Newcastle Herald short story competition 2018: Wash Away Thy Sins

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story
competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Marina Neil
WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Marina Neil

I MURDERED my boss today.

The first time was when he berated me for being three minutes late. No matter that I worked back an hour the afternoon before. I shot him with my stapler, right between the eyes.

It felt good.

The second time, I beheaded him with the office guillotine for asking me rewrite a report that had taken me the best part of the week to compile. He deserved it.

Finally, I finished him off with a well aimed pair of blunt scissors to the heart, after he called a meeting at 4pm! On a Friday! My home time!

I felt justified.

Murder wasn’t my only sin for the day. I also committed torture by sending my 16-year-old daughter to boarding school, in Namibia, for putting me in the “What would you know mum” and the “You don’t understand what it’s like to be 16” corner, simply for asking her to clean her room.

That’ll teach her.

I then added kidnap to my list of sins. I arranged to have my well meaning but insufferable husband, abducted, crated and shipped off to a Nigerian prince, to whom I paid a handsome ransom to take my nearest and dearest off my hands.

Well, he asked for it.

Seriously. After endless annoying phone calls to me during work time, with my dead boss breathing down my neck and watching my every move with his headless body and lifeless, psycho eyes, to quiz me on the intricacies of how to use eBay, because the purchase of a cheap, replica, 1978 Dallas Cowboys Championship ring just couldn’t wait until tonight! What am I, Google?

Today was the day I lost the plot, I turned space cadet, coo coo and cray cray. Today was the day that I was going to break out of my jail of sins and escape. I planned it well. Anonymous phone call to the boss to report that someone had damaged his car in the carpark. Ridiculous Friday afternoon meeting cancelled. Loving mother call to teen daughter, to apologise for not knowing what it’s like to be 16, and suggesting she hang out with her friends after school today. Understanding wife call to husband, giving him permission for a few “I made it to the end of the week” drinks with his mates. Well, he deserves to kick back after his big week at work. Dusting my hands smugly and congratulating myself on a job well done, I make a break for it.

With my well-orchestrated plan in place, I race home from work. Up the driveway. Into the garage. Leave motor running. Into the house. Change into something more comfortable. Pack necessary items into a bag. Feeling a slight stab of guilt, I quickly compose a parting note of explanation to my husband and daughter and leave it on the kitchen table, securely anchored with an overly ripe banana from the Alessi stainless steel round wire fruit bowl. I leap back into my car and take off.

Leaving the lowering afternoon sun in my wake. I dart, dance and dash through peak-hour traffic as I make my escape. Gradually the traffic eases as I reach winding country roads.

I am tempted to take a deep breath, but don’t allow myself that release. Not yet. Soon, a briny aroma filters through the air vents. Desperate to inhale. I resist. Forty-five minutes later, I reach my destination. My watery journey’s end. I don’t hesitate. I dive straight in, to the Byzantine blue waters of Newcastle Baths.

Liquid cool shocking my nerve endings from head to toe. Invigorating, refreshing and yet calming at the same time. Breathtaking bliss. I inhale, deeply. I swim a few laps to warm up then roll onto my back and float. Closing my eyes, I am momentarily disturbed to see the blood red colour of my imagined sins behind my eyelids, highlighted by the fading light.

Out damned spots. But as the fingers of warmth from the afternoon sun stroke my face, I relax. I let the holy water bathe away my sins of the day.

The salt water cradles me, rocking me gently back to a state of calm. I allow the distant lullaby of rolling waves, seagulls and laughing children to wash over me, lulling me.

Time passes. I’m not in a hurry. Secure in my safety net of the baths, I allow my mind to float away out to sea. The troubling stains under my lids are replaced with visions from my imagination.

I am a mermaid. At one with the sea. Long tendrils of my hair fan out from my head, caressed and combed by the ripples. Sun rays glint off the pearlescent scales of my mermaid tail.

The effect is tranquillising. I am Millais’ Ophelia, drifting serenely in my watery bed, innocent and unaware. I am driftwood. Floating lightly upon the rolling current, calmly making my way to nowhere in particular.


Inhaling. The incense of ocean and seaweed, aromatherapy for my soul. The salty taste on my tongue, nature’s wine. Full bodied with a zestful tang in the finish.

Bobbing gently on the surface, the wavelets massaging my aching muscles.

My head cushioned by a watery pillow, soothing my throbbing temples.

I am a gull feather and breath. I am silver glitter sprinkled upon a sapphire satin sheet. Light and cool.

Suddenly I am chilled. Pimples of goose flesh blanket my body.

Begrudgingly, I open one eye to discover that the blushing twilight has swallowed the sun and belched out a golden vapour, splashing the heavens in watercolour hues.

Whale like, I dive deep, in order to wake myself from my liquid dreams. I am cold now, shivering, but absolved from my sins. I am refreshingly cleansed.

The world can breathe a little easier in the knowledge that I will not commit further sins tonight.

No murders of bosses, no torture of daughters and no kidnapping of husbands.