Empathy

William Cosby worked in an advertising firm. There was nothing special or of great importance about him; he was just an ageing, racist man. So when he is thrust unexpectedly into the past and finds himself living through the experiences of those whom he hates, he must learn some empathy...or die.

[Warning: contains some racism: the comments within do not represent the author's own views]

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1. The Diner.

William Cosby was a bitter man.

   When he entered a diner on the way home from work he felt even more sour than usual. A bad day at work, along with some bad news, had done nothing to improve his less than cheery attitude.

   He pushed open the diner door and recognised two of his colleagues-if not friends, it cannot be said that he had many friends-from work. Richard, a lanky man who seemed liken to a stick insect looked up, saw Bill and called him over to join them for an after-work beer.

   He stalked over and sat down heavily, relaxing as much as his tense body allowed him to.

   “Kyle,” he said with a nod to the other table occupant, who also nodded in return.

   “What’s up, Bill?” asked Richard, noting the hold of Bill’s shoulders, almost regretting calling him over.

   “Usual shit. Goddamn that Jenkins!”

   Richard and Kyle exchanged a glance and settled themselves for the Cosby Experience as it was known behind his back at work, a lecture that Bill never seemed to tire of; though of others the same could not be said.

   “Alright, what did Jenkins do to you?”

   “That goddamn Jew stole my promotion!” cried Bill, drawing the gaze of many around the diner, who looked over with raised eyebrows but said nothing. Several tutted loudly and shook their heads angrily.

   “Hasn’t he been here longer than you?” asked Kyle, before Richard could stop him.

   “Well, yeah, but that piece of shit rich Jew doesn’t need that money! You wanna know how much that promotion would have added to my payroll?” Before either of them could reply, he burst out: “Six thousand dollars! Six...thousand...motherfucking...dollars! What does that rich Jew need that money for, huh? I was counting on that money, for Christ’s sake!”

   “You know, Bill, Jenkins isn’t a rich man. I got to know him recently and he really does need that sort of raise.”

   “Well, you know...Dick,” said Bill mockingly, “so do I. Goddamn piece of shit Jews! Same with those fucking niggers...gooks, too. I served in the Korean War; I deserved to come back to this country as a hero but, no: instead I get put into this shitty company where Jews can take a promotion from a hard-working American. That’s what I am, goddamnit!”

   “Sir, could you please keep your voice down? We have other customers who are starting to get a bit offended,” said a waitress, leaning in to Bill. She looked pointedly at a nearby table of black men who were sitting and glaring at Bill in disgust.

   “Oh, are they? Fuck it! Let ‘em feel offended if that’s what they want! It’s a free fucking country. Leastways it was once; before all the Jews and coons came over here and fucked up our way of life.”

   At this point, one of the black men, a clean-shaven, smart-looking man in a suit stood up and walked over, glaring at Bill all the while.

   “If you have a problem, sir, please come out and say it. If you do, mind you, we’ll be taking this conversation outside, if you catch my drift.”

   “This,” exclaimed Bill, as if the black man were not there, “is exactly the problem; these fucking niggers dress up, pretending to be the same as us whites, and feel that they have the right-the goddamn god-given right-to confront one of his betters.”

   “That’s it,” the black man burst out, “we’re going outside.”

   Here Dick stood hastily, before the black man could touch Bill, and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Please, sir; my friend is a bit out of sorts today. He’s had some bad news and he hasn’t taken it well.”

   The other man hesitated, looked back at his companions, nodded and turned to Dick. “Alright, then. Just shut him up though, you hear? I didn’t come here to be insulted by the likes of him.” He spared one last, hateful glance at Bill and went back to his seat, where he and his friends leaned in to each other and started talking quietly to one another.

   “Shit!” exclaimed Kyle, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. “You nearly got us involved in some serious trouble, Bill.”

   Richard muttered something to himself and then spoke up: “Look, Bill.” Bill looked at him, eyebrows raised. “Why don’t you grab a beer; relax? Hell, I’ll even pay for it.”

   Bill seemed to think about it for a moment, before-reluctantly, it seemed-shaking his head and standing up. “I really should get going. Martha will be worried if I don’t get back soon.”

   “You’re sure?” asked Kyle, after a sip from his own beer, but Bill was already walking for the door and did not hear.

   “Thank God for that,” muttered Richard, glaring at the retreating back of his so-called ‘friend’.

   “I’m really sorry about your friend, guys. He’s an asshole.” This was the man from the other table who leaned over to speak.

   Kyle raised his bottle and clinked it against Richard’s: “I’ll drink to that!” Their laughter reverberated around the diner but Bill wasn’t there. He had already passed through the back entrance.

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