Sacrificing the Present

My father’s first employee had just barely graduated from Caltech with a dismal GPA. KB is brilliant, my father claimed, but if only he would apply himself.

KB was hired as a lab technician. He maintained the lab equipment, placed supply orders, and cleaned up after the grad students. Sometimes he came over to our house and played Captain Comic with me on our IBM PC. At 7 years old, I thought he was the coolest person in the world.

Captain Comic

My father urged KB to go to graduate school and get a PhD. You’re too smart to be a technician, my dad said.

Why should I sacrifice my present for my future? KB asked. He was too smart to become a PhD student.

That night, my parents chained me to the piano for my daily ritual of practicing for an hour. I hated playing piano.

Why should I sacrifice my present for my future? I asked. My parents were not amused.

A few months later, KB announced to my dad that he was quitting his job. I’m going to ride my motorcycle around the country, he said.

And then he disappeared.

One night, we received a collect call from KB. Somewhere in Florida, he had stopped to use a gas station restroom. When he came out, he discovered that his bags had been stolen from his motorcycle. KB called the police to report the theft. When the cops arrived, they took one look at him and decided that he looked like a filthy hobo. KB had no ID on him, because his wallet had been stolen along with his luggage. The cops arrested him for vagrancy and threw him in jail.

It’s been nearly two and a half decades, and I never saw KB again. I imagine that he’s probably married now, with a family of his own. Maybe his kids are in college. I assume that he lived happily ever after.

That’s how I would have written the story, anyway.

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