No Good Deed
Author: Charles Salzberg
Late one snowy, winter night a man is awakened from a deep sleep and asked to perform a favor for someone he hardly knows: he’s to deliver an envelope filled with money to a stranger waiting for him on a secluded bench near the East River.
No Good Deed
It’s cold, well below freezing, and the wind whipping off the East River doesn’t help. To make matters worse, you’re not dressed properly. Layers, layers, layers, that’s what they keep telling you on those TV news stories about how to beat the cold now that winter has arrived. And wear a hat. Oh, yes. A hat is essential in freezing weather, because it keeps the heat in. As if we’re some kind of human thermos. And to make matters worse, there’s that It’s going to snow any minute feel in the air.
None of this bodes well for what you’re about to get yourself into.
You have to run out real quick, so you pull on a sweater—it’s cotton, not wool, which claws at your skin like some kind of medieval torture method—grab your black leather bomber jacket, and head out the door. You don’t even remember to wrap a scarf around your neck. As for gloves, well, you know you have a pair somewhere but you don’t have time to look for them.
It’s dark out. Why shouldn’t it be? It’s closing in on 10 p.m. No one but a complete idiot would be out on the streets this time of night in this kind of weather. Even those Upper East Siders with their dogs with foreign sounding names like Havanese and Pekinese, are rich enough and smart enough either to hire a walker or use one of those Wee-Wee pads.
There’s no good reason for you to be out on a night like this unless you’re doing someone a favor. A big favor. A favor you don’t even owe that someone. Just a favor you’re doing because it’s for a friend and because you’re not secure enough about your own worth that you dare say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it. Maybe another time, but not tonight.” Or maybe it’s because you didn’t think fast enough to say no because your brain was dulled from having had too much to drink after another disheartening day at the office and a fight with your girlfriend. Or maybe it’s because you’re feeling a little guilty.
So, you say yes even though you mean to say no. That you want to say no. That you should say no.
The favor doesn’t seem that complicated. Your friend doesn’t even ease into it by saying, “Sorry, for calling so late.” Or asking, “How’ve you been?” No. He doesn’t do any of that. He just wants a favor. A small favor, he says. All you have to do is hand over an envelope to some guy you’ve never met in a spot you’ve never been to.
“What’s all this about?” you ask when your friend calls and reveals what he wants.
“I can’t really say,” says your friend. His name is Ralph, and he’s not even a real friend. He’s someone you’ve worked with for maybe a year or so. You see him at work, an occasional drink after work, and you even went to a ball game with him once when he had an extra ticket knowing you probably weren’t first on his list to invite. What makes it even crazier is that you haven’t worked with him for several weeks because he got canned. Not excessed. Not superannuated. Not laid off. Let go. Fired. Security escorted him out. That kind of fired. He’s stolen money from the firm, but that’s not
something you can talk to him about and it’s not something the firm would want to publicize. You know it because it’s your job to know those kinds of things. And sometimes it’s your job to do something about them. Like making sure security walks the guy out. Maybe it stinks, but it goes with the territory. You even feel bad about it, but hey, life is like that sometimes. You gotta do what you gotta do.
“What’s in this envelope?” you ask when he explains what the favor is. He hesitates a moment, then says, “Money.”
“You want me to deliver money to someone?”
“Because I owe it.”