Scapegoat – Short Story
He closed the pale curtains, dimmed the lights, and locked the doors, as was his wont. He sat on the squeaky chair, pondering the poorly illuminated room as darkness invaded the place. Patrick Mild, the wrinkled and taciturn old man, seldom came out of his murky house, and when he did, he was spat on. He was always thought to be a rotten apple among the others and an outsider. In as much as he was cursed for committing iniquitous misdeeds, he eluded himself away from the pursuers; he was a recluse man. People were not long-winded talkers, but whenever his name was uttered, they became loquacious and talked a blue streak about him. Nonetheless, no fair man assumed the falsity of the claims, and no garrulous man ceased making of him a disgraceful wrongdoer. For many years, he bore their seemingly endless censures. Yet, he did not turn a deaf ear to the erroneous allegations; he was merely bearing the brunt and enduring days of acrimony.
Mr. Blackguard, the Mayor of Fayrland town, was in his office, sorting out a few papers which appeared to be blank. They were devoid of ink. His desk was large, yet nothing was put on it. Since he was elected mayor of the town, he had been engaged in adorning his bureau. Indeed, it was neat. Four hefty paintings were hanged on the burgundy wine walls, an intricate chandelier was suspended from the colorless ceiling which emitted a bright light all over the room. The brass doorknob was polished to a high luster. The whole floor was covered with a beige carpet. The scent of smoke was intense, and the steady ticks of the clock provided a soothing background. Abruptly, hasty knocks on the door were heard.
“Come in.” said Mr. Blackguard, as he was puffing out smoke, briefly and lightly.
“Hey, pops. What are you doing?” asked Charlie, Mr. Blackguard’s youngest son. Charlie Blackguard was a coddled young man. His father had indulged him and had never spared the rod and spoiled his child as he possessed everything his eye got on, and none of his wishes were declined, as he was under his father’s wing. Charlie’s face seemed to show an appealing and brooding gaze.
“I’m doing nothing. What is it, son?” asked Mr. Blackguard, taking a long drag on his last cigarette.
“I need to talk to you about something, pops.”
“Has the cat got your tongue? I’m all ears, son.”
“I bet my bottom dollar, pops,” said Charley, as he talked under his breath.
“Stop beating around the bush, Charlie!” hollered Mr. Blackguard in a robust tone of voice.
“I thought I could break the bank, but I’m short on cash, pops,” said Charlie, his eyes were downcast as he was shamefaced.
“Fayrland is going through hell, son. We’re pinching pennies. There is nothing I can do at the present time.”
“Say no more, Charlie!” Mr. Blackguard interrupted. “For once in your life, get your business done on your own. I am now responsible for managing this goddamn town, and I am already fed up with people’s ludicrous bullocks! I ain’t got time to hear this. A word in your ear, do not hang your hat on me!” Continued Mr. Blackguard, sketching glower on his face.
Charlie left his father’s bureau, down in the mouth. He could not say a word after what he had heard from his father. He neither anticipated the repudiation of his father nor did he expect to be turned down. As Charlie was slowly walking to his place, he was pondering a matter he had not told his father about. He subsequently halted his paces. Affright was clearly shown on his face. He was not a man of valor and was not doughty enough to keep a stiff upper lip and tell his ‘pops’ that he had been put into peril. Every dime that he owed was indebted to be paid back, or else his life was beholden to death. As he was striding, he dove profoundly in malevolent thoughts.
Precipitously, he turned back and ran across the bridge, as he foreminded to go to Old Patsy’s house. He supposed he would be relieved off the hook, if he thieved his money, taking for granted that Patrick Mild, Old Patsy, had little owndoms as he was poor as a church mouse. As soon as Charlie appeared at the entrance of Old Patsy’s house, he reached the door latch slowly and quietly. His hands were cold and damp; his palms were clammy from fright. Without more ado, he held a solid bar that seemed to be made of steel. It was discarded away. He furrowed his eyebrows, flared his nostrils, his eyes were wide open as his heart was pounding and his heartbeats were well-nigh heard. All of a sudden, he heard a soft rustle. He had to underseek the source of the sound. He walked a few steps ahead, he grasped the metallic bar firmly and awaited in complete stillness. Forthwith, a fremd man cropped out from the shrubs. Charley, impulsively and without batting an eye, hit the man on the back of his head and knocked him down. He stood still for a sufficient amount of time, chewing over what he had done. For the life of him, he could not wipe off the blood of his stained face. He instantaneously unhanded the bar and fled away.
