• Meg Sechrest

The Unsimple Life of Harvey Tillman - Preview

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

November 13-Day 1

Harvey Tillman led a simple life full of simple joys, and for most of his life he led what could be considered simple days. Every day he woke at exactly six in the morning to the sound of the alarm on his nightstand in the corner of his bedroom in his third floor Chicago apartment. His coffee maker brewed a pot to be ready for exactly 7:15 in the morning, which was precisely the time morning it took for him to brush his teeth, shower, and get dressed. He didn’t usually eat breakfast, but if he did, it consisted of coffee and a slice of toast with butter and the apricot jam that his mother sent him from her canned jellies in the summertime. Every morning he went to work on the 7:35 bus across town to his job as an accountant where he spent his days never hurting for money but never trusting a soul and living and thriving in routine until his 37th year—the year that began the catastrophic events that would mark the rest of his life.

On November 13th that year, Harvey woke at six a.m. just as he did every other morning. He showered with the same cedar scented body wash, poured onto the same green washcloth just the same as every other morning. He shaved his beard, leaving only a smooth remembrance of the dark stubble that had been just like every other morning. Then at precisely 7:15 am, he went into his kitchen to have his morning coffee, but when he arrived there, he saw the pot had not brewed. Harvey went over the previous evening in his mind, trying to figure out where everything in his routine had gone wrong...

Today is Wednesday, which means yesterday was Tuesday… Tuesday is grocery day! Aha! I didn’t stop at the market because the computers crashed and I stayed late at work!

That was the first lie that Harvey told himself on the path to Harvey Tillman’s unsimple life. There were three lies in this story that Harvey convinced himself as truths, and no part of him believed them to be lies. With every part of himself, Harvey Tillman believed that the computers had crashed at work and that was why he didn’t go to the market. This is vital to the story.

Now that we know this, we can now move on to knowing that instead of enjoying his morning coffee, he took his jacket and headed out the door and down the block to the corner market to get the bags of groceries he had intended to pick up the previous evening.

Little did Harvey know he would never enjoy that cup of joe because breaking his routine would disrupt the lives of more people than he could ever imagine.

“Good morning, Abe,” Harvey said to market attendant when he walked in.

“Harvey?” Abe said at the sound of the ding of the doorbell that rang every time someone opened the store door. “I have your items ready. I was expecting you yesterday evening as usual and had to put some things back when you didn’t come by like you always do on Tuesdays at 5:45.”

Harvey nodded and glanced to his watch, walking up to the counter. “I had some problems at work and it kept me over. I forgot to come by when I got off the 5:45 bus.”

Abe rang up the contents of the items and Harvey handed him his credit card as Abe said, “I see. Well, you’re missing a few of your usual refrigerated items.”

“No problem. I’ll stop back in later.”

Abe reached behind the counter for three paper sacks filled with groceries, and just as he did, a commotion began in the front of the store and Harvey turned to see what was happening.

“Everybody down!” a man wearing a ski mask yelled and he was waving a gun in the air.

Panic flooded Harvey as he looked around the store and noticed children with their mothers shopping, elderly people browsing the aisles and enjoying breakfast in the bakery, and a father on his left holding an infant on his hip and a stroller in front. To the other side of Harvey was an unknown person that will remain for this portion of the story as “the boy.”

In the next moments, Harvey experienced almost a complete transformation in personality, something I’d never seen from him before—bravery—because in those next moments, five seconds to be exact, Harvey stepped out of his routine and into a world that was not his own but belonged to a much bigger problem—danger.

Now, to most people, they might say that stepping out of their world and into another is no reason to go into explanation, but that is exactly why I need to. You see, Harvey Tillman was the kind of man who never once in his 37 years of life ever experienced a change in his habits or routine, not ever. For 37 years, he never experienced anything to give him a scratch or a bump, not even a bruise. Maybe he was raised that way. Maybe it was in his DNA. He was a cautious fellow; I’ll give him that much. But you see, Harvey was introduced on this day for the very first time to not only danger but also, adrenaline.

Harvey’s bravery wasn’t the only extraordinary phenomenon happening here. There was also another element at this point of the story needing explanation. At this moment, Harvey became two very separate people. He became the hero of the story, but he also became the villain of the story. Now, how one man became both the hero and the villain is going to take us down a long road of explanation, but how we get there is the very reason that Harvey’s story is worth telling because Harvey Tillman led a very unsimple life after this moment.

