Short fiction

Reprieve

I had been awake for what seemed hours, the darkness of my hotel room purged by tiny flashing LEDs and the shaft of light from the streetlights outside. It was three am. The illuminated dial of my watch visible on the side table, nestled in the folds of my jacket. I turned over, closing my eyes, willing silence on a slowly dripping shower. I gave up, sleeping seems so futile, I rubbed my eyes to full waking, and sat up in bed, rearranging the pillows for my back. I turned on the bedside light by reaching down and fumbling for the switch on its power cable. I was now lost in a tunnel of yellow light and did not know what to do next.
I had flown to this city on the other side of the world earlier today, it took funds I could not really afford to waste but I had to leave. The trip was sudden, maybe ill judged, but to stay meant losing everything. There are some things even I cannot brazen out of.  At least I had my freedom, if only for now. I’m no policeman with a knowledge of what country extradites and which does not. This current hotel is on the back roads, the edge of the city, and I have never been here before. The concierge does not ask many questions. And my name? My name is not important, it’s not what it was only a few days ago, so there is really no point you knowing. 
You will be wondering why I left, why am I hiding and why am I running as hard and as fast as I possibly can. I cannot give the details, too much information in too many places is what gave the game away. The money has been slowly accruing, a trickle of cash into my hidden account until I got unlucky. It’s been a solid five years of success until I got stupid and altered the program to nudge up the haemorrhage from my clients accounts. Stupid, so stupid, not rounded off balances tipping tiny amounts of money but a full handed leap into the till. The first nobody noticed, the second might as well have flashing lights and ” go directly to jail ” cards.
The appalling taste of opportunity wasted. Yet it was my own uncontrolled avarice compounded by my computing naivety that made this situation come about, and made it necessary to run. 

It’s four am, my phone must have found a local carrier as it is whining in my trouser pocket. I stand up, reach over, twist away the fabric and yank out the thing. In the tiny black text there is a message. It is an automated message from the hardware back in Sydney. ” Unable to complete program changes requested, incorrect passwords, please enter correct authorisation codes. ”

And so it never happened, and a few days later, I was back. A brief sudden holiday, a dead distant relative, I cannot remember what excuses I gave for my precipitate disappearance but I never tried to alter that program again. It is such a sweet little earner, and I have no right to expect another reprieve.

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Short fiction

A hint of evil

 I met him socially, at concerts as a fellow concert goer and at school functions as his children went to the same school as my two children. His were in higher grades but many school activities where parents were expected to be present were for several years of students. I later met him professionally and he was always friendly, courteous and did his best to be helpful. In short he was agreeable. I had no suspicions of any particular flaw in his character. 
The news was a shock. I was working remotely, and rarely got news of home. Home and my friends and acquaintances seemed immeasurably far away. So I received the news in snippets. A comment, an aside about local affairs in the letters that infrequently arrived. The rare meeting with a traveller from my old home. I dismissed it as lawyer talk, the cutting of a tall poppy, a local boy made good is as much a source of envy as admiration. I thought, at least at first, this could not be true. The man I had known for so many years, not withstanding the casualness of any relationship we had, seemed in complete contrast to the horrible stories of his cruelty to his own children that were being reported. 
By the time, I learnt of his imprisonment and conviction, it had all taken place months before. The evidence even at my distance seemed convincing. The conviction was a fair thing if it was true. Certain acts in our society are crimes but their commission is not a sign of irrefutable evil. The textbook villain with every aspect of his relationship with his fellow man distinguished by uniform avarice and evil, is a caricature. Many people, maybe most people who do evil things, may not be evil to their innermost natures. Like my old friend, much of their life is good, the outward signs of compassion and courtesy clearly evident in their dealings with most people but then there is their commission of evil and not once but many times. The evil act which shows part of their nature is clearly, badly fallen. Is their exemplary behaviour a sham, a put up job or is it just as sincere and true a part of their personality as the tendency to evil in a different setting?
To have good and evil exist in the same person should not be the revelation it is for most of us. No one is completely good and no one completely evil. All of us are mixtures of these polar natures. It is only a constant moral will that stops the criminality, the cruelty of which any of our species is capable of from manifesting itself. That moral will can sicken, can die or may never be born but without it, we are at the beckoning of our emotions and appetites. There must be that loud inner voice who whispers and then shouts, this must not be. Perhaps he did not listen to that inner pealing of morality, and eventually learned to ignore it, hiding the guilt from himself. He never seemed troubled to me but was always confident and relaxed. I believe, it is the great paradox of our times that is the guiltless who feel guilty, and those who should be truly ashamed are not, and walk head up, back straight with any lingering doubts smothered into silence by their internal webs of dishonesty.

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Short fiction, Short stories and poetry

Beauty

Willy split apart pea pods with his Mum. His bare elbows resting on the cracking white laminex of the kitchen table, and his fingers diving into the central pile of peas. He loved her very much and these few hours between arriving home from school and Dad coming home from work were their special times together. He asked her for a glass of milk and he drank it greedily smearing a moustache of white with the back of his hand. The afternoons sunlight formed rectangular pools of light on the kitchen floor and the table through the windows. It was a warm day but Willy felt abundantly well and happy that afternoon. 

At six o’clock, promptly, he heard Dad kicking off his boots at the laundry door. As usual he had come round to the back of the house to enter. The click of the door and a loud ” Hello Darling, hi Willy ” filled the kitchen. Willy felt that his father filled a room in a way his mother did not. When his father left a room it felt emptied while when his mother did so, it felt as if she had not really gone. Mum suffused the home while Dad filled it physically. Willy was an only child but that did not worry him as some of his friends seemed to think it should. They tumbled out of station wagons like beetles out of an upturned plastic bucket, all squealing and fighting. Willy spent some holidays with the cousins and for a few weeks, he did the same things as his noisy friends did year round. It was a treat but he did not miss it when he was home again.

Willy thrived on routines and closeness, even doing something different to one or other of his parents or close school friends was okay if they were close. Going to school with Mum in the car, walked into the class, meeting his teacher and the school work. It was a busy day, every day, but Willy loved it. However, he did not enjoy going to see doctors. They were okay but afterwards there were often blood tests and he did not like these. He learned to be suspicious about anybody in a nice blue uniform saying, ” this won’t hurt”. 

Sometimes his Mum looked worried, it could not be about him because he loved her perhaps even more than Dad, which was a lot. She would sit at the kitchen table, resting her chin in her hand and gaze blankly, not seeing him until he touched her on the arm. She looked at him with sadness, it was so quick that Willy was sure nobody else would have seen it. It was a mystery to him because life was so perfect. Dad played tumble with him, and chased him over the furniture. Mum told us off because we would break a chair or the sofa and we could not afford to replace them. Willy never saw things were never new in his home. But he did not see or even realise it could be a problem. It was a problem for his Mum. Sometimes in the evening after Willy had gone to bed, tucked up under blue blankets and his stuffed kanga somewhere under the sheets lurking about, his parents sat and talked about many things that Willy would never understand. About money, about the future, about Dad’s job, all of them them things Willy would never be able to worry about. They loved him with all their hearts as much as Willy loved them, but there was always an annoying spectre, of loss, of missing out on the future for Willy deserved. 

The next day was like all the others for Willy. He hardly cried. He ate, He played and he loved deeply and unashamedly. His is a peaceful beautiful soul which lies complete unto itself if not the world’s.

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