View From Heaven

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 17 (v.1) - Chapter 16

Submitted: March 31, 2008

Reads: 163

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Submitted: March 31, 2008

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Chapter 16

When he was only thirteen years old, Landon Chemeck resolved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was going to become an engineer. After spending countless years sitting in his father’s auto repair shop, watching his real life superhero using his skilled hands to meticulously piece back together the complex machines which worked together to make a car run, it was understandable that he garnered bountiful inspiration to follow in those footsteps.

However Landon’s dream went far beyond this. While he was fascinated with the way his father could tweak one solitary knob and bring a dead, lifeless automobile back to life, the boy was most drawn into the guts of the machines—their conception, their creation. How could a human being take a piece of metal and some wire and, as simple as it was for Landon to piece together Tinker Toys in his childhood, give it motion, life, and enough energy to launch a five million pound rocket ship into space? He believed if he could do such a thing, he would possess the greatest power known to man.

So, barely into puberty, Landon devoted his life to the study of mechanical engineering. He began looking at colleges which offered the course of study; he began reading books on kinematics and thermodynamics even though he could barely comprehend a word of them; he signed up for all the most advanced science and math courses at his high school knowing that every little step he took forward would help ensure that his dreams came to light; he spent his afternoons at his father’s shop taking apart and putting back together old engines, carburetors and superchargers.

Things did not exactly come to fruition as he had once intended, however. Landon had never been particularly superior in the academic realm. He spurted quickly to a strapping six foot two and suddenly he understood his hands were much more useful for other things such as throwing footballs and holding beer cans. The straight C’s he scored at the end of his junior year sealed his fate, and what had once been his life goal would now forever just be a dream.

Then there was a girl named Cecily Manning he met in his Freshman Algebra class whom he spent the first semester of high school trying to charm the homework answers out of. She was a lanky girl with braces; shy, quiet, and unassuming.

The most curious thing about Cecily was that every time Landon saw her she was writing. During class, in the halls, in the lunch room; he was nearly convinced that that cheesy liquid pen with the microscopic boat floating back and forth inside it was an appendage of her body. Her eyes were trained perpetually downward into the pages of a red leather bound journal as she scribbled furiously with little regard for the world around her.

Landon merely observed this ritual with amused interest until one day in study hall Cecily decided she was fed up with always feeding the jock the math answers for nothing in return, only looking up from her notebook long enough to shake her head quickly in refusal when he pleaded. Desperate to improve his grade from the previous test he had flunked, Landon had lashed out in anger.

“What the hell are you always writing in that damn thing anyways?” he barked in an undercutting tone. “Got some imaginary friend you’re talking to or something?”

Cecily had shot her head in his direction with only a mildly agitated look.

“This is called a diary, and some people like to write their thoughts and feelings in it.” Returning to the page she’d been working on, “However, since you don’t seem to possess any genuine thoughts, and…I doubt you can write anything beyond the six letters in your name, I guess it’s not worth explaining to you.”

There had been a tension filled silence in which neither said a word, but all at once they both caved into laughter, and from that moment forth they shared a unique and tight bond that neither of their respective friends could quite understand. Theirs violated the cruel social rules of the high school domain, but they seemed all the closer for it.

Landon was the first person outside Cecily’s family to whom she divulged the deep, dark secrets of her past. Barely into her teenage years, the young girl had seen more hardship than a person should ever have to face in an entire life time. As dreadful and horrifying as her tale was, Landon was honored that she felt secure enough in his confidence to share it.

He could still remember the first day of junior year when he saw Cecily for the first time after three months of summer and realized, all at once, that she was no longer Cecily: Academic Savior. Gone were the chunky braces, the big metal glasses, the scraggly locks of stringy hair. In their place was a beautiful, sophisticated woman, with goddess-like curves, and a soft, unblemished face with large brown eyes full of life. He was utterly smitten with her as if seeing her for the first time.

He could find no way to act upon his feelings, however. For one, they had spent the last two years of their lives simply as friends—as platonic as relationships came. To profess his love could be potentially disastrous and an embarrassment.

Then, there was the plain fact that Lane Tech’s star quarterback had no clue when it came to wooing the soon-to-be salutatorian of his graduating class. Landon need only flash his pearly whites or flex a well-toned bicep at the cheerleading squad and he had ten blondes with double-D breasts at his beckoning call. He had no finesse when it came to a woman with brains—a girl of any substance.

