The Spirit: "Ten Minutes"

The Spirit
"Ten Minutes"
September 11th, 1949

It will take you ten minutes to read this review... A very short time in
anyone's life. But these particular ten minutes that you will spend are
an eternity for one person. As he goes down the apartment building
stairs, kicks the kid reading comics on the stoop, and gets yelled at by
the neighbors... Freddy doesn't know that these are the last ten minutes
of his life.

The time is now ten thirty-one. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK
TICK At Max's Candy Store, the ball game is over, and he has just lost
the pool again. Max knows that Freddy is a smart kid because he doesn't
gamble and spends his two bits on the pinball machine. As a kid orders a
chocolate sugar cone, the pinball machine goes tilt, and the neon lights
in Freddy's own life have gone out. As a teen orders an egg cream for
his date, and two kids check out the latest True Horror Romances, Freddy
keeps at the pinball machine. They know him as the good boy, a nice boy.
He's burnin' up and chokin' from it. He can't take it no more. He
doesn't have to and he won't. RING RING Max tells the kids to let Mrs.
Schmidt in the next house know that she's got a phone call. Now that he
and Max are alone, with five minutes for Mrs. Schmidt to arrive, Freddy
gets ready. As the candy store owner tries to sweep, he's ready to make
his move.

The time is now ten thirty-three. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK
The heat is like murder for Max. He can't imagine such heat in
September. When Freddy calls out to him, the candy store owner turns,
and notices the nice gun in his hand. He had a .45 from World War I
once. When Freddy tells him to empty out the till, Max thinks that it's
a joke. When Freddy decides to help himself, Max decides to stop him from
taking the money. BANG Clutching at his own chest, Max stares at the
neighborhood kid he knew since he was a little boy. Freddy tries to
explain to Max why he did what he did. He needed the money to get out of
town. He was sick of living on the block and wanted a fresh start.
That's all he wanted. If Max hears what is being said, he keeps it to
himself. Freddy tells Max to get up, to stop kidding around. F'heaven's
sake, GET UP! The door to the candy store opens, with Mrs. Schimdt
asking which booth has her phone call. As she talks to Charlie on the
phone, a young couple enter the candy store, and say hello to Freddy.

The time is now ten thirty-five. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK
TICK Where asked where Max is, Freddy tells them that he's out, and that
he's helping 'im. Milty knows how Freddy is always helpin' people, then
asks for two malteds. His date always said that Freddy's sweet. As she
wonders why Milty isn't sweet like Freddy, they fail to notice the beads
of sweat on the nice boy behind the counter. Milty admits that he's not
a good boy like Freddy. His date tells Freddy to come over, because he's
got somethin' on his cheek. It looks like blood and she wants to wipe it
off... Now leaning over the counter, the young girl sees where the blood
came from. EEEEEEEEK The world is a blur as Freddy runs out of the
candy store and tries to put it behind him.

The time is now ten thirty-seven. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK
TICK TICK TICK As he leans against the alley wall, the neighbors have
come to see what's happened. They see him and all point at the fleeing
murderer in their midst. It's Freddy who is running from them. It's
Freddy they've got to stop. The ground trembles as old and young rush
past the neighborhood bar. Inside, the patrons are watching the
hammerlock that the Tiger has on Lovely Louie. CRUNCH They fail to hear
the running footsteps a few feet away. As Looie hit the referee, all
listen as the announcer describes the best hold of the night. The
bartender notices the one guy not watching the TV and asks him what he'd
like. Freddy tells him to forget it, then leaves after making sure that
the coast is clear. On the block, the neighbors are talking about a
murder. A little girl continues her rhyme and bounces a ball on the
concrete. A crazy thing has happened and he walks past them unnoticed.

The time is now ten thirty-nine. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK
TICK Freddy is trying to figure out what happened. He's never done
anything like this before. As he spots the police car behind him, Freddy
stops, and waits for them to take him. SCREE The window rolls down,
with Commissioner Dolan asking him where Max's Candy Store is at. Hiding
his face, Freddy points him in the right direction. As Dolan tells the
Spirit how the neighborhood has become like a lit firecracker, the young
man loosens his collar, and continues on his way. He must be living a
charmed life. The cops have had their chance and he's gonna make the
most of his. He'll go to Florida as planned. The money from the candy
store will keep until he finds work, and he'll be living the good life.
The change booth at the subway isn't able to cash a twenty. As he
reaches into his pocket for some change, several bills come flying out,
and one coin rolls out on the ground. As he stoops to pick up the coin,
Freddy sees whose shoe stopped it from rolling. When the Spirit hands
him the coin, the sweat reappears on his face.

The time is now ten forty. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK With the
Spirit checking out the subway stations, he's seen Freddy before, and
can't possibly suspect him of anything. As Freddy looks at his
reflection on the cigarette machine, he sees that the masked man is
coming closer. Now leaning against a pillar, one hand goes under his
coat, and he waits. The train is coming in, when the Spirit approaches
Freddy, and taps him on the shoulder. Freddy gives the Spirit a love tap
with his gun, then tries to make his escape through the sliding doors,
and gets his fingers caught between them. With Commissioner Dolan
rushing to the scene, the Spirit watches as Freddy doesn't let go, and
his upper body gets caught between a pillar. Dolan can only stare down
at the crumpled figure and the fallen bills behind it. As they walk up
out of the subway, the Commissioner notes that this one was only a kid.
Denny Colt knows that many of them are kids. They start young in the
neighborhood, and he wonders when Freddy started his crime spree. Mrs.
Schmidt is upset with her date, who has shown up late. He tries to tell
her that it's only ten forty-one. Sure, he's ten minutes late, but
what's ten minutes in a man's life?

This story was reprinted in The Best Of The Spirit (2005).

This review is dedicated to Allen Smith

Steve Chung
"Ten Reviews"