This story is by Bronagh C. Donnelly and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jimmy answered the phone on the first ring. His gravelly voice cracked with his first words of the day.
“Yeah. What? When? I’ll tell them.” He set the phone down hard.
“Who was that?” Sally asked.
“Lawyer, courthouse at 10. Bobby’s getting off.”
“What?” her eyes filled with tears. “He can’t just walk after what happened to Grace.”
Jimmy knew that himself but didn’t answer her. He threw back the covers and stood on his feet. He rubbed his stubbled chin and reached for his warn out jeans. He slid them on, grabbed his old shirt and his fishing hat.
“Jim, you can’t go fishing today.” Jimmy closed the door behind him as he left without facing her. That was not his intention.
From the kitchen, he watched Grace asleep on the couch. Her spot since she came home mid semester, after it happened. Sleep was her only peace.
It was his fault.
He and Sam grew up like brothers, they’d met at school. Sam was the talented self-involved type to Jimmy’s easy going Boy Scout. They married within months of graduating high school Jimmy to his sweetheart, Sam to the richest girl in his rotation.
Both began work after high school, he on the mill floor, and Sam as his Manager, and heir to the family business. Both had kids within months of each other too. They had joked then about his Grace and Sam’s Bobby getting together, as it happens it was no laughing matter.
He had failed Grace. As her Dad, her guardian, her protector. He encouraged her to spend time with Bobby. He made her go to College nearby as it was all he could manage on his labourers wage. Grace had bigger dreams. She hated him for that. More so since. She never would have been there.
He had thought her depression would pass, though he never asked outright what happened. He assumed they’d just got carried away as youngsters sometimes do.
Jimmy grabbed the Mountainview case from the garage, grabbed a brick from the corner and put it in his tackle-box. As he turned to leave Sally met him arms crossed in the doorway.
“You can’t skip out on court today. Your daughter needs you.”
“She don’t need or want me in there. Won’t be the first time I disappointed her.”
“Jimmy stop running from it and face what happened. You need to mend fences with Grace before you burn the bridge for good.”
“Only bridge I’m fixing for today is the one over the river.” Jimmy’s heart sank as he said the words but his face stayed true to the lies. “I’ll drop you both there, if you like?”
“What I’d like is for you to man up and look out for your family first instead of that new found hobby of yours. I’m afraid Grace won’t cope with him walking, she may try it again.”
“Keep your eye to her so that don’t happen then. It’s not the way out.”
“Jimmy…” he could tell in her eyes she was pleading for him to reconsider. To turn heel and change into his Sunday clothes and sit like a lump in the courtroom. To witness vanity’s win over decency. Like innocence was for sale. No doubt there was a cost.
Months ago he didn’t know it even existed. A hybrid of design. A hunter-angler’s dream. He’d never been much of either. Times change. It had been his release. Today it would be his saving grace.
He had ignored calls from Sam from the day he saw Bobby holding hands at the football game with Tommy Conroe. It was then he knew. He had but one interest, redemption.
Had he heeded his daughter’s words about the feeling she got at their house. How Bobby seemed disinterested. His dad was always around. He had gotten reassurances from Sam that his boy wasn’t that kind of guy, surely Grace was extra sensitive.
That night Grace came home with her clothes torn, her makeup smeared, tears streaming from her face. Inconsolable. She went into her room. She shattered the framed photos that once held pride of place. Her and classmates, Bobby among them, after grad, by the lake, at College orientation. Jimmy felt helpless. He had never seen his daughter missing the bounce in her spirit.
When Sally tried to console her, over the presumed break up, the photo of the six of them was shredded on the floor. Both sets of parents, Grace and Bobby from July fourth two years earlier.
Jimmy recalled the birth of rage in his chest when Sally told him what Grace said happened. “She said stop. His boy needed to learn a lesson.” Grace named no one. Sally called the police.
He remembers the call he got that evening from Sam about a misunderstanding, surely all can be explained. Bobby had been arrested. Sometimes things get carried away. Bobby never seemed capable of it in Jimmy’s mind. Far from the egocentric Alpha-male his father was.
Jimmy sat and reviewed his plan before driving the girls to court. As he pulled up out front the throng of local and national media outlets had assembled. The trial of a prominent College athlete accused of rape was a headline. Sally looked his way as she opened her door offering one more chance to reconsider. He couldn’t.
Instead of heading out of town he circled around by the hardware store and parked his truck in back. He pulled the Mountainview case and tackle-box from the truck bed and walked the three blocks back towards the Post Office that set opposite the courthouse in the centre of town. Alongside both was a small parking garage built in the last ten years when the traffic downtown worsened. He climbed the stairs to the highest level and smiled at the maintenance man who was sweeping an empty lot.
“It’ll be hard to catch fish up here,” he said pointing at the case propped up to Jimmy’s left.
“Indeed. Got a friend I’m waiting for.” The word nearly choked him to get out.
The maintenance man waved and smiled friendly and disappeared into the stairwell.
Jimmy watched as the buzz of media grew. He looked towards the courthouse as the polished black SUV pulled up. Sam jumped out and circled the truck for Bobby, his wife let herself out of the passenger side dressed to the nines with movie star glasses and tucked her chin as she followed the men inside. Sam adored the attention. Jimmy would get him his fill of it today. Sam’s proclamations of his son’s innocence travelled the distance between the old friends. Jimmy cringed and gritted his teeth.
The family disappeared into the court along with half of the media. The courtrooms were too small for all of them. Jimmy waited.
Jimmy reached for his case and unzipped it. He opened the tackle-box and prepped its treasures measuredly. He turned the local news transmission up on the radio he carried in his back pocket.
*** THIS JUST IN: BOBBY VERNON ACQUITTED ON ALL COUNTS*** Variance in DNA evidence, jurors were compelled to acquit.
Jimmy watched as the media gathered around the front doors of the courthouse. He could see from his vantage point the full breadth of the building. Just as the masses gathered in front he watched the side door open and a frail figure stumble out and collapse on the lawn beside a willow tree. It’s Grace. Sally soon followed and knelt to comfort her. Jimmy’s heart sank.
He redirected his gaze at the centre of media and watched as Sam emerged triumphant, trailing his grown son by his hand behind him. Jimmy watched as Sam centred himself among the journalists and adjusted his tie. His rage built. He drew the brick from the tackle-box and placed it on the ledge beside him. As he peered over he aligned it above the red newspaper box. He would need to time it just right.
He pulled the loaded .22 calibre sportsman special to his shoulder and took aim through the site. He steadied himself, placed his right index finger on the trigger and pushed the brick off the ledge with his left hand. One, two, fire.
The thud of the brick drew the attention of those at street level as screams echoed. The melee caused some to run in panic and others to gather around someone lying prone on the steps.
Jimmy returned to the house later that night. He had ignored several messages from Sally as he always did while fishing. When he pulled in the drive she rushed to tell him what he already knew.
“Grace is back. She heard the news in the cab, and a cloud lifted, she smiled. Relieved it’s over.”
“Good.” He deserved it.
“What about you? Catch anything?”
“Today I caught redemption.”
Sally was puzzled. “Where’s your gear?”
“Gone. I’m done fishing.”
“But it’s your saving grace?”