It was early Sunday morning when he snuck back into bed, squeezing in beside his wife, arms wrapped around their child, it seemed she had not moved since he had and never noticed his departure. He smiled to himself as he closed his eyes, confident that today, she would not bicker. But she could smell the potency of his breath, saturated with alcohol, and she had risen.
Often she thought of leaving him, many men had made offers, rich men who did not care she had a child, she grew weary of the hunger pains, and her son was ill. They could hardly afford to feed and medicate him, yet her husband continued to drink like they could. He rationalised it; the only means of relief, he had trouble with anxiety, but she knew better, and she resented the lie.
They were lucky, they had managed thus far to live off the land but these days the crops had grown weaker, the rain had not come in weeks and they could not harvest enough. Then there were the women, these random whores would show up at their gate claiming Barry had fathered their bastard children and demanding child support, whenever this had happened Barry (always spotting them before they did him), would hide out in the shed until they got sick of screaming obscenities at the gate.
There were about four different women and he swore to her they all lied but of course she didn’t believe him. he was lucky they couldn’t afford a paternity test, that is all except for Sandra who had successfully taken him to court. He was now required by law to give her thirty grand a month, but she was kind enough to only take ten, she had been wise enough to find herself a rich man. It could only be love that kept her here, she had no other explanation, as much as she hated it, she loved this drunken idiot.
Now, she could hear someone banging on their gate, the child stirred, but did not wake, and she gently eased herself out of bed to peek through the window; there was a man outside, he was well-dressed and did not seem at all threatening, there were no pamphlets in his hands, he did not seem to be a Jehovah’s witness, she decided there was no harm in finding out what he wanted.
His name was Philip Service and he spoke perfect English. Well-mannered, he was charming and attractive. He wanted to speak with Barry, though she was his wife, he preferred that he was there before they discussed the matter. She offered him a seat on their sofa, there was very little furniture in their one-room board shack; the bed, they all slept on was joined by a rocking chair she had inherited from her grandmother, there was no dining table, no refrigerator, and anything they ate was cooked on the coal stove around the back, they never had leftovers. The sofa, she was most proud of was the best gift her husband had given her, he had not bought her a ring.
It seemed for a moment Barry was in a coma, but after a minute or two she managed to wake him, he was miserable and immediately complained that she had disturbed his peace. Once he gained his composure, he realised they were not alone, he cursed under his breathe, recognizing the man sitting before them, Margaret did not know it yet, but he had come for their sofa. That is, unless he could somehow come up with the sixty thousand dollars he had owed, which was now two years overdue.
The bailiff had come four times before, twice Barry had managed to talk his way out of repossession, promising to pay “by next month.” Twice he had hidden-out in the shed, now, it seemed his luck had run out, and it did not help that in his current state he had felt as though someone had taken a sledgehammer to his head, he could not think of anymore excuses.
“Mr. Watson, I have come for your sofa”, and at this moment Margaret snapped her head in Mr. Service’s direction, confusion written in her expression, then probingly back at her husband.
“That’s right, Mrs. Watson, I don’t believe your husband told you, he has not yet paid for this piece of furniture, he has managed to evade us thus far, but I am not leaving here today without my due.”
Barry avoided her eyes; he was frightened and ashamed, looking rather into those of the man before him. “Jus gimmie a minute man, mi have di money fi yu, mi haffi go inna di town fi it though, don’t move, soon come back,” as quickly as he spat those words he was out the door, leaving Margaret too stunned to respond.
He felt the heat melting his brain, and he imagined the sun was Margaret as he pedaled his bicycle into town, he had no idea where he was going, or where this money would come from, but he couldn’t let him take it, he did not see her forgiving him if he allowed that to happen.
It was then he saw Tunkie pedaling like lightening in the opposite direction. Tunkie was his no good friend; always gambled away his money, always had some get rich scheme that until now Barry had not considered investing in, but he was desperate.
“Tunkaay!” he had been pedaling so fast he had barely seen him, a cloud of dirt rose as he jerked to a halt, sweat dripping like a faucet down his face.
Tunkie was not limited by such things as morality and easily, even proudly admitted he had just snapped a gold chain from the neck of an old lady as she walked home from church. Barry had never thought of stealing, and just now it came as an epiphany, a grand solution to his problem. Tunkie had a suggestion; there was an ATM in front of Mr. Lee’s supermarket, “it mus have a lot of money, people hardly use it”.
Barry would have to do it alone, he would not risk going back that way today, they might be looking for him, but he would loan him his ratchet on the promise of his returning his “prized possession”. Nervously, Barry took the knife, and Tunkie sped off, again on his course.
He felt his heart beat in his stomach as he approached the store and was there before he realized he had absolutely no idea how to rob an ATM, but he thought for sure Mr. Lee must have a key or something to get inside, and if he didn’t, he most definitely knew how to open the cash register. Stealthily he entered the store, and was surprised to see it was filled with people, he would have to find a way to get to the man without raising suspicion. Deciding he would pretend to buy something he picked up an apple and headed for the cashier, it was then he was intercepted by Natalie, who was glad to have finally caught him off guard, a little girl stood beside her, gripping the tail of her skirt.
“A ketch yu now!” she said as she poked him in the back of his head, she pulled the little girl in front of her, “Simone, this is yu Daddy.”
The black man flushed red as he gazed into the eyes of the child, eyes mirroring his own, “Daddy!” she screamed as she hugged his knees, he could not deny it any longer, nor could he find it in his heart to follow through with his plan. He lifted her into his arms and made excuses for not being there, as well as promises to be there from now on. Shamed, defeated and penniless he left the store and sweated profusely as he rode home, what would Margaret think of his impotence?
The bailiff was not there when he returned, nor was his sofa, nor was the rocking chair, nor were his wife and child. One word was written on a sheet of paper placed on top of his pillow “Goodbye”.
It seemed the bailiff had left with more than his due.