The Bonus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story of what becomes of Samuel, who tries to do the right thing for the wrong reason, and then the wrong thing for the same reason.

Submitted: July 18, 2011

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Submitted: July 18, 2011



The Bonus

Samuel strode across the street with a smile on his face and the bonus in his pocket. It wasn’t often that he smiled on his way home from work. It wasn’t called for in public. Today, however, Samuel had a reason to smile.

Before he reached the subway, Samuel always passed this street corner exactly as his acquaintance Baker. Baker was an officer of the law. Everyday they passed each other here, and this was all the time they had to become acquaintances.

How was work today, Sam?” Officer Baker, like any friendly police officer who still feels a need to exert some authority, used first names of anyone he knew. Samuel knew that he didn’t mean it for ill, it was just his nature.

I got a bonus,” Samuel said. He’d been waiting for the question, because today he had a real answer. “It seems my hard work didn’t go unnoticed.”

Oh, it’s a sad myth that the things we do go unnoticed. I’ve found that fate smiles on those who smile on others.”

It’s a hundred dollars,” Samuel said when he found no response. “I think I may treat myself tonight. It’ll get me by for a few easy nights of relaxation.”

Easy now, Sam,” Baker said. “You know this neighborhood isn’t known for its friendly people. Don’t go bragging about a bonus so openly. I can’t be responsible for any trouble you run into outside my beat. That’s just a friendly warning.”

I walk home through here every day. I haven’t once seen a sign of trouble, even when I leave work late.”

Well, I’m just saying, don’t advertise a reason for others to seek you out with ill intent. There’s everything from petty pickpockets to armed robbers. You’d better watch out for the beggar types too. They’ll sweet-talk you out of that bonus and it won’t do them any good but what a bottle can give.”

Well, I thank you.” He’d lingered longer than usual, and he felt a need to continue on. “I’ll watch out.” He waved his hand, but Officer Baker was already walking the other way, and didn’t see.

It was just after he walked past the next alley that Samuel was confronted with one of the evils Baker had mentioned. It was the last he’d warned him about, the false beggar. A very convincing beggar.

It was a poor old woman. She must have been sixty at the very least. She wore what would have made a respectable woman blush, but it bore the appearance that it was all she had to wear. The tears in her shirt and the frays at the bottom of her short pants made it obvious that she was a poor person. She was more elderly-looking than a well-to-do person of her age might be, for she couldn’t afford the medical costs of prolonging life and health. She, of anyone, must have a right to ask for charity from strangers.

Can you spare some money to help me buy a meal today?” she asked, looking him in the eye. “I just need to get by, like any other human.”

Samuel considered the situation, and thought that it was worth it to give the money to a needy person, not because of the thankful praise he received, but because he thought that good deeds don’t go unnoticed. Surely God will smile on me for this good gesture, he thought. And what if God didn’t really exist? Well, then, even fate couldn’t overlook this offering. Good things come to those who give to others. After this reasoned debate, Samuel gave her the entirety of the bonus. His reward was her gushing happiness as she glanced from him to the bills, which she held like they would shatter if she dropped them.

Samuel went on his way and the old woman relaxed her face for a second. She stuffed the bills in the only pocket she had without holes and started to hobble along the street in the opposite direction.

However, fate wasn’t the only observer of the exchange. In the alley that Samuel had just walked by, a grubby mugger had pricked his ears at the beggar woman and his interest had been aroused when he saw the fold of five twenties given to her. As she hobbled by his alley, he stepped out jovially and extended his hand. “Wanna share the love, love?” he asked sarcastically.

Retract that dirty glove!” the woman snapped, lifting her gaze from his soiled hand to look him in the face. “I earned it fair and square in a charity exchange. I need it to live on! You haven’t the imagination to spend this money on anything but hard drink.”

And I suppose you’d use it to send an orphan to college?” he said quickly. He then tried his false calm attitude again. “Now, lady, you’re supposed to act with charity to others when you receive some yourself, is that not how it goes? Don’t tell me your heart’s not changed yet. I’d-a let you keep some, but since you’ve given me trouble, I’d like the whole hundred. I need to get by same as you.”

Baker the police officer had since gone elsewhere, and, being quite helpless, the woman had a choice between losing her money or her life. She handed it over and the mugger counted it.

I hope you still have faith in humanity, dear,” the thief said. “But think of this and all is mended: there’s faith, hope, and charity, but the greatest of these is charity.” And with those words, he stepped across the street where there was no crosswalk to advance into the liquor store on the other side. The woman retreated along her route, scowling and muttering curses under her breath.

