Thursday, 24 February 2011

Do You Believe In SHC. - part 2.

(the concluding part of the story, as requested by Jeanne - the first part is on the post below.)

Come the morn, and still he had no electricity. No power. Bernie shrugged, shivered by the embers of his fire, and groaned when he found no milk bottles delivered to his door. 
“Outside on the street you could have heard the flap of a lark’s wing. Of course Bernie noticed that there were no folks up and about, but why would that worry him? Wasn’t it good to walk the streets and do his work without all those staring eyes on him? All those sneering, staring eyes, always just a penstroke from shouting at him.
“So Bernie was not upset to have the world to himself. It took more than that to upset Bernie. So now, tell me what would it take to upset Bernie?”
Paul had been off, walking the imaginary empty streets of County Kildare. He wasn’t ready for tests of mental alacrity.
“Sorry? What would upset Bernie? Well, I, err, illegally parked cars?”
Padraig nodded slowly and deliberately, as if Paul’s answer should have revealed a deep hidden truth. Paul stuck his neck out, motioning Padraig to carry on, but Padraig merely continued his sagely nodding, his lips turning down into a sad pout as if to infer that 
Paul had let him down in some small but significant way.
“Ay, so all the cars were parked in just the same places they were the day before. So off went Bernie, giving out his tickets, slapping them onto the windscreens, over the ones he had given out previously.
“Not one soul had seen fit to move their car. Not one soul had spared a moment to 
ponder how their illegal parking might have caused inconvenience to others.
“Not one soul had taken Bernie’s tickets seriously.
“Back home that night Bernie sat in the dark, unable to see his wee brown world. Indeed, of course, he couldn’t watch his television, nor cook any food, so he sat there entertaining thoughts as dark as the air in his living room.
“That night he was barely able to sleep. Around and around poor Bernie’s head, illegally parked cars, imagined conversations he would have with all those folk on the morrow. Oh, he would tell them. Yes, how he would tell them what he thought of their selfish parking.
“Bernie set off at first trace of dawn, only to find every single car unmoved. 
“‘Surely,’ he thinks to himself, ‘surely there must be one, just one person who cares.’
“No more the leisurely amble for Bernie now. Oh no. He was a man a-fired, walking full pace around the whole town. And then around again, and again until his feet were sore, his soles burning hot on the pavement. Each and every time he passed a car he wrote another ticket and slapped it on top of the old one. And each and every time he did that, he felt a little more angry about it all.
“By lunchtime the sweat was pouring from his brow, his fingers were sore from the grip of his pen, and his shoes, well, he was sure that they had shrunk, hugging the skin on his swollen feet like that.
“ ‘Two more rounds, just two more rounds’ he told himself, ‘and then I can call it a day.’ 
“The quiet private voice of his soul started singing a song, a song of hope that he might find just one car that had moved, just so that he could feel like as how he really did h-exist, d’y’see?
“But, of course, he found all the cars just as he left them. Covered in tickets from top to bottom as they were.
“Exhausted, dejected and desolate, Bernie lay in the dark on his brown bed. As is so often the way, all his feelings melded together to form anger, and a particularly fearsome anger it was. Hadn’t he only been trying to do his job? So why was it that they were all out to stop him? 
That was it. They had all met together and decided to defy him. They had decided that life would be better without him.
“Had they stopped to consider what would become of their traffic flow once he was gone? What singular chaos might ensue once folk were parking wherever they felt like it, at whim, like? Had any of them just once asked themselves why he was needed? Had they thought about that? Had they? And what did he ask from them? Was it so much? Was it really so very much? No, it was nothing. Nothing at all. Not a thing. And what did he get in return? Disrespect. Yes, disrespect, and parking on double yellows, that’s what he got, ho yes.
“What stupid senseless people he served. And why should he serve them? Why should he be their Public Servant, these folk who didn’t deserve to be served. And now they had taken his lights away. Taken his television and his cooker away, and all the while not one had the decency to show their face. Pah! He would show them. He wasn’t one to be defeated so easily, not a bit of it, oh no. He would be back out there tomorrow, just as he was today, just as he always would be. If needs be he would cover every single car in tickets, if that was what it would take. He knew his duty, even if other folk knew nothing of theirs. Stupid selfish evil folk...
“Now, if there had been even just a trace of light in Bernie’s bedroom, he would have seen the smoke arising from his tummy button, his navel, d’y’see? But it was dark as coal in Bernie Collins’ brown house, and so he lay there, stoking the fire of his own demise.
“As he glowed with rage he braised his liver, grilled his guts and stewed the bile that had risen in his stomach. As the juices boiled inside of him, his thoughts became more terrifying, 
more tormented more tortured. Down in his bowel, his gases had expanded until they could expand no more.
“And so it was that in a flash of flame and fart, Bernie Collins exploded. The fire leaped from his ripped torso onto to his sheets, his room, his house, until there was not a trace of Bernie Collins left on the earth. His parking tickets were the only things that remained, as a testament.”
Padraig leant back in his chair, satisfied and slightly wearied by the effort of the telling.
Paul felt the onus on himself to offer a comment of some kind. The silence was pregnant with Padraig’s expectation.
“You tell a good tale, Padraig. I wonder, would you mind if I built the fire up? It’s getting just the slightest bit chilly in here.”
“And why wouldn’t you? Go ahead young man. But do me this. Build a good fire, or build a bad fire, but save, oh save me and spare me from a nice fire. The idea of it. Indeed.”


Jeanne said...

Thanks for the second half, Charlie. Great story. I absolutely love your writing!!!

Charlie Adley said...

Thank you so much. Always good to hear that!