If ever an argument was made for the value of civics education in schools, it was Craig’s face as Karl told him what would happen if he confessed to throwing a still-lit cigarette butt away. That butt, Craig believes, started the fire that burned down the Rovers and killed two people. Murder, Karl told him, means years in juvenile detention, then transferal to an adult prison for 30, 40 years, heartbreak for his mother, and suicide as the only way out.
When Craig first told Karl the secret that was bothering him, Karl told him the truth, mostly. The butt didn’t start the fire. Sunita did according to the police, so it was not Craig’s fault. Still, Craig wanted to confess. He started the fire, he said over and over, he murdered those women. If you didn’t plan it beforehand, Karl said, it’s an accident so don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault. Call me anytime.
Still, Craig feels so guilty he wants to tell the police and let them decide whether or not he is a criminal. Karl has trouble keeping up his best friend and “go-to guy” façade in the face of Craig’s determination to make a clean breast of it. If it were only Craig carelessly disposing of a butt, Karl likely wouldn’t care. The problem is that Craig saw Karl leaving the back door of the Rovers and locking up behind him at the time when he supposedly was in the Bistro doing the Full Monty.
As Thursday’s scene in Karl’s car progressed, I wondered how he was going to convince Craig to keep schtum. No reassurances or allusions to the rigours of ‘boy-prison’ were working. What will Karl tell him next? Will he tell him that he will hang for the crime? Craig may well not know the difference. And yes! Karl leaned in closer and said you’re right, it was your fault, you are a murderer. And he began piling on the list of punishment ahead of Craig. He painted a vivid picture.
It was horrible to watch that poor gormless boy be scared witless. It was also laugh-out-loud funny. Karl does the friendly/scary looming thing very well. He honestly doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But if backed in a corner, well, not a lot of choice.
Karl is having to dream up excuses for Stella while dealing with a child carrying a load of guilt. That guilt could be Karl’s own undoing, something he can’t explain to Stella as he goes AWOL from Rovers work and wedding preparation events. He is ready to pop from the pressure. It is, my husband reminded me, similar to John Stape coming unglued as one after another coincidence occurred to foil what seemed like a perfect plan to cover up lies and deaths – all because he just wanted to teach. Karl thought he had successfully got away with murder and now a young boy unknowingly threatens to topple his whole happily-ever-after. The ‘go-to guy’ has to get up and take action.
(Here is my take on my favourite John Stape moment.)