Tales of the Storage Space, Part 119

Karen was not happy. Something that drunk at the storage space kept muttering, about sobriety being way overrated, kept repeating on her like a hideous but catchy tune. Karen felt like she had never in her life been as sober.

Something that middle-aged nurse had given her.  What had she said…  Adrenaline?  She was so wide-awake.  A doctor came in and smiled at her chart before leaving.  She was also a whole lot healthier than she’d been in a very long time.  And a whole lot more alert and aware…

Sobriety is way overrated.

Her whole life as a hopeless romantic…  Caressing ancient wood carvings and imagining she experienced telepathic communication with a storage space that was once a grand old theatre.  Falling hopelessly in love with a violent man, a criminal, whose two favorite words were “fuck” and “fugettaboudit.”  Who cheated on her with her very best, friends forever, Marie.  Whose face had already been hideously scarred by a prior attempt on his life and who finally prompted that effeminate Brit Martin to kill him.  Marie…  How could she?  Yet Karen was still so fixated on her that she imagined she was that cop with a completely different face who showed up with the sweater Karen had made her.

Irwin…

Karen’s new roommate, the one whose leg had been amputated, stirred…though she’d been heavily drugged.  “I can’t believe they did this to me!”

Karen fought to remember her name, which some nurse had said.  “I’m so sorry, Lydia!”

Lydia’s eyes opened.  She looked straight at her.  “Just because I splattered some dumb kid all over my windshield.”

Something snapped in Karen, something that felt…permanent.  “Fugettaboudit…  Fuck you, Lydia!”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 118

All Martin ever wanted was to be…forever…happy.

He was playing with a stuffed animal, his pudgy-pink T-rex.  His parents must have been watching a movie in another room.  But something was wrong…

The film.  The actor’s voice was soft, but it was…Clint Eastwood!

Martin hated Clint Eastwood.  His whole body shook with rage.  Why did he hate Clint Eastwood so?

No Name!  Now revealed as Detective Ann Worth.  She kept calling him that funny name, “ma cushla” or whatever, from a Clint Eastwood movie.  Which Clint Eastwood was it?  Million Dollar Baby? 

No Name!

The pink T-rex was winking at him furiously.  But something else was wrong:  his wrists hurt.  He saw the bars of his cell and the dried blood leading toward him and something he’d missed before and even the guards had missed, the homemade rope left behind the toilet…and remembered why his wrists hurt.  And remembered that oily male voice behind him, always breathing the cruelest possible taunts into Martin’s ear while he…

The pudgy-cute T-rex was winking at Martin even more furiously until it somehow turned ugly, its voice joining that oily voice and Clint Eastwood’s:  “Beginning to like it now, aren’t you?”

The stuffed animal’s winking sped up until it blurred just before its eye split open.  The broken eye fell out of its socket, dripping blood.  The shiny pink fur withered, curled up, and blackened.

Martin knew what was coming, what almost always came while the movies were on to conceal his screams.

He got to the rope first.  Then the chair.

Clint Eastwood’s voice alone sang out from the film’s soundtrack:  “Mo chuisle!”

“Ma cushla?” Martin muttered.  So this was the bloody American macho movie, designed to humiliate an effeminate, weakling Brit?  What irony!  Because he wouldn’t be doing this, he could have and would have borne it all if only…

And it finally came to him, the supreme surprise, as he watched his distancing contempt for “No Name” drop away like a house of cards.

…if only Detective Ann Worth had loved him too.

He was having trouble with the knot around the pipe overhead but finally got it, got up on the chair, placed the noose around his neck, and kicked away the chair.

“Mo chuisle,” said Clint Eastwood in an unimaginably soft and loving voice, “means ‘my darling, my blood.'”

Ma cushla means my darling?  Martin’s hands flew to the rope around his neck, clawing at it futilely while he looked down beyond his “still alive and kicking” feet to see they couldn’t possibly reach the chair he’d kicked over.  Then his vision seemed to curl up and blacken.

The last thing he heard was footsteps outside his cell.  The man with the oily voice, whose attentions he’d now welcome if it wasn’t too late?  If those footsteps weren’t too far away?

Martin was six.  In his mum’s garden in Kent.  All was as prim and proper as the primroses.  Even Martin.  He would never fall in with what his Daa called “that bad lot.”  Martin was happy.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 117

Imogene fiddled with the data sticks still in her pocket.  Like, what-the-fuck else did she have to do?

The gray, hairless monster in the other bed like had the effin’ nerve to speak:  “You…seem restless.  Shall I…attempt to amuse you…with a story?”

