Short Story by Ellis Shuman
Hastings wakes up, shaves, showers, and combs his hair. Puts on his suit, adjusts his tie. Picks up his briefcase on his way out and checks that he has locked his apartment behind him. Rides the elevator down to the lobby, where he is greeted by Al, the building’s doorman.
“Good morning, Mr. Hastings!”
“Morning,” he replies with a wave.
“Busy day ahead?”
“Same as always.”
“Important court case, is it?”
“No, nothing important.”
“What is it then? Divorce settlement? Defending a tax evader?”
He shakes his head.
“You probably have clients lining up outside your door, you’re such a well-known attorney.”
“And you’re a well-known doorman!”
“Always the joker, you are.”
“Have a nice day,” Hastings says. He walks through the revolving doors and out to the street.
At the newsstand, he picks up the Times. As he scours the headlines, the vendor leans forward, a cigarette balancing precariously on his lower lip.
“Anything you wrote?”
“No, nothing today,” Hastings says as he folds the pages.
“Something of yours gonna appear in print? Big exposé, maybe?”
Hastings laughs. “I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”
“Wait until I tell the guys. City’s best reporter buying newspapers at my stand!”
Hastings grins as he accepts his change. “Have a nice day.”
The subway station is crowded, and he pushes his way to the platform. The train pulls in, and he gets on, quickly taking his usual seat near the door.
“Morning Hastings,” says the overweight man sitting at his left.
He nods. The two men ride the same train most mornings, with Hastings trying not to get annoyed at the constant chatter of his traveling companion.
“I’ve been having pains,” the heavy man complains, gripping his belly.
“Pains?” Hastings raises an eyebrow.
“Right here. In my gut. What do you think it could be? Appendix? Tumor?”
“I don’t have a clue.”
“But you’re a famous doctor. Surely you must know something. Cancer? Could it be that?”
“You should have it checked out.”
“Can you do that? Give me a full physical?”
“This is my stop,” Hastings says politely as he stands up. “I hope you feel better. Have a nice day.”
Emerging from the subway station, Hastings looks at his watch. He is on time, he sees, so he stops at the corner coffee shop and gets in line. When it is his turn, he approaches the counter to place his order.
“Good morning,” the freckle-faced barista says warmly.
“Hello, Natalie. How are you?”
“I’m fine, just fine. It’s always exciting to see you in the mornings.”
“Well, you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Oh, come on, Mr. Hastings. You, of all people, coming here for coffee. You could be drinking with a celebrity instead. A movie star, or someone from one of those rock bands you represent.”
“Your coffee’s good.”
“Imagine that. A bigshot talent agent likes my coffee!”
The other customers in line are waiting, so Hastings moves to the side. When Natalie hands him his cappuccino, he winks at her. “Thanks,” he says. “Have a nice day.”
He walks down the street, taking an occasional sip of coffee. When he reaches his building, he transfers the lidded cup to his other hand so that he can open the door. He climbs three floors, takes out his key, and unlocks his office.
His desk is piled with folders, half hiding his computer. He looks for an empty spot for his coffee, sets his briefcase on the floor. He sits down, riffles through the folders, looking at the names on the labels.
The lawyer. The journalist. The doctor. The talent agent. And all the others. Each of them has taxes to file; each of their files will be handled in turn.
He sighs, wondering what it must be like to be in their shoes. To live their lives. But except for a few brief moments each morning, he has his own life to live. He picks up his pen and clicks his computer to life.
“Have a nice day,” Hastings wishes himself as he gets to work.
Ellis Shuman is an American-born Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. He is the author of The Virtual Kibbutz, Valley of Thracians, and The Burgas Affair.