~ Hermit ~
THE SPECTER PEERED DOWN at the old, rickety cabin deep in the canyon, astonished that someone would actually call this home. From atop his perch on the rock cleft, he noted there
was no sign of anyone having come or gone in some time.
Obviously the old hermit doesn’t get out much.
The cabin sat alongside a full-running creek, completely surrounded by a patch of trees and brush. A dwindling thread of smoke coming from the chimney indicated the fireplace inside had all but gone out.
As he made his way down towards his objective, he passed by a large fire pit, nearly a hundred yards from the dilapidated, old shack. Large, rusty metal containers littered the edge of the fire pit, indicating that this was where the hermit disposed of his unwanted assets.
Also nearby were a generator, several drums of fuel, a propane tank, and a well.
Sitting in the adjacent carport next to the cabin rested an old Jeep covered in dust, along with evidence of many spiders and their disreputable kin.
Being this close to the cabin, the specter could now hear voices coming from inside. Approaching the window, he
could see a television playing softly in the corner. And if he wasn’t mistaken, it was Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Somebody has a sense of humor. No, the irony is not lost on me. Very funny.
He noticed his cowled reflection in the window.
Don’t want to frighten the gentleman.
Lowering his hood, he rapped on the door three times and waited.
Ben Davison hated the world, and everyone in it. Nothing had prepared him for this. He had not deserved this. He never wanted this. He certainly had never imagined that this is how his life would end up. Life had definitely not turned out the way he thought it would.
He had always believed that he could do anything he put his mind to. After all, he was smart – he was creative – he was inventive – and he was a reasonably nice enough guy.
Ben was 60 years old, born and raised in California. He had a fine upbringing with good parents. There was nothing extraordinary about his appearance – he was of average height, average build, with brown hair and brown eyes. He wasn’t movie-star handsome, nor was he Quasimodo ugly. He was your everyday, average guy.
Ben wasn’t rich. But then, he never really cared much about that. He knew rich people, and saw how hard they worked. With maybe a maybe a couple of exceptions, most of them never seemed content. They were extremely driven and – as far as he could tell – pretty stressed out all the time. Nor did they seem to actually enjoy their wealth. Rather, they seemed to only live and dream about making more money.
Not Ben. He was prepared to make a modest living, plan on enough for retirement, and enjoy life to its fullest.
That was forty years ago. And somehow things had gone horribly wrong.
Sure, Ben enjoyed his work. He had a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics. He was an inventor, so to speak. And he was always designing new things that gave him that fulfilling sense of accomplishment whenever he completed a project. At least until Marketing got a hold of it and twisted it into something else entirely. But nevertheless, he had a fair amount of satisfaction with his career choice.
And as far as relationships go, he pretty much got along with everyone. Granted, he was something of an introvert at times, but that was just the way his brain was wired. While some people’s idea of re-energizing themselves was getting together with friends and socializing and partying, it was Ben’s way to get alone with a good book, away from other people.
Of course, when he was around close friends and family, he would come out of his shell and generally enjoyed joking around and having a good time as much as the next person.
He didn’t believe in taking life too seriously, and he often communicated through humor.
As far as marriage went, he seemed to do fine there as well. He always took care to try to demonstrate his appreciation for his wife of thirty years, Susan. He never forgot a birthday or anniversary, and was never demanding. It was a fine marriage.
True, they didn’t talk a lot – weren’t especially romantic – especially towards the end. In fact, over time, they seemed more like casual roommates than husband and wife. But, as the song from Fiddler on the Roof went, doing the laundry, fixing the house, and staying together – regardless of feelings – that’s what true love was … wasn’t it?
But over time, Ben gathered into his introverted shell and began to avoid getting together with his friends and family. He began to come up with excuses why he was unable to attend birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gatherings.
That was fifteen years ago.
When suddenly and out of the blue, Susan announced she could no longer live in a loveless marriage and that she was leaving.
No warnings. No signs. No counseling. No fair.
And just like that … as their marriage had been cordial, so also was their parting of ways. They sold the house and fairly split everything. Although she had eventually gone back to using her maiden name, neither had followed through on an actual divorce. And Ben never saw or heard from her again.
Then things got worse. Despondent over his loss, he began to lose himself in his work to replace the relationships he had given up. By keeping his mind occupied, he was able to somewhat forget about the pain of his failed marriage and the loss of those he used to feel close to.
As Ben increased his workload, he began receiving more praise for his work, his ideas and his accomplishments. He realized he was able to produce much more for the company; and in return, he received accolades from his co-workers and extra bonuses for his labors. He was awarded Employee of the Year for nine years in a row! And, of course, there was that lovely little two dollar chunk of Plexiglas statue that made it all seem worthwhile.
Eventually, the memories of his past wife and past relationships all but faded with the passing of years. Ben was consumed with his work. So much so, that he no longer took days off. He worked through holidays and quit taking vacations. Working over 120 hours per week, he became the pride of the company executives and even began to be considered for a VP position – Vice President of Engineering. Now that had a nice ring to it!
That was ten years ago.
That was when HE came on staff as his new assistant. Vincent was outgoing, energetic, charismatic and extremely ambitious. And Vincent stole his job.
Ben couldn’t prove anything, but he knew what Vincent had done. Due to his introverted nature, Ben had begun allowing Vincent to represent him at various meetings, functions and even presentations.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I have no one to blame but myself! No, that’s not true. I did nothing wrong. Vincent is the one to blame! And everyone at the company is to blame! They all knew I was the brains behind everything!
Ben began to notice that all the praise he had been used to getting was now being redirected towards Vincent. Finally, he approached the Senior VP, gently reminding him that he was supposed to be up for promotion. To Ben’s shock, that was his last day with the company.
Vincent had indeed stolen his job.
Granted, they gave him a reasonable severance package and promises of a glowing recommendation to any other who might be interested in him.
Ben knew he could get a new position anyplace. What with his expertise and experience and all … he would be a shoo-in! He could write his own ticket to wherever his fancy might want to take him.
But he couldn’t shake the smoldering bitterness that had been developing in him for many years, seeded back when Susan had left him.
And without realizing it, Ben now carried that burning acrimony with him to his job interviews. Angrily, he left many an interview in a huff, for their failure to recognize his great value and for being so blind to the great asset he would have been to their company.
And in time … he began to realize that there was no one intelligent enough to recognize his great worth. Everyone seemed to be more concerned with their own petty little lives than to give credence to his unquestionable significance.
And so Ben decided he was done with all of them. He was done with company politics and scheming coworkers and forgetful friends and uncompassionate family members and seditious wives.
Ben found a piece of property – far away from civilization. Civilized? Hah! He bought a Jeep that would take him there and back again when absolutely necessary. And he would spend his remaining years secluded from the ridiculous antics of the human race.
And a recluse he became. Having left no forwarding address or any other means of locating him, Ben had not communicated with another living soul for the last ten years.
Even during his monthly trips into town, he refused to speak to anyone. They regarded him as the old hermit of the canyon. Many were curious about him – most were afraid of him. Children were reigned in if they came too close or tried to speak to him.
He had no mailbox and no telephone. He received no newspapers or any other form of contact from the outside world. His only friends were his books, his laptop, and his satellite TV with all of its movie channels, where he could escape into a forgotten world of what used to be, before it died along with his heart, so many years ago.
And Ben Davison never received a visitor to his pitiful, lonely little existence.