Future Beyond Placement (A Pack of Lies)

Placement comes at the price of coincidence. As many times in life we want to believe that the situation is mightier than the will. The will of course is what moves one foot in front of the other.

Bob Davis called me this afternoon.

So what made Bob want to call me? We haven't spoken for years. Count that as a decade. Decimation of bridge. Water still intact. My cell phone displayed a Washington, DC 202. Was the president calling? No. It was Bob.

"Hello?" I answered.

"This is Bob Davis." Bob broke immediately into a conversation we had on an airplane leaving Pennsylvania back in 1999. That's where I met Bob. I was on my way back to Virginia from Fort Indiantown Gapp. I went to an NCO school there and I had just finished Primary Leadership Development. It was cold then.


"Bob, how are you! How did you get my number?"

Bob, I remembered vividly. I had not thought of him for a while but that plane trip was unforgettable. I sat next to the emergency door because I liked the leg-room. Bob was the passenger beside me. We were on a 727 which to me is like a school bus with wings. It was not yellow but just as good at finding air pockets in the sky as a school bus sans shocks was able to find the potholes in the road. Constant jarring flying the friendless skies.

727 which to me is like a school bus with wings
727 which to me is like a school bus with wings

He struck up a conversation with me upon take-off. He was an amicable fellow. He told me about his law practice and why he like Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island. Everything we talked about eventually got back to one thing: Bob did not like to fly with anyone. His misanthropic rants were part of who he was. But for his friendly posturing, Bob loathed people. I just listened and smiled as he went on about everything that he felt, believed in, or was convinced I should know. At the end of the flight we touched town in Newport News, Virginia. Bob gave me has card and asked me to call him if I was ever going to Northern Virginia. I said I would.

A year later in 2000 I was heading to Richmond to go the Virginia Fine Arts Museum. I wanted to see the Faberge Collection and the Eastern Art exhibits. In the museum I spotted Bob discussing the Buddha statue with a woman maybe 10 years younger than him. I guessed that Bob was 45 at the time. He was a different man. His head was shaved and he lost maybe 25 pounds. His 5' 10" frame looked healthy. He was the same height as me. I remembered him as a small fat man. I had never seen him standing face to face.

Bob didn't recognize me. I just passed him by and went on to another exhibit. That was the last time I saw him.

"I got your number from Anne Draves. She works with my old firm. She's a detective."

"Uh huh." I said.

"She does collections for us and she came across your name in a debt that was sold to us. I told her that your name sounded familiar. You know, you really aught to stop using Bank of America. They are just socking you with fee after fee." He finished.

"So let me get this straight." I began. "You quit your firm and you know my number and your Anne has found it and me and I need to stop using Bank of America. Is that all?"

"No, there's more. I am coming to Norfolk and I want you to show me around."

Great. I was blown away. I'm not even a Bank of America customer. I don't owe them a damned thing. Here is someone I barely know. Someone who knows a lot about me in a wrong way. I was wondering how he got my number. I figured it was a ruse. I was more than suspicious. I hung up the phone after politely saying: "Good bye, Bob." I turned off my cell phone. Now I was worried.

So I went for a walk.

Olde Towne Portsmouth is a lovely place in the evening. Across from us divided by the Elizabeth River is Norfolk. I saw the buildings of Norfolk reflected on the water. Why did Bob, or was it Bob, call me? I kept walking along the Portsmouth board-walk.

Chug Chug Chug the fake paddle-wheel turned
Chug Chug Chug the fake paddle-wheel turned

It was then that the ferry passed me. Chug Chug Chug the fake paddle-wheel turned. It served no purpose. It was a faux ferry wheel. Useless. As I rounded the corner to High Street the ferry and I met. I watched the passengers debark. There was Bob. He recognized me. I don't know how. I looked quite insignificant and stupid. I wore a watch cap with "NY" stitched into the side. I had a knitted grey scarf around my neck. I wore what could be called very ugly hip-hop baby-shit brown pants with useless zippered pockets on the side (so you could take off the pants and slip them into a small square inside out). I had a dark gray fleece jacket that was xxxx large. I didn't care. I was warm. Bob didn't care either. He knew it was me.

"Alex, wow! I am so glad to see you." It didn't matter that I hung up on him. Now it also didn't matter that he found me. It didn't matter why. He found me.
"Hey Bob." I answered in my usual warm fake way that I was wont to do for a positive reaction from someone I did not want to see.

As he was leaving the dock he approached me standing near the entry to dock. The Christmas lights looked great. The air was cool. I was warm under my fleece. I held out my hand to show I did not have any weapons. Bob shook it warmly. His hands were not soft. My hands were.

"I knew I would find you here. I was on my way to your house."

"You know where I live."

"Of course. Anne told me."

