Old Man Jericho sat on the bench in the park, glaring at the evil surrounding him. He slumped into the dirty bench, his tweed overcoat lumply folding around his corduroy pants, bag full of bread crumbs in hand. He glared at this horrid world around him, his wrinkles folding into deeper lines under his large, black-rimmed glasses. Back in his day, the park was a place of peace and tranquility, now it was a crowded hub of crime and sin. Jericho was just trying to feed the birds with pieces of bread, when a common hoodlum with baggy pants and shifty eyes ripped the bread out of Jericho’s fingers.
“Thief! Gimme back my bread!” Jericho yelled, jumping up on his arthritis-abused legs, trying in vein to not wheeze. He shook as he sat back down, feeling bones crack and pop in a painful chorus, and stared back at the hungry pigeons. “Sorry fellas, no more left.” The pigeons cooed almost in reply and flew away. Jericho sat for a few minutes more before he picked up his wooden cane, pulled himself up, and limped away.
Jericho walked down the cracked, dirty pavement, trying not to hear the people on the block talking about him out loud and in their heads. “There goes Old Man Jericho,” they would say, “old fart went so senile the Synagogue kicked him out.” “There’s that crazy b*****d Jericho, spends all his day yelling at people on the street.” Jericho ignored the sinners and their gossip, and walked home, where he would be free of the horrors and gossip around him.
He noticed a woman dressed like a w***e leaning next to the wall of the building where he lived. She wore a skirt two inches above the knee and a tight shirt exposing her flat midriff. Jericho yelled at the woman, exposing her for her godless act, waving his cane at her. She extended to Jericho her middle finger and walked away.
Jericho stepped into his cramped apartment, ranting inside of his mind. How have things gotten to be so vile? There’s murder, rape, blasphemies, sins; there’s nothing left in this world but sinners, w****s, sodomites and rapists, thieves and blasphemies, and it took every bit of energy left in his feeble shell to not just scream and bellow and cry at the entire world, to expose them all for the godless filth they were. Jericho remembered his blood pressure and forced himself to calm down. Jericho layed down on his bed, picked up his Torah, and read God’s words until he fell asleep.
The cracking and stiffening of his legs woke Jericho from his slumber. He stood up, grabbed his cane and hot water bottle for his knees, and walked to his kitchen. As he emptied the bottle and filled it with fresh, hot water, his Chia Pet burst into blue flame.
Jericho stood, transfixed, dropping his hot water bottle to the floor as the heavenly voice shook through his body. As God spoke to Jericho, he felt his body to be rejuvenated. His knees shook less, his back straightened, and his hands stopped aching, as though God placed His hand upon Jericho and lifted his pains away. He told Jericho what he must do and as the Heavenly Father slowly burned away, leaving the Chia Pet unscathed, Jericho quickly sat forth to complete his mission. He hastily slipped back on his clothes, and slipped on his coat, hat and got his cane, even though he didn’t limp anymore, and closed the door, walking into the cold, silent air.
Old Man Jericho walked into a dark alleyway, where he saw a hoodlum beating on the face of a lady—it shocked Jericho to see her. He had not seen a real lady in years—nothing but little girls and w****s for close to a decade. She wore a long, black dress and a blouse equally as black. She wore a long scarf around her neck and hair, revealing only her face, a face that would have looked soft and determined if it were not for the cuts and blood and bruises starting to form. She may have chosen the wrong god in Jericho’s eyes, but she did not deserve to be beaten upon by this sinner. Jericho walked down the alley way, as fast as his aching legs could take him.
“YOU! You leave that woman alone!” Old man Jericho bellowed, waving his cane towards the man. The man turned, dropping the girl to the floor. He looked at Jericho, cane pointed just inches from the man’s face. He laughed and slapped the cane away from his face, while keeping a firm grip on it.
“Get th’ f**k out of here, old man!” The Hoodlum pushed Jericho away. Before, Jericho would have felt sharp pain within his old frame, but not tonight. Not tonight. Jericho gripped his cane tighter and glared at the Hoodlum as he turned back around to continue beating upon the woman. Jericho stepped behind the Hoodlum, held the tightest grip on the cane as possible, and raised it up as high as he could.
