A good man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Turning up in the town to try and do good for the community, does he have an alternative motive?

The look on his face told him what he already knew. He was a good man. The sad pitiful face of a beggar sat with a dirty sleeping bag across his knees, looked at Ray Caldwell in surprise. Nobody had ever given him a twenty-pound note before. Normally he would get people's coppers, or paltry change when they came out of the supermarket he had huddled outside of.
"Fank you sir, Fank you sir," he said, as Ray walked into the store. "Spare some change" he heard him ask somebody leaving. Ray guessed he wouldn't get as much as what he had given him. Most people, he thought, looked down their noses at beggars, pretended they weren't there. Had selective deafness when asked for change. Not me, thought Ray, I'm a good man.

He was 58, and was one of those people that did not look their age. He looked younger by 10 or 15 years. One of those people to whom time had been kind.

He had been likened in the past to a lookalike of an early hollywood movie star. Not anyone in particular, but that general appearance. Tall, black sleeked hair, white teeth, as if he was trying to emulate them but not quite succeeding.

After ten minutes of shopping he was on his way to the exit when he noticed a food bank by the exit, half full.  He smiled, and put some of his food in there, looking around to see if anybody could see him. Two people were. He left the store, turning the other way away from the beggar.

He had arrived yesterday in the small town of Taysran, 30 miles shy of the Scottish border from London in his Toyota Yaris, 246 miles away, non-stop. He knew at some point he would need to get the car serviced. Get it checked after the arduous journey, like a horse after a long race. He wasn't sure if he would be needing it for a while though. Everything he needed in this place was within walking distance, and he had no desire to go back. There was nothing there for him now. This place seemed fine. Even though he had only been here one night, he believed he could settle here.

The local pubs he knew were a good way to meet people, to meet its denizens, but he wouldn't jump in at the deep end yet, he would absorb the place, let it soak into him, especially if it was to be his new home.

When he had arrived he had found a bed and breakfast and decided to stay there until he found somewhere more permanent.

As he walked into his abode, the owner, Mrs Eileen Waters smiled at him, sat at the counter, which was effectively just a small table and a laptop. He smiled back and she went coy, finding interest in the notebook before her.

As he climbed upstairs he was still smiling. She fancies me, he thought. Can't blame her. He let himself into his small room, put the shopping next to the sink and walked through into the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror. I wonder, he thought. What if I got to know her, maybe even became her other half. Maybe he guessed, husband. He knew that she would be a pillar of the town. A lot of people would know her, so if he got with her, it would be a good way to integrate himself with the community. A good way to show people that he was decent, honest, extremely trustworthy, certainly someone worthy of being Eileen's other half. He knew he was getting away with himself. Maybe she was already married, or had somebody.

Even though she was older than him, and not somebody he found particularly attractive, he knew it could be good for him if he got with her. He nodded to himself. She would be a good way for him to show people that he was a good man.
"Yes," he whispered at himself in the mirror. "I am a good man". He nodded. "Say it again. I am a good man". He leaned forward so his face was two inches from the glass.
"Yes you are" he said.

The following day he decided to have a proper look around the town, but only got ten minutes along a few roads before he spotted a man in his front garden building a fence. Ray was quite partial to D.I.Y and thought it may be a good way to ingratiate himself with a local, because if he befriended one, then he would probably at some point be introduced to his friends.
"Hi," he said, as he approached. The small, stocky man who looked to be in his early sixties looked up but said nothing.
"Would you like any help?"
The man was still quiet for a few more seconds, on his hands and knees, hammer in one hand, thin wooden panels on the grass before him.
"Alright," he said, "I can't pay you though".
"Don't worry, I don't want paying. I want to help, I've done a bit of D.I.Y myself". The man smiled, stood up, and they shook hands.

Two hours later, they were both stood on the pavement, hands on hips, admiring the new fence.
"I think now it needs a coat of paint" said the man. Ray nodded.
"OK, shall I come round tomorrow?"
"No, it's alright, I haven't decided on the colour yet. Anyway, I think that calls for a drink. Fancy coming down the local? My name's Tommy by the way".
"OK" said Ray, smiling.

