Angelo, a widower, has lived in the apartment block for nearly ten years; it’s a friendly place and he prides himself on knowing all his neighbours. On the eve of May Day, he’s in the local supermarket in the queue at the till behind a stranger carrying a small child. As the man picks up his shopping, a plastic bag of onions splits and onions bounce off the conveyor belt and all over the floor. The child wails.
I’ll give you a hand, Angelo says as he kneels down to retrieve the onions while the man comforts the child. Job done, Angelo laughs, as he ties a knot in a new bag. You’re new here, aren’t you?
Just moved in. I’m Ernesto. That was kind of you.
Welcome. A fine boy you have. Is he your son?
Yes, the joy of my life, my beautiful Gino. His mother, Maria, died.
I’m so sorry …. I know how hard .…You coming to the big demo tomorrow? Angelo asks.
I have to work, Ernesto replies, thinking, It was the only job I could find; I’m not a traitor.
Angelo persists. It’s a good day; it stops them thinking they can do as they like in our democracy.
Ernesto pays his bill. Thanks, Angelo, see you.
Make it if you can, Angelo calls. Bring Gino. Make new friends.
Angelo, joining his friends in the main square, receives his usual warm welcome, but he’s unsettled, sensing real anger in the growing throng. A friend tells him there’s a rumour that the police expect violence. There’s never violence from us, Angelo protests.
Angelo sets off across the square where massed lines of police wait in body armour and protective helmets, carrying plastic shields and heavy wooden batons. At the police front line, Angelo stops, leans forward and with head bowed, prays for peace. He looks behind him. Unusually, no one has followed him.
Suddenly, the square is rocked by a number of explosions from the adjoining boulevards. A mass of armoured police firing smoke bombs and tear gas charge into the square as a fusillade is fired over the top of the demonstrators.
Angelo looks up. Astounded, he sees Ernesto staring back at him from behind his visor. Traitor! Angelo shouts. For a millisecond, Ernesto gapes in horror.
Massed shields force Angelo aside but, somehow keeping his feet, he grabs Ernesto, preventing him marching forward. The two men struggle until Ernesto breaks free and his baton smashes Angelo’s head.
Ernesto shouts, Not this! He stares at Angelo lying on the ground and knows he’s dead.
The two men are alone. In the distance, gunfire persists as sirens wail. Cradling Angelo, Ernesto weeps. I needed a job for Gino’s sake. Angelo was a good man. Maria, forgive me. I promised I’d protect Gino. Now, I’m a murderer. Me! Oh, Gino, I’m lost.
A uniformed officer joins them. I killed him, Ernesto says. What do I do?
You’re one of us, mate. Get yourself out of here.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
Please feel free to pass them on to others you know who may be interested.
You can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door” here >>>More
© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.