"Well Anne is right about some things and wrong about others." I told him. "Look I am trying to enjoy my walk. I love my walk. This is why I live here. I am a water baby and water babies need to see the water. Walk with me."

We headed north along Water Street toward the Lighthouse Ship. As we passed the Federal Building I looked to see who was smoking there. Always some idiot was smoking there. Day or night there is always some federal worker smoking there. It always stinks. The cold still air brought the smoke to my big nose. I inhaled the waste waft.

Lighthouse Ship concrete mooring
Lighthouse Ship concrete mooring

Bob was on my right hand side. There was enough room on the sidewalk for both of us. He was quiet until I stepped across the street toward the Light House Ship. Then he began to chatter as we entered into the little park, monument, Lighthouse Ship concrete mooring. The ship was parked in concrete. The keel was secured for generations to enjoy.

"Do you remember our flight from Pennsylvania?" Bob asked.


"Do you remember how angry I was about everything."


"Well I am an attorney and I was so scared about flying I decided to make a game up of sophistry and manipulation. I wanted to push your buttons. Instead you just laughed or smiled at everything I said and somehow managed to always bring it back to a positive light. I went from being bored and scared to enjoying the game with you. What's funny is that you didn't realize I was just trying to get you to take a stand. I wanted you to take an issue. I thought that since you were a military guy that you would be a hyped-up anger machine waiting for someone to challenged your red-white-and-blue.

When I first saw you you sat up straight staring at the wall reading the emergency exit instructions. I said hello to you as I sat in the seat beside you and you didn't even look at me. You just stared at the wall look at the pictures and instructions."

"I like to know what I need to do if the plane crashes. I had the exit seat. It's a lot of responsibility." I answered and then I stopped. We were at the board-walk again. I put my hands on the rail and looked at the shipyard across the water. Someone was wielding.

Bob was still on my right side. He looked at the ship too. I turned to Bob and said, "Do you think that is a good job to have?"

"What, working on a ship?"


It was night time and someone was wielding on a Sunday night. The dry-dock was mostly quiet. We could hear the water lapping at the seawall. We could see the brilliant flash every few seconds. Someone was working over there. Was his or her job a good one?

"I guess its good." Bob answered. "If you know what you want you can work at anything to achieve your goals. If that is the case, then its a good job."

"What do you want, Bob?" I asked.

"I want to tell you that you made an impression on me that I just could not shake. Now I want to thank you."

"You're welcome." I walked away from the handrail and sat on my favorite bench. I liked this bench because it was wrong. It was placed 5 inches away from the sidewalk bolted into two little concrete pedestals that were about 6 inches lower than the curb of the side-walk. You could sit there with your knees almost level with your chest. I like to think of it as one of the architectural features of Portsmouth incongruity. Bob sat beside me. Bob was now on the emergency exit side.

I reached in my pocket and turned on my phone. One missed call. It was Bob. No use in keeping my phone off now. Bob began to thank me some more.

"Our conversation started to change the way I approached things. I was confused but delighted. Everything I thought about was mostly intelligent and educated, but I realized I still had to learn more. You were this Army officer who I realized would probably become a great leader of men."

"I wasn't an Army officer. I was an Army National Guard specialist who was flying home from a two week training school." I corrected his keen observation. Ten years of assumption. "I served in the National Guard for 5 years and after you met me I was finished with it a year later. Don't get me wrong, I was a serious guy, but I was almost 30 years old and that was all I had at the time. I just made the most of it."

After I finished my great confession. I looked at him.

"Oh." Bob was silent for a while.

Now it was my turn to babble.

"Bob, I am sorry to disappoint you but I have to get on with my walk." Bob didn't know anything. He was a monkey with a sword. I sensed that he was dangerous, but I had disarmed him. I didn't have to worry about Bob any more. I stood up with a jerking motion so I could get the momentum to achieve vertical dominance. I turned to him slouched on the bench. I bent down and shook his hand. He looked puzzled but not hurt. He would be OK. He shook my hand. I walked away to the north again. The ferry passed by me to go to land at the second Portsmouth dock. The ferry ran every half hour. I didn't turn around. I just looked at the ferry and its stupid paddle wheel.

When I arrived back at my house it was 21:16. That's what my watch said. I was forty years old. That's what my brain said. Bob had found me in the future beyond placement. To him it was all a pack of lies. His game was finished. Bob would be OK I am sure. I would be OK too. Anyone could find anything. Who needs Anne? She might have been part of the game or not. Regardless of what came about this, I knew that I was not loosing any sleep over it. I was not important enough to make a dent in anyone else's life. I was just another biped full of thoughts, ideas and misconceptions.

Fiction by Alex Nuttall, title: Future Beyond Placement (A Pack of Lies), Original Date: 20101128 – © Alexander Blair Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 2010 – 2017 – Retro-published 20170805.

Fiction, Portsmouth VA, Norfolk VA, Fort Indiantown Gap PA

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