He had a secret. Or was it a lie?
Whatever the case he knew something that nobody else knew. He knew that he was not a good person.
The lie itself was proof enough of it. The deceit. The unwavering pretence.
He pretended to be good.
And he did so with such rehearsed precision that he was beginning to believe that even God was being fooled. And if not God then certainly the neighbours.
He hated the neighbours. Without exception. They had come from nowhere and robbed him of his angry isolation. But even during the invasion he had smiled at each and every one of them. They knew nothing of his alcohol induced nocturnal plans for revenge, of course.
And the children. The children were the worst of them. As they walked or ran or skipped past his front gate every morning chattering about games and dreams and birthday parties and other things that no longer had meaning to him. Their every waking moment transformed into careless joy and exhaled at full volume.
He despised them for their naïve happiness.
Today was the day. Today he had had enough. Today they had kicked a ball into his garden and flattened a tomato plant. And they had laughed about it. And so he had retrieved the ball and marched purposefully with it across the lawn to confront them.
“Who kicked this?” he had demanded.
The look in his eyes must have shocked them. The laughter had suddenly dissolved and they had fallen silent. Their little hands clung obediently to their sides and they shifted their weight nervously from one foot to another awaiting retribution. His menacing gaze remained fixed on them as he waited and tapped the evidence under his arm with his index finger.
“Who kicked this?” he repeated.
Eventually one of them could bare it no longer and had raised a hand to confess.
But he could not do it. He could not betray the secret. The broad smile of his pretended self invaded him and suddenly he found himself cheerfully handing back the ball and placing an arm around the offending child’s shoulders.
“Hey! I was kidding you,” he announced, “And wow! What a great kick!”
And off they went again skipping down the street throwing the ball to one another.
“You know,” he added, addressing no-one in particular, “I used to be able to kick a ball like that once.”