One Man’s Solitary Sin

  David J. Wilson, a middle-aged secretary of a Southern Californian insurance company, slowly typed the agenda for his boss’ following day. His fingers — because of both his ailments and frigid climate caused by the air conditioning — creaked at each pressing of a key which created minute pain. Due to atrophy in the joints of his wrist, Mr. Wilson, as his coworkers called him, wore braces to support his weakening hands but even with the added support, they trembled. The cold made it worse. But in his years of working at Desert Trust Insurance he had not complained about the icy wind that came from the ceiling above his desk. In the midst of the desert heat, it was the sole convenience that motivated workers to come to work. Desert Trust Insurance ran their A/C all hours of the day effectively creating weather that was twenty degrees cooler than the outside. It was a massive money-sink, Mr. Wilson knew, but in the summer days, it was the only way management could keep morale high.

  To alleviate the growing burning sensation, which was paradoxically caused by the A/C, Mr. Wilson, with some strain, got up from his desk to take a walk outside. No other employee, even Roger Ebbs, the insurance salesmen with whom Mr. Wilson often chatted, batted an eye at his leaving; ever since his diagnosis people expected him to take a few laps around the building before coming back to work. Usually the redheaded Mr. Ebbs would join him on a few of the walks as part of his physical therapy. Mr. Ebbs, a former soldier, was prone to the aches and pains caused by the nature of his military career. It was, more specifically, the added weight of his flak vest and the rest of his “battle rattle” that had expedited the wear of the cartilage behind his patella. Instead of following his friend outside, Roger refrained from making eye contact and instead focused on his work.

  Tendrils of sunlight entered first in the the base of his skull causing him to shiver twice, then licked at his face as he looked towards the sun, which left warm impressions. The pain, although still present, was now bearable. The heat chased away the icicles forming in his wrists which then became more elastic. Warmth permeated his body and caused him to smile wide in relief. He then took a deep breath, the last breath he would take, and welcomed his anticipated fate.

THE OLD MAN, YOUNG
The Wilson family was a well-to-do Christian family who went to church every Sunday. David’s mother, Angela, was the breadwinner and nurturer of the house; a wholly independent woman with a strong support system in both God and family. The family didn’t make a lot of money, however, and because of that, they lived in a poverty-stricken area of the city. They lived in the northern outskirts of town in formerly abandoned townhouses that had been “remodeled” into apartments. The company that bought the townhouses decreased the average size twofold to make a few more apartments. They rented the rooms out for cheap and ignored the renters’ constant complaints of bug and rodent infestations. The apartment building, resembling an inner-city project, was a bustling area for drug trade and gangs. But that was all Angela, the three-full-time-job working mother of two, could afford.

  Angela never expected that her oldest son, Charles, who was four years older than David, would fall in with a gang. The only sin she had been guilty of was pride, which she had in excess of both of her children; she believed her children had the best moral compass of any in the area. But Charles, who had to be tough to protect his family, was acquainted with the gang on East Street by a friend. He had made the last year of high school without falling victim to it, but when he turned 18 he made a conscious decision to join the gang, which made a large profit by selling dope.

  David didn’t think anything of it when his brother started hanging out with Aaron Grube, East Street gang’s most loyal heroin sellers. He, like his mother, believed Charles would always do the right thing because they were raised on Christian values. But these values could only hold up so well in the face of staggering poverty and couldn’t provide the same type of support that money could, at least to Charles. David was determined to not follow in the step of his brother. He heard stories from friends about gang members who get shot in the streets. Their body lies there before somebody finally calls the cops, and when they question the neighborhood, nobody would claim to see it. He learned in his health class the harrowing tales of heroin’s effect on health, and he personally knew a few couples who have broken up due to addiction to it. He couldn’t imagine himself pedaling the life-destroying junk.

SOMETIME VALUES DIE
By his senior year of high school, David and his mom learned of Charles’ involvement with the East Street gang. “Involvement” was actually a word Angela used to lessen the grief for her son’s descent because not only had he been part of the gang, he was running the whole drug trade operation — this, of course, followed the strange disappearance of Aaron Grube. Angela begged her son to stop and to welcome Jesus back into his heart, but he had grown happy with the power money given him.