When he was there in the local pub, with light from grimy windows filtering through, and slow plumes of smoke drifting through the air because no-one took notice of the smoking ban, he was introduced to three of Tommy's friends who were there already. After ten minutes of general small talk, one of them asked Ray:
"What did you do before you came here?"
"Built a fence" he said. Three of them laughed, but one of them didn't, Richard, who merely smiled as though he found it amusing, a forced expression which Ray failed to pick up on.
"I was a website developer with my own company accountable for around 80 employees. We made the websites of many major companies. I've lost count of how many corporations have headhunted me personally to design thiers, to write programmes for them and set up unhackable security systems. Yet, you know what? as much as I loved it. I wasn't quite satisfied. I needed to give more back to society, so I left it. I heard about man in Montreal in Canada who was working in some boring office job, and one day was just staring at the screen, at some figures, and just decided there and then to leave the job and travel the world. He just quit. I thought, yes, but I quit so I could do more for people less well-off than me, and so I've ended up here. I need to do something for the community, help out in some way, so if any of you know what I can do. Actually I know what I can do now, get the drinks in. I'm buying, what's everyone having?" They all looked at each other, then told him. He headed to the bar, and the friends were silent again for a few moments.
"I think somebody's trying too hard," said Richard. "He turns up out of nowhere, freely helps to build your fence, offers to buy all of us a drink who he's never met, and now wants to help the community voluntarily. There's something not quite right here. Nobody does that, and I don't believe a word of what he said he did as well. Headhunted by corporations?" He shook his head. "He wants everyone to like him, and is trying too hard to fit in". He saw Ray coming back over carefully carrying the drinks which he set down on the table. They all thanked him.
"So did you think of what I can do to help the community?" he asked.

The following day the sky threatened rain, and carried it out with a brief morning shower, then changed its mind, deciding to stop the rain and just lower the temperature slightly to an unnoticeable level but keeping the clouds grey just incase it decided it wanted to shower again, which it didn't.

"...so, yes, I lost count of how many corporations head-hunted me, but I just decided to quit, you know, and give something back to the community". Eileen Waters nodded in understanding as he told her, leaning forwards on the desk as she subconciously clicked on the mouse on the computer,  concentrating on him.
"That's very kind of you," she said, "and you don't want any payment. I'm sure you can find work easy enough here, if you're good with your hands, there's a golf course two miles up the road. They always want people to help out there. They might pay you, but I suppose it depends on what you do".
"It doesn't matter," said Ray, standing up properly,"Anything they want doing I'll do it free. Anything".
"You're looking smart," she said, sizing up Ray in his new black ferecci suit, which he had driven five miles for yesterday after he had discovered that the men he had met in the pub were to attend a funeral the following day for one of their friends who had passed away from smoking related emphysema. He never said he would attend, but decided to anyway, to show his commitment to the community.
"Off to a funeral," he said, "up at the church".
"Yes, that'll be old Laurence. Met him a few times" she said. "Did you know him?"
"No," said Ray, "but I thought I would go and pay my respects anyway". A disheveled couple in their late forties carrying luggage entered the bed and breakfast and approached the desk.
"You're a good man," said Eileen.
"I know" he said, walking out.

There were a few surprised faces at the side of the grave as Ray approached, all of them silently asking themselves the question as to who he was. Laurence didn't really have too many friends. His life was fairly routine. A wife who had died 15 years earlier and two children who had long since vanished into the world who never kept in touch because of a falling out, meant Laurence was a drinking, smoking stalwart, set in his ways, part of the structure of the community. There were about eight people at his graveside, which included the men he had met.

Tommy looked at Ray as if to say 'What are you doing here?'. Ray smiled respectfully, standing beside him.
"Even though I never knew him," he whispered, "I've come to pay my respects". The others all nodded in appreciation.

Later on they were all back in the pub, toasting thier friend. The barman had put music on the jukebox which was a favourite of Laurence's, early bluegrass, but it wasn't too loud, more like background music.

Ray stood talking to one of Laurence's friends.
"...yes, so basically, I've lost count of how many corporations have head-hunted me, but I thought you know, I quit, because I wanted to put something back into the community". The man nodded in acknowlegement.
"Really?" he said, "You have to be brave to do that?" Ray nodded.
"Yes," he said, "I guess I do".

