The Hammer: A Short Story
Tom had parked across the street from the bank so that he could see its entrance. He had come early, almost at dawn; to be sure he would find the place he wanted to park. It was a quiet suburban street without much traffic anyway, but Tom wanted to be sure. He always wanted to organize everything in a way that would leave nothing to luck, but today he knew that old-lady Luck could be a critical factor in what will happen, what will possibly be the end of this act of despair.
It had been over half an hour now that he was trying to find the strength to open the door and get out of the car. He was fighting with himself. He opened the sack next to him and searched inside it again for the third time. He took out the gun and stared at it. He put it back in, and then his hand touched the hammer. He took it out and looked at it again with the same question he had done it a few minutes ago. He still could not understand why he had put the hammer in the bag! It was like a voice in his head, had told him to put it in the bag when he was preparing the stuff he would take with him, down in his workshop. He thought that maybe it was because he saw it hanging in its place, there in front of his eyes, a favourite tool - Tom liked to make wooden furniture - something familiar to give him strength at such a difficult situation, and subconsciously he took it. He shrugged his shoulders as a sign of his acceptance that he had no clear explanation to give, and he put it back into the bag.
He looked at the bank. He gripped the steering wheel tightly, with all his strength, trying to banish the unbearable tension. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He began to whisper a few words, something like a prayer, but rather it was more to persuade himself to make the final move he had postponed the last half an hour.
"Oh, my God, I know You disagree with what I'm going to do. I know it's wrong, believe me, but I don't know what else to do anymore! I tried so many things, I tried so hard, but nothing went well. All doors are closed. So I cannot let my son die because of the lack of some bloody money..."
He remembered the doctors' words:
"If he does not have a surgery directly, his heart will not last! It's a matter of days, maybe not even a week..."
His son, Andrew, who was two-years-old, had a rare heart disease that urgently needed surgery to be healed. This could only be done in a specialized medical centre, and the doctors of this centre had assured them that there were excellent chances for total healing, but... there was a big 'but' of fifty thousand dollars. This would be the cost of the surgery, and Tom's insurance would not cover it, as he was unemployed for over a year after the closure of the furniture company he had been working for years as a chief craftsman. All this time he had managed to find only a few occasional daily wages, without insurance. The truth is that his security, even if it were active, would not cover all the costs of the surgery, but at least that would have happened, and Tom could pay the rest of the money by instalments. But now without medical insurance, the medical centre did not accept any negotiations and the surgery couldn't be done.
So he had done anything he could to find the money. He tried to borrow, but everyone said on account of the economy and since he had nothing to mortgage this was impossible. He even tried to sell his kidney, illegally of course, for ten thousand dollars, but eventually, the elderly wealthy "gentleman" who would buy it, died of a heart attack! Luck plays the most strange games!
Now, he had run out of choices and time. He could not let his little angel helpless; he preferred to lose his life instead. So he ended up to this plan of despair. He could never imagine that he would think an idea like that, how much more to execute it. He was an honest man with ethics and respect for others throughout his life, so he knew he would never forgive himself for all this.
"I know that You are not to blame for all this...” he continued his strange prayer, "...but I asked You for a solution, I begged you with all my heart and soul. I would do anything, You know it. As I think You know that no matter how it pains me to betray You, myself and all my beliefs, I prefer to make a colossal mistake like this and save him than to do nothing. You know that all my life I was an honest man and I was fighting for the right without complaining. I have dreamed so many good things about this family, but since the boss has cheated us and left abroad with our money, it's like I am swimming in the ocean with wild waves, amongst sharks, and You are nowhere. I ask you for the last time, help me, please! Even now I know you can stop me, You can find another way. Help me or please forgive me, even if I know what I'm going to do!"