  On June 15th of that year, David received a phone call from his transient brother. He didn’t pick up then because he was in physics class, but he checked his voicemail as soon as he finished. Charles’ voice was muffled, sporadic and only consisted of single words, like “help,” “Mom,” and “danger,” followed by sudden silence. Charles sprinted home, ignoring the traffic signs as he crossed city blocks. He saw a group of his friends walking home from school but ignored them too. He was bombarded by images of his mother being held at gunpoint and being shot. He envisioned the pool of blood that would trail out of the front entry, which only caused him to run faster. He opened the door with caution and was prepared to see the worst, but his mom was fine. She was humming a familiar gospel tune while straightening the house on her break between her first and second job. Charles, however, returned from banishment and was sipping a glass of cold water. “I see you got my message,” Charles joked then told his brother to sit.

  After Charles’ explanation, they both walked out of the house, not telling their mom where they were headed, but David understood his involvement was a complete necessity. Charles had conned a neighboring gang’s drug dealer into giving him his supply. Unbeknownst to the dealer, Carlos would sell the heroin for twice the price and gave the dealer back only the money he would have gotten if he were to sell it at market value. The night before, Juan Hernandez, the dealer, saw Charles selling the product for twice its value that in turned angered him. Instead of taking it out on the crafty dealer, he threatened the life of another: his mom, who was known throughout the city for her charitable work through church. Only the most wretched of scoundrels deserved such a threat, and that’s exactly what he was. With East Street Gang refusing support, Charles was left with only one other person to defend their mother.

  David sat in the passenger seat, with the weight of a handgun in his lap. He’d never shot one before but he’s seen many of his friends shot, and some killed. He wrestled with the idea of rolling up on the man who threatened his mother’s life. He imagined rolling up on Juan on the corner where he slung dope and opening fire on him. By repeatedly imagining the scene, David hoped to detach himself from the reality of killing a man but the vision he had were entirely based on movies. So his overly cinematic imaginings helped little in providing him detachment. Despite his rejections, the drive-by happened exactly as his mental dramatizations had, and  when it was over he didn’t feel guilt for protecting his mom.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BROOD FOR YEARS
Joseph Hernandez, now 57, was there when his brother was killed twenty years ago. He saw the two light-skinned men pull up in a white sedan with no license plates and one man, the younger of the two, fired three shots, one of which hit his brother in the chest. The driver stuck his gun out the window but didn’t fire a single bullet, something that would always strike Joseph as odd, but ultimately unimportant. From that moment his thoughts were fixed on the the curly-headed boy who had murdered his brother. He found out where he went to school, learned his name and his schedule, and he followed him around for weeks. His daydreams were only of his ultimate revenge for killing a brother who had not only recently got out of prison, but who was ready to act like a brother and son to his family again. Dreams of murder and assassination fueled him for the coming weeks, but he never worked up to killing the boy.

  He watched David graduate and followed him from workplace to workplace. He wouldn’t tell the police who killed his brother; he wanted justice for himself. But the months and soon years passed on and eventually both men married and had kids. All the while he would still keep his eye on David, now an assistant at an insurance company, and still the murderous daydreams festered causing Joseph to live life as an insomniac. But divorce followed soon after, leaving Joseph entirely isolated while David was still leading a happy life. The stark contrast of his life to Joseph’s made him angry, so much so that for the rest of his life he would only see in shades of red. It was as his world turned crimson that Joseph made finally made up his mind.

THE EXPECTED DAY
David remembered the scrawny scar-faced man from the day he killed the dealer and all the other moments he had seen him on which he convinced himself was mere happenstance. As he caught glimpses of him more: at work, at high school reunions, at the hospital when his son was born, he accepted the man was keeping tabs on him. Joseph, although intimidating, seemed to lack the will to kill a man and moreover, never approached him, just glared from a distance. This changed when 6 months ago David noticed his presence more frequently. He was at every restaurant, every event and every outing his son’s school planned and each time the man would flash him his gun, the one David used to shoot Juan. As a caution, David warned Mr. Ebbs not to go on walks with him anymore.

   David took a deep breath, accepting the mistake he had made in believing his brother’s now-apparent lie, that was made only to erase a long-standing debt, and hoped (praying to god was an outdated concept for him) he taught his children well enough not to repeat the same mistakes he made. Joseph was there and saw the crimson red sun pour its light onto David’s head. He placed a Beretta against David’s skull. He didn’t offer his long-term prey any last words. He only pulled the trigger and embraced the blood spatter on his face that cemented his 30-year-long revenge. He then put the gun to his own head and said goodbye, and the red filter faded.

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5 thoughts on “One Man’s Solitary Sin

  1. Pingback: Fiction from “Writings by Ender”: “One Man’s Solitary Sin” by Austin Wiggins | Slattery's Art of Horror Magazine

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