A few minutes later he found himself chatting to another friend.
"I'm thinking of volunteering up at the golf club," he said, and the man smiled.
"Most of us here play golf," he said, "I can introduce you and maybe put a good word in if you're looking for work".
"I don't want paying," he said, "I don't need the money. I've got enough saved away. I just want to do something. I need to do my bit. Whatever needs doing, I'll do it for free".

"I see our friend is integrating himself" said Richard, looking across at Ray. "I could make out something about the golf club. Let me guess, he's always wanted to play golf"
"Let's give him a chance" said Tommy, stood beside him. "He may be genuine", but Richard could see on Tommy's face, a shade of doubt.

That afternoon, three of them all walked the two miles to the golf club, and it wasn't long before they were in the lounge which was part bar and restaurant for members only. A smartly dressed man in a white suit came in and strode across.
"Do we have a new member?" he asked, shaking Ray's hand. "My name's Flynn, I'm the chairman".
"No, I want to volunteer my services for anything you may have that needs doing"
"Yes, he helped me with my fence and as much as I offered he refused payment," said Tommy.
"So you want to do the same for this club? Help out with maintenence".
"Yes, or whatever you think". The man smiled and hooked his thumb over his shoulder.
"Well the grass is getting a bit long for the golfing, so how about mowing all eighteen holes?" he said, not expecting him to take it up.
"OK", said Ray.

A few minutes later, the chairman of the golf course was stood besides a lawn tractor around the back of the club, obviously having been used many times before, it looked in need of a mechanic's attention.
"Now, you drive this at your own risk. I'm not insured for this so it's up to you. You don't have to if you don't want. Some of the golfers here volunteer for maintenance, so it's no bother if you change your mind".
"It's fine" said Ray, and Flynn handed him the keys.

Ten minutes later, Tommy slid a golf tee into the ground, placed a ball, then straightened to line up his driver. They had changed clothes and wore ordinary, bland clothing.
"There he is" said Richard, looking at Ray in the distance, mowing the grass around a bunker. "I still can't trust him".
"Maybe give him the benefit of the doubt," said Tommy. "He might be genuine, and to me he seems alright. A good man". He struck the ball.

Later that night, a tired Ray, having taken four hours and thirty-five minutes to mow all eighteen holes on a machine that wouldn't go more than 10miles per hour, collapsed back onto the bed. See, he thought, who else would do that for nothing? for no money, no favours. A good man would. Yes, that'll be me. He stood up and walked across to the window, looking out at the quiet road, at one person walking a puppy. He nodded, and ran a hand through his hair. I am a good person, I know I am. His hand slowly closed into a fist in his hair, and he closed his eyes.
"I am" he said, finding he had said it aloud. He turned and walked into the bathroom, looking at his red-faced reflection. There was fear in his eyes.
"I'm good," he said. "I am. I am a nice, decent, honest person. I know I am. I know I am, because I've proven it". He sighed with relief, and nodded.
"See, told you I was" he said at his reflection. He went back and sat on the edge of the bed, running his hands through his hair over and over again, breathing quite heavily, not simply because of the work he had done. He nodded to himself again, and smiled.
"Yes," he said, a little louder. "I am a good man".

".....so I mowed all eighteen holes for nothing" he said to Eileen, "I mean, they gave me a free drink afterwards, which I didn't ask for, which was nice, but you know. I'd do it again like that". He clicked his fingers. "For no pay at all, for free". He was leaning on the desk again, Eileen looking at him, looking at the monitor, looking at him, monitor, him with a certain amount of affection in her eyes which he hadn't quite picked up on.
"So, what about you?" she asked. "Is there a very lucky woman who you've got waiting somewhere?"
"No," he said, "With all the work I'm doing, or have done, I just haven't found the time to settle down you know? Maybe though, if I find the right person, who knows," he said, smiling, standing up straight. "I'll see you later," he said, then turned and walked out. Eileen wasn't really concentrating on the monitor, her hand subconciously clicking the mouse. When her attention returned fully to the task in hand she found she had double-booked a room.

Ray had decided to give his car a checking over, making sure it was still functioning properly. It was parked around fifty metres from the bed and breakfast. Midway across the road was what was effectively the middle of the town, there was a small roundabout, and in the middle of that there was a small well, unused for years. The town seemed to have been built around it. There was nothing at the bottom, thirty metres down, no water, just stones and sand.

