Joseph – Tuesday – 12:56 pm

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series Equanimity

“What are you mumbling about now?” Henrietta had asked bluntly.

Surprised, Joseph had not known what to say.  Instead, he’d just sat there, stunned by what he’d just realized.

“Joseph!”

“I… I’m sorry, my mind was somewhere else,” he’d finally said.  ”I was just curious if you’d thought about how we should dress for Sunday?”

“What’s happening Sunday?” She’d asked, staring at Joseph with her beautiful blue eyes, the eyes he’d fallen in love with so many years ago.  As he looked into them, he saw their lives flash before him, and struggled to contain himself.

She doesn’t know…

At that moment, he had wanted to reach out to her.  He had wanted to pull her to him and hold her close.  He had wanted to kiss her and never let go. And yet, anything he did or said about what he knew would undoubtedly greatly upset her, and that he didn’t want.

“I… I thought we may go to mass,” he’d finally said.

“Joseph, we haven’t been to mass in over 10 years.”

“I know, and I miss it,” he’d lied, “it’d be nice to go again. Maybe we’d see old friends, or run into Father Rosemont.”

Joseph didn’t miss church, but he did miss Father Rosemont. The priest had been part of his life for as long as he could remember, teaching Joseph the ways of God, all the while respecting Joseph’s personal belief boundaries. He’d also married Joseph and Henrietta, and had baptized every one of their six children.

“Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time,” Henrietta had quickly replied. “It would be fun to see what Father Rosemont is up to.”

So much time had passed since their last visit to St-Cathrines Cathedral, Joseph wondered if Father Rosemont was even still alive. Nonetheless, he knew that St-Catherines was where he had to be on Monday. If Henrietta was there with him, then they would both be able to leave this world together. If God had other plans however…

Joseph got up and walked to the door, putting on his coat and boots.

“Where are you going?” Henrietta had asked.

“Just out for a bit, I need to buy some… tools.” He’d lied again.

***

Joseph stood in line at Honest Abe’s Gunnery, his last conversation with the love of his life rolling around in his head.  Of all the years they had been together, he had only ever lied to her once, and today he’d beaten that score by two.  He felt like a monster, and yet he didn’t know what else he could do.  He was going to die on Monday, and until this morning’s conversation, he thought Henrietta was going to die too.  In fact, he thought she knew of his death, and of her own.

Why doesn’t she know?  What makes me so special?

“Can I help you sir?” a voice asked from behind the counter.

Joseph jumped as he realized the man was addressing him.

“Yes, I placed an order a few weeks ago,” he said, clearing his throat, “I’m here to pick it up.”

“Name?”

“Joseph Aernoudts.”

The man, who Joseph guessed was called Abe, nodded, then walked into a backroom to find the order.  A few minutes passed and he walked out again, with three containers of different sizes.

“This order’s been sitting here for the past week,” Abe said, “I thought we might have to return it.”

“I didn’t think I’d need it,” Joseph replied.

Abe looked at Joseph suspiciously, then began pulling out the guns and placing them on the counter.  There were three of them in all, a handgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a shotgun.  Abe went through the detail of each gun, explaining safety features and proper usage.  When he finally finished, he put the guns back in their packaging and looked up at Joseph.

“Need some ammo?” he asked.

Joseph nodded and Abe stepped out to the backroom again, returning with several carton boxes of ammunition.

“You’re all set,” he said, putting everything together and handing it to the old man.

Joseph thanked him and walked out of the store as fast as he could.

***

By the time Joseph had put everything in his trunk, his watch had reached 12:56 pm.  Relieved, he headed to the driver’s side of the car and smiled. He would bring the weapons just in case he needed them. If he didn’t need them, then they would stay in the trunk, and Henrietta wouldn’t suspect a thing.

He was about to open his car door when he heard someone shout from behind him.

“Jo!” the voice slurred loudly.

People had stopped calling Joseph “Jo” on the day of his wedding, when he had joked that he was now a man, and a man deserved to be called by his full name.  Nonetheless, Joseph turned towards the voice without hesitation.

“Yes?” he shouted back, surprised at who was walking towards him.

The man who had shouted Joseph’s name was about his height, though he was much fatter, and bald.  The baldness hadn’t been caused by age, but rather, it was the result of severe burns, the scars of which Joseph could see all around the man’s deformed head.

“Do I know you?” Joseph asked, even though he knew the answer.  Yes, he knew this man, or at least had seen him before somewhere, although he couldn’t remember where exactly.  

The scarred man walked up to Joseph.

“I j… just want…ed to say… I’m sorry…”

Although the stuttering made him difficult to understand, Joseph knew exactly what he was trying to say. Somehow, the bald man knew that Joseph was going to die Monday.  Joseph’s mind quickly jumped to his wife: if this man knew of Joseph’s fate, wouldn’t he also know of Henrietta’s?

“What about my wife? Will she die too?” he asked, approaching the bald man.

Joseph’s question obviously made the man uneasy.  As soon as the words left his mouth, the man turned and began to clumsily walk away from him.  Joseph quickly walked forward and caught up with the man, forcefully grabbing him by the shoulder.

“Wait a minute, I asked you a question.”

The bald man stopped and hesitated, obviously thinking about the question. After a moment, he turned towards Joseph, his face covered with tears.

“I… I couldn’t do th… that to h… her again…”

Joseph’s grip intensified. He may have been 82 years old, but at this very moment, he felt as though he was 25 again.

“What?  What do you mean?” he asked.

The man, who was now crying profusely, pulled away and began walking again.  Joseph let go of his grip and stood still, stunned by what he was seeing and what he had heard.  Here was a man with whom Joseph felt a connection, a man who admitted to knowing something about Joseph and Henrietta’s fate.

Joseph wondered for a second if the man was just some crazy lunatic who lived on the street.  Looking at the man, it seemed obvious that he hadn’t bathed in a while, and his clothes were old and tattered.  Still, there was something about this man that made him credible, something Joseph couldn’t put his finger on.

Then, as though a volcano erupted within him, Joseph felt rage the likes he’d never felt before.  This man knew what was going on, yet instead of helping, he only offered his apologies.  Not only that, but he also admitted to having done something to Henrietta in the past.

I couldn’t do that to her again…

What had the bastard done to her?

“Now listen here,” Joseph shouted, just as the bald man was about to turn a corner and disappear, “I don’t know who you are or what’s going on, but I’ll make one thing very clear: I love my wife more than anything in the world, I’ve spent all of my life with her, and I will not leave her behind all alone.”

“But God’s punishment…” the bald man began to say, looking back at Joseph.

“Screw God’s punishment, and screw you too. I don’t know what you did to my wife, but you stay away from her, both of you!”

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