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May 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm #346955
I’m out of practice with writing, as I’ve not written anything in almost a year, so I wrote the short story below recently. I’m not sure I even like the piece, but getting back into practice is one way of improving how I write.
Manny is calling me. I see his name lit up on the screen on my phone. I push the phone back into my pocket without answering it. I catch the taxi driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror and I can tell he is smiling.
I turn and look out the window, outside the beach stretches out for miles and the sky sits creamy and blue above the glittering surface of the ocean.
I feel a bead of sweat work its way down my spine and I shift in my seat as it tickles me. The taxi driver’s eyes are still smiling at me.
“Gracias, senor,” the bellboy says as standing just inside my hotel room door, I hand him a crumpled dollar. He looks at me and openly smiles. He knows.
“Is there anything else I can get for you, senor? Do for you?”
His lips stay pulled back in a leering smile. He skin is dark brown and his eyes are the colour of honey. His body, lithe and muscular is hidden beneath his baggy uniform.
Do for you? His mouth moving, yet his eyes stone like and staring. I want to punch him in the mouth. I want to knock that smug look off his face, but I know I deserve it.
I shake my head.
He steps out into the hallway, pushing the money I gave him into his trouser pocket and I close the door without looking at his face again. I stay at the door but I do not hear him walk away. Stepping back, I see his shadow seeping underneath the door. He is hoping I will call out to him, ask him to come back inside, but I do not. After a moment of breathless silence, he leaves. His steps soft and hushed as they carry him away, like he is walking over wet autumn leaves.
Turning, I stare out the window. I am high up and the beach stretches away below me like a horse shoe. Brown bodies move about on the white sand. Watching them, I wonder if they know too.
Cool vapours of air pour from the air conditioner on the wall and I shiver slightly, but do not adjust the thermostat. I want to feel to feel uncomfortable, oddly it feels comfortable in its own way.
My phone rings and again I see it is Manny. I think to hang up but instead I slide my finger towards the green lit up circle.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
Manny; nervous and wound tight. Originally from New Jersey but loves to tell everyone he’s from New York. I can picture him now, black hair slicked back, pacing his office, pinstripe trousers and a crisp white shirt. A caricature of a person. A cliché, but maybe that’s why he does so well. He’s not threatening and everyone knows what to expect from him, and he doesn’t disappoint.
“I’ve been sleeping,” I say.
“Yeah? Well, good for you. I’m glad one of us has, because I sure as hell haven’t.”
I don’t say anything, instead I smooth out the wrinkles on the covers of the bed.
“Where are you?”
“What do you want, Manny?” I ask, suddenly feeling exhausted.
“What do I want? Jesus, you’ve got some nerve. What do you think I want?”
Standing up from the bed, I look down at the beach once again. Just below me, there are four boys playing volleyball. I watch as they jump and punch, and even though they are too far away I swear I can almost hear their laughter.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
Manny, agitated now, but there’s something else. He sounds a little too certain of himself, which is always bad news. It always means that he has something on you and he wants you to know it.
“So, do you remember a David Murcin?”
Sad blue eyes and an even sadder smile.
“I’m hoping you don’t, but I’m guessing you do.”
1986. Busking on the corner of 51st and 10th. He had a beat box and a red sequined hat. He used to laugh like he didn’t deserve to.
“His lawyer just contacted me. That’s right, his fucking lawyer.”
I introduced him to Tony. Said Tony was always looking out for new talent.
“Did you pay him off?”
He’d waved from the doorway, but the door was closed by the time I waved back.
“He still has it.”
“The cheque for $10,000 that you gave him. His father took a photocopy of it at the time. Smart pappy. Look, he’s going to go public with it. That’s why I’ve been calling you like crazy. On top of what’s happened already this is less of a shit storm and more like a hurricane, and I for one, bub, will not be carried out to sea with you.”
Some girls have joined in with the boys playing volleyball now. One of the girls is wearing a bright yellow bikini and has long dark hair. She ties it into a ponytail before stepping into the handmade volleyball court.
I hear Manny snort down the phone.
“You don’t even care, do you? You arrogant…”
I hang up the phone and throw it onto the bed.
There is a knock on the door. I don’t say anything. The knock comes again.
It is the bellboy again. He has come back.
“Senor, are you there?”
Standing by the window, I call out, “What do you want?”
I curse myself for saying anything because he has me now. I cross to the door and open it. He is standing outside, his smile bright and beaming as soon as he sees me open the door.
His eyes widen and narrow and I feel my stomach lurch.
“What do you want?”
“Do you need anything, senor? Any help?”
He reaches out and rests a hand on my chest.
Stumbling backwards, I slam the door shut. I can hear his laughter through the door.
“Don’t be so afraid, senor. I won’t tell.”
He is gone then, his laughter filtering back through the hallway.
Falling into the bathroom, I vomit loudly. I haven’t eaten in almost three days so nothing much comes up except for the acidic whiskey that I had at the airport some hours before. I stay there, on the bathroom floor until the room turns dark and my legs have grown numb. At times, I hear someone walk by my door and my body tenses, afraid that it is the bellboy coming back again.
My legs finally hurt so much that I have to get up off the floor. I stumble to my feet, and stand feeling the blood rush back to my legs.
Walking out into the main room, I see my shadowy reflection captured in the window. Staring at it, I wonder who it really belongs to. What me it belongs to. Behind it the lights of the city shine, and as I move closer, I watch as the tiny pinpricks of light from moving cars glow white and red as they move across the night-time map.
Turning, I find the remote and turn off the air conditioner and the room suddenly falls silent and almost at once I can feel the heat begin to press in on me. I take off my shoes and I lie on the bed. Above me is the blue ghostly outline of a ceiling fan.
I can still feel the touch of the bellboy’s hand on my chest. It was playful, yet firm. I feel myself harden and instantly I feel sick again. I want to reach down and rip off my manhood, but I know that this will not solve my problems. My problems do not originate from there, they come from the thoughts which plague my mind, which swarm me on a crowded subway, and hold me captive like David did.
In the darkness, I wonder where he is now. After Manny’s call I imagine him to be seated in front of a row of microphones with cameras flashing all around him. He would be almost 40 now. I wonder does he still have those sad blue eyes and that sad smile. How do they look on his 40 year old face?
Pushing myself up off the bed, I stare out at the sea below. It is dark and thick. I open the window and hear its sigh as it laps against the shore. The air is cool as it comes in off the sea and in closing my eyes, I feel it move against my skin.
I climb up onto the window ledge, and in looking down, I hear a car honk its horn as a woman squeals and her friends laugh. They look so small below me.
Something makes a noise behind me, and I turn to see what it is. Darkness greets me and I think I have imagined it but then I hear it again and straining I see someone near the door. I think the bellboy has let himself in while I was staring out of the window and I think to tell him to leave me alone, but something stops me.
I know with an unknown certainty that it is not the bellboy. And then I see him, standing by the door, his arm weighed down by his beatbox, the sequined hat upon his head. He raises his hand in that sad wave he does, and all at once I am falling, racing to meet the ground, and the door is closing before he can see me wave back.
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