By Simon Kewin
‘What the hell is going on with you, Jack?’
Penny, on the other end of the line, sounded genuinely hurt. Furious. It was pretty ironic, really, given he’d been trying to think of a good way of committing wrath.
‘You know what’s going on with me, Penny. I’m collecting the seven deadly sins.’
‘Bloody hell, Jack, I thought you’d put that behind you. I thought getting a job was your way of finally doing something constructive with your time. But, no, it was all part of your stupid game. After everything Father Christopher said.’
‘I’m sorry, Pen. It’s just I’m so close to the full set. Just one more to go.’
‘For God’s sake, Jack, will you grow up? You know, I actually thought meeting up again could be the start of something. Bring us back together.’
‘I’d like that, Penny. I would. But I can’t stop now. You know how it is.’
‘No, Jack. No I don’t know how it is.’
‘Perhaps when I’m finished I can give you a ring?’
There was a pause. ‘You’re just unbelievable, Jack. Good bye.’
The ‘phone went dead in Jack’s hand.
He sighed and dropped the ‘phone back into its cradle. He’d only told her the truth. He regretted upsetting her, of course, but he couldn’t stop now. He was too close. He needed to commit the sin of wrath and, more importantly, get the necessary documentary proof of committing it.
* * *
He’d started with car crime and he rather liked the idea of ending on the same note. Something in the circularity of that gave him satisfaction. And so he’d chosen the one thing that was guaranteed to raise his blood pressure, fill him with unthinking fury. Road rage would be his modern-day equivalent of wrath.
Usually, of course, he worked hard to avoid traffic snarl-ups. Today, he sought them out, battling his way through miles of revving, fuming vehicles. At first, because he was trying, he found it oddly difficult to feel any anger. Slowly, though, the frustration built up within him. He didn’t have all day. It was the lack of information that was the worst part. The helpless fear that you could be stuck for hours and hours. For ever maybe.
Finally, edging forwards a foot at a time, he reached snapping point. He began to shout and swear at the unbelievable stupidity of the drivers around him. Who, in turn, shouted and swore back. Usually he managed to hold himself in check, more or less. Today he let it all out. Wrath was ... liberating.
He revved his engine unnecessarily, edging forwards, forcing his car into a lane of traffic. Other drivers honked their horns in aggrievement. More than one person wound down their windows to berate him. When a goods-van driver began to swear at him, Jack stopped his car and got out to argue back. He felt exposed, and suddenly terrified, but also free. He had often longed to do just this. Indeed he had often done it - in his mind.
He was still swearing and gesticulating at the van-driver when the police motor-cycle powered up between the lines of traffic, siren shrieking.
* * *
That evening, Jack sat in his study, admiring his seven framed pieces of paper. The seven documents that proved beyond any doubt his descent into mortal sin. The press report describing his brief career as a carjacker. The discharge letter after his hospitalisation for alcohol poisoning. The photograph of him burning the pile of cash. The brothel menu. Father Christopher’s note of absolution. His dismissal letter. His caution for dangerous driving. Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath. He had committed them all. Completed the set. A glow of satisfaction filled him. Hell, he was probably committing pride just by sitting here.
The problem was the moment of triumph only ever lasted a short while, and then there was the inevitable question. OK, that’s done - so what next? And it was true, it was all a bit mad. Like Penny had said, what was he trying to prove? More to the point, who was he trying to prove it to?
Penny. He should give her a ring as he’d promised. Smooth things out. See her again.
He looked at the ‘phone. Yes. He would definitely do that. Perhaps tomorrow. Right now he had something else to do.
He swivelled round in his chair back to his computer. It had been nagging at him ever since that day he’d Googled the seven deadly sins. The Wikipedia article had referenced several other pages. One in particular had stuck in his mind. Another list. Another set to collect. A harder challenge. Sure, the whole thing with the sins had been crazy. Ridiculous.
But he also hadn’t felt so alive for a long time.
He sat in the pool of light from his angle-poise lamp, lips moving as he read through the article that spelled out the details of the Ten Commandments.Tweet