Tales of the Storage Space, Part 85

Sebastian froze in the act of scooping up a handful of storage-unit keys from behind the counter.  That god-awful screaming had stopped.  Did that mean the idiots who’d left the front door ajar and deserted the reception area were gonna screw things up by returning?

Sebastian’s skinny jeans were tight, which had him cursing as he crammed the keys into a pocket while skittering over to the stairwell.  The shit he had to go through just to make a living in such a god-awful world.  A world where idiots kept upping the prices for the substance abuse that made it all worthwhile.  But he hushed when he reached the stairwell and craned his skinny neck upward to listen hard.

Maybe some talking somewhere upstairs, but no footsteps.  He looked at the stairs, tiptoed up a few, and craned his skinny neck even further till he imagined he could safely guess the floors upstairs were covered with metal too.  No way he wouldn’t hear approaching footsteps.

With that he skittered back over to the reception counter and quickly squeezed behind it, grateful for his slender frame as he squatted to rifle through some rickety drawers.  The storage-unit keys he’d taken would be okay for later, when he’d like casually saunter back in with a friendly smile and some empty, oversized suitcases, but they wouldn’t get him high again anytime soon enough.

Cash…  Where the fuck was the…  Then he found it, all the way in the back behind a bunch of old girlie magazines.  (What the fuck was wrong with using the internet?)  A strongbox, but the very best, idiot-delight, kind of strongbox:  a weak strongbox.  Sure it was locked, but it looked like Sebastian could scrape it open with a loose fingernail.  Sloppy marker scrawling over the top said:  “Private property of Irwin’s.  Knowing what’s inside would NOT be playing your cards right.  Believe me, YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW.”

Nice, thought Sebastian.  This Irwin was probably trying to scare the other idiots away from where he kept the money he skimmed off the top.  But this Irwin was still an idiot because he’d obviously bought this weak strongbox…where?…a 99-cent store?

Suddenly there was the most god-awful racket on the stairs, ending with a cheap bottle of rotgut rolling across the floor.  It came to rest against Sebastian’s rainbow-platform sneakers as he silently cursed while rubbing the bony knee he’d hit against the counter when he leaped to his feet.  Faintly, he thought he heard, “Clumsy, Hank, clumsy.”

Then there was silence.

Sebastian scrambled to cram the girlie magazines back in the drawer.  Maybe they wouldn’t notice the missing keys and strongbox if he made it back with those empty suitcases to “shop” the storage units soon enough.  He’d have to go all “sensitive male” on that idiot Carmen again to borrow her suitcases.  He could only hope she wasn’t still being an idiot about that little bit of kidding around he’d done with her which she kept calling rape.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 84

Karen was the first to reach Unit 38, where all the screaming was coming from, even though she’d almost tripped over some homeless guy on the steps.  But the cop in Marie’s sweater and even elderly Amelia were right behind her, helping her push Unit 38’s door all the way up so they could all see inside.

The pregnant teenager inside wouldn’t stop screaming.

The cop was the first to wriggle into the storage unit to her.  After a while she called back over her shoulder, “I can’t find anything wrong with her physically.”

Amelia crawled in next, taking the teenager into her arms.  Karen couldn’t hear over the screaming, but guessed Amelia was singing a lullaby as she rocked her.

Karen sensed new arrivals behind her and half-turned to see the homeless guy from the stairs and the middle-aged woman Amelia had given the key to Unit 3 to, promising not to tell anyone.  The middle-aged woman, maybe because she’d obviously been beat up as badly as the teenager had, looked so stricken Karen wasn’t sure she could even breath, let alone speak.

Silence.  At last.  Then Amelia’s beautiful voice singing a lullaby.

But there was something new wrong with the teenager.  It took Karen a minute to realize what it was:  she wasn’t breathing.

Suddenly the teenager took a huge, shuddering gasp of breath, and Karen was afraid she’d scream again.  Instead the impossible combination of violent crying and a long, horribly eloquent wail was even worse.  Then she grabbed a carved elephant and threw it violently against the wall before collapsing into Amelia’s arms, wracked with sobs.

The cop rubbed her back.  “Tell us.  You’re among friends and it’ll make you feel better.”

The teenager shook her head.

Karen wrinkled her brow.  Something about the cop’s voice, which wasn’t as low as it had been before, almost like the low voice was an affectation she’d forgotten.