He opened his eyes and looked back at the bank. It had just opened the doors to the clients. It was a small bank in a suburb of the city, and this was the reason he had chosen it. This bank had a limited amount of money due to the small number of clients, therefore had no guards but only a camera system. At the same time, the nearest police station was far enough, so a police car would need more than a quarter to arrive at the bank. He did not care about the cameras; anyway, after his son's surgery, he would surrender himself. Neither about much money was he interested. He would only take fifty thousand for the operation, nothing more. He knew from a friend who was an employee in another branch of the same bank that every morning at this bank there were about one hundred thousand cash for the day's needs. So he would take in his bag only the money he needed and would leave the rest.
He grabbed the door handle to open it. Before he got out, he checked the gun for the last time. It was fake, but an excellent imitation of the real model. You could not understand the difference. He wanted to be sure that nothing will go wrong. He could not bear even the thought of the smallest chance to hurt someone.
He put it in the bag and saw the hammer again. His mind started anew looking for the cause that he had taken it with him but stopped his mind immediately determined not to miss more time. There was no time for other thoughts anymore; he had to make his move. He opened the door and got out to the street. As he examined the road, he said quietly:
"I know how absurd it is this I ask You, but help me, please! I need You now! "
He went across and stayed for a while on the sidewalk to check. He noticed through the bank's window wall that one of the cash desks at that time served a woman in late pregnancy. He decided to wait for her until she finishes and gets out of the bank before he gets in there. He did not want to expose her to a stressful situation and scare her by witnessing a robbery.
He put his phone to his ear, pretending that he was talking, not to give a target, as he was waiting. He had his back turned to the street in order to watch the inside of the bank. While he was watching the pregnant woman walking to the exit, he put the phone back in his pocket and prepared to get into the bank as soon as she would come out. His heart started racing like mad from anguish. He felt the blood pounding in his veins, and he heard a hum in his ears. The next moment this hum entirely covered by three successive loud sounds.
Initially, he heard an extended honk and almost at the same time, the sound of the tires that drag on the asphalt at high speed after sudden braking. Finally, in a split second, he heard the loud noise of the car metal sheets which are deforming!
He turned, surprised, and what he saw took his breath away. A car, of the highly expensive models, was "nailed" on a big tree on the other side of the street, with its front quite distorted and flames starting to spring out of the machine area.
Without a second thought, he ran to the flaming car. He noticed that there was a young lady at the driver's seat, which although she did not seem to have been severely injured - apparently because of the open airbag -, was unconscious. Thomas saw that the flames on the machine side began to flare up. He realized that he had to get the girl out of the car immediately because there was a high risk to explode at any time.
He grabbed the handle and pulled it, but the door was deformed and did not open. He used all his strength and tried again, but nothing. It was a sports car, so it had only two doors, and the other one was blocked by the tree. He decided that he had to break the glass to take her out as quickly as possible. He struck it forcefully with his fist but realized that there was no way he could break the thick glass with bare hands, and the flames were getting bigger.
Time was running out, and his mind worked madly, and then he had a "flash". The hammer! Suddenly the hammer got a reason to exist. He looked around and saw the bag that he had thrown down. He quickly pulled out the hammer and, with a stroke, he shattered the glass. He entered half his body through the window and felt the fire burn. He knew that he might not have the time to make it now and this could be the end for both of them. But there was no way to give up. With great difficulty, he unlocked the girl's belt, and as quickly as he could, he pulled her out of the broken window. The flames had grown higher, and he felt his skin burn. He picked up the girl in his arms and turned to get away from hell. As soon as he made a few steps the car exploded. He felt the hell grabbing him from behind and pulling him in as he lost the world.
He opened his eyes. At first, everything was blurry. He felt his whole body ached and understood that he was lying in a bed, but he could not remember how he came to it. His vision began to restore slowly. He could now see that almost all his body was covered with bandages and he was in a hospital room. He was facing the back of a woman who was looking out of the window. He knew she was his wife. He tried to speak, but only a weak whisper was heard.
She turned in surprise and ran beside him on the bed.
"Oh! Thomas... Thomas... Thank God!"
Tears of joy run from her eyes that could not believe the miracle.
"What... what... happened? Where am I?" Thomas said weakly.
"Don't you remember anything, my crazy hero?" She asked, smiling.
"No... I remember just something like a fire, but... I do not know..."
