The International Writers Magazine: Life in Dreamscapes
Steve Carson didn’t look like a horrible boss. He was a tall, good-looking man in his early fifties, just beginning to show his age despite a rigorous exercise regimen. He had beautiful wavy white hair, sharp blue eyes and a smooth manner. But, as I could testify, he could be pretty horrible.
I was 29 at the time, a business major in college who had gone into advertising. I’d been hired away from the agency I was with by Carson’s corporation to be head of the in-house advertising department. I’d had an interview with Baker, been charmed by his manner and the salary offered was considerable higher than I was making at the agency.
The honeymoon didn’t last long. One day I came in and Pete Grey, the sales director, told me to watch out for the Chief, as Carson was called. I asked him why. “He’s smoking. He’s been trying to quit for years and when he lights one up it means he’s tense and when he’s tense he’s a bastard. I saw what Pete meant at a meeting we had that afternoon. Pete was presenting some sales figures, which looked fine to me, but Carson didn’t like something he noticed and he pounced on Pete like a tiger. He chewed up poor Pete up and down. Nobody else in the conference room said anything. It was embarrassing. But Carson was also volatile. The next week he invited all of his managers, Pete included, to his summer house on Long Island. We could also bring our wives if we wanted. Everyone needed a break, he said; the idea was to get away from stress and relax. He didn’t mention that he was the cause of most of the stress.
“Quite a place,” said my wife Maria. We were in our room unpacking; she was referring to Carson’s summer house, a modest 20-bedroom house with a swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a tennis court. The house was on the water and had its own beach, where we’d be meeting in half an hour for a picnic and swimming. “Well, do you see any disasters coming?” Maria asked.
I should mention here that, while I don’t claim to be psychic, I seem to have the ability to forecast bad things that are about to happen. When I was a kid I asked my parents if Grandpa was all right. I’d “seen” him in my mind and he looked very sick. My mother called and Grandpa had taken sick and died later that day. Similar events happened while I was growing up. The day before 9/11 I had a feeling something horrible was about to happen. I was working in the ad agency then and mentioned this to another copywriter. We could see the smoke from our midtown office. My fellow worker looked at me afterward but said nothing. After I’d married Maria I mentioned my ability to her, which may or may not have been a good idea. She was skeptical and ever since then she’d kidded me about it, asking if any disasters were upcoming whenever we went on a visit, as now.
We were about two dozen people on the beach. The sun was shining, the sky was cloudless, a perfect day. Not a hint that anything bad was about to happen. Carson was busy overseeing the picnic arrangements, sandwiches of all kinds, cakes, beers and wine. His wife was also there, not the beauty I’d expected, but a pale woman who kept in the background. I wondered if she was an heiress of some kind; otherwise, it was hard to see why Carson had married her. I noticed that Carson eyed the younger wives, including my own. When everyone was settled, Carson pointed to an island, more like a few large rocks, out in the water and said, “When I was a kid I used to swim out there.”
Someone asked how long a swim it was. “A little over two miles,” said Carson. “I bet I can still do it.” The manager who’d asked the question scoffed. “No way you could do it now,” he said.
Carson bristled at this. He took off his beach shirt. He had his swimming trunks on. “A hundred bucks,” he said.
I had to admit he looked pretty fit despite the beginnings of a paunch. Then I had one of my feelings. No, something bad was going to happen to Carson. I was about speak but then I hesitated. If Carson drowned, would that be so bad. I recalled his humiliation of Peter Gray. No, if he wanted to take the risk to bolster his already swollen ego, let him. Then I thought again; it would be unconsciable not to say anything. I cleared my throat loudly. “Mr. Carson,” I said. “You really don’t have to prove anything. Why don’t we just enjoy this generous picnic you’ve provided.”
“You think I’m too old, huh?”
“No, I, uh …”
“Jack thinks he can foresee disasters,” said Maria. "He said he had a feeling just before 9/11.”
Carson laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Just watch me.”
Before I could say anything more he’d run down to the water and plunged in. As if on in tune with my warning the sky suddenly clouded and a brisk wind started to blow. We could hear the squawking of gulls. Everyone stood up, went down to the water’s edge and watched.
After a few minutes, someone cried, “There, I see him. He’s reached the island. He’s coming back.” Time went on. I strained to see something but couldn’t. I heard someone say, “He should have listened to Jack.”
More time went by, then, just as another manager said, “Maybe we should call somebody,” we saw a figure splashing through the water. He reached the beach, stood up and came toward us, breathing heavily. “What did I tell you?” said Carson. “Had a little trouble coming back; current was against me.”
Maria looked at me as if to tell me I’d been a fool. “I’m glad you made it,” I said to Carson.
The next week Carson’s private plane crashed as he was flying it on his way to a meeting and he died instantly. My premonition was right, if a little premature. I’d thought of warning Carson about flying that morning, the weather forecast was bad, but knew that he’d just laugh at me again. Besides, I’d already given him one warning. My conscience was clear.
© Martin Green - Febuary 2015
After the Surgery
It was my first day home after knee replacement surgery. Although the procedure had become routine, especially for old guys like me whose joints were wearing out, it still was, as my doctor reminded me, major surgery.