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What difference do three minutes make.... ?

Moonlight Dancers, an oil painting by Theo Michael, read the accompanying short story of the painting

What difference do three minutes make? For most people, nothing of any significance, for me, it determined the course of my life.  I felt myself perspiring, this deep rooted anger flooding back. Fortunately my line of thought was interrupted when Tony walked in.

‘How was the weekend?’ he asked.

I looked up. ‘Business is fine’ I replied, ‘but there are still discrepancies, surprisingly more shortages in the nightclub than in the casino.’

Tony put his arm around me. ‘That’s why I’m so lucky to have found you little brother. Catch the culprits and make sure they’ll never do it again.’  Tony continued as he left the room. ‘I’ll cover the dance floor tonight, you can stay focused on the restaurants and the casinos.’

There never was any small talk with Tony, at least not with me.

I finished counting the money and put it into the safe. I felt so much anger towards Tony but I was grateful that he took me off the streets. To him I was no more than a debt collector, a minder to protect him and his interests. Life was all about Tony. A selfish attitude sure, still, everybody loved him. Women found him irresistible and fell at his feet, almost begging to be used and Tony did just that.

So what difference do three minutes make? For me personally, passed around from foster home to foster home, it was the beginning of a painful existence. Tony was my twin brother, first born by three minutes. My parents’ decision, born out of necessity I dare say and unable to feed two growing children, gave me away. Everything was handed to Tony on a plate whilst I grew up on the streets, going without food for days at a time. I learnt to busk a little and earned a pittance playing the violin. The rest of the time I was running errands for the local thugs, until a newspaper article caught my eye and changed everything. Tony my twin brother was plastered all over the front cover. He was the new owner of the Flamingo nightclub. I hated him, could never forgive him or my parents, but I still had to find out the truth and paid him a visit. Tony wanted nothing to do with me, but beseeched by my parents, and the guilt they all must have felt, he took me on as a bouncer and to collect and manage his cash, and sure, there was a lot of it.

Tony had no conscience, no morality, just plain selfishness; until one day, the day Clarissa walked into his the Flamingo Nightclub, it changed his life.

When Tony first saw Clarissa standing in the doorway of his nightclub, he was mesmerised by her beauty. But Tony had met his match. Although Clarissa succumbed to Tony’s charms and went for the occasional coffee or meal with him, and gave him just a little bit of her, just enough to keep him interested, she kept him at arms length. Not close enough for Tony to consider her conquered! Clarissa’s hard to get attitude made Tony even more adamant to get his way. As time passed, Tony had slowly but surely fallen in love with Clarissa. He no longer considered her a conquest. He wanted to spend his life with her, he was captured!

Months had passed and still Clarissa would not go that final mile and share Tony’s bed. Tony would question her: “Is there somebody else?” She would assure him not. Tony thought it was inconceivable that this beautiful woman was not sharing her love with somebody. One evening he decided to pay her a surprise visit.

Tony rang the door bell and waited patiently. When the door was opened, there stood a man! At first, Tony stood quite still just staring at him, then slowly he felt the jealousy well up and fill his mind, he felt his cheeks burning like they were on fire and then he exploded!

“Who are you?!”  He shouted, and as he did so he pushed the man with both hands on his chest sending him staggering backward. “What are you doing here?”  He shouted again giving the man another hard push sending him back even further towards the large picture window at the back of the room. “I asked you a question.”  He shouted yet again and with this final rough push sent the man crashing through the window and down to the pavement two floors below.....!

 

Tony sat quietly in his prison cell. Tomorrow was the day that he would face the death penalty for the murder of an innocent man, a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, solely there to fix a leaking tap!

You see, it is customary for the sentenced to be allowed a final dying wish. Most people would ask for a nice juicy steak, or perhaps just a cigarette. Tony had asked for one final dance with the woman he loved, Clarissa, and he wanted it to be on the beach just as they often used to do. Of course the authorities would not agree to this at first, but eventually they gave in to his pleading, but it had a condition attached. It had to be late at night when there were no people about. Clarissa took more convincing but gave in to Tony’s dying wish. 

Unbeknown to the police I was the lone violinist, here to help Tony escape. Everything was methodically planned. The getaway car was waiting, his new passport was ready. For Tony he had the money and he could buy his freedom. It was time and I played his favourite song and they danced in the moonlight. He showed no fear, arrogant and full of confidence. And as for Clarissa, she looked like an angel, floating before my eyes. For the first time I understood what he saw in her. I don’t know what the devil came into me. I was here to help my brother escape, but instead I calmly put down my violin and walked away and let him hang.

So what difference do three minutes make in a person’s life? In three minutes I became second best, never given a home, never had a family of my own, had to beg to survive, had to steal to see another day and all the while my twin brother had everything. I can never forgive him, but did he deserve to die?

What difference do three minutes make? For Tony, the hangman’s noose worked a treat, he lost consciousness in 30 seconds and death occurred two minutes later.

Clarissa walked in and handed me a drink.  

She said ‘The staff were all fooled. You look so much like your brother since you shaved your beard and lost a couple of pounds. Understandably so, you are his identical twin, give or take a few minutes.

 

Moonlight Dancers is an original oil painting by Theo Michael. The accompanying story to the painting was written by Theo Michael and Chris Christodoulou.

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