Mirrors and Smoke
“If it’s too good to be true,” Grandpa had often said, “leave it. There’s always a catch.”
Nothing in Damon’s life had ever been too good to be true, and he often wondered whether that philosophy had inflicted missed opportunities upon his family. Yet, here was the job offer.
Damon’s heart beat with delight as he read the letter. The company offered extraordinary benefits, and the salary, oh, the salary, those zeroes went through the roof. He gulped; in one month he stood to earn more money than his parents had earned in their lifetime of toil and trouble and backbreaking overtime at the factory.
“It’s honest work, Damon,” his father’s words whispered in his memory, “never forget that. We are decent people, and that’s far more rewarding than money.”
It annoyed Damon that now, in his moment of victory, when he should savor pure bliss, those words would haunt him and a nagging apprehension would settle in his heart. He’d struggled too; being the first in his family with a college degree had been no picnic. And he worked his fingers to the bone at his meager-paying entry-level job while he clung for dear life to the bottom rung of the corporate ladder.
Then, that phone call; a headhunter saw his profile. A company, unknown but successful, was interested in his credentials. Afterwards came the whirlwind interview infused with smiles and enthusiasm. He’d researched the business. It seemed solid, according to the information available. And now, the blessed offer beyond his wildest dreams had arrived… but too good to be true.
Damon checked his watch. It was too late in the day to call and accept. He sighed and microwaved his frozen dinner, then turned on the TV. He paid no attention, his mind swirled with visions of wealth and success.
Still, that gnawing feeling…
Damon climbed into bed, flicked off the light and drifted off to sleep.
He stood in smoke, a thick white smoke. A soft breeze blew and dissipating the fumes revealed a headstone.
Nonplussed, he approached the gravestone. It was dark as onyx and reflected his own glimmering image on its smooth surface. Rugged letters etched the sepulchral mirror. He squinted, trying to the read the words inscribed, but they blurred in and out of focus. He reached out and traced his fingertips along the engraving. A ray of light beamed down upon the epitaph, and Damon distinguished only one word: PATSY.
“Whose grave is this?” he wondered.
“Yours,” Grandpa whispered beside him.
Damon turned towards the voice, but there was only vapor.
“Too good…” the wind ululated.
Damon awoke with a start; dawn was peeping through the window-blinds.
He stared at the ceiling for a long time. Then he made a phone call.
Months later, the story exploded in the media. On the evening news, Damon watched as police handcuffed the company’s newest employee. The poor idiot had accepted the offer Damon had declined.
“Honest work is never too good to be true,” Damon stated, and switched off the TV.