Def not woke.  Could hardly speak.  Imogene was about to tell her to shut the fuck up, when another drop of water fell into Imogene’s eye from the ceiling and she screamed instead, at the top of her lungs.

That nurse that was always Draking like burst into the room to scream at The Gray Monster.  “Lord Jesus Christ, will you please stop screaming?”  Then she looked def not woke.  “No, can’t be you, The Moaner.  I just gave you enough pain meds to sink the Titanic.”  The nurse turned to yell at Imogene.  “Lord Jesus Christ, will you please stop screaming?”  Next she kicked the wall.  “And I can’t even shut you up with an injection because you’re pregnant!”  The nurse stormed out of the room, easy to hear Draking away to some other nurse in the hall.

Imogene yelled after her, “I am not pregnant!”  Another drop of water fell into her other eye.  She turned her head to the side and saw The Gray Monster was nodding off, like real high on her pain meds.  Imogene like couldn’t believe what she was about to say, but what choice did she have?  Anything.  Like effin’ anything was better than just lying there.  “Like don’t go to sleep!  Tell me an effin’ story!”

“Huh?”

“A story!  Tell me a story!”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 116

The Storage Space swayed with pleasure.

Amelia was singing.

“Mommy, Mommy, the building’s moving!”

“Hush up, Suzy Q, buildings don’t move.”

“But it is so moving!  It is so!  Look at your Frappucino!  It’s gonna spill, Mommy!  It’s gonna spill!”

“Must be the subway.”

The Storage Space swayed a long, leisurely sway that did indeed spill a little of the “Frappucino.”  Amelia finished up the last heartbreaking verse of a Puccini aria.  The Storage Space couldn’t help but shudder with the thrill of it.

“Mommy!”

“F train!”

Amelia started in on Puccini’s lesser-known La Rondine, with its exquisite aria about a young girl’s dream.  The Storage Space had always preferred Ileana Contrubas’ version over the usual Maria Callas but hadn’t heard it in so terribly long that it managed to convince itself that the best version of all was Amelia’s.  It shivered with delight.

“Mommy!”

“High winds!”

The Storage Space was seeing its own staircases, not as they were now…oh no!…but as they were then.  Gleaming wood balusters so intricately carved they seemed to sway and shiver to the music like fine lace.  Veritable hordes of the haute couture, prancing up and down its stairs like sensitively bred horses with the highest pedigree.

“God fucking damn it!”

The Storage Space was wrenched back through subsequent centuries to Unit 38.  It was the pregnant teenager’s father.

“Mommy, that man said bad words!”

That far-too-talkative brat in Unit 37 again.

“Suzy Q!  Hush up and mind your own business, or we’ll never get out of here!”

Said brat’s mother.

“God fucking damn it to hell!”

The pregnant teenager’s father again.  He followed up by pounding the metal walls of Unit 38 with both his fists, seemingly forever, sending a cacophony of ricocheted racket throughout the whole building.

“Suzy Q, come back!”

“Mister, that’s not nice.  You’re saying bad words.  And all that pounding hurts my ears.”

An even louder racket, with the brat screaming.

“Stop!  Stop!  Mommy that bad man’s hitting me!”

Having abandoned both her singing and the unit she was scrubbing clean, Amelia raced toward Unit 38.

Mr. Fists slugged Suzy Q’s mother.

Suzy Q raced into the hall but stopped when she ran into a rather peculiarly dressed man carrying a crowbar who the Storage Space had never seen before.  “What’s your name?”

“Pat,” said the peculiarly dressed man with the crowbar, obviously caught off guard.

Then Suzy Q spotted her mother and Amelia and commenced a wailing, at the top of her lungs, that would have put any Wagnerian opera singer to shame.

Mr. Fists threw an already broken carved elephant against the wall, shattering it into a million pieces, before collapsing to the floor.  “Of all the data sticks, those two had to be missing?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 115

Lydia was having what could only be a nightmare.  But then, she’d had so many recently.

“Better check her vitals first.”

Who was that?  Never mind.

First there was the nightmare where her drunken boyfriend, who never drove…always saying, “I don’t drive; I drink,” actually got behind the wheel.  Just because she, Lydia, had had a few.  Then there was the nightmare accident, obviously a nightmare because it was such a tired cliché with them flying off the side of the BQE into thin air, then falling, then her leg being crushed.  And now…

She couldn’t help screaming.  But that bloody stump where her right leg had been couldn’t be real, especially because she could still feel the agony of her crushed leg.

“The hell with her vitals.”

A different nurse, middle-aged.

“Stop her!  Stop that screaming!”

