Hey guys! So, this week, I’m changing pace. I didn’t have time to write something new, some I’m posting something old. Sorry to leave you hanging with the other story line. I’ll continue it as soon as I have time to get more written. I hope you enjoy this short story!
Bob Smith was an average Joe. He had a wife named Jane, a son and a daughter named John and Mary, and worked in an off-white cubicle at the Insuricare main offices. There was absolutely nothing interesting, extraordinary, or otherwise noteworthy about his life. That was about to change.
Bob, who was 5’6”, balding, brown-haired and slightly overweight, was wearing a white dress shirt and a black tie. He was sitting in his cubical at his computer looking over forms and filling in blanks and doing other insurancy things. His phone rang. He picked it up.
“Thank you for calling Insuricare this is Bob Smith speaking how may I help you?”
“Mr. Smith? Hi. This is Rhonda at the Learning Library. We have a book waiting for you.” Bob shifted uneasily in his chair, a little bit confused and a little bit annoyed.
“The Learning Library? I’ve never heard of you.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t have.”
“Ooookay, then, whatever that means,” he muttered under his breath. “You know, you might be looking for the other Bob Smith here at Insuricare. People make this mistake all the time. I can give you his number, if you want.”
“Yeah, I’m just Bob. People call me that all the time… I guess I am the one you’re looking for, then. But listen, I really can’t be using the company line for private calls…”
“That’s fine, just drive on down after work to pick up the book. Our address is 404 Norfolk Pine Boulevard.” Bob had never heard of that address.
“You wouldn’t have, sir. When you leave the Insuricare Tower, turn right, go three blocks, turn left, go four blocks, turn left again, go three blocks, turn left one last time, and go two blocks, and we’ll be on the right. Did you get all that down?” He hadn’t, so he fumbled for a notepad and pen and Rhonda repeated the directions to him. “I think that this book will be very useful to you,” she said. “I do hope you’ll come by and pick it up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got another call coming in. Goodbye!”
“Goodbye?” Bob put down the receiver. He was annoyed at the interruption more than anything. He turned back to his computer screen, which was displaying his email program. There was a new message. It was from the Learning Library. He moved it to the spam folder. There was another new message. It was from his boss. He read through it and clicked open the attachments. He read through them, too, very thoroughly. He sighed. He looked down at his watch. It was finally quitting time. He put some stuff in his briefcase, sent a few, final emails, shut down his computer, clocked out, went down to the parking garage, got in his car, drove to his apartment building, rode the elevator up to the fourth floor, entered apartment 4G to the sound of his children watching television, and sat down. Hand splayed awkwardly across his face, he leaned forward dejectedly on the table.
“So, there’s some leftover spaghetti we could have, or, honey, what’s wrong?” Jane walked into the kitchen and saw him sitting there sadly.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really,” he said tiredly. “It’s actually good news. I’m up for a promotion. The problem, in the email Jacoby sent me about it, he gave me an insurance case to work on where the numbers aren’t quite right. The way it is now, we’d be cheating the client out of about $2,000 dollars. The guy involved, Hasumi Kiroshi, is pretty rich, we wouldn’t be ruining him or anything. And I think that this is a test of my loyalty. His email talked all about “loyalty to the company above all” and stuff, and I think he’s testing to see my corporate loyalty level, so what I do with this case will probably affect whether I get promoted.”
“Well,” said Jane, “I think that you should fix the mistake. Two-thousand dollars is two-thousand dollars, after all.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. But we could really use the pay bump I’d get as a manager. A raise is a raise, after all. Can we talk about something else? Did you say there’s spaghetti?”
“Yeah, I’ll heat some up. By the way, someone called for you earlier today. Rhonda, from some library, I think. The number’s in the caller I.D. if you want to call her back.” Bob sighed again, and told Jane that he’d gotten the same call at work, and even been emailed about it. Though he disagreed, Jane really thought he should go and check it out, and eventually she convinced him. Bob picked up the phone and scrolled through the calls they’d received recently. The Learning Library was third from the top. Sighing, he pressed the button to call them back.
“Hello, this is Rhonda at the Learning Library. Can I help you?”
“Yeah, this is Bob Smith. You’re going to just keep bothering me until I swing by, aren’t you?”
“I’m afraid so, sir.”
