04.29.2004 - 5:37 p.m.
I hunkered down in front of
the computer in order to write an entry, and instead banged out
this little story. I feel kinda goofy posting it here, but what
the hell - otherwise it'll just rot in my Documents folder.
He sits, slumped on the rain-slick
curb. He's got twelve minutes, according to his scuffed Rolex.
But he doesn't move. He sits, head down, his coat dirtied by
the street. Waits.
For Rent. The sign had caught his eye. He'd
been walking towards the bus stop, his breath a smoky plume in
the cold late afternoon air, when he saw the sign propped in
the grimy basement window. Something about its rough-hewn look;
its faded hand lettering, the crumbling edges of the cardboard,
appealed to him. It looked anonymous. The sort of sign that went
down when someone moved in, went back up when they moved out.
Doesn't matter who lived there, the sign didn't give a shit.
They didn't really give a shit
at the Y, either. But it was time to move on. He'd been there
A worn, colorless woman took
his money. She didn't ask questions. He moved his meager belongings
later that same day, learning the hard way that he had to duck
his head when stepping into the apartment from the hall.
One room; a bed, a couch, a
table that creaked in protest when you leaned on it. A small,
but serviceable bathroom. No kitchen to speak of, but he didn't
much care about that.
On that first night, after
he'd put away his clothes, his books, and carefully placed his
gun within reach of the bed, he poured an inch of Jim Beam into
the cracked glass he found in the bathroom. Drank, added another
inch, then sat on the couch.
"Home," he said out
loud, then immediately wished he hadn't - he didn't like the
shrill note in his voice. He drank, added another inch. "For
Days went by much as they had
been, one blending into another. He read. He walked at night.
He drank. And his money was running out.
Don't think about the money
Don't think about Chicago.
He found himself jerking off
in the shower one morning, chasing a joyless orgasm, and for
the first time he cried. A nobody, a cipher, this solitary activity
in lieu of anything real. His own hand, nothing more.
Don't think about her.
In the shower, looking down
at his nakedness. His vulnerable self. And the ridged scar tissue
running up the inside of his arm. The carved letters: GREED.
So he never forgot. So he never could escape his most basic sin.
He'd been at the basement apartment
for almost a month when the package arrived. When he looked back
on things, he supposed that he had allowed himself to actually believe
he'd gotten away with it. That he'd been smart enough. That he'd
covered his tracks. And when the package showed up - brought
grudgingly downstairs by the uninterested landlady - with not
only the apartment address, but his real name neatly printed
across the top…he'd felt something akin to a fierce physical
blow. Something like shock. And something like shame.
Shame for allowing himself
to feel hope. Shame for not knowing that they were just biding
their time with him.
He set it on the groaning table
and stood for a moment, indecisive. Small muscles at the base
of his spine jumped, and he could hear the ragged sound of his
breathing in the quiet room.
Every instinct in his body
told him to run, to leave, to never come back, to keep moving.
With trembling fingers, he
peeled back the plain brown wrapping. Opened what turned out
to be a shoebox, with something inside. Something wrapped in
newspaper. He tried to pull apart the paper, but it was tightly
wound around whatever its contents were.
He lifted out the item, started
undoing the newspaper, when something sharp sliced into his forefinger.
Cursing, he gave the paper a yank, and -
Sand. Pouring onto the floor,
running through his fingers and sticking to the blood.
He stood, holding the broken
glass pieces, the torn newspaper, until the sand stopped. Until
he could get his breathing under control. Until he could put
the shattered hourglass on the table, walk to the bathroom, pour
water on his hands. Until he could pick up the bottle of Beam
The next day, greeted by sickly
winter sunlight and a pounding head, he lay motionless on his
bed. He thought about all the faceless others that had claimed
this bed as their own. He thought about the sign, being propped
back in the window after he was gone. No one giving a shit.
The steel of his revolver felt
cool, and he laid it against his cheek. Touched it to his forehead.
Waited. Thought, I can't.
Later, he sat at a busy coffeeshop,
his things packed into a duffle bag and sitting beside him. Everything
had the overly bright frenetic feeling of a fever-dream. Noises
hurt his ears. He sat at a table tucked in the back, and he thought
him, coffee sloshing over the edge of his cup. A young girl,
handing him a mobile phone. "This is for you."
He stared at her outstretched
hand. "Who is this from," he said, in a curiously flat
"I don't know. Some man,"
she said, gesturing behind her. The hustle of the café,
people milling around, no one he recognized, no one looking in
their direction. "Here," she said, impatiently.
He took it. The girl turned
to skip away, stopping suddenly to flash him a sweet, gap-toothed
smile. "Bye, mister!" she called, and was gone.
The phone rang.
The phone rang.
The phone rang. He inhaled.
Exhaled. Answered it.
That was four hours and forty-eight
minutes ago exactly.
Somewhere, a clock is striking
the hour. The peals of a bell echoing down the darkened city
streets. And it's like a movie - a bad one, where everything
is too coincidental and rings false - when the long black car
pulls up in front of him, almost silently.
It's time for this to be over.
It's time to pay. It's time to stop running.
As the car window slowly rolls
down, he whispers one word, and closes his eyes.
last ::: next
comments so far.
I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004