celebrity.

Of course, the next day they were asking parents and extended family, as well as friends, about people they had known who would still be alive if they had only been lucky enough to have someone around to help them avoid a death situation.

To their surprise, both women, as well as Adam, received answers almost identical to those given to them by the people they surveyed in the twelve precincts.

In addition, scores of people they talked with said that there were any number of non life-threatening situations where it would have been good to have someone around who they trusted who could counsel them—even just talk to them.

Along with the thousands of examples of people in need of help and counseling came letters, forms, applications, and histories of the innumerable organizations, societies, and foundations which already exist to help and succor those in need of mental, emotional, and directional care and counsel.

Life coaches, personal coaches, AARP’s Mentor Up, Steph Curry’s CoachUp, Fraternity help lines, and over fifty million care givers who, every day, around the clock, care for another person on a personal and often intimate basis—these were among the tons of mail that came to Judith, Margo, and Adam.

From all these recorded experiences and information, Adam suggested putting it all together in some sort of blog to canvas the internet about other ideas similar to those suggested by the hundreds of people who were already on record with their opinions as well as their suggestions. 

Over the next two years, Judith, Margo, and Adam conducted several more surveys, this time in precincts of the poor and disadvantaged, as well as in other states.

During the two summers, the three of them and their significant others of the moment, rode the rails and buses to seven states throughout the Midwest and the Deep South.

 They contacted precinct captains and assured them that their purpose was absolutely not political. They simply wanted to get ideas for how to help other people deal with the cruelty of life. This got the attention of most of the captains and the others clearly did not care. The three friends, with help from their squeezes, charged ahead and completed their surveys.

Back at Cal, in the autumn of each year, the three—plus hundreds of volunteers—sifted, analyzed, collated, discussed, eliminated, expanded, and generally rehashed all the information they had gathered over the year, with the thought of formulating some device to address all the ideas and concerns provided by every stratum of society in all the precincts where the three had canvassed.

Adam pressed his government professor to learn about what areas of the country—and in which states and precincts--could be canvassed to produce a predictable standard for the rest of the country as far as what the people questioned in those precincts would say were they to be asked about the same matters as those who were physically surveyed.

This template was applied, and after the third year, the three friends had more than enough solid information and opinions to formulate a plan to deal with the problems raised by life in theseUnited States.

Out of the forge holding all this information, was created the Mentor Program, totally unallied with any government plan or in fact, anything governmental in any way.

This was not another Federal Program. The three founders went to extraordinary lengths to emphasize that their program was absolutely unconnected—in any way—with any government, federal, state, or local entity. It was instead, a program of the people, by the people, for the people. 

Everyone laughed at the familiar ring to that phrase.

Nevertheless, there, it was. In fact, absolutely true. There was no government money, no government oversight, no government rules, no government presence of any kind.

When people were told about this aspect of the Mentor Program they were ecstatic. Most, immediately wanted to join, to fund, to contribute ideas, to be involved.

Judith was particularly struck by the response in the African American community. She had thought from the beginning, that black people would immediately view this new program as yet another white front to advance the Caucasians while the blacks languished in neutral.

When they discovered that there was no enrichment involved of any kind other than the enrichment of soul experienced by those who gave as well as those who received, the support exploded in numbers such that it was necessary to begin organizing the administration hierarchy of the program even before it started. The opportunities as well as the demands for mentoring were rising exponentially.

Finally, several experienced program developers and administrators became intrigued with the concept and began to devote several hours a week to attending meetings as well as offering advice and counsel.

Today, as Judith Robinson’s knees were knocking while she thought of her first Mentor assignment, over ninety-two percent of all citizens over fifteen and under eighty-five were involved in the Program and over half of the citizens over eighty-five had volunteered to serve under the Program, a fact which first year statistics later revealed, had kept that particular segment of the population in both better spirits and better health.

Over ninety-two percent of the citizens of the country had radiated to the mentor centers in the fifty states and begun to work out the details of helping, advising, and counseling tens of millions of men, women, and children.

End of Chapter One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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