“It gave me no hope to see him doing these simple things with the sluggishness of a somnambulist. It proved nothing more than that he could go like this forever, our silent accomplice, little more than a resuscitated corpse.”
― Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
(click to enlarge)
I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.
I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.
Here’s another one for today (#50) Half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.
Thanks for reading.
“Rufus!” Sandy was so loud in his Bluetooth headset that Rufus had to pull it out of his ear and hold it or he would be deafened. Sandy’s voice sounded tinny and distant like that, which suited Rufus just fine.
“Damn it Rufus! You need to get your ass down here and take care of that Sylvester dude. He’s in my apartment and he won’t leave.”
“And this is my problem? Why?”
“It’s your problem because you set the whole thing up. Now you get down here right now and help me throw the guy out or I’m gonna start making some calls. And you won’t like who I call or what I am going to say.”
“Ok, Ok, calm down. Now, you said that the Radio guy is in your apartment? Where exactly is he? What’s he doing?”
“He’s on my couch. Asleep. Has been since this afternoon. I can’t get him to budge.”
“Ok, Ok, Sandy. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ll be right down. Won’t be any big deal.”
Rufus stood up and walked out of the Starbucks. As the front door closed, he thought he could hear a smattering of applause filtering out through the narrowing crack of the glass door. “You all can go to Hell!” Rufus yelled back at the coffee shop as he walked quickly to his primer-colored Ford Taurus.
He headed directly for the car door. Rufus didn’t like to look at the long, winding rusty dent that buckled along the entire driver’s side. He knew there was a shorter, but deeper puncture wound on the passenger’s. The trunk was held down with a piece of wire, and there was even a dent on the bottom of the car where he had driven up over a parking barricade in a drunken stupor.
Reaching the door, he didn’t need a key, the lock had been drilled out months ago. The ignition cylinder spun freely without a key and with a turn and a few seconds of sputtering and coughing, the engine came to life, idling roughly.
The yellow “low gas” light stared him in the face, mirroring the “Check Engine” symbol on the other side of the dash. He did some mental calculations and decided he could make it to Sandy’s house, though he’d be on fumes once he arrived there.
Sandy needed his help and as he started out down the road, began to plan his angle. He needed a place to stay and he thought he remembered Sandy’s place as having a good, working, air conditioner. That Sylvester Radio guy was a skinny little runt and he’d have no problem rousting him out the door. If he did it in an assertive, manly way, then Sandy was sure to show some appreciation.
Maybe he could get a little more out of the deal than just a place to crash. Rufus started to imagine Sandy’s face full of gratitude, her eyelashes batting. The fantasy became more and more involved, more and more pleasant until he sprinted up the two flights of stairs to Sandy’s apartment and rapped confidently on the door.
Rufus’s fantasy left immediately when Sandy opened the front door. She stood there, her dirty blonde hair sticking out in all directions, her face smeared with mascara. She was wearing old torn cutoff blue jean shorts, a dirty T-shirt, and mismatched Crocs on her feet.
“It’s about time you got here,” Sandy said “he’s not moving at all.”
“Well, don’t worry. I’ll just pitch him out and then we’ll talk.”
Rufus strode to the couch where he saw Sylvester’s head sticking out from under a ratty quilt. He bent over and gave the quilt a yank. It came up quickly – flying into the air.
“Okay Radio! It is time to.. Oh geez! Damn it Sandy! The guy is naked.”
Rufus had to reach in the air to grab the quilt and push it down back over Sylvester Radio as quickly as he could. The image would not leave his mind even after he shook his head violently.
“You didn’t you tell me he was naked!”
“Sorry, I forgot.”
“You forgot? I don’t even want to think…”
Rufus leaned over and grabbed Sylvester’s shoulder and started shaking as hard as he could. Rufus wanted to get him out as soon as possible.