Ray walked across to have a look.
"Hi Ray," came a voice across the way, and he saw it was a face he recognised from talking to them in the pub after the funeral. They didn't come over to chat though. Ray waved back, and the man carried on walking. Ray continued to his vehicle, and was soon opening up the bonnet.

Five minutes later, he was sitting in the drivers seat, revving the engine. He saw movement in the rear-view mirror, a car turning into the road. A car he did not want to see. A white Audi S5 quatro which rolled closer, pulling up beside him. Ray looked panic-stricken, terrifed, and fear surged through him. The driver of the car looked across at Ray, then got out and walked across.
"Got you," he said. He was a bald man by choice, in his early fifties, always wore similar clothing of an ordinary nature, and even though the weather wasn't particularly cold, he wore a long jacket and a scarf as if it was winter, not spring.

"Come on" he said, "Out!" Ray put his face in his hands. "I said out". Ray slowly got out of the car and regained composure.
"Look, I know you're upset, but remember..."
"I've done nothing wrong," the man finished for him.
"It's true. I have not committed any crime" Ray slowly walked onto the road, but found himself backing away from the man, putting up his hands as though to calm him, even though he was calm already.
"I know you've not committed a crime, that's why the police won't do anything, even though I've pleaded with them to arrest you. I did get one police officer who was prepared to bend the rules though". They slowly headed towards the roundabout. "It was he who helped me find you".
"How?" asked Ray.
"Well, he had access to the road traffic police security speed cameras, and even though you weren't speeding in your haste to get away from London, he did let me know when they clocked your number plate, all they way up here. He had sympathy with me, see, knows I was coming to find you, and did nothing, kept quiet. Gave me all the info I needed to find you. After the last speed camera snapped you, you could only have been driving to one place. Now here you are, hiding like the coward you are".
"Now, don't you be doing anything stupid". He backed up against the well, and saw there were curious bystanders watching. One of them was Eileen.
"I didn't really know what I was going to do to you. Kill you, no. That wouldn't do my conscience any good, and I hope yours has been killing you".
"What's going on here?" said Eileen, concerned, slowly approaching. "He's a good man".
"A good man? No, he isn't"
"He's been doing good for the community"
"Has he? showing how nice he is, what a decent honest gent he is. I think your conscience has been getting to you" he said to Ray, who pointed a threatening finger at the man.
"I've told you a hundred times. I am not a criminal. I didn't do anything wrong." he said, his face reddened, his voice raised.
"What's he done?" asked Eileen.
"Go on," said the man, "Tell her. Or haven't you got the guts to, because your just a snivelling little coward". More of a crowd had gathered.
"Tell her what you didn't do. Tell her that my two kids arn't here any more because of you, because somebody couldn't be bothered to save them. There they were on a boating lake, the two of them rowing when the boat sprung a leak, and panicking as the boat sank, they ended up in the water, drowning. They couldn't swim".
"Well why were they on a boat in the first place? Why weren't you with them? What sort of parent are you?" It was the man's turn to point an accusing finger.
"Don't you turn this round on me. You were there on the lakeside, reading a newspaper on a bench. You were the only one near them, who could have gone into the water and saved them".
"Yes, but what if something had happened to me? What if I had drowned? I'm not a good swimmer". By now at least a hundred people had gathered to watch. Things like this were a rare event here, and anything that deviated from normality had people's curiousity piqued.
"See," said the man "Didn't want to get his hair wet. Just thinking of himself".
"I could of drowned," said Ray, "Can't you see that?"
"So it had to be my kids who arn't here anymore. You are just a selfish coward".
"Look, I am a good man. The people of this town will tell you that". He looked around with hopeful eyes, and Eileen walked across to him.
"No," she said, "You're not a good man at all". She pressed a hand on his chest, and pushed him into the well.

Amongst the crowd was an off-duty constable who walked across and looked into the well with a few others. With it being thirty metres deep, at about halfway it blended into darkness, and nothing could be made out there, not even on the brightest summer day, so Ray would stay down there, moaning, and starving until he became a corpse, and the people of the town would tell no-one. It would remain the town's secret.

Submitted: December 19, 2014

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