The following  story was published in the Stringy-Bark Anthrology. The theme was the Seven Deadly Sins:

THE WAGES OF SLOTH- LAURA CAMPBELL
“Do ya have a feckin` screw loose?”
It is Tuesday. The sun didn’t bother to rise this morning and clouds have sprawled incessantly, grey and drizzling, over Black Mountain. A man (and I use that noun loosely) slouches in the doorway in stained pajamas with a cigarette lolling in his nicotine-fingers, dropping ash over the cracked floor. A miserly beard straggles across his unwashed face.
I repeat my question: it is essential he comprehends. “Are you absolutely sure you want my help?”
“Ya do have a feckin` screw loose,” his voice echoes. “You`re my new counsellor, it`s your bloody job.”
“Do you understand the consequences of accepting my help?” I continue.
“Ya have to help me, there`s no bloody consequences.”
Well, you can`t say I didn’t try to warn him.
It is Tuesday. It is winter. It is four o`clock. I am standing in a doorway that leads into a darkness of an apartment on the eleventh floor of the Divis Flats in Belfast. It could be Monday or Wednesday or Friday. It could be spring. Or summer. Or autumn. It could be any o` clock. I could be in Manchester or London or New York or Sydney. It could be any place. It is always the same. Human nature doesn’t change. Some people squander the gift of life. And, that is the sad truth.
He, let`s call him Dorian, shuffles his bare feet through the litter of emptied pizza-boxes scattering over the floor and flops on a torn, what -must have-once-been cream-coloured sofa. On the TV reruns and reruns of Coronation Street are retelling and retelling the same spent, sad story.
“Dorian, come on,” I plead. “Let`s clean this up.”
“Piss off. It`s none of your business,” he replies. “What type of counsellor are you anyway?”
Indeed, what type of counsellor am I?
“Have a shower, shave, brush your teeth and get dressed. You`ll feel better when you and your home are fresh,” I persist.
“It`s not mine, is it?” He presses the remote and the volume on the TV loudens. “Ma `ll come in and clean it.”
I walk into the kitchen. Plates covered with green-blue mold. Knives smeared with butter, jam. Half-eaten slices of toast. Opened cans of beans with red, orange syrup dripping. Mugs, mugs, mugs and circles of stale coffee and dishcloths ragged and a stench of wet, stale nappies. I empty the water, clogged with cold, brown scum, from the sink. Hot water dribbles out lazily and I wait and I wait.
I wash dishes. Clear up crumbs. Pour bleach on stained surfaces, scratch slime from the stove and stack the discarded toast, half-emptied bean-cans and pizza-boxes into bags.
“Please lift your legs so I can sweep the floor,” I ask and Dorian places his blackened-soles on to the couch and turns the TV volume even louder.
“There`s new rules,” I explain, “you have to come with me to the Unemployment Office to look for a job. There`s lovely jobs now.”
There are lovely jobs now. In my mind`s eye I see the smiles of another Dorian who was once as pasty and as blank-faced. I see him flushed and laughing with the children as he lifts their wasted and withered legs in and out of wheelchairs and I see him grateful for he realizes what he has. I see the muscles bulge and the gold medals glitter for another Dorian who was once as fat and as soft. The teenagers at the gym queue up to train with him and he saves his wages and travels and competes and wins. I see another yet Dorian who was once as self-absorbed and as isolated. I see him pack his toolbox and walk to the pub holding his girlfriend`s hand looking forward to a Guinness or two with the muckers after a busy day on the building site.
”Can`t do nothing,” whines this Dorian.” Can`t go nowhere. Me nerves are shattered after The Troubles.” He drags himself up from the sofa and lumbers a slow way towards the bedroom.
“But,” I call out to him, “how can your nerves be destroyed? The Troubles finished years ago. Where you even born then?”
I glance through into the bedroom. Curtains, grey, tattered, hanging closed on broken rails. A single despondent lightbulb is casting a weak yellow arc of gloom. Dorian sags on a mattress and eases the threadbare remains of a blanket over his face.
