WILLIAM WALKER WAS A GENTLE MAN. Always kind and polite, he was thought of, at worst, as meek and timid.
But although he was admired for his patience and his soft-spoken demeanor, William had a secret deep down inside.
He hated his life. His boss belittled him, his wife nagged him and berated him, even his little girl mocked and disrespected him. Nothing he could ever do was good enough, and the truth was he did an excellent job at everything… everything but life.
Fury boiled in the core of his soul, he fought it every moment. He pressed it down and made it as small as he could, while smiling through the pain. Though he would never willingly hurt anyone, he understood why people lost their minds and went on rampages. But he believed, perhaps foolishly, that kindness was the best revenge if not a cure for the trouble.
He had also believed that, when the opportunity came, he could seize it and earn the respect and love he had lived so long without. A new project at the office had given him just such a chance. His presentation had wowed the board members and there was open speculation that a promotion and an increase in salary would soon be his.
But by the middle of the day things had changed. His boss, a typical middle management tyrant, had the ear of the supervisor and had taken credit for William’s hard work. And to make matters worse, the half-pint dictator had insisted they work through lunch to get things rolling with the new idea.
The rage began to smolder, clouding his mind and making it hard to breath. He quivered as he struggled to hold it in,
feeling certain he would pass out. He pictured the anger as a blazing ball of fire and used every scrap of his will to make it smaller and smaller. Eventually, the fury would pass, but this time something strange happened.
The ball simply popped. Instantly, his pulse and breathing returned to normal. He not only felt alright, he felt great.
By the time lunch was over, he had things ready. When his boss didn’t return for the afternoon meeting, he stepped up and took the lead. The supervisor was so impressed William found hope for the promotion after all.
The quiet evening was winding down as William and Bianca slipped into bed. He hadn’t stopped chattering since he got home and his state of happiness was almost alarming to Bianca. She had listened, barely able to conceal a scowl of contempt. His excitement, his joy, were things that terrified her because they came from somewhere beyond herself.
She decided who was happy around here, and he had more than enough.
“Old Smith himself told me I was going places. I tell you, the day almost couldn’t get any better.” he whispered and reached out through the dark to take her hand.
“A promotion? Maybe, you mean. You haven’t actually got it yet. And, really, I’d expect you to get excited about a maybe. You’ve worked there your whole life, even if you get it, so what? Too little, too late is what I’d call it.”
“Wait and see.” came his voice with its ever-steady tone, a tone she was not prepared to tolerate any longer. And his hand had seized hers gently stroking her fingers. She exploded, yanking a fist away.
“Is that what you’re after?” she screeched, “Is that what I am to you? Some domestic whore?!”
“You think you can just command me to perform simply because you think you had a great day. Well, what about my day?”
“I just thought we’d celebrate…”
“Let’s wait until something actually happens.”
His blood began to boil. Rising from the bed, he threw on the lamp.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
“I’m going to go sleep in the guest bedroom.” he said, while gathering his clothes. Pausing at the door, his temper slipped for the first time in many years and he went on, “Bianca, I don’t really know what it is that I did or didn’t do to make you hate me so much. But if it’s really so damned bad, I wonder why you’re still here at all.”
The look on her face, as satisfying as it was, did little to ease him. He tossed and turned, grumbling to himself. The ball had returned, an inferno now churning his stomach.
“Just like before…” he whispered, “Come on, do it just like before…”
Just like before, the ball popped.
story by Joe Stanley