THE SHIFT FATHERS
BY THEODORE BORDELEAU
Erik waved goodbye to his friends and started to walk home, which was down a few streets from his college. He loved walking home from college every day, mostly because of all the cool things he gets to see. Last Tuesday, Erik saw a 17-year-old do a kickflip on his skateboard, but missed his target totally, and had fallen into a nearby trash can. Erik remembered he couldn’t stop coughing from all the laughing he was doing. But today seemed different, almost as if no one was on the street but him and an elderly man, walking a bit wobbly. Erik took interest in the old man, whose shaking got progressively worse with each step until, finally, he collapsed on the sidewalk. Like any normal person, Erik ran to help the fallen man up and, if needed, bring him home.
“Sir, can you hear me? Where do you live? I will gladly help you get there.” Erik said, the elderly man clutching his chest and writhing in pain. He reached his hand up and put it on Erik’s shoulder and said, “Tell the Shift Fathers… I have failed. It is of the utmost importance that you tell...” And with those few words, he blacked out, and fell to the ground once more. Erik’s mind raced as he carried the man to the hospital. Why was this man walking down the street at this time of night? Why did he suddenly… collapse? Who or what are the Shift Fathers?
Hours later, Erik sat in the emergency room, watching people come in and out, a broken nose here and a twisted arm there. People need to be more careful, he thought, or people are gonna start dying. About three hours later, a family of four came into the room, seemingly looking for the old man.
“Um, Sir? Do you know where Daniel Luta is? We’re his family, and we want to make sure he is alright.” said the mother, quite worrisome.
“Excuse me, ma’am? I can show you where his room is. Just follow me.” Erik said, as he jerked up. They walked for awhile, until they came upon an elevator with at least four people pouring out, probably late to an appointment. Erik and the few people of the family walked in and pushed the appropriate button for the floor Daniel was on. A few seconds later, they were on B1, the floor just under the first, also known as the basement floor. His room number was B113, the 13th room.
When they arrived, Daniel just… sat there. Expressionless. Almost… dead. Also, he was holding something in his hand. A book, maybe? Erik thought, trying to figure out the object in his hands. It had pages, but they were dank and ripped. It had covers, but they were hard to decipher.
Of course, when most people see a dead body, like the family that came in with Erik, they’ll scream. And that’s exactly what they did, which alerted the nurses to come and see what happened. They then called the police for thinking that Erik killed the man, for he was the only one in the room when it happened.
The police arrived and started to question the witnesses, including Erik himself, for he was the one who found him dead.
“Hey, kid. Uh… I’m sorry for your loss.” He said in a gruff voice.
“I hope you know I’m not related to him. I’m Erik Patolo. Nice to meet you.” They shook hands.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t know. The nurses weren’t so social, if you know what I mean. By the way, name’s Ed. Been if the force since I was twenty-one. Best decision I ever made.” Someone tapped him on the shoulder to ask the family for Daniel’s information.
“Sorry, kid. Got to go. Hey, tell ya what. Here is the street the Police Station is on.” He scribbled something on a sticky note he had in his pocket and handed it to Erik.
“Visit sometime so we can talk and have a coffee. Also, before I go, it seemed like you saved that man’s life when he was on the street. Sure, it was only for a little bit, but hey, I want- Daniel would want you to have this.” Ed handed him the book that he saw earlier, clenched in the arms of the dead man.
“Found it in his arms, and he was holding onto it like it was the final thing he had left. Go on, scat! They’ll take my badge and gun if they saw I gave you this ‘Evidence.’ Go!”
Erik walked away from the officer and sat on a nearby bench (and snuck the book in the inside of his jacket), and started waiting to have his ear talked off by his mother about how he was supposed to walk straight home and how he should not deal with strangers. What was I gonna do? Let him die on the street?
A red minivan drove up to Erik and he got in. He buckled up and then turned to his now angered mother,Susan. She was a fifty-one year old woman with ragged clothing and what seemed to be a bad hair day. Of course, this is what she looked like everyday ever since she became part of a nature loving group. To Erik, this seemed strange that his mom and others would give up meat for vegetables. What is also weird is that the other night they had chicken pot pie.
She looked at him as though she was shooting daggers from her eyes and said, “What the heck were you doing out at 11:00 at night?! You could have got mugged or even tripped on a stone and broke your leg!”
“Good thing the hospital is down the street.” Erik replied, with an irritated tone in his voice. “By the way, I saved that guy from dying in the street!”
“But then he died in the hospital room! You know you’re not supposed to interact with strangers coming home!” The argument went on for another two minutes, and then a silence filled the air the rest of the way home.
They arrived at their house on 44th Street and opened the door to find Charlie, the family cat, meowing for a succulent chicken treat, for Susan forgot to fill up the food bowl for him. Charlie was a mid-size tabby who acted like she was a five-year-old with ADHD who just had a ton of sugar. Erik remembered one time, the had come home to a fully scratched up house and found Charlie in the middle of it all, looking innocent.
The thought was interrupted when Susan called him to carry in the groceries that she had in the back seat of the car. Erik grumbled and went to go get the bag of peanut butter cup ice cream before it melted. When he went to turn and touch the door handle when a chilling breath came out of his mouth, which was uncommon for a late June night.