The hard oak bashed into the Hoodlum’s skull. As the Hoodlum looked around to see Jericho, he bashed the Hoodlum again, dropping him to the floor. Jericho continued hitting the Hoodlum, over, and over, and over, until his cane was caked with the Hoodlum's blood and then he kept going.. Even when the Islamic woman crawled away from the two, just as scared of the crazy old man with hate and vengeful rage in his eyes as she was of her attacker, and ran out of the alley, Jericho continued to hit the Hoodlum, screaming in a hard combination of a laugh and sob.
Finally, when the Hoodlum’s face looked less like that of a man and more like an overripe prune just about to burst, Jericho realized he was dead. He slowly walked away, terrified. He had never killed anyone before, but he did not feel any real horror at what had done, just fear; fear of being found, fear of what to do next. He gripped onto the red brick wall and looked to Heaven, pleading to God for guidance, and did not hear His voice.
Red and blue lights flashed into the alley, lifting away the shadows to reveal the dirt and grime and the dead body and the old man smeared in blood. Old Man Jericho ran the other way as fast as he could, knowing what would happen and still begging God for guidance, pleading for a way to get out of his situation and continue his work. Perhaps it was staring into the sky that caused him to trip.
He fell to the ground hard, taking the air out of his body. He turned and found the reason why he collapsed—a little boy, could not be older than thirteen, flying face-first on the floor with an open wound in his head. The sight and the fall caused his heart to seize and stop beating. The police officer that saw the bleeding woman running from the alleyway, who saw the old man have the heart attack and called for an ambulance, gave Jericho CPR until a small gasp of breath rattled through his lips.
According to the doctors who treated him, Jericho suffered a massive spasm within his heart, most likely from shock and over-excursion. The Hoodlum, identified from using a birth-mark on the back of his neck by his mother as Frederick Baxter, had a quiet funeral, with only his mother in attendance. The Islamic woman only suffered from superficial cuts and bruises to the face, and recovered in peace at her apartment.
After Jericho finished recovering at the hospital, he was arraigned and sent to court. The judge and jury on the bench were willing to give him a simple jail sentence—he did commit murder, but he was an old man and the dead man in question was not innocent either—until Jericho was on stand and went on record that God spoke from his Chia pet. After that, he was sent to a mental institution to live the rest of his days.
It is not a bad place, Jericho thought. It is quiet, and the drugs that they feed him keep him level and content, unawares of the sins around him. It is not until he walks—solidly, he had no need of his cane since God spoke to him—to the balcony, to feel the cool, clear breeze on his face instead of dirty smog, to hear the birds chirp merrily instead of the subway rumblings and echoes of gunshots, that he feels it. Every day, he walks onto the balcony, looks up to the sky, and asks God for guidance.
Uh...wow. I really liked this story. It was really well written. In all honesty this is one of the most interesting short stories that I've encountered here. Although, really, it could have used a vampire or two...yeah I'm being a sarcastic. I really like the part about the chia pet...it felt like it changed the dimensions of the entire piece. The sociological and moral commentary nestled beneath the surface was subtle and in my opinion, gave the story more emotion and depth. It kind of feels like this story would be right at home in a collection of Kurt Vonnegut short stories. I will be reading more.
An interesting story and I certainly read it easily, so it flows well. There is some editing to be done but I like the way you described your central character. The reader was left in no doubt as to his nature and the ending was a fitting one. Its always so interesting when you write with a character you dont like - you can stay disconnected - but I really felt that youd put alot of thought into *his* thoughts.
This is an ineresting piece, eliciting mixed emotions from the reader. At first, you feel sorry for this beseiged man but later that opinion shifts dramatically as he takes the law into his own hands. The social comments are light and don't interfere with the story. All in all...a really good piece.
Chia pets burning, Torah readings, brutality, death, hospital visits. Has God abandoned him, or did he miss something? I like it a lot. It is well written... I love love love the imagery and the word choice also!
This is my favorite section: It is not until he walkssolidly, with no still no need of his caneto the balcony, to feel the cool, clear breeze on his face instead of dirty smog, to hear the birds chirp merrily instead of the subway rumblings and echoes of gunshots, that he feels it. Every day, he walks onto the balcony, looks up to the sky, and asks God for guidance.