A Hard Lesson to Learn

A Short Story

By Betty Overocker

"Hey you! Let's go for a walk." said a gruff voice behind me as I sat on a concrete park bench. Without question, I stood up and walked along the concrete sidewalk in the direction the dark suited man pointed to. The heat of the day was intense as it radiated off the concrete building that lined the concrete street we were walking beside. I paused momentarily to lean against a concrete lamp post and concentrate my slurry of thoughts into a more rigid mass. The men in dark suits continued to move me along this set journey.

At a large concrete archway, the men told me to enter. The entrance was very steep, and contained two concrete statues of vicious looking dogs guarding the way. The door opened into a large room. The walls were made of concrete blocks arranged in an off-set pattern. My mind tried to trace an escape route in the mortar trails between the bricks, but I kept running into dead ends much like the situation I was in, there were no concrete answers.

The room was arranged in a court hall formation consisting of massive poured concrete chairs and benches. A man of questionable character sat in the front of the room, in the largest of the concrete thrones. The men in dark suits motioned for me to approach the front. Being tired from the long walk, I leaned against the concrete pillars that outlined the path that I least wanted to travel.

I approached the domineering godfather. He told me to place my legs into a cylindrical container that came up to my knees.

The two goons that had been watching me headed to a concrete box nearby. One of the goons carried a bag of pre-mix concrete. The other, a container of water. As they began to mix these ingredients, I began to realize what was about to occur. I broke the code of silence and asked the godfather if I could have one last request. He nodded. I surveyed the scene. Knowing that this long look of the tall concrete skyscrapers may be one of my last, I asked for a large soda and a large cotton candy. Not bad, I thought for a diabetic on his supposed last binge.

As my last requests arrived, the goon's transferred the contents of the concrete mix into the bucket. I could feel the weight of the wet mass entering my shoes. I squirmed just as the deliverer was handing me the food. In the shuffle, the large soda slipped out of his hand and spilled into the bucket in which I was standing. The cotton candy also was lost to the mess on my feet. The dom thought nothing of the new additives in the mixture. I, on the other hand, was pleased that my plan had worked.

What followed was the usual take-and-get-rid-of-the-guy routine. The goons were not too bright on the ways of concrete. They just followed directions. As for me, the training I received in a high school module on concrete had taught me all about the effects of admixtures on the curing processes of concrete. The sugar in the candy and the soda would prevent the concrete from setting. As the assistants carried me and my "hardened" boots to the water's edge, I hoped that all that modular information was accurate because my life now depended on it. The buckets and I were set on a dolly for ease of movement. The dolly was rolled to the edge of the drop off and I was released into the water.

Due to the retardation effect of sugar on the setting of concrete, I managed to wiggle my legs out of the fresh concrete anchor and rise to the surface. No one was in sight and I decided to learn more about other industrial materials so I could save my life again some other time.

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