the short story project


Tripp Ivie

Closing Time

I moved the mop side to side across the flat concrete floor. I looked at the clock as I dumped the drooping blue head into the water, 2:45. Opened the store at 5 this morning, and figured I’d close up early around 3 today. Nobody in this town is gonna want coffee right now. My mind drifted to yesterday. To pews full of suits and dresses of similar colors to that which my soul felt: bleak, dark, void. Specifically the man’s tie next to me reflected my condition: stained. I don’t know why I’m here. In the pew I meant, not in the world. My wonderment of that is a different matter entirely. 

A man who’s skin color was reminiscent of the coffee I brew each morning went and got on stage, his words would remind me of my coffee as well. Smooth, and bitter. He opened a leather bound Bible with a cross stitched on the front of it to the Gospel of Luke. I stared at that cross, it has always bewildered me to think of the claim that all it took was two pieces of wood, a few nails and a Holy Man to kill death. He spoke of a story about a young man who ran from his father’s household only to squander money, then be welcomed back with open arms and celebration from that father later on. As the man gestured toward the casket down in front of him, he said that the young man named Wally would now know this father’s embrace better than any person present. Better than any person alive. The preacher said that God almighty would have embraced Wally. That moments after those bullets tore through him The Everlasting would have been readying that Lamb’s Book to check off a name and say welcome home. I felt like that story should have been more comforting than it was right then. But then again, why am I upset?

I did not know Wally. I still don’t know him. But I know what I had heard about him. He was only 20, but he tried. Cared about a lot of people. Every Tuesday he led a Bible study at the rec. center where he volunteered. It was near the neighborhood he grew up in. One night officer Dan McCarty thought he was breaking into that center when he was really just locking up. He stayed late there because it was easier to focus there than home. He went to pull his keys out to show the officer he was just locking up, and that was all it took for that badge wielding enforcer of the law to be convinced his own life was in danger. The M.E said he was dead before his body hit the steps. I did not know Wally, but I do know that news report felt wrong. I do not look like Wally, but I did wonder if I would have suffered the same fate.

The man on stage flips his pages, and wipes his shining, bald head with a rag. He speaks of a time that will come, when all pain will be gone and God will wipe our tears. I ponder if it’s wrong of me to wonder why He can’t just wipe them now. Growing up I was always amazed by the story of Jesus. I called myself a Christian not out of certainty, but mainly because of my parents. As I got older I figured there were worst people to model myself after than a guy who died for everybody else and loved ‘em. But it also felt kind of cheap for Him to die if He knew He was gonna come back. Is it a sacrifice if its temporary? What are 33 years away from Heaven, and 3 days in Hell if you know the rest of eternity is smooth sailing? Then again, whenever I think about that, I know I would not have been willing to do it if it were me. Death’s always scarier up close than far away. Of course, these are all just thoughts, I could never say them aloud. We can never really say what we fight, because then people might try to help. I wonder what Wally’s secret thoughts were. He probably would have never told them, but now he doesn’t get the choice. 

He wrapped up the service with a prayer. He asked God for peace, and understanding. I asked God for patience, and forgiveness. I went home and hung my suit up and opened my Bible for the first time in a long time, and I read. I read, of judgment, of forgiveness, of love, of sin, of sacrifice, of prejudice, of justice. I wished I understood it more. In reality, I just remembered  why I didn’t read it much. Closed it, went to bed and got ready to open the store the next day. 

Now I’m almost done mopping the floor. I really need to hire some help one of these days. The gravel parking lot tracks in all kinds of footprints and mud and whatever else people bring in here all over the floor. It’s 3:00 and now that I only had one spot left, I went to prop the mop against the wall. It slid. That mop had already been through a lot, and when it slid it hit a table and cracked in half. Suddenly I felt tears roll down my cheek when I looked at the mop. I thought of how unfair it was, that it was responsible for cleaning up everyone else’s dirt. 


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