Hopeful Encounter Essay

The sun was setting. Far to the east, threatening black clouds arose
from the fumes of pollution from the several smoke stacks towering over the
city. The streets were pock marked and dented with the recent shower of
acid rain. Hot boiling steam from the sewers made the temperature of day
much hotter than it really was. Just outside the borders of the city is a
lake covered with muck and crude oil spills. Death and despair floated
aimlessly on the surface of the unhospitable body of water. Corpses of dead
fish, seagulls… bobbed just under the rim of the black slime. The black
slime sensing fresh prey, extended it’s corrupt and revolting tendrils
farther…until it caught another unsuspecting victim, choking and
engulfing, destroying, leaving just another emtpy shell behind, devoid of
any life.

Night set in, the stars were obscured by thick blankets of smoke. The
day was done. Stores got ready to lock up and street lights were turned on
to aid the bread winners, so they may travel safely. Few were fortunate
enough to own automobiles so they could avoid the cold dangerous streets
and dark alleyways. Most shops were already abandoned, finished for the
day. Yet few doors were still open, desperate for any last minute
customers. One such shopkeeper was Phil Anderson. Anderson had worked as
a pharmacist for most of his life. At forty, he had little to show for.

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The pollution that caused the gradual decay of the city had had negative
effects on business, as well as the environment. Phil, though by all means
not an old man, showed signs of premature aging. His skin was pale and
dry, wrinkled by the everyday punishment of the deteriorating sorroundings.

Few strands of grayish white hair lined his almost bald, dandruff infested
scalp. Looking at Phil with his characteristic limp, slouched posture and
bulging belly one might think him an extremely unathletic person. But then
again it was not entirely his fault. His eyes were red and bloodshot, the
glasses he wore only made these features more obvious.

With shaking skinny hands, Phil slowly put away the last of the items
on top of the counter. Finally done, he flicked off the lights and
rummaged through his pockets for his keys. Looking one last time to make
sure the shop was in order, Phil locked up the store and left. He failed t
o notice a dark shadow spying on him as he counted the bills he had earned
today, and put it away into his black leather wallet. The tall dark figure
studied the pharmacist a while longer before trailing him. The narrow
dirty street smelled of weeks old garbage and animal wastes. Smog was
still thick in the air causing him to cough repeatedly. He stopped for a
moment to catch his breath. Remembering his air filter in his pocket, Phil
gingerly took it out and put it on. Feeling much better Phil continued
down the street, heaving a sigh of relief.

He headed towards home, but soon remembering that he always stops by
the Charleton Bar for a drink or two, Phil abruptly changed direction.

Sounds of laughter and grumbling reached his ears as Phil pushed open the
doors of the Charleton.

The Charlton is located at Bradleys street, just a couple of blocks
away from Phil’s Pharmacy. Often did Phil come here to unload and forget
his problems. This old bar is small and a little rundown but by no means
deserted. Though built with concrete, The Charleton was wooden inside. It
was dimly lit by old-fashioned lanterns placed along the walls, that gave
it an atmosphere of relaxation. At least the problems of the world can be
temporarily forgotten in here, drowned out in a pint of beer. A low
slanted ceiling hung over head. Years of exposure to acid rain caused the
wood to decay. Wood fillings was occasionally used to patch up the holes.

Although the variety of alchoholic beverages served here were not abundent,
the ones they did have were quite popular. Their Spinner and Geinis for
example, were among the house favorites. Few scattered chairs and tables
were spread around the room in no apparent order. Most were occupied. A
middle aged couple sat in the middle of the room talking softly amongst
themselves, minding their own business. Far in the shadows of the corner
was a young lad, who it seemed to Phil, was too Young to have legally
entered the bar. Clutched in his hands was the weaker of the drinks that
the bar offered. Yet the young inexperianced drinker wobbled heavily in
his seat, unaccostomed to anything containing alcohol. He must have
sneaked in, Phil thought casually, many do. These days no one really cares
anymore. Scattered around the rest of the Charlton were the usual bunch, a
few bums, workers who had shops close to the Charleton, and young ones who
find the world outside too harsh and demanding, so they come here to seek
shelter. But it was no permanent shelter, Phil knew. They would have to
face their problems all too soon.

There was one person in the crowed that Phil did not recognize. He
was a newcommer, Phil knew, because He was sitting on his favorite stool,
up on the counter. He sat alone sipping on his Spinner with long easy
gulps, marking him a frequent vistor to Taverns. The stranger had clear
blue eyes and sandy coloured hair. The corner of his eyes mouth were drawn
with lines, proof of the hard times. He was of normal built and seemed a
little taller than average height. His posture was a little stooped, he
probrably worked on construction or something straining to the body. The
newcomer was no means unattractive though, Phil would guess he could pick
up a girl or two any day. There was something refreshing about him. A
certain aurora of confidence and hope radiated from him. Maybe it was the
way he handled himself, or something else, made Phil curious about him. He
decided to walk over to talk to him. Phil leaned slighly on his right leg
making his way to bar. The floor boards creaked with each step Phil took.