“Everybody down!” the gunman yelled again, but Harvey didn’t obey. Why? Why didn’t Harvey obey? He hadn’t the slightest idea. When I met Harvey Tillman, his confusion about this moment was astounding. In fact, I would have to say his recollection of the events were in only bits and pieces at first. However, the more I got to know him, the more he was able to recall, which was exactly why this moment is the most important in all of the story. Why Harvey didn’t obey the gunman’s orders is the very reason for the entire explanation.

“Everybody on the floor, now!”

When the gunman yelled, the father with the baby obeyed; the elderly people obeyed and mothers shopping obeyed. In fact, most everyone in the story did exactly what the gunman said because they knew if they didn’t, they might possibly lose their lives. Yet, when Harvey looked to his right, the boy who was waiting in line next to him was also still standing and the gunman turned and pointed the gun at the young man.

“Get down, I said!”

The boy froze and looked to his own left, unable to move, dropping his drink onto the floor as it burst and caused the baby to start crying.

“Are you trying to get killed?!” the gunman yelled, pointing the gun as he moved closer. “Just do as I say and get down on the floor.” He moved the gun to Harvey. “You too…”

Harvey nodded and began to kneel as the gunman spoke to the boy again, who was now moving towards Harvey.

“Trying to be a hero?”

The boy shook his head as he began to back up toward the counter where Abe stood but kept his eyes focused on where Harvey stood. “No. I…”

Before the boy could finish speaking, the gunman took two or three shots at him, missing as Harvey felt that surge of adrenaline and jumped into the range of the bullets.

Now, this is the part of the story where Harvey appears to be the hero, and it might sound like this all happened in a matter of minutes where everyone had so much time to think and act on their actions. In reality, it all happened in about ten seconds from the time the gunman asked him if he was trying to be a hero to when he took his shots, which is really why I believe everything was a blur for him and truthfully how he’d acted so impulsively. He had relatively no time to do so. He stepped out of what was his usual personality to save a someone’s life and took two bullets from the gunman to his own body—one in his shoulder and one to his leg—because of this, the young man walked away unharmed. The repercussions of this action for Harvey would not be known for quite some time. In the young man’s life—whose identity we come to know much later in the story and at the current moment holds no incredible value—we find that Harvey’s actions are so life-altering that it’s impossible to separate their paths.

“Someone call an ambulance!” the man yelled when he saw the bullets sink into Harvey’s right shoulder and thigh. Abe had already tripped the emergency alarm and the police were on their way. Fortunately, one of the shoppers had apprehended the gunman and had him down to the floor. Unfortunately for Harvey, he was losing blood at an alarming rate and the only thing his mind could focus on was the cries from the baby and the father who had disappeared to hide behind the counter, and the feeling of the pounding of his heart as it beat in his chest and made a desperate attempt to keep him alive.

Abe rushed from behind the counter, hoping to do his best to assist. “Can you hear me?”

Those were the last words Harvey heard before he woke up in recovery at the hospital.

“Harvey,” the nurse said, stirring Harvey from his deep sleep. “It’s time for you to wake up now, Harvey.”

He blinked his eyes and looked around the room, realizing he was in a hospital, suddenly feeling grateful to be alive.

“I’m alive,” he said to the nurse.

She smiled at him and said, “You’re awfully fortunate. Two bullets? What were you thinking jumping in front of a gun like that?”

Harvey thought back on what he could remember of the events that had taken place as he looked at his bandaged leg and arm.

“I don’t know. I don’t really remember what happened.”

What’s important to note about all of the events that took place that day, is that Harvey’s perspective—for reasons we cannot get into at the current point in time—was very clouded and his recollection of the events is not entirely accurate. The truest version of what happened in the market will come later in the story, but for now, these are the events that we will believe to be true:

1.Harvey was shot twice though three shots were fired

2.There was a younger man standing next to him (referred to as “the boy”)

3.Harvey was alone in the store

© 2020 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved

This is only an excerpt. This novel may soon be purchased in its entirety in either digital or paperback version.

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

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