Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 20
For Theodore, the return trip to Void Corporate Headquarters in the helicopter and the limousine ride back to The Grand was a depressing blur. He went through the motions, saying goodbye to everyone, smiling, shaking hands, saying he felt great.
He walked into his penthouse suite and headed for the wet bar. Hands shaking, he picked up a cut crystal decanter full of scotch. He poured himself a tumbler, overfilling it slightly and spilling it onto the marble counter.
“Damn.” Theodore found napkins under the bar. He threw a few on top of the spill and shrugged. He brought the amber liquid to his lips, inhaled the harsh aroma, and found he couldn’t drink. No, he thought. I’ve got to keep my wits about me. Got to sort this out. He emptied the alcohol in the bar sink, and poured himself a glass of water, downing it in several long gulps.
He refilled the glass and ran his bumpy fingers through his now disheveled dark hair. What do I do? There has to be a way out. How do I take care of this? He felt sick, his mind full of images — beating hearts, breathing lungs, round pelts of hair, eyeballs. God, those eyes. His stomach lurched, like it might heave the water. He leaned forward, head down, both hands against the sink. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath.
Langston and Troy looking at me, as if it were all so fine. So wonderful. They used me, just like BioTech did.
Theodore walked to an overstuffed chair, put the glass of water on a table, and flopped down. The chair faced the terrace. He sat there staring at the big city view, the buildings, the sky, the clouds.
He looked at his hands. The warts were back. Ugly. They’d never look normal, and it was his fault. They’d always be repulsive, because he was repulsive. No wonder Mom left. In the back of his mind he heard her voice. Just rub a potato on them, Ted, then bury it under a tree . . . What if I should have trusted Mom all along? He set his jaw, put his hands in his lap. He didn’t want to give in to her and her over-the-top beliefs. Mumbo-jumbo here. Genetic monsters there. What’s the diff?
He licked his still-dry lips, picked up the glass of water and took a gulp. Can’t go back to Piker, either. Sent in my resignation three days ago. Signed a contract with Void. The thought of that made him feel sick again and he put down the water. He couldn’t figure it out. Void seemed to have it all, everything. He could too, if he just went along with it. But the thought of signing that contract brought an image he knew he would never be able to shake — one of him selling his soul.
Theodore jolted from his half-sleep stupor when “Theodore, I’m back,” rang out like a cheap musical alarm.
Theodore turned in the chair to see Tiffany, two shopping bags in each hand. She wore a huge smile and yet another new outfit, a sleeveless polka-dot dress with platform shoes and pink tights. More pink, thought Theodore dully.
Tiffany’s bright expression faded. “Theodore, what’s wrong?”
Theodore lied. “I’m not feeling well.”
Tiffany sat the bags on the coffee table. She eyeballed Theodore, then touched his cool forehead. He got a whiff of her floral perfume and it reminded him of the lab. Nausea flooded through him. He pulled away.
“You don’t have a fever . . .” Tiffany said. “Did something happen today?”
“Yeah, something happened.”
“Well, what was it?” She sat on the sofa across from him, leaning toward him. “Is it something with the company? Langston? What? How long have you been sitting there?”
“I don’t know.” His voice sounded haggard even to himself, changed. “I saw some things today. I was affected by them.”
Tiffany’s cat eyes narrowed. “What things?”
“I can’t tell you. It has to do with the lab work. It’s top secret.”
“Oh, no. It’s not drugs is it? They haven’t engineered some kind of illegal drug or something?”
“No, it’s not drugs. Just let me be. There are some things I need to sort out.”
“Damn it, Theodore,” Tiffany stood, placed her thin hands on her boyish hips, “I’m your girlfriend, have been for a very long time.” Just as abruptly, she changed her tone. Softly she said, “You’ve got to tell me what’s going on. We’ve got a date to go out with Langston and Crystal tonight, to celebrate.”
The sparkly word “celebrate” turned to ashes in Theodore’s mind. “Tiffany, I saw some things that disturbed me, my own work.” He ran his hands through his hair again, his eyes glancing toward the window, avoiding Tiffany’s intense stare. “Maybe it should have been okay, but it wasn’t. I’m just not sure about anything anymore. I’m not sure . . . that I want all this.”
