Borrowed Truths

Tom

Borrowed Truths

Tom

Tom looked up at the large cross hanging on the wall in the front of the sanctuary, it was a fitting word he thought, sanctuary, for that was just what he was seeking. He had not known that it was a church when he burst through the door, it just happened to be the only unlocked place on the block that he had turned onto when he was running from trouble, just the latest trouble actually. Trouble was what his dad had called him from the time he was eight until he kicked him out of the house at the age of fifteen, and now at almost thirty-five it seemed like he had been right.

A small light clicked on in the far right hand corner of the church and Tom could hear someone start to descend down the steps from above, he had laid down in the pew, hoping not to be seen, who would be up at three in the morning anyway, they must have heard the door slam when he burst in. His mind went back as he lay there to the first trouble that he had brought upon himself, that day that he was just another hungry eight-year-old boy. It was nothing, just a shiny red apple, but he had almost wet himself when the store owner caught up with him a block later after he tripped over some garbage cans when he was trying to escape. “Hey now, what’s going on over there?” The man had come out of nowhere and grabbed the arm of the store owner just as he was preparing to show Tim what happened to those who tried to steal from him. The man had scolded the merchant for his attempted style of punishment for such a small boy, given him some money for the apple, handed the apple to “Tommy Trouble” and then turned the corner and was gone. It hadn’t gone so well for him when he arrived home though, the store owner knew him and had called his parents about the incident, Tom had missed three days of school in a row because of the beating.

Another light, must be a three-story place Tom thought, maybe he should run out the way he came in, but he wasn’t sure if the trouble in here would be as bad as what he might find outside of those doors. Stolen apples and candy bars were exchanged for stolen cigarettes and items from whatever store Tom happened to be in that day, and many of those items ended up either at one of the pawn shops or sold to whoever had the cash. He recalled an incident where his dad had found a bicycle outside of their house one day that he knew didn’t belong to his thieving son, his nose was still bleeding when they pulled up to the house where he had stolen it from. “Oh, that old thing? To tell you the truth we were glad to see it gone, we purchased two new ones for our sons just last week, and hadn’t gotten around to throwing that one away yet, I hope you enjoy it! Oh my, do you need a tissue young man?”

By the age of fifteen Tom Trouble had one cauliflower ear and three less teeth, and although it was difficult to live on the street, it was better than the constant beatings. He managed, barely, but he usually ate at least once a day and after a while he found others like himself who taught him the tricks necessary to get by. “Is anyone here? Can I help you?” Tom tried to slide deeper into the pew, hoping that the older sounding man would give up and go back to bed.

“You go ahead and keep it son.” “What, are you kidding me?” “No, I’m not kidding, you look like you could use it more than me, in fact here, take this too.” Tom, nearly thirty-years old now, stood there with a dumb founded look on his face as the subway door opened and the man stepped out and into the crowd. He had become very good at picking pockets over the years, good enough to pay the rent on his tiny, cockroach infested apartment and actually purchase some food once in a while instead of stealing it. There was almost three hundred dollars in the billfold and the warm winter coat looked to be brand new. What kind of crazy fool just up and gives away all that to somebody who just tried to steal from him. He had just been released a couple of years ago for attempted armed robbery, had spent his entire twenties in jail, and kindness was not something that Tom was used to, prison was a tough place, and he had sworn he would never touch a gun again, the only good thing about it was that he had gotten his teeth fixed.

“If there’s someone there, I can help you.” Tom peeked his head above the pews in front of him and saw the white haired old man in a dark robe flipping another light switch, this one illuminating the cross hanging from the wall, it’s ethereal light holding Tom’s attention while the old man started to turn around, then he ducked his head down quickly and laid as quietly as he could.

“What are you talking about man, the cops are looking all over for you, what do you think I am, nuts?” He had known Sam for quite a while, had met him in jail, and although they were not exactly friends, they saw each other around occasionally after they had both been released. Sam was hardcore, he had killed animals for fun when he was a kid, beat up an old lady and spent time in the juvenal system for it, and after seven years in prison had been released on a technicality after killing a guy in a bar fight. “Man, you got to do this for me, if they catch me, I’ll never get out.” Sam had robbed a liquor store two days ago, killed the young girl behind the counter and three other people that happened to show up at the wrong time, one of them an off-duty cop. “The whole city is looking for you, you might as well leave the country, there’s no way I’m helping you.” The moment Sam pulled the gun out of his pocket Tom lunged at him, and after the shot rang out, Tom was the one still standing, then running, then laying in a church pew, wondering what to do next.

“Something you want to talk about son?” He hadn’t even heard the old man walking up to where he was, much less sit down beside him. An hour later, and thirty-five-years of tears on the shoulder of the aged pastor, the old man thought it best if he changed out of his robe before he walked down to the police station on the corner with Tom. Four weeks later, the city’s new hero, the man who had ridded the city of the cop killer, stepped out of the baptismal, into an old black robe put on him by an old man with white hair, a huge smile and tears on his face, and up to the podium at the front of the church to give his old life’s, and new life’s testimony to the crowd in attendance, many of them smiling police officers all dressed in their best attire.

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