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Work Release: Chapter One

31 Mar

The following is the first chapter of my Novel, Work Release, that I wrote for my Children’s Literature Class in 2011.  Work Release is a 140=page story about a young man who joins a team of mercenaries, and carries out the inscrutable orders of his bank.

You can by the book here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/simon-jones/work-release/paperback/product-18757697.html

Chapter One

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” a young man said to himself, walking down a busy sidewalk. It was about four in the afternoon, and the man knew that meant business hours would be over soon. It was vital for him to get his business done today.
The young man ran his hand through his spiky brown hair, and let out a deep sigh. The young man was about twenty-five, and was rather short for his age. In fact, all of his life he had always been shorter than his peers. By college, he barely noticed the distinct difference anymore, but after getting fired from his job, he felt especially short. This feeling was only augmented by the tall buildings around him.
The young man lived out of his mom’s house. But after he was let go, there was no longer any income. They were in danger of losing their house. That’s why he was walking down this busy street in the afternoon.
In one hand, he held a manila folder, filled with tax information, legal documents, and other material he was told to bring. It weighed on his conscience like a brick, and he resented carrying it. On the other hand, this was his only ticket out of poverty, and probably homelessness. He resented his lack of choice, and felt trapped With only one course of action to take, he was determined to make this work.
The young man finally got to the building’s entrance. Above him was an electronic marquee, and stock related news was flying by. Above the marquee was the bright gold insignia of the corporation, United Bank and Trust. The man didn’t really care much. He opened the gilded doors and walked inside the building.
In front of him was a receptionist, wearing a suit with gold lapels. She sat behind a black desk, and typed away on a computer. A fountain in the middle of the lobby ran water into a koi pond. The young man walked up to the receptionist.
“Welcome to United Bank and Trust,” she said, not looking up from her work.
The man approached. “Hi,” he said to her. She didn’t look up. “I’m looking for the…bankruptcy office…” he finished, unsure of what to say.
“Down the hall, to the left, take a number,” she said, almost rehearsed. The young man guessed that this woman had had this talk many times before.
The young man nodded his head nervously, and followed her directions. He made his way down the hall, his grip tightening on his folder. The hallway was extravagant, but not overbearing, and shared the gold theme of the building. The young man was not sure whether this was an office building or a palace.
Eventually, he made it to the office. He opened the door and was surprised at what he saw. Instead of a single office, as he expected, he was met with an office floor, with what looked like hundreds of cubicles set up in neat rows. In front of him was a ticket dispenser. He took one, and read the number off. Oddly, it wasn’t a ticket to wait in line, but a ticket that described what cubicle he was to go to. After looking over a map display on the wall, the young man started down the bankruptcy floor.
Along his walk, he peered into some of the other cubicles. This young man was always an eavesdropper, a bad habit, but his natural curiosity often got the better of him. Some cubicles were empty; the employees were probably out for lunch. Others contained people like him. People that were out of money and out of options. In one cubicle was an old couple, who the young man guessed had used up their retirement fund. Another cubicle contained a fifty-something year old woman. The young man guessed that she got the raw end of a messy divorce.
The young man shook his head, and refocused on his goal. “Okay, I can do this,” he reassured himself, though he was not very reassured. “I need to do this.”
He found the office, and stood in front of it for a moment. A moment of hesitation. For a moment, he considered just turning around and going home. But the thought of he and his mother losing the house finally convinced him to move forward.
Inside the office, behind a mahogany desk sat a slim, balding man. He twiddled a pen with the golden letters UBT branded on it.
“Hello,” he said, in a sleazy voice, though the young man couldn’t decide of it was actually sleazy or if it was just the situation. “Please take a seat,” he continued.
The young man sat down on the only available seat, which was about a foot lower than the seat the other man was sitting on. Combined with his short height, the young man suddenly felt very vulnerable.
“My name is Greg Everett. You can call me Greg, though,” the employee said through a smile.
“Good Afternoon,” the young man replied as cordially as he could. “My name is Shawn.”