“Alright. Whatever. I’ll come and see this book.” Bob walked back into his bedroom and took off his dress shirt and tie. He came out in more casual clothing: a long-sleeved, solid color polo. His briefcase, fortunately, had the notepad that he’d taken down the directions to the Learning Library on, so he drove back to the Insuricare Tower, turned right, went three blocks, turned left, went four blocks, turned left again, went three blocks, turned left one last time and went two blocks, and saw a building on the right that stood out against the monolithic sky-scrapers surrounding it. It was round and had three floors: one of sandstone at ground level, one slightly smaller floor, apparently made of granite, stacked on top, and the last one, a shiny fat disc of metal and glass, perched on the space-age spire that sprouted from the center of the building. Incredulous, confused, curious, and somewhat impressed, he parked and entered the building through a set of medieval-style wooden double-doors that, incongruously, opened automatically. He hesitantly approached the front desk, from behind which Rhonda suddenly stood up. She looked truly and unsurpassably like a librarian, such that many who saw her wondered if she possibly could have become anything else. Anachronistically, her desk had a typewriter and a rotary phone next the sleek, modern desktop computer.
“Bob Smith, I presume? I’m Rhonda. I just found that book we’ve been holding for you.”
“I wasn’t even expecting there to be a library at all! I was just following those directions so I could arrive at nowhere and tell you that 404 was not found so you’d stop calling! How… What…”
“It’s alright, sir, we get this kind of reaction a lot. Just try not to think about it. Unfortunately, we can’t let you take this book out of the library, precognition can be dangerous in the field. Let me just show you up to the Reading Rotunda.” Bob, at a loss, took the small book, (titled The Book of Bob) up the elevator that Rhonda’d shown him to, sat down in a comfy chair in the slowly rotating disc that was the library’s third floor, and started reading.
Bob Smith was an average Joe. He had a wife named Jane, a son and a daughter named John and Mary, and worked in an off-white cubical at the Insuricare main offices. There was absolutely nothing interesting, extraordinary, or otherwise noteworthy about his life, and that would never change.
As he read, Bob realized that this book was describing exactly the situation he was in, sans intervention from the Learning Library. It even mentioning Hasumi Kiroshi by name. Then it reached the interesting part: his future.
The next morning, Bob woke up at 7:00, stretched, and got ready for the day. At 8:00, he drove away from his apartment building, and at 8:30, he was in his cubical. He had come to a decision over the night with his wife’s help: he would not allow the funny business with Kiroshi’s claim to pass through. In fact, he would go further than that. On his computer, he pulled up Kiroshi’s records, and it seemed that Insuricare had been cheating Kiroshi for years. Bob left the tower and found a payphone, and left Kiroshi an anonymous message that he should take another look at his claims over the past several years. He was back in his cubical at 9:00, correcting the Kiroshi documents, and at 11:00, his boss, William Jacoby, walked in. He was taller, skinnier, and five years younger than Bob, though they looked at least a decade apart.
“Just Bob, how you doing? Did you get my email yesterday?”
“About the promotion? Yes, and I was excited to read it. By the way, in the Kiroshi case that you sent me, I fixed a two-thousand dollar discrepancy. We could have gotten in trouble for that, had it gone through.”
“Oh, uh, thanks Bob. Send the Kiroshi documents back to me for approval, okay?”
“Oh… Sorry, Jacoby. I knew that you come in later on Fridays, so I already got them approved by Patterson and sent them on. I know you like it when we take the initiative, so I figured you’d approve.” Jacoby put his hand on his forehead.
“Yes, yes, uh, good work, Bob. I, uh, don’t know what I’d do without you.” Jacoby left the cubical and returned to his office. Bob spent the rest of the day doing insurancy things. He clocked out at five, and went home. When he walked in the door, his wife greeted him with a kiss for being brave and doing the right thing. A few days later, Robert Smith from a few cubicles over got the promotion instead of Bob, and in a few months, Hasumi Kiroshi sued Insuricare. This inspired a number of other of Insuricare’s high-profile clients to dig a little deeper, and several of them found that they, too, were being robbed. The money that the company spent on the legal battle drove it under; Bob was laid off a few months before the whole corporation collapsed. He and Jane ended up working several part-time jobs each to make ends meet, but through it all, their relationship remained fairly stable, and Bob maintained his integrity. Despite the poor economic condition his family was in, they were still fairly happy, until a drunk driver ploughed into Bob’s old Chevy pickup. He died from his injuries several hours later in the hospital, surrounded by friends and family. He was survived by his wife and children.
Bob’s cell phone rang.
“Honey, where are you? I thought that you were just going to get that book from the Learning Library and come home.”