Most importantly, he did not want to ruin one smidgeon of what he had built with Cecily. Sure, it was only a friendship, but it went so far beyond. The truth was that Cecily made Landon feel better about himself—infinitely more than anyone else in his life ever could. Somehow, when he was with her, he found the good within himself. It didn’t matter that he would never go on to invent the world’s first flying car or win the Nobel Prize in physics. He would make his way in the world just as he was. Cecily, in her wisdom—or maybe just in the way she touched his arm as they talked, or laughed extremely hard at his jokes—showed him that.

So, when their high school bubble burst and Landon and Cecily were unleashed onto the streets of reality, he knew he had to hold on with all his might to save one ounce of the pure joy she injected into his life. It was not always an easy task. Life often pulled him in the complete opposite direction he had hoped. He worked forty hours a week to support himself and he drank extra hard on the weekends to maintain his sanity; and he found he still maintained his charm with busty, bubbly blondes all over the greater Chicagoland area.

When things became gloomy and he felt himself reaching a dead end, however, Landon always knew this meant he needed Cecily. He likened it to the routine steering wheel alignments he performed on dozens of cars each week. Just a few tweaks from Cecily and he was on the straight and narrow again. Somehow she was always waiting for him, patient and understanding. Then, all at once, after ten years of friendship, the winds had unexpectedly changed and he discovered that everything he had done simply to preserve what he held so dear was erroneous; he was a failure once more.

Good intentions, Landon thought to himself while sipping on a beer at a small pub, watching the Bulls get walloped by the Orlando Magic. Good intentions. That was the summation of his life thus far. Landon had only ever wanted to succeed at something and maybe find some love in this world. He had never intentionally tried to hurt anyone—at least not viciously. It just seemed that whatever he put his mind to, that he was inevitably sidetracked by some invisible demon that disallowed him any real prolonged happiness or satisfaction. He wasn’t sure if he believed in fate, but when it came to this…

The sound of glass breaking arrested Landon’s deep introspection.

“You pathetic son-of-a-bitch!” came the gruff voice of the bar’s owner. “I’m not gonna tell you again. Get out of my bar, ya fucking lowlife!”

Landon snapped his head in the direction of the commotion to find the rather fat and balding middle aged man holding a younger man tightly by the collar; his head lolling about behind him with the occasional joggles the bartender delivered him as an attempt to snap him into consciousness. Landon chuckled under his breath at the scene. The guy was so blitzed he was struggling just to keep his ass on his seat so as not to follow the drink he had just let smash onto the floor.

It was just as the bartender raised a large fist over his head to deliver the knock out punch, recognition dawned on Landon.

“Wait!” he called out dashing across the bar and accosting the potentially damaging blow moments before it was dealt into the side of Ben Manning’s face. “God dammit, Ben!” Landon hollered dragging him the rest of the way off his bar stool and feigning drunkenness himself (because who the hell in his right mind would be responsible for this train wreck?). “I told you to lay off the gee-n-tees! Now, let’s get the hell out of here, dumbass!”

Ben struggled weakly against the arm wrapped securely around his neck and attempted a few muddled profanitiesas the two made their way out of the crowded bar, the owner looking after them in a mix of confusion and anger.

“Ben, Ben! Chill out!” Landon yelled as they burst into the icy parking lot. He spun Cecily’s brother around and grabbed his face shaking it a few times to force his swimming eyes into focus. “It’s me, Landon.”

Ben seemed to fight through his bungled senses to comprehend the situation. For a moment he was staring straight into Landon’s eyes and appeared ready to utter something, when all at once the color escaped his face and his body doubled over uncontrollably. He missed vomiting all over Landon’s shoes by inches.

Landon turned his head away in disgust from the pathetic sight wondering how it was he had managed two such unpleasant encounters with a Manning in one day.

It was minutes before Ben’s body was finished rejecting the poison which had inundated it.

“Dude, how much have you had exactly? How many drinks?” Landon inquired, contemplating whether or not to just call an ambulance right away.

“Y’ mean b’fore or after I got to th’ bar?” Ben managed from his half-prostrate position, still spitting out bile onto the ground. It seemed that relieving his stomach of its contents had provided him some clarity.

Landon rolled his eyes at the utter absurdity of it all. This was what Cecily put up with on a weekly basis. It was like caring for a child.

“Well, whatever. I’d say it’s about time to call it quits. Let me drive you home.”

“I haven’t closed m’fucking tab yet,” Ben objected loudly, stumbling aimlessly around the parking lot like a crazed blind man.

