THE CONCLUDING CHAPTER
Somebody once said that revenge can only be found on the road to self-destruction.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, Mick.” Tommy’s voice was almost a whisper. Mick touched his elbow before opening the door. “Good luck my friend . . .” his bidding was feeble, but sincere. He didn’t want to watch.
Tommy stepped inside the door, then paused momentarily to allow his eyes to adjust to the shadowy room. His trained gaze moved slowly through the cigarette smoke meeting every face in the large room.
Freddie Trainor was standing with a heavy-set girl at the far end of the long oak bar. His head was facing the girl as he lifted a half-empty mug of beer, then. he looked toward the shaft of light from the open doorway. He saw a stranger standing there . . . eyes focused on him. Trainor looked away, trying to place the face. The man was familiar but very different at the same time.
Tommy’s recognition, however, was immediate. Trainor was still as square as a block. But . . .before Tommy could call him out, Freddy was stepping away from the bar. From out of a foggy past, Freddy finally put a name to the face. As Tommy stood in place, Freddy the Brute approached. Tommy stood with his feet firmly set and his fists in the ready at his side. Freddy’s approach, however, was open-armed — as if he were expecting to hug an old friend. Unexpectedly, Freddy’s face creased into a wide smile. “Tommy! I hardly recognized you . . ,” He laughed, the ‘Beanpole’ sure has disappeared.”
Tommy wasn’t ready for even the slightest display of friendship . . . but before he could react Freddy’s arms were around his chest. “I’ll be darned, sun-of-a- gun, how long has it been? My God, Tom, you been playin’ football or somethin’ these past few years. You’re like hugging a tree. How the heck have you been since graduation to become like an Adonis?
Tommy was speechless. This was all wrong . . . his script, written in hatred, made no sense under these circumstances. All he could muster was, “I’m fine . . . how about yourself? Now Trainor had tears in his eyes, “Let me buy you a drink or soda or somtthin’. A toast to the good ole days.
The astonishment melted the scowl off Tommy’s face. He smiled as he looked down at his beer-bellied nemesis, and lifted him gently off of the floor. It’s been a long time hasn’t it Freddy. But I’ve thought of you more often than you can imagine. The venom in his voice was gone, the hate in his heart was gone, too. Tommy had his revenge on this afternoon. Strangely, he had learned that there is no revenge as complete as forgiveness.
“Time is a thief . . .” Perkins had told his class years before. Tommy realized that sometimes what it steals is for the best.