The floor was old, but still had a lot of years in them.

Phil came up to the counter, “The usual Frank”, he said, going to the
seat beside the stranger, he looked to him for approval, before sitting
down. The stranger who introduced himself as Bill, grunted his approval
and motioned to the seat opposite of him. Phil smiled and took the stool
beside the newcommer. Phil introduced himself, ” I’m Phil Anderson.” “One
ginies comming up”, Frank bellowed while pouring Phils drink.

The Pharmacist and Bill immediately started on a light conversaton.

“So, I haven’t seen you around? Are you new here?” Bill Stevens was the
driver of a furniture delivery, who just happened to have a job in the
area. After dropping off a truck load of furnishings for a certain Mr.

Jones. He decided to head for a bar on his break, to quench his thirst.

Bill casually mentions to Phil that he was the father of two. Phil shook
his head in astonishment, “In times like these, how do you manage?” Bill
related to some bad times, but brighly spoke of how he always managed to
pull through. “What do you do?”, Bill asked after speaking of his family.

“I run a pharmacy not far from here!” “Thats pretty good. You must make
quite a lot”, Bill responded, sincerely.”No, just enough”, Phil sighted.

That must still be pretty good… I mean a pharmacy? People need a drug
store!” “Sometimes”, Phil replied then shook his head. A moment of silence
followed before Phil finally spoke. “So what do you think will happen …

in the future, I mean?”, Phil asked pessimistically. Bill raised his
eyebrows, “What do you mean?” “We’re all going to die! Can’t you see
what’s happening all around? What do you think I mean?”, Phil burst out in
a fit of anger. “C’mon Phill, it’s not that bad, people are working on
recycling, were cutting down on fossil fuels, using solar energies, using
products that are environmentally friendly and trying to stop deforestaion.

Some day we’re all going to wake up and this will all be a bad dream.”,
Bill stated with confidence and conviction. “Recycling? You really think
that’s going to do any good? It’s too late! We’ve done enough damage to
the earth to last an eternity. The pollution on earth is like a cancerous
growth, incurable and spreading. No puny effort of ours is ever going to
turn this around. It’s all downhill from here”, Phil sobbed. He then took
a long pull on his mug. Bill was surprised at the weakness that Phil just
demonstrated. He looked at Phil sympathetically, “Phil, what you say is
true, we have polluted our world extensively. But there is still hope. We
can turn this around. As a parent I should be more concerned than you,
because I have my childrens future to worry about. If we try hard, we’ll
pull through, I’m sure of this. But we have to Fight and fight hard. We
may not do it this generation or even the next, but our children and our
childrens children will carry on. We’ll manage!” Phil looked to Stevens in
shock. That was the biggest piece of crap he had heard in his whole
lifetime. Yet what Bill said got him thinking. Could there really be
hope? Phil did not know. Bill was a father of two children, he believes
that they will have a future, how can he be so optimistic? Maybe it was’nt
as bad as he thought it was, yet it was’nt as easy as bill said it would it
either. But what chance does the world have by thinking negatively, and
doing nothing but complain and grumble about the past. Instead of
inaction, why not contribute and help. Instead of making the problem worse
than it already is. Nothing is to be gained by negatively, a whole world
could be lost. Think of a brighter future, and pitch in, the world can be
saved. After contemplating this, he changed his outlook, from bleak to
hopefull. He met Bill’s gaze with a determined look, “You may be right,
but in my point of view it may very well go the other way. People might be
too greedy to care about the world, even if it meets destruction.” “I
agree”, Bill replied, thoughfully. “But we have to always have a positive
attitude.” Phil nodded, happy that Stevens accepted, only if to a small
extent, his opinion. “Yes”, he repeated, “A positive attitude.” Phil
still had his doubts. Big corporations that had so much to lose by
employing costly pollution reduction techniques might be reluctant to
cooperate. Ignorant individuals who thinks “oh the other guy will do it”
will make efforts, futile. If you don’t start participating, who will? All
you can do is set an example, and hope that others will follow your lead.

This and more, Bill had taught him.

Both men sat there for a few more minutes sipping their drinks. Soon
Bill stood up and prepared to leave, He said goodbye to Phil. Phil
Anderson held up his hand, “Wait which way are you headed?”Stevens
reversed the question, “Which way are you going?” “Just up the road to
Bay Street”, Phil replied. “What a coincidence, I’m going the same way
too”, Bill exclaimed. “Just wait I’ll come with you, give me a sec to
finsh this off.” Phil gulped down the remaining contents of ginies in his
mug. His friends Tom, Ray and Wil urged him to stay a while longer, for
another round of drinks. But Phil politely declined. They usually go home
together. There’s safety in numbers. Especially at hard times like these,
where robbers and thieves roaming the streets is commonplace.Tonight,
Phil wanted to accompany his new friend.