A day after the malignant incident, Mr. Blackguard’s office was teeming with people who were tumultuously shouting a loud and vehement burst of voices. They all mouthed Old Patsy’s name as they frained for the cessation of his life. He was blamed for taking a sackless man’s life. Their clamorous tumults were so shrill they could be heard from Old Patsy’s house. Old Patsy was sitting on his squeaky chair, nearby the closed casement. He heeded their inharmonious and absurd shouts. He was mindful as he reminisced the reprehensions and condemnations to be wrong. Everything was etched into his overwhelmed mind. Mr. Blackguard was told that his son, Charlie, was absent. He had been lost since he left his father’s bureau the prior day. Notwithstanding that Mr. Blackguard had not long forborne his son’s request; he was still his pampered son. Perplexity and worriedness were patently apparent on his face. Yet, he pronounced no word.
For the nonce, Charlie, who was thought to be missing, was in fact in the vicinity of Old Patsy’s place. After the misdoing he had perpetrated, Charlie became round the bend. He was fearful he would be derived from his life; he did not want to let that happen to himself. If any life had to be taken, it would be Old Patsy’s life, the vulnerable old man, and not his. Charlie was certain he would get the money he needed and run for his life. For him, it was not a run for the roses. He held a feeling of resentment and unwillingness against Patrick Mild, and had a grudging reluctance towards him. As Charlie Blackguard reached Old Patsy’s house, he stood up by the doorway and said some words under his breath, “it’s curtains for you, Old Patsy!” Muttered Charlie, as he scowled.
He gripped the handle firmly to fill the palm of his hand, turned it, and opened the door as it made a screeching sound. Surprisingly, the door was already open. Charlie stepped ahead and as he was pacing across the room like a ghost, the old wooden floor creaked. He then stopped dead for a moment, for he was afraid to be heard or seen by Old Patsy. Hitherto, no one seemed to be in the house. There was a strange silence in the room. Charlie proceeded on walking around the house. He was empty-handed and the obscurity of the place hindered his eyesight; it impeded him to see clearly. Subsequently, Charlie heard a very low voice saying his name. He looked around to see Old Patsy standing right behind him. His skin showed cuts, stretches, and scars. Precipitately, Charlie was rendered insentient.
Charlie opened his eyes to find himself roped as he was standing up on his bare feet. His shirt was cut up into small pieces, as his teeth were all taken off, tooth by tooth. He had a sore headache and a pain in his stomach. For the life of him, he could not cry out, nor yell. Old Patsy stepped inside the room where Charlie was shedding rivers of doleful tears, and bleeding flows. Old Patsy kept gazing at Charlie’s sorrowful eyes. He then gave him a wolfish look, saying nothing. There was still an absence of luminosity; only a feeble beam of light could be perceived from the slightly cracked window. Old Patsy headed toward Charlie and held his face with both his old hands. He fondled it. Then, he put both his thumbs on Charley’s teary eyes. As hard as he could, he pressured them, squeezed them, and then he unhurriedly snapped them out of Charlie’s face. He smiled, yet Charlie could not see Old Patsy’s sardonic smirk. Old Patsy went voracious and enjoyed devouring Charlie’s eyes. Charlie could hear the old man garnishing his teeth while chewing thoroughly. His only left sense of hearing was torturing him. He had been intentionally inflicted severe pain. He beseeched and pleaded mercy; no one could hear him, and no one could come to his aid.
Old Patsy exited the cold and dusky room, leaving Charlie bleed to death. He had compassion and tenderheartedness on him. He then closed the door slowly, smiling at Charley, and waving goodbye. Charlie could hear the door when it was closed. He was left fainting in the dimness. Old Patsy went back to his squeaky chair. He closed the pale curtains, dimmed the lights, and locked the doors.
Author: Wafaa Bouroubi.