ABE CHRISTOPHER'S WIDOW - JAKE HINKSON
I’d spent the night before treating my body like I wouldn’t need it in the morning. Naturally then, when I woke up early the next day, I felt like I’d been run over by a beer truck. I slunk out of bed and was crawling into the bathroom when someone knocked on the front door. I lay against the tile for a moment. Whoever was out there knocked again. I stood up, shaking, and made my way to the knocking, just to stop it.
When I opened the door though, there was no one standing there. I looked up the street, and it was empty. I was about to close the door when I heard footsteps on the driveway and a thin woman in an ankle-length skirt rounded the side of the house.
“Hello,” she said.
She came up the steps, and I saw a Bible in her hand. I didn’t groan, but she saw my face go slack. Her eyes narrowed, like a running back looking for an open lane.
“I’d like to talk to you if I could,” she said.
I was about to tell her to fuck off, but then I noticed something in her face. It took me about thirty seconds, and in that thirty seconds she began to talk, to try to talk her way inside the house. I didn’t hear what she had to say, though, because I spent that thirty seconds staring at her face and trying to place her. Then I did. She was Abe Christopher’s widow.
She didn’t know me from Adam. She was just talking, asking if she might have a moment of my time to discuss some good news that might change my life.
I nodded, took a step back and asked her to come inside.
She flashed a worried smile for a second, and then she walked past me and into the house. She hadn’t expected to be asked in, but she walked in bravely, her shoulders back and her head up, clutching her Bible like a loaded gun.
“Sit down,” I said. I gestured to the ripped-up blue couch, and she sat down, surveying the shitty state of my living room. Aside from the couch, I had a large old television with a broken knob. On the cluttered coffee table in front of her sat a bong. She glanced at it, smoothed down her skirt and put her Bible on her lap.
I sat down on the floor on the opposite side of the coffee table.
“My name’s Becky Christopher,” she said.
On the table in front of me was an issue of Rolling Stone plopped open to a picture of George Harrison.
“I’m George,” I told her.
“It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for letting me talk to you.”
“You’re just going door to door?” I asked. “You just happened to come to my door?”
“You could say that, but, honestly, I feel like God led me to your door.”
“I think so. Can I ask you a question?”
“What do you do for a living?”
I scratched my hair and realized how I must look to her. I was wearing my clothes from the night before: a rumpled, beer-stained dress shirt and slacks. I looked down and realized I had on one sock.
I pulled the sock off. “I steal,” I said.
“I’m a thief, Becky. I steal things. Cars mostly, but money, too, sometimes.”
She stared at me. Becky Christopher was a good-looking woman. Back when she was married to Abe, she was a real looker with big blonde hair and a killer body. Sitting across from me now, she looked like a real Jesus freak. Her hair was brown and hung down to her waist, and she wasn’t wearing any makeup or jewelry. Beneath her white blouse and black skirt she still had a body, but she was thinner than she had been before.
She said, “Is that true?”
“What? Me being a thief? Afraid so. Just thought I’d be honest. Small-time criminal.”
She opened her Bible. “Jesus hung between two thieves when he died on the cross; did you know that?”
“It seems like I heard that.”
“The last person on this earth he ever talked to, the last person on this earth who ever showed him any kindness, was a thief. Jesus said that man would see heaven.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Ever known a thief before?”
Becky sucked in her lips and looked down at her bare hands. “Yes. I used to be married to one.”
“That a fact?”
“Yes. He was a …criminal. Like you, George.”
“You’re not married to him anymore?”
“He died. Or he was killed, I should say. He was shot by a police officer in the middle of a robbery, a bank robbery.”
“Sorry to hear that. What happened?”
She shook her head. “Abe robbed a bank. That’s all. He went in with a gun and walked outside to find a police officer coming out of a deli across the street. He fired at the officer. The officer fired back and killed him.”
“I’m sorry to hear it.”
She nodded. “The wages of sin is death,” she said and then she read me a verse from the Bible that said just that. “Abe wasn’t a bad person, not really,” she said. “But he was a sinner and he died in his sins.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I guess old Abe was a sinner. Shit, who isn’t? But he wasn’t a bad guy. When I had heard that cop shot him, I had broken down and cried. I’d heard the cops had arrested Becky and taken her kid away from her.
“Do you know you’re a sinner?” she asked.
“Do you know that if you die in your sins you’ll go to hell?”
“You think Abe’s in hell?”
“Do you think your husband went to hell?”
She took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said. “I’m afraid so..”
“That’s pretty hardcore.”
“God’s hardcore,” she said.
“I probably deserve to go to hell,” I said. “But I don’t think there is a hell. I think that’s just something somebody made up a long time ago to scare people into acting right.”
Becky started to set me straight on my theology, but I just looked at her face and thought about that poor dumb bastard she’d been married to. I’d met him through a coke dealer named Batman. Batman had a crib over in PG County, and I’d run into Abe hanging out there one time.
I saw Abe off and on after that, and one time he’d brought Becky along. She was only about twenty-one at the time. She’d been pretty strung out when I met her, and now she was sitting there in an old lady skirt, looking like she’d been living off bread and water and Bible verses for the last ten years, lecturing me on the state of my soul.
“Are you happy?” I asked her.
She’d been saying something when I interrupted her and now she just stared at me. “I’m so happy,” she said.
“I’m glad.” I stood up. “I think I need to…get going with my day. Get showered and stuff.”
She smiled, closed her Bible, and stood up.
“Okay,” she said. She took out a little brochure and placed it gently on the coffee table next to the bong. “A little something to read,” she said. “A little something to think about. There’s an address for the Revived Church of Jesus on the back. You might consider coming some Sunday. Great music, nice folks. We usually go out for lunch after service.”
I walked her to the door.
She stepped out on the porch, but she turned around. “Can I ask you one more question?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Why’d you ask me if I was happy?”
I shrugged. What was I going to say? That I was the reason she was a widow? That if I had only been less of a coward she would still have a husband? No. Who knows, she might feel compelled to call the cops and tell them I was the jittery wheel-man who left her husband to die on the street. You just can’t trust somebody who thinks they hear God talking to them. You never know what God might tell them to do.
“I was just wondering,” I said.
“I’m very happy,” Becky said. “I have never been happier. I can truly say that. I’ve lived through the worst times, worse than you can imagine, but God pulled me through. He had me go through those terrible times to deliver me to so much happiness on the other side of it. You know the old saying about how he works in mysterious ways?”
“I guess so.”
She smiled and walked away. I went inside and poured myself the last drink of whiskey in the house. I didn’t knock it back, though. Not immediately. I just stared down at it for a while, thinking, If I take her at her word then I did her a favor.
I’d spent ten years feeling awful for bailing on old Abe, and now his widow had shown up on my doorstep telling me she’d never been so happy.
I threw back the drink and let it sink into me.
But I didn’t feel better.
Neither did Abe.
BIO: Jake Hinkson is currently at work on a book on film noir. You can learn more about Jake and his projects at his own blog, The Night Editor.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago