Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins: Greed


Out of all the Seven Deadly Sins stories I've done so far, this one was definitely the quickest to write. I had a lot of fun with this and attempted to experiment a little more than normal. As always, love feedback and if you want to have a look at the previous stories, just click on the links below!

Pride

Sloth

Gluttony






He pulled his frail, shaking legs up to his chest. He perched on the one armchair left in his living room and stared at the door. There were three more knocks and they seemed to echo round the small flat. Bernie didn’t even dare to breathe. He could hear them talking right outside and imagined them peering through the peephole, trying to get a glimpse of the treasure within. That was why Bernie never turned the lights on. 

“Mr. Stark? Mr. Stark, are you in there?” a woman called.

Bernie sneezed and grabbed his face with his hands. He prayed that they hadn’t heard. He had to be more careful, he couldn’t afford mistakes like that.

“I guess he’s not in. Let’s just go back to the hospital.” Bernie heard a deeper voice say, and then their footsteps echoed through the close as they began the trek down the fifteen flights of stairs. Bernie took a tentative deep breath and when he heard the front door of the building slam shut, he relaxed. He let his legs flop back to a normal sitting position and grinned. They’d never get it. Never. Bernie grabbed the remote to his little TV and turned it back on. He kept the volume down low though, just in case one of them had stayed behind to fool him. He quietly walked over to the DVD player and put in the next disc of the Still Game box set he had bought several years ago. He had felt bad about paying £20 for it, but since it was all he had watched for the past 26 months (exactly, 26 months, Bernie had kept the receipt), he had gotten his money’s worth. And that £20 box set was a lot cheaper than two years’ worth of TV license - something Bernie refused to pay for when there were perfectly good DVDs out there. And he was only just starting to get sick of it now, which meant he could go a bit longer without buying anything else. He’d have to sell this one first - he’d tried to keep it in good condition and even now it was just like new. 

The TV sprang to life but before he had gotten through the first set of credits, Bernie realised he was hungry. He paused the DVD and pottered through to his little kitchen. His bare feet were warmed by rubbing on the carpet and they stuck a little with every step on the lino. His kitchen was bare - no appliances but a kettle and a toastie maker. It was all he needed - no need for a microwave or blender or toaster. It would just be a waste of money. Bernie took his half full tin of beans out of the fridge and put half of that into a small pan. He turned on the hob, covered the tin with the same cling film that had been on it before and put it back - those beans would do for dinner. As the first bubbles reached the surface as the beans began to heat up, Bernie took a slice of bread out of the freezer and placed it under the grill. He dipped his finger into the beans and when they were just hot enough, turned the hob off. The slightly defrosted bread came out from under the grill too. No point in wasting money on getting the beans too hot to eat. And the beans would warm up the bread. Bernie took the knife and fork out of the drawer - the fork was missing a prong and the knife had been blunt for a very long time. But they worked. No point in wasting money. Before he could sit back down with his meagre meal, the phone rang. He hobbled as fast as he could to snatch it off the receiver before anyone else heard it.

“Hello?” he whispered. He could hear crackling but that was nothing new. It was an old phone.

“Hi, Dad. How are you?”

Bernie sighed. It was only Ann. 

“Oh, hello. How are you?”

“I’m alright. I just wanted to phone and say thanks for the birthday letter you sent Jeremy.”

Bernie grinned a toothless grin. He loved being a grandpa, it was the best thing he had ever been allowed to do.

“Did he really like it? I wanted to give him something special.”

“Yeah, he’s got it pinned up on his wall. I was surprised you didn’t just get him a card.”

Bernie thought back to his trip to Clinton’s, remembering that the cheapest card for a ten-year-old he could find was £1.46. That was just too much to spend on a card, even for Jeremy. So he wrote him a letter instead. The card had been nice though. It had a dog on it, and the words were shiny. He had debated for fifteen minutes. He wanted to get the card so badly but all he could see was the little blue sticker on the front. £1.46. £1.46. Eventually his eyes began to well up and he walked out of Clinton’s as fast as he could. 

“Well… I wanted to tell him myself.”

“It was nice, he had a good day.”

Both Bernie and Ann were silent. The handset shook against Bernie’s face. 

“Dad… Are you sure you won’t even have a look at homes with me? We’re worried about you, you don’t seem yourself.”

“I’m fine, Ann, I’m fine. I’m fine.”

“Dad…”

“And homes are expensive, I won’t pay for it, it would be a waste.”

Ann sniffed on the other end, “Dad, you wouldn’t have to, we would help.”

“I don’t want help. I’m fine.”

Bernie could hear whispers on the other end and the hairs on the backs of his arms stood up.

“Ann, who’s there? Who’s with you? Who are you talking to? Don’t trust them, don’t tell them where to find me, they’re not getting a penny!” he cried.

“Dad? Dad, calm down! It’s just John, he’s home from work!”

“DON’T TELL THEM ANYTHING!” Bernie screamed and slammed the phone down. He had to take deep breaths to slow down his heart. His hands were sweaty and he thought he might be sick. They had gotten to Ann. They’d gotten to his little Annie. Bernie curled up on the rough carpet and rocked back and forth. They wouldn’t get to him. He knew exactly what  they wanted but they’d never get in. He wouldn’t let them. Bernie grabbed the side of his threadbare armchair and pulled himself up off the floor. His arms shook as he struggled to support his own weight. He got to his feet and hobbled down the corridor. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. He pushed it into the lock of the door to his left as quietly as he could, trying to avoid letting anyone outside hear the metal on metal. He knew he shouldn’t go in, it was too risky, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to make sure it was all still safe after finding out Annie couldn’t be trusted anymore. He had to know. The lock gave a little click and he pushed the door open. It didn’t make a sound. The spare bedroom was full of dust. The light that shone through the closed blinds gave the room a dull glow and showed all the little specks floating in the air. There was more furniture in this room than the rest of his flat combined: two single beds, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a desk, shelves of jewellery boxes, two bedside tables and a large lantern-style lampshade. Bernie walked over to the large chest of drawers and struggled to pull it open. It was heavy. He pulled it out as far as it would go. Arranged in perfect lines were stacks and stacks of £100 notes. They were bound up with string in piles of £1000. Bernie leant into the drawer with his shoulder and shoved it closed. He pulled open the drawer below. He took a deep breath and let the dry, musty smell of old paper fill his nostrils. He lined up the couple of stacks that were leaning over slightly until they stood completely straight. Bernie went round the whole room, inspecting every single hiding place he had put together over the years: in the bedside table drawers; inside the mattresses, pillow cases and duvet covers; in the lantern lampshade; inside the pockets of the old trousers that were hanging in the wardrobe. They were all safe. All of the stacks. Every single note was exactly where he had stashed it. If the bankers in the city knew about Bernie’s hideaway they would be sick. They’d be green with jealousy and it made Bernie grin as wide as he could. They were never going to get their dirty hands on the money he had worked so hard to collect. It was his. It was all his. Thinking about all of his money hidden away in his small flat got him excited and he couldn’t stop smiling. He smiled until his cheeks hurt. It was all his. Bernie got a tingling in his fingers and a feeling of euphoria filled his head. He dragged the bedding off both beds and let the money spill out over the floor. Bernie got to his knees and then lay in it. He held as many notes as he could in his hands and just let the rough texture of it rub his skin. He began to laugh. Quietly at first and then louder. Louder. Louder until he could feel the bass of it through his ribs. The neighbours that lived above him began to knock and bang on the ceiling above him but he didn’t care. He was rich. Richer than anyone else he knew and richer than anyone else could ever know. He hadn’t breathed a word of it to anyone. Not to his wife. Not to his daughter. Not to his grandson. Not to his doctors. Not to his neighbours. And not to the government. It was his secret and it was his. Suddenly there was a violent knocking at the front door.

“Hey! Hey, you in there! I want to talk to you, get out here!” a man shouted.


Bernie froze. He lay on the floor surrounded by his money. He didn’t even dare to breathe in case he disturbed a note or two and the man outside heard him. Bernie started to shake and couldn’t believe he had been so stupid. He shouldn’t have opened the room, he shouldn’t have opened the door, he shouldn’t have opened the drawers or the cupboards or the pillowcases and he definitely shouldn’t have taken the money out and started rolling in it. He’d been caught and now they were going to come in and take him away and then steal all his money. His money. It was his, no one should take it. His money. Stop shouting. Stop yelling. He wouldn’t let him in. He’d never let anyone in. It was his. His money. There were footsteps stomping back upstairs and then there was quiet. Bernie let himself breathe again. He got up off the floor. He organised his money back into the perfect piles and arranged them perfectly back into their perfect hiding places. He locked the door again and already felt himself relaxing as it was closed. He limped back to the kitchen and picked up his now very soggy and very cold lunch and sat down in his threadbare armchair. Bernie saw that the DVD had finished without him getting to see any of it. He pressed play again and prepared to watch it yet again. He wasn’t quite sick of it. He’d get his money’s worth.