After a quick goodbye to his buddies, Phil rose and joined Bill, they
opened the doors of the Charelton and headed out to the streets.

Phil felt a certain bond towards Bill, he inspired hope and
confidence. Phil hadn’t felt this certain of himself for so long that he
forgot how great it felt. He knew that this would be a start of a good

“So tell me more about yourself and your kids, what do you do to help
the environment?”, Phil wanted to know. Bill did not answer, he seemed to
be preoccuppied with some other thoughts. “Are you all right?” ,Phil
asked. “Oh, sorry I was just thinking about something.” “What?”, the
Pharmacist inquired. “How to rob you!”, came Bill’s reply. Phil looked to
Stevens in shocked disbelief, he then noticed the smile that was playing
acoss Bill’s face, and realized it was a joke. Phil laughed long and hard,
he hasn’t felt this good in a while. They walked down a few more blocks
and were approaching the run down part of town. “This place always gives
me the creeps, it really helps that your with me.” “Yeah… right.”, Bill

They were walking down a particullary dark alleyway when Bill suddenly
stopped. He looked around to make sure nobody was around. Phil, puzzled
asked, “Something wrong Bill?” “Nothing”, came the answer, “everything is
just fine.” Bill suddenly grabbed the scruff of Phil’s shirt and pushed
him against the wall. “Bill what are you doing?”, Phil cried out,
frightened and confused. “What does it look like I’m doing you fat
bastard!”, Bill snapped sarcastically.Now, where’s your wallet?”, the
thief demanded. “Bill I don’t get it? Why are you doing this?”, Phil
croaked weakly, even more confused now. “Why am I doing this? Are you
that stupid? To survive in this polluted dump!” Phil shook his head,
struggling in vain to break free of Bill’s grasp. “What about all the
things you said about the world being a better place?”, Phil asked
desperately. “What about your family, your kids?” “You actually believed
all that bull. I just told you whatever it took to get you out of that bar
and get you here. So I can do this!” Phil saw coldness in Bill, his
expression, distant and unfeeling. The Bill he had met at the Charleton
was no more. Replaced by a cold and calculated thief. “You really meant
what you said in the bar, I can tell! You really did! It’s true, we’ll
survive! You can’t be like this. I know there’s good in Bill Stevens!”
Phil sputtered. “That’s not true and you know it, and you believed it!
You were a fool to have me trick you!” “Listen Bill, everyone can change,
you made me believe. I was wrong to simply complain and do nothing when I
could help save the world. If we all pitch in, as you said, it can really
work!” Phil pleaded with the thief, trying to make him see reason. Bill
hesitates for a moment and his expression softened, revealling desperation
and guilt. But then in seconds, the mask of coldness returned. Bill fixed
Phil with a hard stare, then reached into Phil’s pocket. “This is my life,
what I do, I can’t change now. It’s too late!”, Bill said, as if it was
any consolation to Phil. “It’s never too late!”, Phil cried, “Bill, just
hear me out!” Bill snorted and gave Phil a swift and strong blow to the
abdomen, dropping him to the pavement like a ton of bricks. Doing that,
Bill ran off and disappeared into the night. Leaving a crumpled, pathetic
form, lying in the dirty deserted alleyway.

The pitter patter of rain drops soon bombarded the city. Sulphurous
clouds released pounding sheets acid rain. Though this downpour did not
cool the city in any way. Steam from the gutters still erupted with
unrelented pressure. As the stinging pelts continued their assault on
nature. The lake outside the borders of the city was filled with more
bodies of helpless victims, that slowly suffered, because of man. The moon
was still not seen, nor will it be, anytime in the future, as dark swirling
clouds obscured the sky.

IN the alley, the rain fell down upon Phil as he sat peniless and
hopeless in a puddle. The acidic rain burned through Phil’s coat,
gradually eroding away the fabric. Footsteps headed towards Phil in urgent
haste. “Phil, what happened? Are you all right?”, Tom called out. Phil’s
buddies in the Charleton had just finished their drinks and were just
heading home. Tom, who spotted Phil hunched on the pavement and quickly
came to see what was wrong. Ray and Wil followed not too far behind but
elected to keep silent. Depressed and angry, Phil simply wanted to be alone
right now, “Get out of here! Go away! Leave me alone”, he shouted in
between tears. Tom flinched at the harshness of Phil’s tone. He glanced
one more time at his friend and walked away. Wil and Ray not knowing what
to do followed Tom’s example and granted Phil’s request for privacy.

Cold and numb, Phil put his hands into his pockets in a pitifull
attempt to stay warm. After losing all his money, he was even more
depressed than ever. Reaching deeper into his pocket, Phil felt a
rectangular leather object, then smiled. Once again, Phil Anderson, felt


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