“Oh Christ Sandy, he’s stiff as a board.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I think the guy is dead!” Rufus jumped back away from the couch in disgust. He stood in the middle of the living room shaking and staring at the quilt with the tuft of hair sticking out of one end.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure. He’s rigid… rigor mortis… as dead as a doorknob. What did you do to him?”
Sandy said nothing. She simply stared at Rufus and he was horrified when he thought he saw a small grin flash across her face for a second.
“Where’s your phone? We need to call the cops.”
“Oh no,” Sandy said. “No cops. No cops! I’m on probation you know. This will send me back to the big house for sure. And I’m telling you I’m not going back there because you sent me some scrawny pervert with a weak heart.”
“Well then what are we going to do?”
The first step, Sandy told him, was to wedge the dead guy off the couch onto the floor while keeping him wrapped up in the blanket.
Rufus looked around for something to use, he did not want to touch the body. All he could find was a toilet plunger leaning against the end of the couch. He grabbed the wooden handle and used it to wrench the corpse off the couch. He took two corners and Sandy took two and after checking the front stairs they dragged the body out the door and down the two flights as quickly as they could. Luckily no curious bystanders showed up.
“Okay, where’s your car,” Sandy said.
“My car? I’m on fumes. We’ll have to use yours.”
Sandy shook her head in disgust and clumped around the corner. Rufus heard the whine of a small engine and a tiny Smart car appeared.
“What is that? Is that a toy? How are we going to fit in there with him?”
“You should have thought about that before you came here with no gas.”
“I know. I have an idea. I’ll wait here and you can drive with him in the passenger seat.”
“No way. I am not going to do this alone. You sit in the passenger seat and hold him on your lap.”
And that was how they drove. Radio’s head was covered with the blanket and stuck out the passenger window at an angle. They drove to a spot Sarah knew about where a rough gravel road crossed an old railroad spur and dipped down into a thick grove of scrubby trees.
“I don’t even want to know how you knew about this spot,” Rufus said.
“It is lucky that I do.”
They opened the door and slid the body on the quilt down to a steep thick weedy patch and pulled the blanket off while the body rolled away into the darkness.
“I don’t know,” Rufus said “it doesn’t seem right to leave him like that. Should we cover him?”
“That’s my quilt. I’m not going to leave it here for the police to find. Don’t worry. They’ll think he’s just some dead junkie. He’ll never be messed.”
As they were driving away Sarah asked Rufus to open the glove box. Inside was a wallet and keys. Rufus instinctively checked the wallet.
“There is no cash, no credit cards. I’ve already pulled them,” Sarah said. “I want you to check his driver’s license and give me the address.”
“We are going to his place. Those are his keys. I want to see what’s there, I want…”
“Come on Sarah, we are not burglars”
“You can’t burgle a dead man.”
The address was a small brick duplex not far from the University. They parked a block away and walked. As they approached the door with Sarah holding the keys a voice called out from the darkness of the next door entryway.
“Are you two friends of Sylvester’s?”
“Uhhh,” the same confused sound came out of both their throats as they started to slink away from the unexpected interruption.
A spindly old woman suddenly moved from the darkness into the blue light from an overhead street lamp.
“It’s good to see that Sylvester has some friends, some young friends.”
“Yes,” Sarah said, thinking quickly, “we are his friends, we’re here to check on him.”
“Good,” the old woman said, “Sylvesster needs someone to check on him, especially with his, well, you know, his condition and all.”
“Condition?” Both Sarah and Rufus spoke at the same time.
“Yes, don’t you know? That’s why I stayed up waiting for him. He has this nervous disorder. When he gets too excited. His whole nervous system – his brain and spine – his muscles – they freeze up stiff as a board. Catatonic. You would swear he was dead. Sometimes he won’t wake up for hours. Scares me to think that something bad might happen to him. You don’t think… Has something bad?”
Rufus and Sarah stared at each other.
“No, no,” Sarah said, “nothing bad, but, you know, we had better be going.”
“Yes yes,” Rufus replied, “we had better be going right now.”