Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Unexpected End

An Unexpected End
by Scott Wilson
Word Count: 995

Earl ran down Elizabeth Street with the old woman’s handbag dangling from his right hand like a chicken limply swaying back and forth from a fox’s mouth. He turned into Edward Street then cut across into Mac Arthur Chambers, quickly grabbed a flannelette shirt off the rack in Big W and headed into the change room. Ripping his shirt of and placing it on the seat, Earl proceeded to empty the handbag onto the soft and sweaty cushion to hide the sound. He rummaged through the pile of tissues, make up, medication and smiled when reaching the purse. Inside the fake blue crocodile skin purse, Earl found a thick wad of fifty and twenty dollar notes.

“Bingo.” Earl said slightly louder than he wanted. “I love pension day.”

He stuffed the notes into his jeans pocket and rattled the contents back into the handbag, tucked it under the bench, put his t-shirt back on then left the change room. The quirky young sales assistant with the nose ring and piercing in her eyebrow gave him a smile as he handed back the tag. Earl purchased the shirt and slipped it on before leaving the shop by the Elizabeth Street exit. He crossed the busy road and quickly climbed the stairs to the St John Chapel across the road.
At the front of the cathedral, the Catholic Priest finished his sermon and asked the collection plate to be sent around. Earl quickly sat down in the back row; thinking today was a great day for him and eagerly waiting for the collection to come to his row. He pulled a five-dollar note from his pocket and made out as if he was putting it in the collection tray. He smiled directly at the old man holding the tray as he pulled out a handful of notes without him noticing Earl’s real intent.

When Earl rose to leave the service, the priest at the door took his hand and held it firmly, not letting him leave without Earl listening to what he had to say.

“If you are in need of help, my son.” The old priest said. “It is never too late to repent of your sins and receive forgiveness. “

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Earl replied. “I don’t need any help.”

“Repent, my son. While you are alive, you can always turn around and seek salvation. Avoid the fiery pits of hell, while you still can.”

Earl felt a shiver run down his spine, shrugged it off and pulled his hand away from the priest. He thought that the old geezer must have seen him take a wad of money out of the collection plate, but he was just giving him the usual sales pitch.
A loud screech, smashing of a car window and the screams of pedestrians on Elizabeth Street made Earl stop and turn his attention to the main road. Lying on the road was the mangled body of someone a Ford Falcon just hit. Earl couldn’t see the person’s face, but by the angle of the legs and back, he wasn’t looking like he would be able to run the Bridge to Bay marathon this weekend.

In the distance, Earl heard the siren’s roaring and horns blaring in response. By the time it reached the scene of the accident there would be a crowd of rubber Necker’s and would be doctors, all helping or offering help to the poor sap bleeding his life out on the main road like a burst water main. This meant that he would be able to slip away in the confusion without worrying about the police who had been chasing him wasting any more time on him.

A man in a deep purple suit and black beret bumped into Earl, turned and smiled in a wicked pearl white grin. Before Earl had a chance to tell the guy to watch where he was going, the businessman spoke.

“I hope that guy was right with God.”

Earl felt a shiver run down his spine again.

“If you believe in that sort of stuff, sure.” Earl replied.

He was about to walk away, when the businessman grabbed his arm and clenched it tight, hurting Earl’s muscular forearm.

“Oh, I believe.” The businessman said in an acidic tone. “And I think you will believe in time to.”

Earl tried to pry his arm free, but the grip was like a two hundred pound crocodile had latched on to him and was preparing for a death roll.

“Hey, dude. Let go, or I’ll mess you up.”

“Do you know what happens if you haven’t made your piece before you die, Earl?”

“How do you know my name?”

“Oh, I know a lot about you, Earl. If you don’t repent, you are condemned to eternal damnation.”

Earl could not escape the tight hold of the purple suited man as he dragged him along the footpath away from the cathedral.

“Are you a cop, dude? Look, I’m sorry about taking the money. Let me go. I’ll give it back, both to the church and the old bag.”

“Oh, it’s too late for that, Earl.”

Earl pulled the wad of money out of his tight jeans pocket. Money scattered on the footpath like amber leaves from a tree in autumn, as he fumbled. Earl felt that cold shiver run down his spine again, but this time it would not stop. The businessman in the purple suit was beginning to freak him out. Earl wondered if he were a vigilante, a serial killer or just some gangster he had upset once.

“Look dude, I repent. That’s what the priest said to me. If I repent then my sins are washed away.”

“Sorry, Earl. It is too late for that, much too late.”

“I repent.”

“Once you are dead, it’s much too late.”

The man pointed to the corpse under the car and Earl was shocked to see it was he.

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