Tiffany stood looking down at Theodore, her small hands, now bedecked in several new, sparkly rings, were clenched at her side. Her expression had changed from concern to anger.
“What do you mean you’re not sure?” her voice became as low as his, and guttural, the growl of a tigress. “You can’t quit now, you signed the papers today, didn’t you? You’re the new president of the Biotech Division, right?”
“Yes.” Theodore saw Tiffany make an effort to unclench her hands. One of them went to her jaw line and she massaged it. The thought came to Theodore, it’s as if she’s trying to rub out the imperfection of it, and the imperfection of this conversation. A bitter smile came to his lips. If only it were that easy.
“You’ve worked hard for this,” Tiffany said. “This is everything we’ve wanted — you’ve wanted.” She took a deep breath. “Do you know what I think? I think you’re afraid of success. Look at your mother, having all that money, that successful seed company handed down through generations, and then going through some sort of ‘spiritual awakening’ she called it, and giving it all away. The business, all those stocks. You’ve had to work hard to get where you are. Why would you think of jeopardizing it?”
“It’s my life. It’s my decision. Just like it was my mom’s decision to live hers the way she wanted.”
Tiffany bent down, put a hand on Theodore’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Her voice softened even more. “I’m just confused. It’s hard to understand this complete change. I think you’re just unsettled. So much has happened in the last few days. Try to let it go, Theodore. It’s okay to be a success. Allow yourself to be a success.”
She looked into his face. “Say it with me Theodore, it’s okay to be a success.”
Theodore stiffened, jerked his shoulder back. “For crissakes, Tiffany. This isn’t a support-group meeting.”
Tiffany pulled her hand away. “If it weren’t for me . . . well, I don’t think you’re in any condition to discuss anything right now.” She jerked her head toward the wet bar. “You’ve been drinking, haven’t you? This whole place reeks like booze.”
Getting up, Theodore gave her a long, hard look. She seemed different to him now, desperate and silly. Almost pathetic. “Tiffany, you’re clueless.” He walked into the bedroom, closed the door behind him and locked it. As an afterthought he yelled, “Call and tell them we’re not coming tonight. At least I’m not. You can do what you want.”
Theodore took a shower and changed into a pair of jeans, the only ones he owned, and an undershirt. He could hear Tiffany crying in the other room. Exhausted, Theodore curled up on the bed. Within minutes he had fallen asleep.
* * * * *
From the phone came a soft voice, “Telephone call, Mr. Green. Telephone call . . .”
Theodore, drenched in sweat and breathing hard, opened his eyes but couldn’t see anything in the pitch black room. It took five rounds of “Telephone call, Mr. Green” before he figured out where he was. The nightmare was horrible. He reached out one trembling hand and picked up the phone.
“Hello, Ted. It’s your mother.”
The glowing phone monitor showed Guinevere, squinting at her son in the darkness. Theodore sat up. Grabbing the collar of his T-shirt, he pulled it up to wipe his damp face. He groped for the switch on the nightstand’s lamp, picked up his glasses and put them on.
“Sorry to wake you.”
Theodore made an effort to look and sound calm. “It’s okay.” He tried to smile. “Mom, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I understand now.” The screen went black.
He pressed the button on the monitor but it stayed dark.
“Mom?” No dial tone, nothing.
Staring into the dead phone monitor, Theodore didn’t see the two men wearing business suits enter the bedroom. He looked up when he felt their presence and saw Cooper Davies, the helicopter pilot, and a second, very large African American man who wore his hair in chest-long dreadlocks.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Theodore said as they approached the bed. “Is Langston here?”
“Hey, Theo,” said the dreadlocked man.
“Do I know you?” before the words were out of his mouth, Theodore saw the frightening smile on Coop’s face, and the rag in his hand.
Theodore jumped up, tried to maneuver past them, but the two men grabbed him. Cooper placed the sweet-scented rag over his face, and for a moment Theodore felt an odd excitement from the drug, right before he went to sleep for the third time that day.
To purchase your own copy of Zera and the Green Man, visit the official website now. Paperback and Kindle versions are now available.
Zera and the Green Man is a novel by Sandra Knauf, a local author and sustainability advocate living in Colorado Springs.
Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.
First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)
Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.