The cop continued.  “How about if I tell you about something really dreadful from my life first, something that’s probably more dreadful than anything that happened to you because I’m the one who did it.  I’m the one who’s responsible.”

That voice, thought Karen, but then chastised herself for thinking about anything but that poor, miserable pregnant teenager at such a time.

Finally the teenager looked up, though still sniffling violently.  But, perhaps drawn to the light in the hall, she looked directly at Karen, then the homeless guy and the middle-aged woman with her.  When she saw the middle-aged woman, her eyes widened.  “Mom?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 83

“Mo chuisle!  Mo chuisle!”

Martin didn’t know where that deep voice was coming from.  The sky?  All he knew was he had to get away from them and punch…punch hard…the ones he couldn’t outrun.  And that he kept hearing the same odd snatch of poetry, also from the sky:

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

Martin grabbed a pole, using it to break and make a sharp turn as he dashed down a side street, praying he’d lost them.  But one oozed right around the corner after him, so close he could smell the briny beach and the frothy waves.  Finally the time had come to turn and punch it, a dismal thing to do since his fist just sloshed around in it until he hit the shell.  Then all its friends turned the corner too, and more of them came dashing up on Martin from behind.

Oysters, giant oysters everywhere!  All squirming at his touch, some with Karen’s eyes winking at him.  One of them shaking him hard, much harder than anything without hands and bones and…

Martin opened his eyes, seeing the mess he’d made of the now-sweat-soaked bed.  “Officer Ann Worth?”

The girl let him go and jumped back, her eyes widening in what at first looked like terror.  But then she laughed.  “Oh, that crazy at the restaurant!  Yeah, sure…  ‘Officer Ann Worth’ at your service, sir, ready to arrest the perps bothering you…a mob of giant oysters, I gather?”

Martin looked around the room.  Nothing was undulating.  It had only been a dream.  He was so relieved he grabbed…No Name…and drew her close, genuinely feeling a tenderness for her that only gradually turned to lust, then turned back into a genuine if not slightly sleepy tenderness after they’d made an even bigger mess of the bed.

She was smiling a smile no one could fake…but were there also tears in her eyes.

Finally she got up and went to the bathroom.

Martin took stock of the himself:  He was fine.  Just fine.  His parents had been totally daft to go on so about all the hallucinogenic drugs he used to take.  Right?  He wasn’t hallucinating.  Only in his dreams…when everyone hallucinated.  But he was totally bloody conscious now.

The sun was shining, just like in that poem he couldn’t quite remember now from his dreams.  And that was a rare and wonderful sight in San Francisco, sparkling through the window as if it were a finely cut diamond.  No Name was in the kitchen now, and he could smell the vanilla latte she was fixing him…trying to compete with Starbucks.  No Name might not be the sharpest tool in the shed…thinking she could possibly compete with Starbucks…but she was cute.

Martin yawned and looked out the window.  Scrawny chap with an obvious death wish and a skateboard careening down the sharp hill at breakneck speed, dog yipping at his heels.  Hysterical mother shoving a bratty looking toddler out of the way just in time.  Flowers.  Eucalyptus trees he fancied he could smell through the window.  But leaning up against one was…Jennifer.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 82

Imogene was like really feeling like really cray cray without ^URS and Snapchat and…

Like what was happening?  She was…choking!  And…having convulsions!  And…

Water coming out of her eyes.  It took her a minute, but she finally figured it out.

But…why was she crying?

The answer came in an avalanche.  Answers, actually.  But they pummeled her so hard and fast, each replaced almost instantly by another, that she could hardly register what they were.  Vaguely she caught a glimpse of that cute boy Robert calling her ugly, but why would she cry about that?  ^URS had told her Robert was ugly.  Still she felt something growing inside her, like the kind of endless scream in some slasher movie.

Imogene fumbled for her phone, forgetting for a moment that the battery was dead, then covered her raining eyes with her hands.  But she still caught the sound of that bitchy group of girls laughing at her, even though it shouldn’t have mattered cuz ^URS had said they were pathetic.  Still cray cray shit like that kept coming at her, hitting her over and over again till she felt like a punching bag and finally started to remember a night she’d like totally forgotten when she was like sleeping naked on top of her neatly made bed cuz it was so hot and her father…

Imogene screamed.  When she finally had no breath left to scream with, she gulped some in quickly and screamed again.  And again.  And again.