"You remember well, my love! You saved the life of a girl! You rescued her literally at the last moment from a terrible explosion, but you risked your own life. All TV-news report you as a hero for the self-sacrifice you showed. The people who watched you from a bank across the street thought that you died from the explosion. They described all of your heroic efforts and admitted that no one else dared to approach the car which was in flames. Doctors gave me very little hope because you had been hit by many metal parts on the back because of the explosion, and you were severely burned. You were ten days in a coma, but God heard my prayers..."
She put her head in his hand and burst into tears, "Oh! my God, thank you, thank you! How terrified I was when I thought that I lost you my darling!"
Suddenly everything came to his mind, the plan of the robbery, the accident, his attempt to save the girl, the hammer - which by mistake, became a rescue tool -, his little Andrew. His mind froze! If he was in a coma for ten days as his wife told him, what had happened to Andrew? He turned to his wife with anxiety:
"What happened to our boy? Does his heart still stand? Tell me please that it still stands..."
"Calm down my love..." Elena appeased him "... Andrew had the operation two days after your accident. Everything went well, and the doctors say that in a week he will be able to return to our home as a perfectly normal and healthy kid."
Listening to these words, Thomas felt every pain departing from his body and his heart to flutter with joy. His little angel would now be healthy, his prayers had been heard! But then in his happiness, a question appeared. How did this miracle happen?
"But how? And the money?" He asked puzzled.
"Ha! The money!...", his wife laughed, "... the money, my hero! Everything was paid by Mr Marley, the father of the girl you saved. He is a very wealthy gentleman who said that the minimum he could do when he learned about Andrew was to pay the cost of the surgery and of course the expense of your therapy at this expensive hospital until you are entirely well. And it's not just that! When he learned that you are unemployment, he said that when you are completely ready to work again, there will be a job for you at any of his companies and in whatever post you want. Until then, and for as long as you will be out of work, he offers our family anything we need. He has opened an account in both of our names at the bank which is across the street that the accident happened - he says that he has chosen this bank for symbolic reasons - and there will always be a significant amount of money available to us. He does not stop to thank me for your heroic action to save the life of his only daughter. And she does the same! She was here just a minute ago; she came to see if your situation had been changed."
Thomas could not believe what he was hearing. For a moment he thought he was still in a coma and he was dreaming of all this. He could not understand how God could be so generous to him after what he was going to do.
He turned to his wife and said:
"Do I dream about all this? Am I still in a coma?"
Elena laughed out loud. "No my love, this miracle happens, and you live it. Here, smell these wonderful flowers to be convinced."
She brought near to his face a flower vase with a bouquet of lovely flowers, which had an incredible scent. Thomas thought he probably had not smelled something so beautiful before.
"Who brought them?" He asked baffled.
"A curious young man who said he was your friend, but the truth is I had never seen him before. His name is Gabriel, and the most peculiar thing was that he was dressed in absolutely white! Shirt, tie, jacket, shoes, all dazzling white and spotless. He came earlier this morning, but he didn't stay long. He gave me the flowers, and he told me that if you read the card, you will understand. A! Now that I think about it again, he told me that today you will wake up! At that moment I did not pay much attention because I thought he was saying it just by kindness, but now it seems strange to me. How did he know?"
Thomas was confused by what he had heard before, but after that, his mind began to surrender! He couldn't remember knowing any guy named Gabriel!
"Can you read to me what the card says, please?" He asked Elena.
"Of course my love, maybe you will understand because it did not make any sense to me."
Elena took the card and read aloud:
"My dear friend Thomas,
I was never away from you. I have never forsaken you. I've always prepared lots of choices for you, and I'll always do, but you had to believe in them. I could never, and I will never can force you to choose something. So when you, with all the power of your Soul, believed that I could help you at the last moment, I put the choice there, and you chose the hammer instead of the gun. Everything else is your own miracles because of your choice. I wish you a quick recovery because you have a lot to offer and enjoy
the Friend you called at the last moment."
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Ioannis Arvanitis