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. And his coffee maker brewed a pot to be ready for exactly 7:15 in the morning, which was precisely the time every morning it took for him to brush his teeth, shower, and get dressed. He rarely ate breakfast and if he did, it only consisted of a slice of toast with butter and the apricot jam that his mother sent him from her canned jellies in the summertime. He went to work on the 7:35 bus across town to his job as an investment banker 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 13 that year, Harvey woke at 6am just as he did every other morning. He showered with the same mildly scented body wash, poured onto the same green washcloth, just the same as every other morning. He shaved his beard and left only a smooth remembrance of the dark stubble that had been, just like every other morning. And at precisely 7:15 am, he went into his kitchen to have his morning coffee, but when he arrived there, he realized the pot had not brewed.

Harvey went over the previous night 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!

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

“Good morning, Abe,” Harvey said to market attendant when he walked up to the counter.

“Harvey? I have your items ready. I was expecting you last 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. “I had some problems at work and it kept me over. I forgot to come by when I got off the 6:45 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 right next to him holding an infant on his hip with a young teenage boy standing next to him.

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 is 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.

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. The father and 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 didn't want to lose their lives. Yet, when he looked to his right, he realized why he subconsciously didn’t obey—the boy who had been 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!”

But the boy froze, unable to move, dropping his Mountain Dew 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.

“Trying to be a hero?”

The boy shook his head as he began to back up toward the counter where Abe 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 10 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 acted so impulsively. He had relatively no time to do so. He stepped out of what was his usual personality to save a young man’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 young 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. 

“Harvey?!” Abe said as he 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 of 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.

 © 2020 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved

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