Shawn nervously smiled back, and gave him his folder. Greg flipped through it, taking out a few documents, but otherwise skipping most of the material. The silence as he went through his file almost drove the Shawn insane.
Finally, Greg spoke up. “So, Shawn…” he began. “I’m guessing you’re here because you want to declare bankruptcy?”
“Yes,” Shawn said, his face growing pale in embarrassment.
“Well, we here at United Bank and Trust strive to ensure the well being of all our clients,” Greg said. It was obvious that the line was customary for someone like Shawn.
“Thank you,” Shawn said quietly.
“Don’t worry,” Greg replied. “We’ll have you back on the road of financial independence soon.” The words sat like rocks in Shawn’s stomach. Even in his elementary school days, Shawn hated being singled out or treated differently. All he wanted was to be ignored, to disappear. He continually wished in his mind that he wasn’t here right now.
“Can…can you somehow help me keep my house,” Shawn asked Greg.
Greg gave him a funny look, and preceded to flip through the folder again. After a minute, he found the necessary documents. After looking it over, he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, Shawn,” Greg said. “But with no income and no collateral, I’m afraid UBT will have to take it back.”
“But, you can’t,” Shawn argued. “My mom can’t work anymore, and we’ll be out on the street if you take it.”
“Sorry, Shawn,” Greg said coolly. Greg probably had done this before, many times, Shawn thought. “It’s just not good business. How are you going to keep up the lease?”
“I’m looking for work,” Shawn said. “I already have some leads, and callbacks.” Of course, Shawn was exaggerating. He was looking for a new job, but he only had one call returned, and even if he had gotten that job, he would not have made enough to pay the rent.
“I’m sure you are,” Greg said. “And feel free to come back and reapply for a loan should you do so. But as the situation is now, if you declare bankruptcy, the bank will take the house back.”
Shawn was desperate now. He couldn’t let his mother down. He wouldn’t. “Please,” he begged. “I swear I can pay the bank back, every month. I just need a bit of time to get some things settled.”
Greg seemed unmoved. “Shawn, I’m sorry. Truth is, the banks come across people who are broke everyday. And though United Bank and Trust deeply feels for you, and will help you in any way possible, we just cannot consider allowing you to stay free of charge in one of our homes.”
Shawn was out of ideas. He wasn’t a very well spoken individual, and even if he was, there was obviously no convincing this man.
Greg went over to a filing cabinet and pulled out several forms. “Please fill these out and bring it back tomorrow. You have two weeks to move out.”
Shawn thanked Greg, and stood up, ready to leave. How would he break this to his mom, he thought. As he left, he realized he had forgotten his folder in Greg’s cubicle.
He turned around to get it, but found himself staring at Greg. Greg had followed him out, and he was holding the folder in his hand. “Is this yours?” he asked.
“Yes,” Shawn said, trying to take the folder, but Greg held onto it. Greg opened it up, and flipped though the folder until he came across a sheet of paper.
“So this is your resumé?” Greg asked.
Shawn looked at the paper. It was. “Yes,” he said again, curious as to why Greg would care.
Greg stared at it for a moment. “Follow me,” he said. Shawn was surprised, but followed Greg nonetheless. He had no idea what to make of this strange turn of events.
Greg walked out of the office, out of his wing of the building, and led Shawn through a door labeled “employees only beyond this point”.
They both came to a glass elevator, that required a card key to open. Greg removed one from his pocket and slid it across the scanner. There was a small beeping noise, followed by the arrival of an elevator. The doors opened up, and Greg motioned Shawn in.
Shawn stepped inside, followed by Greg. The doors closed behind the two. Greg pushed a button on a keypad, and the elevator began to move. From the motion, Shawn guessed that the elevator was moving down, but he wasn’t quite sure. After what felt like ages to Shawn, the two made it to the bottom.
They got out into another hallway, but unlike upstairs, this hallway seemed run down and decrepit. There were UNB insignias along the wall, but no gold trimming. At the far end of the hall was a door, unlabeled. It was this door the two made their way to.
Greg knocked on the door, and there was a small clicking noise from the handle. Greg turned the doorknob, and it opened up. Inside the door was a small room. It was mostly white, but there was a golden UNB symbol on the far side of the room. There was a desk in the center of the room. Two chairs were on either side of the room. He was instructed to sit in one of the chairs (the lower on, Shawn noted) and wait until someone arrived. Greg left him sitting in the room.
