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
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