This was a creative writing course exercise to retell a parable in genre. I’ve changed my original ending.
It was a dirty, noisy sleazebag of a joint, but Johnson didn’t care. It was a place to buy liquor and drown his sorrows. Nothing went right for him any more. The cards were always one short of a full house. The crap game always threw him snake-eyes. The pool table was rigged. He lost, every which way he turned.
He downed his shot and choked as a hand grasped his shoulder from behind. It turned him round. He stared into the face of Scarface Capaldi.
“Where’s the dough, pretty boy,” he rasped.
Johnson chose to keep choking. It gave him time to think. But the hand squeezed again – this time around his throat.
“I don’t…” he got out, gasping for breath.
Scarface eased up, just a little. “Sure you don’t,” he said. He was Johnson’s best friend for a second. Then he tightened the screw again. “Tomorrow.”
The word hung in the smoke as Scarface melted away.
Tomorrow dawned yellow and drizzly as Johnson trudged along the railroad tracks. Mostly his mind was as blank as the hoardings he passed; no-one advertised to freight trains. He picked his way over the steel girders of a bridge. The swirling waters below had an attraction, but he didn’t fancy getting even wetter. They say drowning’s a painful way to go.
The neighbourhoods grew more prosperous. Naperville. Where his parents lived. Or at least they used to. A strange idea took shape in his head. Well, life couldn’t get much worse, could it?
The white painted house, neat drive, double garage, nets at the windows, was totally at odds with everything he’d seen in the last ten, twelve years. He hesitated, then went around the back. The smell of bacon frying drew him… closer… then his hand was reaching out for the door.
It flew open. A grizzled guy stood there, a shot gun pointed at Johnson’s midriff.
“Hold it right there! We don’t want any tramps around here!”
“I just…” started Johnson, then stopped. He looked into his Pa’s eyes, wondering what to say. He backed off. “Do you have any… bacon?”
“Nope. Now get … I’ll call the cops…”
Johnson turned away. That’s what comes of remembering Bible stories, he thought, and headed back to the railroad.