Before midnight. Half of America asleep. Some work third shift jobs; drive diesels down highways, cook omelets, drink heavily, make love. And many sit in the dark thinking of what might have been had they towed the line. Just followed the rules; a lot of folks like that.
The clock on the stove read 11:47. The microwave blinked 12:00 in a repeating rhythm. His watch said 11:17; he had options.
He sat in his chair and lit a cigarette. Blew the gray smoke into the dark. Listened to the radiators hiss. The old man had heard that sound all his life. Conjured up memories; his past. A life of nothingness. Alone throughout it. Never went anywhere. Never traveled. No schooling. Just alone in an old house. Burn marks on the floor.
Everyday he went to two places; the liquor store and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Drank the same beer, Old Style, and ate the same meal, a three piece with a thigh, wing, and drumstick. Mashed potatoes and Cole slaw came with. Along with a stale biscuit. Walked the same route everyday too. West on Baker to Broadway then up north to Main Street. It was his daily ritual. Talking to himself silently the whole time. His thin lips moved.
What was he saying to himself? Just chatter. Mindless chatter to God. Always asking for forgiveness. Knowing that he, like all of us, were sinners. He had this fear of dying. Scared of eternal suffering. Never thought he was good enough for heaven. When he was younger he was told that. Stuck with him. Never did the church teach him forgiveness. Or, the sacrifice of Christ. He was taught that God will punish us. So much for salvation.
Alone he sat in the dark eating chicken and drinking beer. Scared to go out at night. Knowing the apocalypse could come any day. These were fears that kept him awake. He never knew what time it was. He just knew light and dark.