“You still live near California Street?” Landon ignored the last comment and nudged the extremely drunk man in the direction of his car.

“Maybe. Guess’ll find out when I get there.”

Landon was confused by this statement but did not bother to ask for clarification. He was much more focused on distracting the already befuddled Ben so he would willingly get into his car.

“Come on, man. I’ll buy you a beer myself somewhere else. Let’s just get out of this place.”

This seemed to be enough coaxing to convince Ben. He fumbled for the door handle on Landon’s Honda and practically tumbled into the passenger’s seat.

The first several blocks of the long journey back was passed in awkward silence. The lingering smell of stale alcohol nearly made Landon gag. Ben sat with his head draped on his chest, though his eyes remained open, staring at nothing in particular. He appeared so pathetic, so miserable—the shadow of a person who once burst with potential. Landon could remember, only faintly now, the little boy of eleven he first met whose wisdom and intelligence spanned far beyond his years. Landon wondered silently how one could be led so far astray.

“Why the hell do you do this to yourself?” he finally found himself asking aloud. At first there was no reply, and for a moment Landon figured Ben’s conscious state had finally succumbed to the alcohol. He felt the need to continue, regardless. Suddenly he was channeling all of his frustrations over Cecily through Ben, and he just needed to talk to them out somehow—to someone.

“I mean, maybe it’s a pointless question…You were a straight-A student in school, you had a good head on your shoulders. You had…you have a family that loves you deeply, and you pushed it all away, denied it like none of it ever existed in the first place. Everything is right there on your plate, and somehow you fail to see it. It makes no sense.”

“Well,” Landon was surprised by Ben’s entrance into the conversation after several moments. “Y’see, Landon. I’ve giv’n life a shot few times in my life, ‘n’ each time I’ve been fucked for it. This just comes so much easier, y’ know.”

“That’s a pretty poor excuse,” Landon retorted. “We all have obstacles in our lives that make them less than easy. I know your life has been a lot worse than others’, but I don’t think it’s any excuse to completely shut down and stop caring just because it’s the easier way out. Overcoming all this…this shit, is what it’s all about.”

“Getting over th’ fact that your dad beat his wife ‘n’ kids for ten years then drove himself into a cement wall t’ end his life ‘n’ try to kill the rest of his family?” Ben managed slowly, stumbling through his words. “That’s what life’s all about?” Throwing his arms clumsily into the air, “Well, shit, I had no idea.”

Landon grimaced. He knew he was reasoning with a drunken man, but the guy had a point he simply could not refute.

“Listen, I’m not saying that given your situation I would have come out the other end a superhero. It’s never going to be okay. But you’re acting as if, at twenty-one years old, you’re at the end of your rope, and using it as an excuse for acting a complete fool.” The look of almost physical pain on Cecily’s face as she explained her tumultuous relationship with her brother hung like a vapor in front of his mind’s eye. “Meanwhile, you’re hurting the exact people who should be your ticket out of all of this.”

Ben was silent but his breathing had quickened some. Landon’s words were angering him, but at least he understood he was getting through.

“I don’t know you all that well, so who am I to pass judgment on your life? But maybe as an outsider I have the best vantage point; I can see everything you can’t. All I’m asking is that you stop for maybe one minute to think about the damage you’re doing. Stop being such a god damn selfish idiot.”

Ben was breathing heavily through his nose now, his jaw set tightly, his fists clenching and unclenching against his legs. His eyes, though still considerably glazed over, were wide open and wild. He was battling some inner demon Landon could not make out and it was almost frightening.

The car pulled up to a red light and all at once Ben subsided into an uneasy calm. His eyes traveled to a gas station kitty corner from where they sat.

“Thank you, Ghandi, for your inf’nite wisdom. I think I will begin redeeming myself with a pack ‘f smokes. So, if you could kindly drop me off at th’ seven-eleven...”

As if his devastated body objected to this decision, Ben collapsed into a bout of miserable hacking. Landon looked at him sidelong in concern, but when the light flashed green he honored Ben’s request and rolled into the convenience store parking lot.

Truth be told, Ben could do whatever the hell he wanted with his life. It was his after all, and it certainly wasn’t Landon’s job to rescue him. But just the thought of how hurt Cecily would be to see her brother like this was a dagger in his heart. How could he have been so careless to be equally as guilty in her eyes? Here sat two pathetic guys both out of favor with the same woman. Maybe if Ben could better perceive how torturous a punishment it really was, he might be more apt to change his ways.

