“DIE TONIGHT…” (excerpt from a forthcoming book, Die Tonight by BEANS.)

Written by BEANS. (Chapter 18.)

die-tonight

In college, Eric wasnʼt failing per se, but he was currently
ranked as number 2 in all of his classes meaning that the number 1
student held an advantage over him. In high school, Eric superseded
every other student scholastically, so this was the first time that he
wasnʼt measuring up to his own expectations, despite the fact most
applicants werenʼt usually admitted to SMEAL as first year students.
The student who, at the end, ranked number 1 would be eligible for a
paid, limited to only one applicant,

very prestigious internship for
the duration of his college existence, with an increased possibility
for him or her of securing employment within the manufacturing
conglomerate of Meridian Technologies.

Ericʼs mother had saved enough money towards his education and used a
portion of the insurance that his fatherʼs death provided to
supplement her income. The garage was still sustaining itself, despite
the struggling economy affecting both rich and poor alike, but for
Eric, getting the internship wasnʼt about paying for college or his
future job security. It was about not having anyone else get the
better of him.

The number one ranked student in Ericʼs class thus far was Elliot
White, a young African-American single father who was only a few
months older than Eric, was a full time student during the day, and
worked as an assistant manager for a Brunoʼs not far from the
university at nights. The family lived in a one-bedroom apartment and
Elliot was working to support his daughter, Angela, or as the family
lovingly calling her, Moon Pie, as well as taking care of the elderly
grandmother who raised him.

Although both were the top students in their class, they decided to
pool resources and study together, knowing full well that only one of
them would be eligible for the internship. Elliot had a few hours
between spending time with his daughter, work, and school, so Eric
would follow him back to his house to prepare for the upcoming
admittance and midterm exams.

After eight visits to the apartment, Eric was starting to become a
permanent fixture as he and Elliot shared a few classes, including
Inventory Control, Supply Chain Management, and Managerial Accounting.
Both students were friendly towards one another despite the
competition, but nothing had yet presented itself in terms of Eric
finding a way to get rid of Elliot.

As the deadline for both the nomination of the internship and midterms
was approaching, Eric finally had his opening.

The apartment where Elliotʼs family lived was cozy and the presence of
love was evidently abundant. It could even be seen in the furniture
that wasnʼt exactly new nor weary, but was looked after with attention
and care. Pictures that were aligned along the walls documenting
generations of the family tree as a cord to the past. There were also
the fairly recent ones of the three current occupants of the
household, intertwining their future. In every one of the pictures,
the subjects in the camera were all smiling, along the adorning walls
of the interior.

In Ericʼs mind, this made him reflect on the happiness that he once
shared with his own family, before his fatherʼs passing. Both he and
his mother were devastated by the love that had lost a little bit of
itself after his passing. Futilely, Eric felt that both he and his
mother tried to conquer that divide and attempt to find solace in each
other amongst the shambles

of his fatherʼs absence, but each had failed miserably. To cope, he
grew more withdrawn, which left his mother alone to fend for herself.

As he was getting older, Eric knew he wouldnʼt feel that same
closeness to his own mother again. Elliotʼs family display of
strength, bonded after loss, was another reason to lash out at Elliot,
on top of the internship. Within the walls of the Whiteʼs household
and amongst Elliotʼs family made him recognize that something had been
lost to him and may never be retrieved again- a home. This made Eric
very envious and, like steam in a kettle, he was searing, waiting
patiently and bidding his time to scold.

As he was becoming more of a frequent guest, Eric fell deeply in love
with Grandma Whiteʼs cooking and, having not been around many
children, Moon Pie was also a welcomed delight. The kid was beyond
adorable. In spite of himself, Eric took delight in Moon Pieʼs
discovery of the everyday average that, to a childʼs perspective, was
in every way extraordinary. Moon Pieʼs giggle at those discoveries was
contagiously infectious.

When Elliot himself spent any time in the apartment, it was usually
spent studying in the kitchen, or in his bedroom until his grandmother
and child went to sleep. in the bedroom or until heʼd grow tired from
work and finally resign himself to sleeping on the couch.

The perfect way to describe Elliot would be to call him a well
mannered, young man, determined to strive beyond his circumstances,
and do his best to provide for his family. It was Elliotʼs drive, hard
work, and aesthetic that made him eligible for and deserving of the
scholarship, which would lead him to be recognized amongst his peers
and the faculty alike.

Elliotʼs grandmother, Judith, was very gracious towards Eric, making
him feel welcome, as did the young lady of the house, who adorably
mispronounced Ericʼs name and compensated by replacing the R with a W,
sounding more like Wick instead or Rick.

