An Inner Storm

Updated on January 17, 2018


Just short of that famed rod-iron gate the silver Porsche comes to a halt, the entrance to the home of Jonathan Elwood Macloney III. The initials “J. M.” embedded in the gate identifying him, also known as “Johnny Mac” since his birth, as the owner of that residence situated in the center of Macloney Drive. His neighbors refer it to, near and far, as simply “the mansion.”

The remote button pressed, the gate slides open, allowing the silver Porsche to wind its way up the long, curved driveway as the north wind whistles through the trees. The car stops in front of the mansion where much Johnny Mac spends much of his free time, alone.

There in his Porsche, he remains momentarily, meditatively upon his house – his creation, built with pride, earning the envy of his neighbors. He frowned. But, whom did he know? Jennifer? No, he had spent so much time and effort building the business, designing the projects, and making money that he’d neglected to learn to understand people. He had no contacts outside the office, other than those who envied him. He thought that was all his happiness needed. There he sat, on that cold December night, recalling his evening’s pleasure, wholly immersed in wealth, yet dreadfully alone.

How he would have enjoyed learning to know his secretary well, becoming so close that they might share something real instead of the dry relationship they maintained in the office. She always accepted his invitations to dinner, but nothing ever came of those, no matter how he would have liked it too.

Not a different evening

This evening was no different. She talked about a lot of things, including their mutual friend, his office manager, Michael. Johnny Mac's contribution was barely small talk, mainly about the stormy weather brewing outside.

Although he had noticed her dimpled smile and shimmering blue eyes, he couldn’t look into those eyes romantically and say, “Jennifer, I need to hold you.” He didn’t know how. He did acknowledge, “Our times out together have been few and far between.” She nodded in agreement. But where was he to go from there?

Nor could he put his arms around her as they watched a parade go down Main Street a few Christmases ago. Standing in front of him, she pulled him close to her, perhaps for warmth, but was this a hint she wanted his arms around her also? If it was, he didn’t get it.

Alone in his Porsche, Johnny Mac sighed. He did answer her questions about his habits, but when she asked him about his churchgoing, that was awkward. He hadn’t attended church since he was a child; his work took every minute of his time. She and Michael went to church together occasionally, as well as to concerts and on picnics. Johnny Mac did very little of that with Jennifer or anybody.

Looking for a way to evade the issue of his church attendance, just in time the tuxedo-clad waiter approached the table with the check. Whew, he thought. Rather than paying with his credit card, however, Johnny Mac pulled a Ben Franklin from his wallet. “Keep the change,” he said, handing the bill to the waiter. The waiter left with a broad smile.

Johnny Mac then returned his attention to Jennifer, smiling. “Shall we leave, lest we get snow-bound?” he asked. “The wind outside sounds mighty fierce.” The South’s winters, however, were nothing like what he knew in the North where he grew up.

Outside, in the cold night, Johnny Mac saw another opportunity to embrace her but didn't take it, couldn't. Jennifer hugged herself, pulling her coat collar up around her ears. She's pretty, Johnny Mac thought. His hands stuffed into his own coat pockets.

Superficially secure

A large raindrop splattered on the windshield of his Porsche, breaking the spell. “Perhaps a storm is coming after all,” he said to himself, exiting the car.

Inside his home, he found superficial warmth and security. The fire in the fireplace at last ablaze, he reclined in a favorite chair, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. He turned on the television and watched the evening news. He was amused. The coming of the South's unusual winter storm was every channel's lead story that evening: people rushing home, evacuating the city, jamming the supermarkets, stocking up with canned goods, flashlights, batteries, and fuel. They were preparing for the worst, preparing for the coming doom.

Before long, as the television's eye beamed through the darkened room, Johnny Mac fell fast asleep. In flashes, an inner storm seized his dreams:

The pretty blonde girl on the playground had admired young Johnny Mac. “Johnny has a girlfriend,” his sixth-grade classmates taunted. Shyly, Johnny Mac denied it....

Bang! Johnny Mac saw his dad flinch from the sudden smash of the frying pan his mom flung at his head. Then the quarreling got intense....

Riding along a ribbon of highways, young Johnny Mac admired all the tall buildings. Someday, he thought, I'm going to build those....

“But it's all going to end,” the preacher said. “It will all come down....” For lack of understanding, at a tender age, fear gripped Johnny Mac. “As in the days of Noah....” the preacher continued. Tossing and turning Johnny Mac looked for a way out....

A dead cold

The fire had longed died to gray ashes when the telephone jolted Johnny Mac out of his sleep. “Oh, man,” he yawned, “What a nightmare!” He discovered he had spent the entire night in that recliner.

“Hello,” he said sleepily, speaking into the telephone.

“Good morning, Sir,” the voice responded.

“Michael?” Johnny Mac answered, surprised that his office manager was calling him so early.