Shawn finally had a few moments to himself. Before, he was considering what he was going to tell his mother, but now, that thought gave way to utter confusion. He had heard that the bureaucracy was full of red tape, but United Bank and Trust had advertised a new, streamlined business experience. Was this it? And what did his resumé have to do with this? Everyone knew that United Bank and Trust, in fact, all of the banks, usually hand picked prospective employees from their colleges. And those were just for low level positions. True, Shawn did attend college at United Bank and Trust Northeast, but he didn’t know anything about business.
In college, Shawn studied computer science, yet another thing that made him feel left out and different. Most, if not all his classmates had studied some sort of business. Back then, Shawn felt that the world had a few too many accountants and marketing experts, and wanted to do something different. But now, Shawn wished he had just studied business.
Shawn hated his college years. He was often mocked and ridiculed for not pursuing a business degree, and his advisors constantly reminded him that his career prospects were grim, at best. Most of the time he stayed in his dorm, studying. He had very few friends, and most of them had dropped out by the time he was a senior. Romance wasn’t even an option.
Shawn rested his head on his hands. He knew that whatever was happening to him, it was bad. Why didn’t I just give in and become an accountant, he thought to himself. His skill with a computer was one of the things that right up until this moment, he had been proud of. But now, he resented his degree, his life, and the world.
Shawn didn’t have time to dwell on this, though, for at that moment, the door swung open. In walked a tall, slender man. He had jet black hair that was tied into a ponytail. He wore a very dark suit, with a tie that bared the letters UBT. He sat in the chair opposite Shawn.
Shawn sat upright, taken aback by the new arrival. In the man’s hand was a copy of Shawn’s resumé.
The man spoke first, clearly and concisely. “It says here that you attended United Bank and Trust Northeastern University. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Shawn stammered. This other man was an enigma. Shawn couldn’t tell what he was thinking at all.
“And you’ve studied computer science there, correct?” Shawn confirmed.
The man continued asking questions regarding Shawn’s computer skills, his degree, and the job he had lost.
“I was working at a small business firm,” Shawn said. “But it was bought out by Federal Trade and Loan,” Shawn said. “When they acquired the firm, I was let go.” Shawn remembered his last day. A coworker just cam up to him, and told him that he was finished. Shawn packed up his things, and left. Nobody seemed to notice or care.
“Did you have any contact with the enemy?” the mysterious man asked.
“What?” Shawn said. Had he just heard the word “enemy”? What was that about? The United States hadn’t been to war in well over two decades. Was the other bank an enemy? “What enemy?” Shawn asked.
“Enemy?” the man asked. “What are you talking about?”
“You just asked me if I had contact with the enemy,” Shawn said.
“I did not,” The man said. “I asked if you had any contact with FTL.” Shawn wasn’t sure if the man was trying to backtrack his mistake, or if he had legitimately asked about FTL.
“No,” Shawn said, deciding to drop the subject. He was getting frustrated as the day wore on, and was not in the mood for arguing.
“What about any other banks?” the man asked. “Have you or have you ever conducted business with any other banks?”
“No,” Shawn said. “I’ve been with United Bank and Trust all my life.” This was true. Shawn had always used United Bank and Trust for all of his needs. There were seven or eight big banks in the world, and United Bank and Trust was one of the biggest.
The man suddenly changed topics. “Do you live with anyone? Friends or relatives?”
“Only my mom,” Shawn said. “I don’t have many friends,” he forced out a chuckle.
The man was silent for a while, then spoke up. “How would you like to apply for our work release program?” the man asked.
“Work release?” Shawn asked.
“The United Bank and Trust Work Release Program enables those with very little business experience to use their unique abilities for the bank. A two year contract will dissolve all debts due to United Bank and Trust, as well as provide full time employment,” the man said, hands clasped together on the table.
Shawn didn’t know what to say. He was still confused, but the words “dissolve all debts” lingered in his ears. In the first time since he left his house this morning, he felt a twinge of hope.
“We here at United Bank and Trust are well aware of your situation, and we would like to do everything we can to help,” the man said. The words still sounded stale and stilted, but right now Shawn didn’t care.
“Does that mean…” he asked. “We can keep our house?”
The man produced a simple sheet of paper. “If you just sign here, UBT will love to have you as an employee. We could certainly use a man with your skills.”
Shawn couldn’t believe it. Was the answer to his problems really so simple? This morning, he felt that he had lost it all, but right now, it felt like the world was opening itself up to limitless possibilities.
Shawn took the contract in his hands. Everything would be alright, he thought to himself. Taking apen offered to him by the man, he signed the contract.