The car rolled into a space in the empty lot. Ben fumbled for the handle and exited the car wordlessly. Landon followed suit watching the former move unsteadily in a zig-zag fashion towards the entrance to the store. It was right before he reached the door that Ben noticed that Landon was trailing him. He gazed at him with a look of extreme unease and Landon wondered for a moment whether he might be preparing to upchuck all over his pants again.

“What’re you doing?” Ben mumbled, a bit panicked.

“I’m hungry. I thought I’d grab a snack,” Landon replied raising an eyebrow at Ben’s odd behavior. Perhaps he was even drunker than he originally suspected. The younger man stared back at him for several seconds, swaying slightly. He looked as if he might say something, but finally he yanked open the door triggering the bell overhead.

A stern, Middle-Eastern man simply nodded a greeting from behind the counter as they entered. Ben immediately approached him and requested three different brands of cigarettes, lurching over his words as he went. Landon shook his head slightly, wondering how he had ever gotten himself into this mess and perused the candy aisle for something to satisfy his hunger.

“Thirteen-fifty,” the store manager muttered in a thick accent, after several beeps of the register.

He had been such a pansy; a pansy with an arsenal of lame excuses for the fact that he was inept in the romance department. The way he felt about Cecily had never changed and it was about time he stopped tip-toeing about his feelings like an awkward fifteen-year-old.

Thirteen-fifty,” the cashier repeated louder and clearer this time.

He loved her, plain and simple, and he was going to tell her. She may laugh or tell him he was too late. He had not chosen the most opportune of times for this revelation. She was with another man, for crying out loud. Landon may be back in bed with Blonde #105 by tomorrow night. But at least it would be said. It would be said tonight. He would call her. Hell, maybe he’d ruffle some feathers and show up below her window. Whatever the case, it would be resolved as soon as he left this place. He had never been so sure of something in his life.

“THIR-TEEN-FIFTY,” the manager barked at Ben bringing Landon back to earth. “Are you going to pay or not?”

Goddammit, Ben,” he whispered to himself grabbing a Snickers bar off the shelf. Talk about your sloppy drunk. He had probably fallen asleep on his feet.

“For Christ’s sake, Ben, would you give him the damn mon…”

All time came to a standstill when Landon turned to find a handgun pointed directly between the eyes of the manager—frozen in sheer terror with his hands straight in the air. It seemed so ludicrous, so nonsensical, that it was seconds before he processed the gun was actually attached to Ben’s hand. The candy bar dropped helplessly to the ground at Landon’s feet.

“B-Ben…what…what are you doing?” he could barely whisper.

Ben did not reply. His hand shook profusely so that he could not even hold the weapon steady. His whole body was trembling and still he said nothing.

“P…please,” the manager pleaded, tears forming in his eyes as he tried to take a protective step away from Ben but was nailed back in place with a threatening lunge of the gun to within inches of his face.

“Ben. I’ve got the money, Ben. Please just let me pay it. Put…put the gun down.”

Ben jerked his head over his shoulder momentarily towards Landon, his face constricted with pain and indecision. He gasped for air, his shoulders heaving. There were tears in his eyes. Slowly, without lowering the Magnum an inch, he began backing away from the counter. Landon continued to reason with him though he was unsure what was coming out of his mouth. His head felt detached from his body, floating like a balloon a string.

It seemed hours before Ben had regressed all the way to stand even with Landon. His breathing was shallow and labored; his face was a sheet of sickly gray. Beads of perspiration spilled out of every pore. His body emitted a stifling odor of sweat and alcohol. For an instant their eyes met, and Landon could see plain as day the fear and desperation Ben could not mask.

“T-take the gun.” Ben’s voice quivered.

“W-what? Ben. I can’t…”

“Just…take…the gun.”

“You’re not thinking through this, Ben. Let’s…can we talk about…”

“TAKE THE FUCKING GUN!” Ben screamed seizing Landon’s arm, prying at his fingers. Landon twisted his arm vigorously back and forth, working to break free at the weak part of Ben’s grasp, but to no avail. He rammed his other arm against the base of his throat attempting to clothes-line him, but Ben managed to get his hand around Landon’s right wrist and was now attempting to force the handle of the gun into his balled fist.

Landon battled with Ben at a mere fraction of his physical capabilities, conscious of the fact he could level him in an instant, but twice as conscious of the lethal weapon whose muzzle wrenched in a hundred different directions, trained at Ben’s shoulder one instant, then staring Landon in the face the next. In the midst of the struggle, the thought briefly crossed his mind that the gun might not even be loaded. He certainly wasn’t going to wait to find out when one of them mistakenly squeezed the trigger.

