Voices to the Heavens

“He was mad, he was. Mad as a bat – is that the phrase? Mad as a bat? Anyway, he was mad. I don’t mean a bit loopy, I don’t mean a bit crazy; he was down right mad. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t like him.”

Jones took a sip of his coffee; he slightly recoiled to the bitterness and heat and then set it down onto his coaster. “On his first day, Toby was late. He came in wearing his big boots and holding his plastic bag of food, his bowler hat just resting on the top of his head, and he shouted “Monday, 9:13am. I am late by thirteen minutes!” The whole office laughed, that brought colour to the floor, that did. Funniest thing, you know? Most people try and slip in past Fredericks if they’re late, dip underneath the cubicles, crawl under the tables. Toby just belted it to the everyone.”

“He kept doing it. Every day of the week. “Tuesday, 9:05am. I am late by 5 minutes!” “Friday, 9:26am. I am late by 26 minutes!” Each time, it never failed to make us chuckle. Fredericks tried to hold a straight face, being the boss and all, but underneath you could tell he found it funny. It just became a thing that would happen in the morning. He was late everyday but he always made up the minutes.”

Jones sighed. He kept his eyes on his hands, watching his thumbs tumble over each other on his lap. “I took him home once. Drove him back after the Christmas dinner. He told me he couldn’t drive home so I took him. I was sober, I didn’t mind. You know me, you know what beer does. What it has done. I got him home – silly sod, he told me he couldn’t drive, I thought, you know, it’s because he’s pissed, but turns out he didn’t have a car. That’s what he meant. He laughed, the first time I ever heard him. It was warming, sweet; he cut himself off shortly afterwards. I took him in, shut the door and left.”

Jones took another sip of his coffee. This time, he didn’t recoil to the taste nor the heat. He had his eyes fixed on the surface of the drink, watched as it rippled under the breath from his nostrils.

“Caught one of his neighbours on their porch as I walked back to my car. Well, he caught me. He said, ‘I hope that man sleeps tonight.’ I spoke to him for a while. He said Toby was new to the house, he had only moved in since he started working with us.”

“He said that he would hear him shouting. Like he does in the office every morning. He would shout ‘Tuesday, 7:45am. Thought of it again. I will not do it again.’ ‘Wednesday, 9:05pm. Did it. I did it again. I’m sorry.’ ‘Sunday, 10:29am. Overslept by 29minutes. I’m sorry, my Lord.”

“My Lord?” I asked.

“That’s what he said. Toby said ‘My Lord.’”

Jones looked up towards the mantlepiece.

“That boy was repenting. Every time. Every time he was late, every time he did something bad, he would shout it out to the heavens. Loud and clear, for whatever reason. That day they arrested him, his neighbour recalled his words as they took him in. His torso was covered in blood, his hair was pulled out in tufts. ‘Saturday, 7:35am. I did it for you.’”

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