Strong, feminine perfume scented the paper where her fingers had been. Sudden vertigo wasn’t the result of nicotine or alcohol but of impure animal desire. For a moment, he continued to watch her through the front window of the store. Under the right circumstances, he was dangerous. An opportunistic predator. Lonely as a thousand years in hell. Hungry enough to take something by force.
Rancid breath evaporated off the crystal glass and reminded him he was dead. Like Cain, he thought, a vagrant and a wanderer, a marked man, ripe for the kill. Reluctantly, he switched off the sick fantasy forming in his mind and resumed the long journey to Pendleton Street. Almost there, he thought, maybe the tall steeple would spear his heart like a wooden stake and save his soul.
He thought he wouldn’t get caught. He stopped, turned, yearned to pin the blond to the ground, feel the strength of her toned abdominals trying in vain to buck him off—her long, panicking legs thrashing violently against the sky. It would be like riding bareback while taming a wild mare, nothing to hold onto but her long, thick hair. That beautiful mane would drive him insane. Yes, yes.
She would call out to God. Maybe God would listen.
Repeated experience and dark experimentation had taught him that a far away, invisible God always felt more tangible whenever a crime was committed, like he was suddenly watching or something, finally listening, with a threatening, out-stretched hand ready to slap the repeat offender off the face of the earth or squash him like pesky bug. This was one of his strangest addictions: doing something really bad in order to ignite passionate communication with a silent God. He discovered the most poignant spiritual monologues happen in the gloaming, as the sun sets upon another sin, when further abandonment thickens in the throat and in the dark.
There’s no sun in the sky right now. It’s late afternoon, almost evening, and raining. Wednesday night will soon descend upon the Pendleton steeple, the goal of his journey, all the way from the Broad River Correctional Institution. Maybe the Baptist preacher will find him alone on the steps again, under the cross. Maybe he will offer this homeless ex-prisoner a little cash for coffee, or a homemade blanket from the church widows, or a parka, or a peach, or a pillow, or some soup and soap, or a much-needed lecture. The old man reminded him so much of his late father, also a faithful churchgoer, who never earned more than a single speeding ticket his whole life, who was ushered straight into heaven from the deathbed while his son masturbated the years away in prison.
Count your victims, name them one by one. Amen.
(Excerpt from the short story entitled, “Sunset at Pendleton Street”)