Landon finally surrendered the fight and found himself seconds later with his arm locked perpendicular to his body, gun clutched in his hand. It was aimed straight into the heart of the manager. The foreign man did not even flinch. Their eyes were locked upon each other. Landon wondered if the man had a family—a wife, and children at home; he pondered if the man was thinking about them right now, weighing whether or not he would ever see them again.

As for Landon, he could think of nothing but Cecily. Where was she now? Safe in the arms of Jamie? Was she happy? He envisioned her smile; in his imagination she was smiling right at him, and he felt warmth.

Ben had disappeared from Landon’s sight, but he could clearly hear him pacing the rest of the way down the aisle. Loud squeaks of rubber against tile suggested he stopped once or twice along the way to ensure Landon was still bent to his will; still holding an innocent man hostage so he could accomplish what he came for.

The gun felt strange in Landon’s hand. He had never held one before. It was surprisingly heavy and cool, though the palm of his hand sweat profusely. He could hear the suction noise of a refrigerator door opening, then bottles clinking. If the situation wasn’t so dire, Landon would have laughed. Here he was, a keep-to-himself, law abiding citizen, holding a store clerk at gunpoint so that Ben could get a couple cases of beer on the house. It was absolutely ludicrous.

In a split-second decision, Landon dropped his arm, the gun pressed firmly against his hip. He had the weapon in his control and he was completely lucid; two advantages over Ben. He had the power to end this right now. Hell, maybe he could talk both of their ways out of the entire hellish situation before they both got carted off in a paddy wagon. With one last apologetic glance in the direction of the store’s owner, he turned to face Ben’s back side. He had already cleared out the greater portion of the fridge’s alcoholic contents. They were stacked in towers of varying heights like the city skyline across the floor.

“All right, Ben. Cut the shit. You’re not doing this tonight. Not on my watch.” Ridding himself of the gun on the nearest shelf, Landon walked resolutely towards Ben with a tight fist. He was read to punch him in the face, if need be, to end the charade. He latched onto the collar of his shirt in much the same fashion the furious bartender had done only twenty minutes ago.

Ben was so infuriated by the touch of Landon’s hand, he had been just moments from spinning around with a beer bottle and smashing it over his god-damned head; but the hand slipped from his shoulder of its own accord. He’d heard a strange noise—metal on metal, two very distinct clicks—but it was hard to place.

All night he’d been plagued by a noise in his ears. A ringing, as high pitched as a whistle. It was relentless and deafening and almost unbearable and though he thought the drink was sure to do the trick, it had only compounded the experience. It was so excruciating he considered driving a sharp object into them just for relief.

He was quite able to detect the manager screaming at the top of his lungs, though his words were incomprehensible. The blast which followed brought Ben the glorious mercy he’d sought. His eardrums ruptured. The glass door propped against his shoulder rattled violently in the wake of the explosion. The bottle of beer burst on the floor as his hands flew onto his head instinctively. His fingers met with something warm and sticky—blood trickling from his ear canals.

The world spun in slow motion. His shallow breaths overwhelmed his ears the way his mother’s breathing had sounded through her chest when she’d cradled him as a child. Ben felt something heavy and rather soft hit the ground just at his feet. He turned to find Landon on his back, a pool of red expanding infinitely from below a hole in his shirt at the breast. His lids were partially closed as if he were half asleep, his eyes staring vacantly into space as if he were daydreaming.

Landon was dead.

The metal on metal again—like two large knives sharpened against each other. This time he knew the sound of a rifle being cocked and out of the corner of his eye he watched the eighteen inch barrel train on him. His only instinct was to turn away, to duck, but he did not do so as a man desperate for his life. He moved as if drifting under water, simply bracing himself for the inevitable. He wondered what it would be like to be through with his pain forever. Would he be aware of it? Of course not. He would be dead. Forever destined for nothingness. It did not sound so horrible.

There was a second blast. It felt as if fire was exploding from within him, engulfing his senses with indescribable pain. Ben’s knees buckled from below him and he collapsed face down only inches from Landon’s body.

As consciousness escaped him, Ben’s final thought was what a relief it would be to never be subjected to a single thought or emotion ever again—the one thing he desired above all else. He welcomed the darkness which seized him and was at peace.


© Copyright 2018 Megan Maydell. All rights reserved.

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