Sinners and Saints

“Well, ain’t just you the little saint, Howard Heacock?” Daddy Sheriff sneered.  “Always doing the right thing, the good thing.  Paying for the child’s education.  Working your ass off for Jonathan Fowler and never spending a dime of it.  And always obeying your father, just like I asked you to.  You ever do anything bad in your life, boy?”

Howard nodded, once and neatly.  Daddy Sheriff knew he had.

“You think you’re proving some kind of point with all your goodness?  Well, I got news for you, Howard: You need me.”

No.  Howard had no need of his father.  He remained with Daddy Sheriff to punish him.  To remind him, every single day, of what he’d done.  Every time he looked upon his face, Howard knew, Daddy Sheriff was taken back to that night.  Every day that Howard kept his mouth closed, he shouted guilty.

 “You and all them other do-gooders in this world need people to do bad.  Sinners need saints, Howard.  Good needs evil.”  Daddy Sheriff lit a cigarette.   “It’s a balance, y’see.  Sinners screw up.  Saints scurry around behind ‘em with their little dustpans of goodness, sweeping up the mess, counting on their rosary beads; saying their prayers; shaking their heads and thanking their lucky stars for the lives they’ve been blessed to lead.  Makes you saints feel good, you know.  Gives you a purpose to life.”

“Stop talking nonsense, Daddy Sheriff,” Lilly Jean shouted.  “The weather’s on.”

“Shut up, woman.”  Daddy Sheriff waved his cigarette in the air.  The ash threatened to spill onto Lilly Jean’s new shag rug.  Howard watched warily. 

“Where would all you saints be, Howard, if there was no evil in this world?  What would all you little bright spots of sunshine do, if there were no more shadows?” Daddy Sheriff grinned.  “What in the world would you do, Howard, if I was a good man?”  He laughed.  “You may think saints are helping the sinners, Howard, but you know what?  I think you got it backwards.”

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Sir challenged me with ““What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?” ? Mikhail Bulgakov” and I challenged Janey with “A million drops of water.”

8 thoughts on “Sinners and Saints

  1. “Saints scurry around behind ‘em with their little dustpans of goodness, sweeping up the mess”. That put me in the mind (I suppose because of valentines day) of cupid coming along behind every couple he ever shot and having to sweep up the clothes they left behind when they fell into ecstatic throes and such.

  2. Perfect. Exactly what I had in mind (though your version had more ‘Daddy’). There’s a specific beauty in being able to write with ambiguity. It allows the reader’s imagination to run wild and there’s nothing more deadly/wonderful/warped than a reader’s imagination.

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