Trials – Chapter 3

“Clark, you’re looking at it all wrong!” The sharply dressed Unicore executive argued over a cup of steaming coffee. His hair was as dark as the moonless night that hovered outside the windows of the coffee house. Jacob wore a black suit, a white neatly pressed shirt, and a red tie. The tie had a gold clasp that held it tidily against his shirt. Along the center of the clasp were four red triangles that formed the Unicore logo that so often graced their products.

Across the table sat Clark; a scruffy haired graphic designer with a three-day shadow and a cheap, tieless suit. Clark leaned across the table, over his caramel latte, and attempted to peaceably engage Jacob; clarifying what he meant.

Jacob wasn’t interested. “You need to change your perspective. We’re offering opportunity. This is a chance to gain new skills and hone old ones. This is a privilege – to be one of the first men on the frontier of civilization.”

Clark nodded and tried to follow along but was already distracted by the smell of fresh coffee beans and the promise of caffeine and sugar. He leaned back in his chair, enchanted by the ambiance of the diner, the smells of the coffee, and the dark cold night they were escaping. Jacob was reiterating a point he had already made but was now pressing the table forcefully with his index finger to exaggerate his emphasis.

“This is an opportunity for people that don’t get opportunities. This is something that they can be proud of. Something future generations will be taught in schools. These are people that are on the frontier of human exploration. These people are heroes Clark, they’re heroes. That’s the point you need to drive home.” Jacob hesitated and then continued. “Listen. We brought you in to give us a fresh look. Don’t let us down.”

Without waiting for a response, the advertising executive threw a ten dollar bill on the table, climbed out of the bench seat, and disappeared through the wooden door. Clark remained seated, milking the rest of his caramel latte as he pondered the challenge ahead of him. How do you convince someone to leave everything they know?

Artists drew creativity in different ways, and as for Clark, his was stimulated by people watching. Clark had long suspected that he could discern the motives and personality of a person simply by watching their actions and expressions when they thought no one was watching, and, in his line of work, he desperately needed to figure out what made people tick.

Looking around the espresso-colored coffee house, inhaling the fumes of various coffees, creamers, and pastries, Clark found himself fixated on a poster for a political rally. He didn’t watch the news much, but he read enough to know what was happening to his country; and it wasn’t good. In fact, minus an all-out succession, the lines had been essentially drawn in the sand between what some people were calling the red states and the blue states. The red states jumped on this division first and seized on the opportunity to rename themselves. They began to refer to the states in their coalition as ‘Free States’. The Blue States, recognizing their disadvantage adopted a similar title – ‘States of Opportunity.’ This was a battle for hearts and minds, and despite his distance from the political scene, it was not lost on Clark that this was a war of public opinion. Those names reflected a leader’s attempt at controlling thoughts, which was exactly why he appreciated it so much. In fact, the rhetoric was so strong that a red state senator was attacked by an angry mob outside of the capitol building in DC. According to some media outlets, the police did nothing and some even incited the mob to greater violence.

If Clark didn’t watch the news much, he did even less considering of political issues, and, quite frankly, he wasn’t sure he cared what each sides’ grievances were. Art was Clark’s escape from the world, and so long as he had a steady supply of customers and didn’t live on the street, he was content to just not know. Regardless of which side ended up winning, losing, or separating, Clark wasn’t sure much would change for him.

Two teenage girls climbed out of a booth to his right and giggled their way to the bathroom. Left behind were two shaggy-haired young men. As engaged as they were when the two girls were with them, they quickly sunk into the booth and pulled out phones. Entirely uninterested in talking to each other, they waited in silence for their dates to return. These were the people he loved to watch because, through his work, these were the people he would try so hard to convince.

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