Danny lay on his bed. He sighed heavily as he stared at the ceiling. He had just returned from another day of unsuccessful interviews. Well, not the whole day. After all, he’d only had one. The first one they’d said they’d let him know, but he could tell, they wouldn’t bother. At least, he’d got an interview, they hadn’t just ignored his application, like so many of his others had been. And the second one was way across town. By the time he got there by public transport, he’d been 20 minutes late, so they refused to see him. He’d sat despondently on a park bench outside for quite a while before wearily making his way home. He’d gone straight to his room and laid on his bed. He drifted off.
He awoke with a start. His mother was standing over him. She was angry, he could just tell. He struggled to sit up.
“You forgot to bring in the washing. It’s rained, and everything’s wet!”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“And you promised to wash the dishes, and clean the kitchen, it’s disgusting! And your room’s a mess. I keep asking you to tidy it, but that’s obviously too much for you, And I suppose you forgot to pick up bread and milk as you walked past that milk bar too, didn’t you. God, you’re useless!”
She turned on her heel and stormed out of the room. He stared after her resentfully.
“I’ve had a bad day too, Mum,” he felt like shouting but refrained. He knew he was at fault. He had promised to do all these things, but still. That was no reason for her to yell at him like that. He got up. He’d go for a walk just to calm himself down. He donned his hoodie and headed for the front door. His mother’s bedroom door was closed, but he was too angry to tell her he was going anyway. He opened the door and was tempted to slam it, then thought better of it. It had a stained glass pane in it. It wasn’t the best, but she had made it when she was attending a class once. She would be enraged if he broke it. So he closed the door gently and set off. It was drizzling slightly, and almost dark. It didn’t deter him and he set off, head bent.
He walked in the direction of the Main Street. There was a pub further along. Maybe he’d shout himself a beer, but he realised rather ruefully, that he only had about twenty-five dollars in cash and probably not much more than that in his account. Still, at this moment, he didn’t care. As he turned into the Main Street, someone cannoned into him. He staggered slightly, but the other person, a man, went down heavily. He must have twisted his knee. He gave a yell. He dropped a bag he was carrying, rolled over, looked at Danny, then back past him up the street, scrambled up and hobbled off, leaving the bag behind. Danny picked it up. It was a woman’s handbag.
Realisation dawned. He must have stolen it. He looked up the street. In the distance, he could see a woman. She was leaning against a car. As he watched, she opened the passenger door, and sat down, leaving the door open. He headed for her. The car was a Lexus, he noted. The drizzle had eased. He approached the car, and asked hesitantly, “Are you ok?”
The woman looked at him. She seemed unfocused.
“Are you ok,” he asked again.
“No, I’m not, young man,” she answered.
“I’ve just been mugged, I think. That’s what you call it, isn’t it? Some man grabbed my bag as I was walking back from that atm up the road. There were no parking spaces any closer, that’s why I had to walk so far. He just came up behind me and grabbed my bag and ran. I got such a fright!”
She was almost gabbling, but he thought, ‘Poor thing, she must be in shock.’
She was an older lady, very well dressed, and he could smell her perfume, probably very expensive, he thought. She was sitting in a Lexus after all.
“Is this your bag?” he asked, holding it up.
“Oh my goodness, yes!” she cried.
“Did you see what happened and catch him? My purse is in it and my phone, so I couldn’t ring the police or anything. Thank you, thank you.”
She took the bag, rummaged in it and said excitedly, “Everything’s still here. You’re a hero!”
About to tell her what actually happened, he thought, ‘I’m a hero!
How often is anyone going to call me that. Never! I’m taking it!’
So he shrugged self deprecatingly, “Well, I tackled him, but he got away.”
It was sort of true.
“Thank you again young man, I am most grateful.”
She opened her purse and thrust two fifty dollar notes at him.
“I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to reward you for your bravery and honesty.”
He stared at the money, then said reluctantly, “Oh, I couldn’t take it.”
In his head, he heard, ‘You idiot! Of course you can. You need it. Take it.’
“I insist,” the woman said.
So he took the money, thrust it into his pocket, and said, “Thank you, although it isn’t necessary.”
“Money is always necessary,” she said. “It’s how the world works. Now, is there any other way I can help you?”
Without thinking, he said, “Well, if you can find me a job, that would be good. I’m in between at the moment.”
She looked at him, then said, “I just might at that.”
He stared back at her, then stammered, “Sorry, that just came out, but did you say you might be able to?”
She rummaged in her bag again, then handed him a card.
“My son runs an online business. He’s looking for delivery people. He was only complaining to me today, that his last one just left him in the lurch. So would that be suitable? He supplies the van and a phone, so he told me.”
“That would be great,” Danny said, putting the card in his pocket.
“Good, go and see him in the morning. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”
She added with a laugh, “I suppose it helps if I know my hero’s name?”
Danny squirmed, “It’s Danny Taylor.”
She put out her hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Danny Taylor. I’m Helen Thompson.”
They shook hands, then she said, “Just help me out of the car please, Danny. I can get in but getting out is a bit of an issue.”
He helped her out, shut the door, then escorted her around to the other side and opened the door for her. She got in. He closed the door. She put the key in the ignition and lowered the window.
“Thank you again, Danny. I’m sure I’ll see you again sometime.”
He nodded, walked around the car to the pavement and watched her slowly drive away. He walked in the direction of the pub, his mind in a whirl. He could well afford that drink now. A bit of money and the prospect of a job. He could hardly believe it.
A few moments later, he was downing a welcome beer. He thought about his mother. She was justified in having a go at him, he supposed. Normally even-tempered, she must have had a hard day at work to lash out at him. But he did need to pull his weight a bit more.
He confined himself to one beer, then wandered through the poker machine area. He could afford to put the last twenty dollars through. After all, he had a hundred dollars he didn’t have before he left home. He was down to his last three dollars when it happened. Flashing lights, bells, and envious looks from other patrons, and a dazed Danny was walking home with $2400 in his pocket. He remembered to buy milk and bread at the milk bar as he was passing. It was just closing.
He walked into the house. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table, several papers in front of her. They looked like bills. He put the bread and milk on the bench and sat down next to her.
“Sorry Mum,” he said.
“It’s ok,” she said quietly.
Her face was tired and drawn.
“Bills?” He pointed at the papers.
She said tiredly, “Nothing for you to worry about,”
He pulled his winnings out of his pocket, laid it on the table, and with a broad smile, said, “Will this help?”
Wide eyed, she looked at him, and said, “Did you rob a bank?”
So he told her all about his evening, his winnings, his new job prospect and his $100 reward. All because he had just been an accidental hero.