The patient in the other bed, holding her head with just one hand, because the other was handcuffed to the bed.

“Know somethin’, Blondie?  You’re changing!  I’m beginning to like you.”

The middle-aged nurse again, heading toward Lydia with an injection.

“I’m out of here.”

The other nurse, staring at the injection while shaking her head and rushing out of the room.

The remaining nurse prepped Lydia’s IV for the injection.

Recoiling, Lydia saw her right-leg stump move, felt a hideous throb of pain course through it that no nightmare could mimic, watched its bandaging turn bright red with fresh blood, and reached for it…only to discover that one of her hands was handcuffed to the bed too.

“Noooooooooooooo!”

Racing through her scream was the realization that it had all been true, even the part where her boyfriend died.  Even the part where checking her license plate against her ID had resulted in them arresting her for that hit and run with that kid splattered all over her windshield from the week before.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 114

Karen had never been so mesmerized by such a bright light.  She remembered something about a summer’s day as she rolled toward that bright light, gathering momentum as if rolling down a grassy hillside.

A summer’s day…

Sunlight.

Flowers starting to bloom as she remembered a Shakespearean actor’s elegant voice speaking of “the darling buds of May.”

Faster.

Closer.

Tumbling toward the light now, head over heels.  The light became so bright, and Karen longed for it so.  She strained to reach it, to reach the sun, her feet seeming to leave the earth behind her.  So much more comfortable.  All pain, all anguish gone.  For a moment a chill spread over her.  There was something strange about that light:  it wasn’t warm.  But it was peaceful.  She would never, ever have to feel any pain about anything again.

A jolt like electricity intruded, jittering through her body. Not just warm but hot.

“Phew. Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for adrenaline.”

Who was speaking?  Karen felt shooting pains from everywhere.  The light she’d been tumbling toward was gone.

“That was close.”

Again, who was speaking?  Karen’s eyes fluttered open as her head pounded so badly she feared it would fall off.  Her hands fluttered up toward her head, but only one made it.  The other was stopped by something around her wrist that sent more pain shooting through her.  Metal clanged, pounding through her head with an agony so unbearable Karen started to scream.

“You’ll have a teeny little headache.  Nothing to scream about.  Lord Jesus Christ, don’t make me have to inject you again!”

Each word throbbed through Karen’s head like a locomotive.  Next, like thunderclaps, were the footsteps.  Karen’s eyes snapped open to see the middle-aged nurse walking across the room to the door.  Something seemingly gargantuan thundered down the hall and through the door, turning out to be only a gurney with a new roommate on it who was unconscious, but seemed to be missing a leg.

Karen screamed from the pain.

The nurse raised an eyebrow at her and started preparing an injection.

Karen remembered:

Frank!

Dead!

Karen screeched in the face of an agony she simply couldn’t endure.

The nurse headed toward her with the injection.

But just then the seemingly impossible happened:

Her new roommate screamed even louder.

The nurse, still holding the injection, changed direction.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 113

Martin was playing with a fluffy pink stuffed animal while listening to the soundtrack of a movie his parents must have been watching in another room.

The Music Man.  The part where Marion the Librarian tried to keep the second sleazy salesman from going after the first sleazy salesman, who she’d fallen in love with, by flirting with the second sleazy salesman.  The second sleazy salesman kept calling her a strictly G-rated “girly girl.”

But there was absolutely nothing bloody G-rated about what his parents were calling Marion the Librarian, or their suggestions about what the second sleazy salesman should do to her.  And were those even his parents watching The Music Man in the other room?  There were a whole lot of male voices and no female ones in the audience.

Where was he?

For a moment he saw the bars and the trail of blood leading toward him and realized he was on the floor again, and that he wasn’t alone.  An unbearable despair, far deeper and more painful than the most acute pain, forced an endless moan so unfathomable that it seemed to erupt from his bone marrow.  A consummately cruel and oily voice breathed directly into his ear, “Beginning to like it now, aren’t you…”

Then he was playing with his fluffy pink stuffed animal again, a pudgy-cute T-rex that was winking furiously at him.

“Little boy…”

That consummately cruel and oily voice!  Where did it come from?  Didn’t matter.  Couldn’t matter.  Martin concentrated on the undulating patterns in his little-boy wallpaper, clutching the winking T-rex.  Desperately he tried to calculate how long until the end of The Music Man, knowing all the overly loud movie soundtracks drowned out and concealed…other sounds.    

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 112

Imogene couldn’t stop giggling.

^URSunPC&proud:  But wait…there’s more!

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  ?

^URSunPC&proud:  “It” now so cray cray u can hear it screaming.

