An Exciting Endeavor
By Rafiq Ebrahim
Glen Ellyn IL

Even though one enjoys a comfortable and busy retirement, there comes a phase when one gets utterly bored and craves for some real excitement. It was on one such day that I met Chris Basher after some seven years.
I was a supervisor at a leading outlet store and Chris Basher used to come to it for shopping very often. He had a charm of his own, a pleasant looking guy and a good conversationalist. You naturally felt attracted to him if you were prepared to overlook the fact that he was twice arrested for shoplifting!
Spotting me at a Starbucks coffee shop, he rushed towards me, one hand waving heartily and the other holding a cup of coffee. Spilling coffee on my new shirt, he hugged me. “Long time no see! Where have you been, Raf?” I told him that I was now retired and asked, “ How are you? Still at the old tricks?”
He laughed heartily and said somewhat somberly, “No more of that stuff. I have turned a new leaf. A few years ago I realized I must do something good in life. Since then I have been helping people in distress. Everywhere in the world, there’re people who need money, time and ones devotion, and I have been channelising most of my time towards collecting donations for such people. Right now I am busy helping retired firefighters who are either disabled or hospitalized and in need of funds.”
“Good to hear that,” I said. “Wish you all the best in this noble endeavor.”
He nodded thoughtfully and said, “I was wondering if you can help me in this cause, put in some time since you are now retired?”
“Always ready to do whatever I can towards alleviating the sufferings of needy people. How could I help?”
“Ah! So nice of you. These days I am aiming at the residents of Addison. What I do is to contact the residents at their homes by phone, request donations for this noble cause, and get their assurances. The following day, a representative of Daring Firefighters Foundation, a charity organization formed by me, goes to the houses and collects the promised donation. Would you like to be a representative? I’ll give you ten percent of the collection the very same evening.”
I thought for a moment. Well, I was looking for some excitement in life, and here was a good chance for that. Meeting so many people and working for a good cause! I told him that I was ready for the job and that I really didn’t need the ten percent from the worthwhile collection. He insisted that I must at least be given gas money, as I’ll have to drive my own car a great deal.
American people, I must say, are very charitable. They lighten their wallet without hesitation for a noble cause. And collecting donations was easy. In a day, on an average, I would get a thousand dollars, which I would hand over to Chris in the evening, and he would put a fifty dollar bill in my pocket. Things were going on fine, till one evening when I rang a bell and the occupant turned out to be a local cop. Well, if he was only a cop it would have been okay, but he was a cop of a special temperament. He opened the door and looked at me with bristling eyes. Apparently, he was off duty, for he seemed to have got up from a couch where he was relaxing. He was short but very heavily built, with a generous growth of hair on his forearms, legs and chest. In contrast to his big round face his eyes looked small and menacing. He was chewing the hair that invaded his mouth from his offensive-looking moustache. “Well, how dare you ring the bell? Didn’t you notice the sign at the door:No Soliciting? Trespassers will be prosecuted.”
“I just came to collect the donation promised by you to Chris Basher for his Daring Firefighters Foundation,” I said, nervously.
“Chris Basher? He is phony. His Foundation is phony and you look like a phony too,” he roared. “Do you have any identification letter or card with you? If not, I’ll straightaway march you off to the Addison Police Station, sticking my gun at your back.”
Taken aback, I lied, “The papers are in my car. Do you want me to get them?”
“Of course! Go get them while I load my gun.”
Here was a chance to escape from the lunatic. I didn’t want to be marched off to the police station and get arrested. What would my grandchildren think of me when they grew up? I could imagine them discussing the topic with friends. The youngest, a talkative one, would say, “Listen dude, my grandpa was once marched off to a police station by a burly cop in pink shorts with a gun at his back….” I got into my car, turned on the ignition key and sped off like a racing car, giving him no chance to note down my license plate number. I, however, could see him by the front door, dangling his gun and shouting, “Hey!…
There was a mall nearby, and I parked my car among hundreds of other cars. Heaving a sigh of relief, I lit a cigarette to soothe my rattled nerves. Later that evening, I went to Chris’ place and told him about the nerve-shattering experience. He was enjoying a jumbo glass of whiskey and seemed unperturbed. “Well, there are nasty people everywhere. Anyway, you just take a couple of days off and rest. Will see you next Thursday, and yes, you deserve some bonus today.” Saying so, he put a hundred dollar bill in my pocket.
A couple of days later, a news item caught my eye. It read: Scam artist absconding. A forty-year old person by the name of Chris Basher has been fleecing the residents of northwest suburbs of their valuable earnings by asking them to give donations for what he calls Daring Firefighters Foundation to help retired and needy firefighters. He has been active since last April and has amassed thousands of dollars. When they came to know about the scam the Police raided the apartment where he lived, but found him absconding….
The copy of the Chicago Tribune, which I was reading, fell from my hands. Excitement! I had enough of it. Retirement is the time to rest, to see the world, to love people and spread sweetness and light, to play with your grand kids, to enjoy the blessings bestowed by God and to thank Him and pray five times a day.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.