Eliot poured his guest a cup of coffee and invited him to sit at a stained and chipped wooden kitchen table. The man walked across the room and carefully sat down on a stern, straight-backed wooden chair. The visitor looked around in wonder. He had never been inside Eliot’s apartment and it struck him that it was less a place to live than it was a place to pray, to meditate, and to die.
Eliot steered his electric scooter slowly around the man, bumped up against the table, and placed a plain white mug filled with steaming liquid in front of the man. Then, he beep-beeped backwards, banged into his visitor’s chair, turned sharply, caused that chair to scrape across the floor, making a sound not unlike chalk squealing on a chalkboard. Eliot’s eyebrows came together and he scowled while he disengaged his craft from the chair.
This was followed with more maneuvering, more warning beeps from the scooter, two false starts to the table, and, finally ended with Eliot’s sitting across from the bearer of bad news. Eliot’s face was like sad melting butter when he asked the man, “Are you okay?”
“Mr. Rosewater,” the man said, “I will be fine.” He mopped his forehead with a spotless white handkerchief before finishing his thought. Then, looking miserably at the weathered linoleum floor, spat out these words: “You, sir, are ruined.”
“Tut, tut,” said Eliot Rosewater. “Everything will work out.” He patted the messenger’s hand. He saw that his visitor was not consoled and that he looked to be on the verge of shedding tears. “What’s your name, son?” he asked the man.
“Trophy, sir. Samuel Worthington Dexter Trophy.”
“Sam Trophy,” mused Eliot. Half to himself, he told his guest, “That is very much like the name given to my ex-wife’s mental illness. In fact, her psychiatrist coined the term.”
“Sam Trophy?” asked Sam Trophy.
“No, no,” said the aged Rosewater, “Samaritrophia: that was the name of her disease. It means she had a hysterical reaction to other people’s problems.”
“I never heard of it,” said Trophy. “What kind of reaction did she have?”
“Indifference: acute and chronic indifference,” answered Rosewater, shaking his head slowly and sadly. “She was so overwhelmed by the problems of less fortunate people that she became depressed, clinically depressed, I’d say. She had periods when she would cry for days. Then, overnight, she became totally uncaring about any of them. She ducked her head backwards into a shell of detachment and she never came out. I blame myself. I tried to help people.”
There was an awkward silence, and then Rosewater continued in his reverie. “Samaritrophia is no longer listed in the DSM-IV. Do you know why?”
“No,” Sam Trophy said, truly curious.
“Because everybody has it, now,” said Eliot Rosewater.
“Surely, sir, my being here proves that’s wrong.”
“You are here because you are paid to be here.”
“I am not just a messenger-boy,” said Sam Trophy.
“Why are you here, then?” asked the old man.
“Don’t you know who I am?” retorted Trophy. “I am your god-son. My father was Chief Operating Officer before me and he always told me you were the greatest man on Earth. I have worked for the Foundation my entire adult life. The Foundation is my life. ”
Eliot Rosewater wanted to make a display of emotion, but his arthritis, his obesity, and his age prevented much of this. He honked the horn on his electric scooter.
It went “beep”. It was a different sound than it made when it was backing up. It wasn’t the industrial fork-lift or garbage truck beep. It was a happy beep. It was so incongruous that Samuel Worthington Dexter Trophy buried his head in his hands and wept.
Eliot reached across the table and laid his hand atop that of Samuel Worthington Dexter Trophy. “Do you have a place to say, son?” asked Eliot.
“Oh,” sniffed Trophy, “I have a home in Malibu and another in Manhattan; but I’ll have to give up the place in Paris. I know I will. There’s still a mortgage on it.”
“There, there,” murmured Eliot, soothingly.
Eliot backed away from the table, his ambulation device beeping warningly all the way. Then, he wheeled over to the one window in his apartment and stared out at the side of the apartment building thirteen feet in front of him.
Eliot’s eyes were open, but he didn’t see the weathered brick wall across the trash-strewn alley. He was no longer aware that he had company. His thoughts transported him back to happier times, back when his legs could carry him, back before old age and a shopping list of medical problem had left him crippled and lonely.
He heard a chair scraping against a wooden floor and a broken voice saying, “I’ll leave these papers on the table.” Eliot turned his head and saw his guest drop a thick, sealed brown envelope on the scarred little wooden table.
Sam Trophy walked over and put his hand on Eliot’s left shoulder. Eliot reached up and patted Sam’s hand comfortingly, “You’ll see,” he said. “Everything will be fine.”
“Is there anything I can do for you?” asked Sam.
Eliot smiled sadly and shook his head. The 89-year-old Mr. Rosewater had five hundred dollars in the bank and Association Dues for the apartment were due in three days. Neither man looked at the other one. Eliot’s hand dropped down to the armrest of his electrical conveyance.
In the dead silence, Sam Trophy squeezed Eliot’s shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting and friendly way. A few seconds later, Eliot was snoring.
Sam Trophy slapped his hands together like he was shaking off chalk-dust and he walked to the only entry door to the apartment. He turned the knob, opened it, and walked out into the hallway. He looked back at Eliot, whose head was tipped back with his mouth aimed at the ceiling. His congested nasal cavities gave birth to the wail of a Blue Whale calling its mate.
Trophy softly pulled the door closed and made sure that it was locked. He put his hands in his suit’s pockets, and scuffed his way down the hallway and onto the sidewalk. A long car with darkened windows waited for him. Its driver, a tall, dark man named Eliot Karabekian, hopped out of the car and snapped open the rear door closest to Mr. Trophy. Trophy heard the echoes of his footsteps as he walked to the limousine and felt alienated from the entire world.
At that very moment, a Tralfamadorian test pilot made a fatal mistake while taking his interstellar racer through a 720-degree turn at the speed of two light-years per hour. It was a foolhardy stunt that would result in the end of the universe.