Thursday, January 24, 2013

Harris Tobias


   I was wondering about the old man. I hadn't seen him for several days. He was usually as regular as clockwork walking that little dog of his. What was that dog? A chijuajua I guess. That would make sense since he was Mexican. Or am I stereotyping? That triggered a furious internal debate about prejudice and racial factors and how they influence our decisions. I thought about actually going over there and seeing if the old man was all right but that would mean actually invading someone else's space and I don't think I was ready to take on the heavy mantle of Good Samaritan without some serious thought.

   So instead of going over there, I sat in my thinking chair and made a list of the pros and cons of getting involved with strangers. That triggered a whole inner discussion about list making. I wondered whether I should list the pros first or let my natural pessimism take over and do the cons first. I have a tendency to favor the cons but then I feel bad for the pros because the mean old cons are such bullies. Then I had the idea of writing the pros and cons of visiting my neighbor on 3 x 5 cards in the order they occurred to me. That way I wouldn't be concentrating on the negative and influencing the outcome. It took me a day or two to get the cards but I was determined to do a proper job. It was worth the extra effort.

   After another day of scribbling reasons for and against being a good neighbor, the decision seemed weighted pretty heavily in favor of going over there. Then I remembered the little dog. What if the man needed hospitalization? Then I'd be responsible for taking care of the dog. That created a whole other set of problems which I had to work through. After several hours of thinking, which digressed into animal rights issues and a close examination of comparative religion, I reached a decision. I would go over there first thing in the morning and see if the old guy was okay.

   I got there just as the paramedics were loading the body of the old man into the ambulance. "What happened," I asked someone in the small crowd of onlookers.

   "It looks like he fell a couple of days ago. He must have been lying there for days. Finally he just died. They say he probably tripped on the dog's leash. The dog was hurt too. They both must have suffered terribly."

   Well, that was that. I felt good that I had made the right decision to help but I felt bad that I was too late. That got me thinking about the dualistic nature of good and evil and the nature of suffering itself. It was an exciting morning. I'm inspired to go back and blog about it. There are a lot of lessons I can teach.

© Harris Tobias 2013

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers, and despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. He has published novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim, short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival, and is a favorite here on MuDJoB. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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