That Monday began with a good omen. An old client showed up at 9:30a.m. with five one hundred dollar bills in payment of expenses long forgotten. He pocketed the money with growing optimism. Things were turning around, and every little bit helped. The famine was about to end---he knew it---he felt it. Miracles might become believable again.
At 10:30a.m. on the button. his secretary buzzed to announce Flemming's punctual arrival He quickly arranged his desk with papers and open law books to reflect activity, and rose to greet him. Be cool, confident and alert. Fleming looked like hell, as if he hadn't slept in nights. Whatever he had on his mind was obviously important.
They shook hands as they exchanged warm hellos and sat across from each other at Ramin's desk.
"So, Dick, tell me what's going on."
Flemming grunted and coughed. "Ah, this is personal, John, and I want this conversation to die right here regardless of how it ends."
Jesus, Ramin thought, I'll bet he's the one looking for a lawyer----beautiful---bigger than I thought.
"It's not gonna be easy for me so bear with me." Flemming paused and looked down at the floor.
"I've got to begin with why I'm here, and I'm not gonna mention any names although I know you'll be very curious. Your name came up in a conversation the other night, and it was extremely complimentary to you--extremely."
Ramin was convinced he had the power to read the future. Good things were coming.
"They kept emphasizing what a compassionate guy you are.
Because of that conversation, and what I heard,"---another awkward pause.
Ramin could see it clearly, now. He had not surrendered to the temptation of giving up; he had picked himself up, dusted himself off, and was about to get back in the race. His reputation was the hook that had brought this man to him, just as time was running out.
A deep breathe and then, finally, he came out with it.
"I'm in bad financial shape, John." A solid right uppercut to the gut. This wasn't the good stuff his dream had promised. He began to sweat. He felt himself falling in space.
"I have to be extremely careful," Flemming went on, "who I ask a favor from, because in my job, I can't be obligated to the wrong people---I've come close to that---haven't done it---don't wanna do it."
I can't believe this, Ramin told himself. This isn't really happening. But it was, goddammit, and Flemming kept talking.
"But, I'm going to be very honest--very honest. I am in desperate need of four hundred bucks---I mean now. I'm sorry to sound like I'm making a demand, but, believe me, I need it now." Ramin wondered if it was possible to faint with your eyes open. No question about it, if he bought a suit with two pair of pants, he'd rip the coat. He stared at Flemming but said nothing.
"The only way"---his face was very red---"I can pay you back is fifty bucks a week, from my salary. If I told you I could do it any sooner, I'd be lying. I mean, I could try borrowing from Peter to pay Paul but I've learned that leads to where I am now, in the crapper, face down. I know I can spare fifty a week from my salary. Please, I'm begging you---for a loan."
Bang! Right between the eyes. Ramin's brain was numb--no available thought process, whatsoever. Thirty seconds went by before he could react .It was as if he had exited and risen above his body, looking down at this tragedy for two. Then, a deep rooted primal instinct awoke and began vying for control. Like a Judge about to grant probation to a convicted defendant. All of his prior experiences in life had resulted in an omnipresent trait of compassion which, more often than not, would become the captain of his ship.
He looked straight at Flemming and softly said "Okay." He reached into his pocket and, with his fingers, separated one bill and pulled out the remaining four. The man who stood before him was now a crumpled wreck. He spoke with a voice that, surprisingly, rang with a bit of authority.
"I'll give it to you on two conditions."
"I don't want fifty bucks a week. When you are able, repay me in a lump sum. I don't care whether it's six months, a year from now, whatever. That's how and when I'll take it from you. I'm not going to bleed you at fifty a pop. If you want to put something aside each week, that's up to you. And, one more thing. This conversation absolutely goes no further." He would want this said to him, were the roles reversed. He extended his hand holding the four bills. Flemming took the money. He had little control left and looked as if he was about to cry. Ramin got up from his desk and walked with him to the door. The two men looked at each other until Flemming averted his gaze and, in a barely audible voice, but one filled with relief and sincere gratitude, said, "Thank you, John, thank you." And he was gone.
Ramin just stood there for a while and then began to pace the floor, staring in disbelief at nothing in particular. He tried to mentally and emotionally digest what had just happened. Four hundred bucks which, let's face it, he really needed, he had given to a stranger, really, to whom he owed nothing, as if his pockets were lined with C-notes. It defied reason. Why hadn't he flat out refused? No. That was something he simply could not have done. Was he just a fool? A sucker? Probably both. Why hadn't he just told the truth and explained that he had a cash flow problem? But that would have been to knowingly self destruct.
He looked out his window, scratched his head and took a deep breath. There now existed, on this planet, a human being who was in desperate need, and he had helped him, to a small degree, anyway. Was he a good guy or a mark? Probably both. But it was too late to do anything about it now---and he wondered if he really would, even if he really could. Somehow, I'll come out of this, he thought. And, hey, aren't good deeds recorded in indelible ink?
His excellent reputation had been confirmed, but, in this instance, had cost him.
If I only got a little lucky----
If I only would hit the lottery---
If I only could get a new, heavy case---
If I only knew ------- ---- --.