If you are familiar with the classic story Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, first published in 1886, then you will have some idea of the two gentlemen you will meet in this story. However, these are not the characters introduced to us by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this is not that story. Now, if you will, sit back and prepare to meet the new Edward Hyde and Henry Jekyll, as their story unfolds anew.
Edward had always been a fighter. He had been big for his age, as well as a little slow of thought, which made him a natural target for both those bigger than him, and for those smaller. The bigger boys would hurt him with their fists, while the smaller ones would use their words to inflict damage. The only way Edward knew how to fight back was with his fists, because he was not very good with words, nor could he come up with insults and taunts the way the other children could. Being the youngest of three boys, and younger than the second by a good number of years, he was a natural target for his brothers. So it was that Edward had to fight at home, as well as at school.
Thus he became a fighter.
Even though he fought only to defend himself, he always managed to be the one to get in trouble. If he was at school, the teachers only seemed to see him throw punches at those smaller than him, and if he was at home, his parents only seemed to see him drawing back on his brothers. It seemed to him that he couldn’t get in trouble if he didn’t have anyone to fight with, so because of this, Edward spent much of his time alone when he could. Edward was a lonely child, and being a bit slow meant that he couldn’t join the other kids in playing games where people didn’t get hit. He tried playing football, but he never could keep the plays straight in his head, and he kept hitting the wrong person. It didn’t take long before he was cut from the team. He longed to be smart enough to learn chess because he liked the way some of the pieces looked, but he was lucky to play checkers, and even with that game he had to be reminded which way his pieces could move. When he tried to learn to play these games, he had so much trouble that the taunts would soon start, and he would end up in a fight. But he never gave up trying. If only he could be just a bit smarter.
Edward grew up, and graduated from high school, barely. He had to be tutored through almost all of his classes, except for gym, and his teachers gave him a few passes when they felt sorry for him. After high school, college was not an option for him, and he got a job at a local garage, doing lube jobs and oil changes. To begin, he had to have another mechanic with him when he did these to make sure he got everything right, but after a time, he got the hang of it. He still wished he was a bit smarter, but he was starting to get into the swing of life. He had even managed to stay out of fights since high school. Well, mostly.
Edward liked a certain diner in town because of the way they cooked their burgers and grilled their buns. They tasted amazing and were just about his favorite food, so he would frequent this diner multiple times a week. A few times he would be sitting at a corner table having lunch when some of the guys he went to school with came in. Whenever they would notice him, they would sit close to him, make snide comments, and try to make him mad. He tried to ignore them, because he knew they were just trying to goad him, but by the time he had managed to finish his meal he would be quite angry. The one time he tried to make them stop, the diner’s manager caught him holding one of the guys by the front of their sweater, and told Edward that if he was caught doing anything like that again, he would not be allowed in the diner. Edward tried to explain, but gave up with a frustrated grunt, dropped the guy, and walked out. He began going to the diner less and less, and when he did go, he got his meals to go. He still liked the burgers, but they just weren’t as good when he had them at home instead of at the diner.
Edward was just finishing up an oil change when he was called into his boss’ office. Edward had never been called into the office before, and it kind of reminded him of being called to the principal’s office. Those were not fond memories. He worried that he was about to be fired. Edward needn’t have worried, because his boss wasn’t going to fire him. In fact, what he got was a type of promotion. At least, that’s how his boss put it. There were a few customers that seemed to have problems squaring their bills, and it became Edwards’s job to see to it that they were reminded of their obligations. Edward wasn’t entirely comfortable with his new job, but was afraid that if he said anything, he would be fired from the garage altogether. The pay was better, and Edward did like that part, so he tried to overlook his feelings of discomfort at his new role of ‘collection agent’.
He was a collection agent for quite a few years, and was really good at it, when he started to realize that he couldn’t remember seeing some of the people’s cars in the garage for work. He asked his boss about this, and the response was to not worry about it. Edward agreed to this, and his pay increased again. Being a man of simple tastes, he was making enough to live off of, and sock the remaining amount away for a rainy day. He didn’t really know what that meant, but it was what his mother had told him to do with any extra money he had as a boy. As a man, he still followed this advice, and was building a rather fine nest-egg, but he wasn’t too good with numbers, so his bank balance never concerned him, just as long as he had lights on in his apartment, food in the fridge, and a working TV to watch when he got home at night he was happy.
Edward had just finished doing a run of the mill collection at the apartment of one of his boss’ ‘customers’ when he was stopped as he was leaving. He was stopped by one of the neighbors of the man that he had just been discussing matters with. The neighbor introduced himself as Dr. James Leeds, or just Leeds for short. Leeds asked why Edward had become a hired thug, and the question caught Edward off guard. But instead of muttering the usual “dunno” and continuing on his way, Edward stopped and gave the question some thought. Leeds could see that Edward was really thinking things over, so he gave him the time to do so. After a few minutes, Edward said that collecting debts was the only real use that anyone had found for him. He said that he wasn’t really smart enough for any other job, and he seemed to be good at it, even though he didn’t really like it.
Leeds thought about this for a minute, and asked Edward if he would like the chance to become smarter. Without knowing it, Leeds had stumbled across Edwards’s one true desire, and Edward answered with a big smile and a vigorous nod. The doctor smiled back, handed Edward a business card that just had an address on it, and asked Edward to meet him there at ten the next morning, and that he should skip breakfast beforehand. Edward agreed immediately. Edward slid the card in his pocket and went back to deliver the money that was due to his boss.
© Copyright 2016 CharlesLeeMcCabe. All rights reserved.
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