With further conversation, Michael informed Johnny Mac of the weather conditions and urged him to close the office for the day. “Turn on the television, Sir,” he said, “and get the reports yourself. Most everything has shut down today, and likely to continue so for a while.”

Peering out a frosted windowpane at the snow-covered ground, Johnny Mac responded with a solid, “No.” Continuing, he urged Michael, “Keep the office open for all who can make it in. I’ll be there myself shortly.”

Not golden silence

It was a cold, gray, lifeless drive downtown; the icy streets crackled and crunched beneath the car’s tires. The city’s skyline silhouetted on the horizon. His high-rise office building, too, was lifeless and dark; not even Jake, the security guard, greeted him. Johnny Mac was alone – thirty floors up.

Responding to his answering machine’s flashing red light, Johnny Mac played back Michael’s message, explaining why he couldn’t grant his boss’ request. Infuriated, he gazed momentarily out the window behind his desk, noticing all those tall buildings blanketed in icy sheets, like looking into a deep freeze; many of them were his design. Suddenly, the ice-sheeted buildings resembled a motion picture screen, reflecting his childhood memories of the winters in the north: snow-forts, snowball battles with neighbor kids, catching snowflakes on his tongue, making angels in the snow…. Oh, what fun! Where has it all gone? He wondered. Where have they all gone?

Turning from the window, he left his office – his inner, semi-private sanctum. Upon Jennifer’s desk, he opened the pages of her “Jesus is the Answer” loose-leaf Scripture calendar to today’s date: Friday, December 21, the first day of winter. Yep, he thought, chuckling, winter has arrived all right. “And it’s losing me lots of money, too!” His fist pounded the desk. Subconsciously, however, his mind’s eye caught other words on that calendar page and pondered, He who has friends must be himself friendly.

Suddenly, a strange stillness filled the room, as if no one was there at all. No more chuckles, no more flashing red lights on the answering machine, no ringing telephone. Nothing. Nobody. Silence, but it wasn’t exactly golden. He sat for a while, unsure of the minutes, at Jennifer’s desk, head in hands, perplexed. Then, exhausting a deep sigh, he suddenly realized it wasn’t worth it with nobody else around.

Breaking the solitude

A week later, the ice and sleet practically having vanished, the downtown streets once again bustled with traffic; the sidewalks held pedestrians, briskly scurrying about their business or pleasure. One would never know the devastation of the prior week had it not been for the still lingering frigid air. The sky was bright, blue and sunny.

Jennifer entered Johnny Mac’s office, carrying folders of work – letters to be answered, inquiries, etc. – and placed them on his desk. Noticing her boss’ sullen appearance, she asked tenderly, “Something bothering you, Johnny?”

“Just concerned about the party tonight at my place,” he answered. “I’ve never done anything like this before. It has always been difficult for me. I always thought I was most happy with my career that brought me all this,” he said gesturing about the office of his accomplishments, “and even in my solitude,” he continued. “But I was wrong. I’m wondering who will come tonight if anybody comes.”

“I saw the announcement on the bulletin board,” Jennifer said. “I’m planning to be there. Sounds like fun.”

“I was hoping at least you would come,” he responded.

“I’ll see that others know about the party too,” Jennifer assured him.

“Thanks, but it’s not required, you know. I mean only if they want to. They have to want to come. It’s understandable if they don’t come. The announcement was almost a last minute thing,” Johnny Mac responded shyly. “They may have other plans.”

“Sure,” Jennifer said, sprouting her dimpled smile, yet a puzzled countenance.

“You’re such a good friend; you’ve always been that to me.”

“Thanks, sir.” She paused momentarily. Then, with no further word coming, he had turned about peering out the window, she exited the office.

The Dawning of a New Day

The preparations finished, except for a few last minute touch-ups, Johnny Mac examined it all again. In shimmering foil, HAPPY NEW YEAR hung above the fireplace, a Christmas tree sparkled in the corner, sandwich bits, cookies, etc., and a pink punch ornamented a linen covered table.

All set. Except for the caterers who waited in the kitchen, Johnny Mac was alone, nervous. Who would come? Would anybody come? He mused. A clock chimed the hour. Any time now. He waited. You can’t expect them to come right on the hour. Nobody does. In his favorite recliner, he leafed through the pages of a business journal, discovering it was one he had read before, a favorite one, the contents of which he exhausted.

Then, his waiting ended; the doorbell chimed. With a start, he looked up at the door. They’re here. At least somebody is.

At the entrance of the open door, a pretty blonde girl stood, her blue eyes shimmering, her dimpled smile radiant, admiring the man before her.

“Welcome, Jennifer. I’m glad you’re here. Come in.”

Crossing the threshold, she embraced him. He responded with a generous hug.

Others soon followed one by one. A new day had dawned, a new year; a new life had begun as if a lull in a storm.

Go to An Inner Storm--Part Two

© 2015 Charles Newcombe


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