True to the woman’s accusation, the thief bought twenty dollars worth of 50 proof whisky and started drinking it right away. Evening was wearing on, and he began to find the city at dusk much more attractive than he would normally have if he were sober. He wandered into an alley that may have been familiar, but the world was spinning and he had no way of stabilizing it enough to see where he was.

Oh, this alley is home enough tonight,” he said to no one there. “Even the sparrow has a home… a nest, like the… like the swallow…” His throat wretched down a choke of phlegm as if responding to the word “swallow.” A tear came to his eye, and emotion grasped his voice. “I don’t have a home to crawl inside but this bottle. Why is that?” he asked himself. Then he answered himself in a condescending tone. “Why you’ve no home because you cheat fate. That’s it! God gives a home to those who do good in his Name! Why, if I was God, I’d see to it that you wouldn’t have a dumpster to lie in!”

And at this chastisement he cried outright. “The true religion is to care for widows and orphans, and now here I’ve wronged both… I’ve stolen from one who was no an orphan as a child and has been widowed in old age.” He hadn’t really known these facts on the woman’s life, but the whisky made him believe the worst-case scenario to feed his guilt. He wiped a tear, which brought the bottle to his face and caught his attention to it again.

It was all for this!” he said in disgust. “If acts on this terrestrial ball can save me, then nothing I’ve done will come close. This bottle isn’t a shelter, and it won’t save me… it’ll all but damn me!” And with this, he turned the bottle upside down and watched the liquid drain out of it.

It’s not a home, least not for me. I’ll not crawl inside a bottle again. I’ll do good, and God will reward me honestly.”

When he observed that the flow had stopped (after it had actually drained out a few seconds earlier), he turned it upright and, with a shaky but still dexterous hand, rolled up the bills. “This sin won’t haunt me,” he told himself resolutely. He wedged it into the neck like a cork and then popped it in with his thumb. He lightly tossed the bottle into the alley. It rolled and the alley echoed loudly with the high-pitched sound, but the glass held intact.

I’m off of it!” He yelled this very loudly, as if to compete with the sound the bottle had made.

Ok, sir, I think you should keep it down.”

The thief turned around to look into the face of Baker the police officer. Baker was looking serious and slightly annoyed. “Disturbing the peace will land you in a place away from the peace for the night… if you know what I mean.”

Hardly in control of his mind, the thief was feeling giddy and invincible. “I’ve done the Lord’s command!” he was still yelling. “I’m-a wait for the blessing in return! You leave me be and that’ll be your charity. The greatest of…!” He looked at his hand like he hadn’t seen it before and mumbled “…the greatest of…”

Come on.” Baker had dealt with this many times before. They were still right across from the liquor store.

Samuel walked home from work the same time as always the next day. Baker walked down the same perpendicular road, ready to meet him in about thirty seconds.

The elderly woman was not around this day, but the thief stood in the same alley, leaning against a brick wall while his head pounded. He was hung over enough to be disoriented and sober enough not to talk to himself out loud.

How do I always get myself into a situation like this?” he thought. “I’m on my way up and somehow, the next morning, I’m in the gutter.” He was disoriented enough to have no recollection of his inebriated actions the night before. “I robbed the woman who conned the moneybags,” he recalled. “I would’ve died if I’d drunk a hundred dollars worth of liquor. Where the hell’d that money go?”

And then he spotted Baker, and his instinct told him to sulk further into the alley. He’d woken up in a small holding cell and was released by the cops. He didn’t want any more trouble.

And then he saw the businessman again. The officer and the gentleman greeted each other, and this gave the thief an opportunity to spy without being noticed. This is what he saw.

Good evening, officer!”

And to you, Sam. You look full of news.”

Just a bit that will tickle you. Do you recall the bonus I told you of yesterday?”

Of course.”

Well, I did something that you wouldn’t have been proud of, but I’ve been vindicated for.”

Not sixty seconds after our conversation ended and you were out of sight did I run into a poor old woman, begging me for some of that money. She knew I had it, too. She saw us talking, I’ll bet.”

She was scouting out a sucker, Sam.”

Well, I played that role, I guess. I gave her the whole hundred.”

You didn’t! Sam, I’d warned you just…”

Spare me, Baker. I don’t know whether she was real or not, but I gave it to her. I didn’t even look back. I was just going to buy a fancy drink at a bar that night, but I fed my conscience instead.”

Oh, Sam… she just went and bought your fancy drink in your stead. You should’ve kept my advice.”

Don’t judge me yet, Baker. I told you that good deeds don’t go unnoticed. I believed that… and still do! Let me just tell you what happened this morning…”

Hurry it up, Samuel. I’m going to have to hurry along to catch up to my beat path.”

