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The Vacation

It was a cold New York February evening. Frank Kessler's shoes leaked as he stepped into freezing puddles as he walked to his rooming house from the bus stop and he wrapped his thin jacket tighter against the chill wind. A scarf would be nice, he thought.

As he turned into his street he saw a police car in front of his rooming house and at the top of the steps a cop. Frank walked up the steps and the cop held up his hand. "Who're you?" Frank said, "I live here. In 4C." The cop grunted and said, "Best you come with me."

Frank followed the policeman up several flights of stairs to 4C. The door was broken. "Seems you've been robbed," The cop said. Frank walked into the room and the cop said, "So, what's missing?" Frank looked and said, "Well, the alarm clock, for one." He walked over to the bed, lifted the mattress and said, "And my money. My vacation money."

"If you want to file a report you can but the chances of getting your money back are slim to none," the cop said. "Vacation money? Like to Hawaii?" He pointed at a large travel poster Frank had pinned a month ago above the bed. Frank nodded "Yes, Hawaii." He and the cop looked at the poster with its picture of a beach with palms and a family lazing in the sun with children playing in the surf. "Expensive," the cop said. "Last year the wife and I went to Mazatlan. Had a great time. Had to drag myself back. Hell of a sight better than here in the winter."

A noise behind them caused them to turn. Another cop and the super were carrying a door. "Ain't my fault." The super said.

"Never is, Jimmy" said the first cop. "Nor is the lack of heat or the fleas. Just get the door fixed so Mr. — what's your name? — can lock up"

"I'm Frank Kessler," Frank said. The cop said, "I'm Norm and my partner is Neville. Look, there's not much we can do. I can file a report but it's a waste of time, really. How much you lose?"

Frank said, "About $300."

"Too bad," Norm said. "Some a-hole is shoving that up his nose about now. Not much we can do, Frank."

Frank sat on the bed and said, "I understand. I gotta go. I have to work tonight."

Working at The Rice Bowl was Frank's second job. Days he worked at a loading dock at a paper mill's distribution center sending large rolls of newsprint to the newspapers. His job was running a forklift moving the rolls on to the trucks. The Rice Bowl was washing dishes. Manhandling the rolls took ten hours a day while washing dishes at The Rice Bowl took six. At the paper distributors Frank was just another anonymous driver. He had made a suggestion to improve the way the rolls were handled and the shift boss said, "Just shut up, Frank. See those pallets? Move them, okay? Christ, you've been here a month and you know it all. Just move the damn paper."

At The Rice Bowl Wan Lee said, "You're a good worker. Finding someone to wash dishes isn't as easy as some think. We've had six people before you and not one lasted a few weeks. You've been here a month and even the cook likes you. But you're saying you are leaving soon for Hawaii. Will you come back when you've had your vacation?"

Frank said, "I may be here longer. I was robbed and my money taken. I have to save up again." Wan Lee sighed. "So your misfortune is my fortune." He bowed. "Ancient Chinese restaurant philosopher at your service."

At the paper distribution it grew worse. Frank would move paper rolls and the shift boss would say that Frank placed them wrong. Then that Frank missed specific rolls for The New York Times. Then that Frank deliberately allowed the forklift propane tank to run out. Then Frank had his walking papers. "Jeez," the shift boss said. "This ain't rocket science, Frank. Now you just go to the office and they'll cut you your last check and you can just get the hell out."

Frank then got a job with 1-800-Flowers as a driver.

Frank was walking back to his rooming house when a cop car drove along him. "Hey, Frank, how are you?" It was Norm. "Oh, hi," Frank said. Norm said, "How goes the vacation plan?" Frank said, "Almost there, Norm." Norm said, "You still keeping your money under the mattress and have you wizened up and put it in the bank?" Frank said, "It's safe." Norm said, "I hope so. You ain't going anywhere if someone rips you off." Frank said, "I learned that lesson." Norm said, "I don't get it, Frank, why the rush to vacation in Hawaii? Why not get out of that pigpen Jimmy runs and be somewhere better?" Frank said, "It doesn't matter, Norm." Norm said, "Okay, Frank, see you."

A month later. At La Guardia airport Frank stood in line to board a flight to Hawaii. His cheap suitcase held together with duct tape had been checked and Frank waited his seat boarding call. It came and Frank shuffled down the plane to seat 32. In seat 32A, the window seat was a man far better dressed that Frank and wanting to talk.

"Man, this is one hell of a place to go," said 32A. "We're bound for the land of sun and surf and pina coladas and women in grass skirts. I'm shakin' off the dust of New York and just awaitin' having a lei around my neck and sun out the ying yang."

Frank said, "I have to agree. I am looking forward to Hawaii. But let me ask you a question. What if you lived in Hawaii and all this you described were commonplace? What if the place grew stale after a while?"

"Nah," said 32A. Tell you what grows stale. Seattle. Pisses down with rain most of the time and in the summer there's tourists filling up everywhere. I was there for a year and I couldn't get away from it fast enough. No, my man, Hawaii yes, Seattle no."

Frank said, "I should look at Seattle."

32A said, "Better you than me, man. New York is the pits but Seattle is god-damn dreary. You go there and I'll guarantee you'll want to be anywhere else but there."

The flight continued. Passenger 32A fell asleep but Frank stayed awake. The minutes measured the distance to Hawaii. The aircraft started its descent and 32A woke. "Frank." he said, "Paradise in less than an hour."

Frank said, "I wonder about paradise. How would you know if you're in paradise if you haven't experienced what isn't paradise? What I mean is heaven if you don’t know hell?"

Seat 32A said, "Frank, I don't give a damn. For the next two weeks I am going to have a vacation I've thought about since god knows when. I am going to take what Hawaii is and have a ball."

Frank said, "I think I will too."

At Honolulu airport, under a sign reading 'Kessler Industries Welcomes You to Hawaii' were five people in suits. Frank stepped off the aircraft and one came up to him and said, "Welcome home. Mr. Kessler. Your luggage is in the limo and Mrs. Kessler is expecting you. And I am to remind you there is an executive meeting set at your convenience concerning the Almarad merger. How was your vacation, sir?"

Frank said, "It couldn't have been better."

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