“Sorry, they wouldn’t let me bring the book home. Something about foreknowledge. It’s weird: this book describes exactly the story of my life recently, minus the stuff with the Learning Library, and apparently, if I’m honest regarding the discrepancies on the Kiroshi case, not only will I not get the promotion, the company will collapse and we’ll both end up working fast food to make ends meet, and I can’t let that happen to us.”
“Honey, you don’t know if that book is accurate regarding the future; how could it be? I don’t think that you should entirely base your decision off what that book says.”
“Listen, it describes my current situation exactly, names and everything. Jacoby even calls the version of me in the story Just Bob. Who would know all that? And know that Insuricare’s been cheating its clients? And this library itself… I’ve never heard of it, yet they had all my information. I’ve never heard of the street it’s on, but found it no problem. Heck, the directions I followed to get here? They should have put me a block away from Insuricare Tower, but I don’t recognize this part of the city at all. This whole situation just screams mystical ghost-library, and if this place is magical, I’m inclined to believe what I read in the books here. Darling, it’s only one deception. When I get the promotion, I’ll work to put an end to this whole ‘cheating customers’ business.”
“Promise. I’ll come on home now, okay? See you in a bit.”
Bob rode down the elevator. He gave the book back to Rhonda, and though he didn’t see it, she smiled in a disturbingly sadistic fashion as he walked away. The next morning, Bob woke up at 7:30, stretched, and got ready for the day. At 8:30, he drove away from his apartment building, and at 9:00, he was in his cubical. He finished up the Kiroshi documents, without correcting the discrepancy, got them approved and sent on by Patterson, and moved on to his other tasks for the day. At 11:00, his boss, William Jacoby, walked in. He was taller, skinnier, and five years younger than Bob, though they looked at least a decade apart.
“Just Bob, how you doing? Did you get my email yesterday?”
“About the promotion? Yes, and I was excited to read it. By the way, in the Kiroshi case that you sent me, there was a two-thousand dollar discrepancy in the numbers. I figure we’re just milking some extra cash out of him, right? The guy’s rich enough, he won’t miss two thousand.”
“Precisely. Have you sent them to me for approval yet?”
“Actually, since I knew you like to come in late on Fridays, I already got them approved by Patterson. I knew that you like it when we take the initiative, so I figured you’d approve.”
“Good work, Bob! I don’t know what I’ll do without you.”
“Was it my imagination, or did you say ‘what you will do without me?’ Does that mean I’ll be getting that promotion?”
“Quite likely,” said Jacoby. “Your handling of the Kiroshi case is plenty enough proof of your loyalty to the company. I gotta get back to my office now, see you later.”
“See you.” Bob spent the rest of the day doing insuranc-y things, but throughout the day, his conscious nagged him. When he returned to his home that evening, his wife greeted him and asked if he’d gone ahead and allowed the company to rip off Kiroshi. He was honest and told her he had.
“Well, I suppose it’s for the greater good,” she said. “Now that you’re beginning to move up the company ladder, you can stop this corruption once and for all.” But Bob didn’t do that. When he was promoted to a managerial position a few days later, he started out pretty well. He allowed a few minor things to slip through, but nothing on the level of the Kiroshi case. But gradually, he became laxer and laxer. He grew more and more amenable to the corrupt policies of the company. His family moved from their shabby apartment to a penthouse with a view, but his wife was not happy. Jane watched as Bob slowly lost the moral high ground and became more and more willing to cheat the rich out of their money. They argued more and more, until one day, she decided she’d had enough, and left him. Even rich as he was, without his family, his life was rather miserable until a drunk driver ploughed into his Lexus. He died from his injuries several hours later in the hospital, surrounded by lawyers and executives jostling for power. His family didn’t
“even find out until a week later,” Rhonda finished typing. She pulled the last page out of her typewriter, and stacked it neatly with the others. She handed the stack to another librarian, who bound the pages and put the book in the hall with the rest of the second editions. She dialed a number on her rotary phone.
“Hello, minister, I’ve finished The Book of Bob, Ed. II. Who shall I contact next? Excellent, I’ll get right on it.” She hung up the phone, and dialed another number. It rang four times until the other end picked up.
“Yeah, hello? This is Samantha Brown, what is it?”
“Mrs. Brown? Hi. This is Rhonda at the Learning Library. We have a book waiting for you.”
“Jimmy, shush, I’m on the phone! The Learning Library? I’ve never heard of you.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t have.” Rhonda smiled sadistically. She loved this job…