“The medicines are making me sleepy,” complains.
“You`ve had assessment after assessment and the doctors agree that you are well,” I remind him although I`m sure he hasn’t forgotten. “You are not anxious. You are not depressed. You don’t take any medications.”
“Go to hell,” he drones. “What would those medical-geeks know? I`m sick, always have been and always will be. What sort of counsellor would expect me to look for a job in my state?”
What sort of counsellor indeed?
A counsellor could be forgiven for being dismayed. Despondent. Angry. Some may feel a sense of futility at this man living for free in this home. Receiving free food. Free electricity. Free water. Taking benefit after benefit from taxpayers` hard-earned money. He has everything he needs. He can walk. He can see. He has choices and yet wallows in this filth-heap and mopes on and on and on about nothing. He could have it all, if he could only be bothered. Some may want to drag the blanket from his indolent face and scream, “get up you lazy shit.” Others may want to kick him up the backside and shout “get a job you greasy-haired fuckwit. The world owes you nothing.”
But, I am not that type of counsellor. Am I?
I merely smile at his self-inflicted squalor. Dorian doesn’t want to change. Why would I bash my head and bash my head and bash my head against a brick wall?
“There`s absolutely no reason why you can`t work,” I reiterate. “But, you have accepted my help and so help you I will.”
“Piss away off and when you`ve finished close the door behind you.” His voice is merely a pathetic whimpering.
I wait until his snores lazily drift around the musty bedroom and then I scrub the toilet. I pick up his shirts flung on to the mildewed carpet and hang them on thin, sad, wire hangars.
“I`ll see you next Tuesday, Dorian,” I call when the apartment is spotless and I pull the door closed. He doesn’t answer.
*

It is again Tuesday. The sun has managed to present a wane face and the clouds have lifted slightly from the mountain. Dorian opens the door wearing the same stained pajamas. I follow him into the apartment. Pizza-boxes squat on the floor. He lies again on the sofa with the remote in his hand. Coronation Street is replaying and repeating and retelling and the story hasn’t changed. Cans of beans again spill out their red, orange syrup. Dishcloths lie stinking in brown, cold scum in the sink.
I smile.
I wash the dishes. I sweep the floor. I tidy the bedroom. He remains on the sofa.
“I`ll see you next Tuesday, Dorian,” I call when the apartment is spotless and I pull the door closed. He doesn’t answer.
*
It is again Tuesday. Dorian opens the door wearing the same stained pajamas…pizza-boxes…Coronation Street…stinking dishcloths cold, brown scum in the sink…
I smile.
I clean.
“I`ll see you next Tuesday, Dorian,” I call when the apartment is spotless and I pull the door closed.
*
It is again Tuesday. Dorian opens the door…..
*
It is again Tuesday…
*
Winter passes. Spring passes. Summer passes. Autumn passes. Winters pass. Springs pass. Summers pass. Autumns pass.
“Hey you,” says Dorian. In all this time, he has never once asked my name. But, then again, maybe it`s better he doesn’t know.
”Yes?”
“You know the way I`ve been goin` to sign on fer all these years?” he asks and I nod. I know about him signing on for unemployment benefits all these years.
He continues, “everybody in the Dole is getting older. Sean has lost all his hair. Joe has had a heart attack. Even me Ma is ancient, she`s in the Old Age Home.”
I nod. Yes, I know.
“Well, I haven’t changed. Even my nails don’t grow now. It`s like in the movie about that man who never got any older. The Devil made him stay young, or something.”
“Well, you wanted my help,” I remind him.
“Eh?”
“You accepted my help and with that help you are to live here forever.”
‘Eh?”
He lounges on the sofa and he presses the remote and the TV blares.
I smile.
He doesn’t understand. But, he will. One day, he will realize there are none left but him. And me.
“I`ll see you next Tuesday, Dorian.”
And the next
And the next
And the next…
For, the wages of sloth are life.