Alright, alright. So my boss asks me what I plan to do with the bonus. Since he does, I tell him the story about the poor old woman, and would you believe it? He replaced my bonus! You say I should’ve kept it to myself, but I had charity on the brain, and God smiled on me for it.”

Well, bless you, Sam. That’s a point I’ll take to heart as I continue on my way. I guess if you really think that fate put it back into your hands, it really was a good deed.”

Absolutely,” Sam said, but Baker was already walking away. Samuel smiled and shrugged and started onward.

Hello, hello” the thief said, stepping out from his alley. “What a turn of luck you’ve had today!”

Samuel was frightened immediately. When a dingy stranger in a rough neighborhood speaks kindly to you, it often wasn’t followed with true kindness.

And then that thief had a revelation. He needn’t rob this man. He thought about that conversation and about fate and God, and about his own musings of returning good for good. He even remembered part of his lament the preceding night. As much as he needed money, he didn’t need to steal it. He could take the course of that old woman. Why, he might even have a better chance of getting something.

Now, calm down,” the thief said to Samuel. “I don’t mean any harm at all. It’s just that… well, I saw you yesterday when you gave your fair share all away to that needy woman. I just wanted to let you know that I’m in just as much of a fix as she was, if not more. She was hardly deserving at all of that sum of money. I don’t have a cent to my name, and I’m eating out of dumpsters. If you truly are a charitable man, sir -and I feel that you might be- I wonder if I might have a piece of your good fortune?”

Samuel thought about this. Was fate now playing with him like a marionette? Was he to face this choice every day? His reward had come to him… was it still a good deed to give away that reward?

No, not today. If this was his reward for a good deed, it was well earned and totally deserved. If God or fate was putting him in an endless cycle of good deeds and useless rewards, he would end it here. This was his bonus, twice earned and ready for enjoying.

I’m sorry, sir,” Samuel said with regret in his voice. “I just can’t spare it right now. I hope you find some luck.” And he walked past him, continuing on for home.

The thief’s face was downcast. He had tried and failed. What good was it to fight temptation if he was met with failure immediately afterward? It certainly wasn’t fair. He’d tried and failed, and now he’d have to take fate into his own hands. And so he did. There was no one in sight, and he’d have to act before Samuel got too far from the alley. He reached down for the first thing his hand felt on the ground –a large, thick, empty bottle- and crept up behind Samuel before swinging it at the back of his head.

There was a strange thud that actually sounded almost like a crack, and Samuel fell forward. The thief winced slightly at his own act of violence, but it wasn’t the first time he’d attacked someone for money. Sins have a way of feeling less like sins the more often they are committed. Automatically, he reached into the jacket pocket and took out the money. And he was gone in a flash. He had a hundred dollars. He reasoned that there was plenty extra to spend in the liquor store before he bought a meal. That would be his own bonus. “This will get me by for now,” he said out loud.

Samuel came to consciousness a few minutes later. He was confused and sad and scared. Having never been mugged, he didn’t know quite what to do. He felt for his bonus… of course it was gone. That was all, though. The robber had clear intentions. His wallet was still on his person. Samuel started for home, hoping to catch the next subway train. He lamented over the cruel twist of fate.

A poor old woman observed him get up, brush himself off, and walk away. She hadn’t seen why he was lying there in the first place. But she did recognize him from the previous day as the nice man who’d given her the hundred dollars. She went to the end of the alley and peered out. She sighed. Nothing to see. It was late, and no kind charitable gentlemen would be on the streets anymore. She retreated back into the alley to find her nighttime shelter.

She saw something that caught her eye: a bottle. It was just outside the alley, on the sidewalk. She bent down slowly, her joints aching. She picked up the bottle by the neck. It smelled of alcohol, and she looked inside hopefully. No liquid sloshed inside, but what was this? She upturned the bottle, but the light object jammed in the long neck. She frowned and flipped it over in her hand. With a swift and deliberate move, she smashed the body of the bottle on the curb. After a quick search among the shards, she found the fold, about eighty dollars, and smiled. She pocketed it quickly.

What are you doing out here, ma’m?”

She looked up into the face of a police officer. He had the perpendicular street as his beat, and he walked by this point every thirty minutes or so. She stood up as fast as she could to face him.

Don’t be out in this area late at night,” he said to her. “It’s not the kindest neighborhood, least of all to an old lady such as yourself.”

She nodded in thanks.

And don’t…” he said, leveling his eyes at her, “go breaking bottles on the street. I’d expect that of younger people.”

Thank you, officer.” The woman avoided eye contact and walked away.

When she felt the officer’s gaze go off of her, she sighed in relief. She took the bills out of her pocket and counted them again. “This’ll get me by for now.”

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