“Ewick, Ewick,” the child running around the house in pampers would
say when not fiddling with the remote control, shoving it in and out
of her mouth as she raised herself on her fatherʼs pant leg to sit on
his knee, to get a better view of them both studying at the kitchen
table.

Eric was patient to the routine as much as he could be while he was in
the house studying. The remote would somehow always seem to drop out
of Moon Pieʼs busy little hands. Her father would lean over to pick up
the remote off the floor, secure the back cover, and the child would
repeat the sequence again and again before she would suddenly run away
laughing, either losing interest in the charade, or just disappearing
again, going back to doing whatever is that little children do with
themselves.

As Grandma Judith watched these two young men studying together, it
warmed her heart to see her grandson taking advantage of all the
opportunities that life was putting in his path. Because of all the
hardships that sheʼd had to endure in her life, such as living
meagerly on disability, the sudden and unexpected death of her
husband, Brian ( who was shot randomly by a stray bullet and
senselessly bled to death under the unwarrantable circumstance of
being at the wrong place and time), the pain of losing her only
daughter and Elliotʼs mother to the allure of addiction, she felt the
light that was once extinguished had finally revived itself in her
grandson.

Judith knew that he was doing things that no one in her family had
accomplished before him. Working as a manager full time, being a
responsible parent after his girlfriend didnʼt live up to her duties
as a mother and left him after the child was born, as well as being an
excellent student, Elliot ensured that Judith couldnʼt be any more
proud of her grandson. Elliot, with the child on his knee and his head
steeped between a pile of books, suddenly looked up at the face of his
loving grandmother and smiled at her.

As she smiled and stared back at him, Judithʼs eyes started to well up
and a single tear fell to her cheek. She turned her head quickly
wiping the tear away, so Elliot wouldnʼt notice.

“Would you two like something more to eat?” she asked them.

“No thank you,” they replied in unison, both heads never leaving the page.

“Well, in that case, Iʼm going to lie down for a minute. Just let me
know when youʼre leaving so I can put Moon Pie to bed. OK, Elliot?”

“No worries, Gran. After these few pages, I have to start and get
ready for work tonight.”

“Just knock on the door when youʼre ready for me to take her. See you
later then, Eric.”

“Goodnight, Mrs. White.”

Judith didnʼt look, but waved behind her. She reached the bedroom,
went inside, and then closed the door behind her.

“Can you watch Moon Pie for a minute, E? I have to go to the bathroom
real quick.” Elliot asked.

With his head still in a book, Eric said, “Sure, sure” dismissively.
“Eric, Eric! You HAVE to watch her,” he repeated.
“OK!” He answered, still not looking up from his book.
“ERIC!!!” He voiced in a tone that put all kidding aside.

Eric looked up at Elliot, annoyed.
“Please stay alert and donʼt let her out of your sight. Iʼll be right back.”

With that, Elliot got up from the table and closed the door to the
bathroom behind him. Moon Pie was now sitting at her fatherʼs place at
the table.

Across the table, Moon Pie just stared at Eric. Eric just stared back.
Moon Pie smiled at him. He smiled back.

“Cute kid,” Eric thought to himself.

Out of the childʼs hand, the remote suddenly fell onto the floor. The
back cover came off from the drop, revealing the button battery,
undone from its confinement, but as Eric went to reach and pick up the
remote off the floor, he stopped himself.

After a short pause, Eric scooped up the remote from the floor and
held it out so that the child could possess it once again, but did so
without replacing the back cover, which concealed that button battery.

Moon Pie looked at the familiar object in Ericʼs hand, taking instant
notice of the button battery, loose from the fall as if seeing it for
the first time.

It was new and shiny, so unlike the rest of the black, bulky remote.
The size of the button battery itself was inviting and would fit
neatly in the palm of her hand quite nicely like a Certs, a shiny
silver Certs.

“Here you go. Take it. Itʼs yours,” he spoke coaxingly and softly to
the child. “Take it.”

There was only one thing for the child to do.

Instead of the remote, Moon Pie reached for the button battery
sticking awkwardly out of its compartment, picked it up like a
delicacy between her toddler fingers, looked at Eric as she put the
battery into her mouth, and then swallowed it.

He looked upon the child in approval and smiled at her.

Moon Pie smiled back at him, chuckled as she got down from the table,
and innocently scurried off to play with the rest of her toys in the
middle of the living room.

Elliot got out of the bathroom, unaware that anything was out of
place. “Everything all good?” he asked Eric.

Eric looked up from his books at Elliot and broadly smiled as he
replied, “Sure, why wouldnʼt it be?”

Original illustration drawn by BEANS.