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  Hahaha.

^URSunPC&proud:  Blonde bitch gets hers cuz it called u pregnant.

A long, like really horrible moan interrupted.  Imogene knew she was dreaming, but she didn’t want to wake up.

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  U there?

Another moan.  Close.  Like in her room.

^URSunPC&proud:  I’ve always loved you.

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  ?

^URSunPC&proud:  I’ll always love you.

Mumbling.  Like in her room.  Imogene tried to ignore it, but could feel herself waking up despite herself.

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  Who R U?

^URSunPC&proud:  Your mother.

Imogene’s eyes snapped open, just as a drop of water from the leak in the ceiling hit the bridge of her nose, rolling both ways to cloud both her eyes.

“Were you dreaming about your mother?”

Like, it was an old person’s voice from the other bed in her room, all stiff and formal and all that cray cray shit.  Imogene smirked.  “That’s like not possible, because I never had a mother.”  She turned to look at the woman who’d like messed with her dreams, somehow getting all her cray cray shit in them, and realized she hated this gray, hairless monster even more than that blonde bitch down the hall.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 111

The Storage Space considered the occupants of its lobby.  Most assuredly a lesser-evil choice of where to squander its attention but at least a shred better than watching some cop interrogate a drunk.  Or worrying about those now-only-occasional slithers.  Or…

Hadn’t anyone the least grounding in the theatre these days?  Did it take an inanimate object, a building no less, to spot the jealousy all over he of the rainbow shoes and remarkable collection of suitcases?  Or that the object of that ridiculously overacted jealousy was the pregnant teenager’s father, who had his arm wrapped around that equally ridiculous Fifi of the Pink Hair?

Who the fuck cares?

The Storage Space was no longer aghast at such language.  But it was determined not to squander its attention on such.  Or…

None of them dumb shits ever played their cards right!

The Storage Space ignored the slithering.  Or the temptation to deign to squander its attention on a sharp response.  Or…

It reattached its attention firmly to the occupants…the still-alive occupants…of the lobby.

That Fifi creature was chattering away madly to the teenager’s father about, as far as the Storage Space could tell, absolutely nothing.  The smile plastered to the father’s face looked like pancake make-up dissolving under bright lights.  Finally he snapped out something about letting him go, that he had something important to do.  Then he jerked back from Fifi, telegraphing to such an obvious degree that he was about to hit her…or him, or whatever Fifi was…that any director would have told him to find a new job in vaudeville.

Didn’t any one see it?  Other than…just maybe…Rainbow Shoes?

But then the teenager’s father caught himself, plastered his smile back on with an apology to Fifi, and left her in the lobby as he clattered up the stairs to Unit 38.

I repeat, who the fuck cares?

The Storage Space was caught off-guard this time, its attention broken.  It’s better, it found itself answering, than thinking of you.  Or…  Or…

And then it all came crashing down, like that beloved tea room long since gone, and the Storage Space knew what that “or” it had been avoiding was.  It was better than thinking of Karen.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 110

Hank choked back a few sobs, a sure sign that he needed another drink, and fumbled for his bottle with shaking hands.  That data stick he’d found after they took that pregnant teenager out fell out of his pocket first.  It clattered all over the floor just as a cop showed up.

“Who’d you steal that from?” the cop spat in disgust, scooping up the data stick and sticking it into…what were them things called?…a tablet.

Hank didn’t care.  He’d only vaguely thought he might be able to sell it to someone in exchange for a few bucks toward his next bottle.  What Hank cared about was that this cop, who’d been sniffing around the storage space building all day, probably wouldn’t take kindly to Hank’s taking a swig of liquor.

“Elections R Us,” the cop read off his screen.  “Serving the greater good since 2001.  A Florida-based corporation.”  He yanked the data stick out of his tablet and threw it at Hank, hitting him square in the face.

It stung, just missing his eye, but again Hank didn’t care.  It didn’t sting anywhere near as bad as the memories of a lifetime of defeat that were his only reward for sobriety.

“Not possible in this fair land,” the cop snorted, still looking at the data stick.  “Bad joke.”  Now he was looking at Hank again.  “But you look like you’ve sobered up nicely since I first saw you this morning.  So I have a few questions.”

Hank now had his hand on the promised land, his bottle.  “I…I need a drink!”

“Not till after you’ve answered my questions.  Because of recent developments in San Francisco we’re re-opening an investigation into a disappearance and possible homicide here.  We’re in the process of ruling out homicide due to our failure to find any evidence of a body, but we need to locate a blonde woman named Karen for interrogation.”