Still she felt something growing inside her.  It even kicked her.  From inside.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 81

The Storage Space was appalled, simply appalled.  How unforgivable!  Consummately unfeeling!  Someone walking by outside had mentioned December 5th

1876.  Close to midnight. No one walking by then but many running.  Another Brooklyn theatre, the Brooklyn Theatre, only five years old and burning.  Screaming, the constant screaming of those trapped at the top in the Family Circle and still conscious.  The swirl and twists of the bright blaze illuminating the sky.  Extra ferry boats swarming across the river from Manhattan.

But wait, where was that…laughing…coming from?  Something slithered.  And the Storage Space knew.  And at that point there was even more laughing.  The poor long-suffering Storage Space was desolate, so desperately unable to figure out what to do that it found itself wishing Le Grand Rat was still alive.

Karen lifted her head.  Did she sense his presence too?

But ancient Amelia soothed Karen with a song Amelia’s wonderful ancestor once sang from the stage when the Storage Space was such a grand old theatre.  (Though never as grand as the mighty, majestic, mansard-roofed Brooklyn Theatre had been.)

And all that remained of the grand old theatre the Storage Space once was creaked happily from their dark, musty hiding places and forgotten corners beneath the tinny metal of the Storage Space’s wall, and floors, and stairs.  All was calmness.  All was sweet.

Karen smiled softly, every muscle relaxing.  Then she lifted her head again and opened her mouth to speak as if about to recite some beautiful poetry.  But what she said was, “I did kill Irwin.”  Suddenly she shuddered violently and tears started.  “But you should have seen what he did to me.”

The woman who had said she was a detective clapped a hand over Karen’s mouth.

Amelia gasped.

A bottle clattered down the closest set of stairs.  The three women turned at that but couldn’t see where the bottle had come from.  Faintly, though, so faint the Storage Space could feel Karen writing it off to her imagination, a voice could be heard saying, “Clumsy, Hank, clumsy.”

And there it was again, grating and seemingly without end:  the laughing.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 80

Hank choked back a few sobs, staring at his ragged clothes and all the liver spots on the backs of his hands while pummeled by the memories of a lifetime of defeat.

Sobriety was way overrated.

That, at least, he could fix.

He dug around in the tattered garbage bag that now served as his kitchen cabinets and bureau drawers.  Pair of holey socks, stiff with dirt?  No.  Dog-earred love letter from an ex so ex that she’d not only run off with some younger rich guy, but buried him and died herself in a nursing home?  No.  Ah.  The cheap hooch.  He yanked the bottle out, expertly judging from the heft and the slosh that enough remained to do the trick.  But his hands shook and he dropped it.

“Clumsy, Hank, clumsy,” he admonished himself…as he did almost continuously since he was always dropping things…but, saints and gutter rats be praised, the bottle didn’t break.

Second potential consequence:  discovery.  Had anyone heard that bottle hit the floor?  He looked around:  no one in the hall.  Then he heard sounds in Unit 38 again, but that was nothing new.  Whoever was in there had been in there so long he figured it was another bum who’d scored, relatively speaking, a penthouse suite.  Or should he say…”homeless person”?  “Accommodationally challenged”?

Damn hands.  Still, despite the shake, he managed to connect the open bottle with his mouth.  Then choked, remembering as he always did, getting gasoline in his mouth when siphoning it out of someone else’s tank in the middle of the night.  First pull of such cheap shit was always tough.  But soon, very soon, it wouldn’t matter.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 79

Karen fancied that of the three of them…the old homeless woman Amelia, the detective with a sweater amazingly identical to the one she’d made for ex-best-friend Marie, and herself…Karen was the one most astounded by her own confession.

But even Amelia’s gorgeous voice lost luster as she stuttered, “You…killed…someone?”

The detective’s jaw hung open.  What kind of detective had never heard a confession before?

Stupidly, illogically, Karen’s mind skittered away from the enormity of having just confessed to murdering Irwin by fixating on that damn sweater.  Had Marie donated it to a thrift shop?  Karen managed to get upset about that slight and feel nothing about her confession.

Amelia put a hand on her shoulder.  “You…had a…good reason?”

Karen frowned.  Uh…actually she did!  What had she been thinking?  Why hadn’t she just called the cops herself?  Not that she’d had a phone but…

Opening her mouth to spill out the whole story, she turned hopefully toward the detective in Marie’s sweater.  And stopped cold.  The detective’s jaw was no longer hanging open.  Instead she was staring at Karen with eyes that kept getting wider and wider with what looked like absolute terror.

Karen knew her thinking was still foggy but what did this detective know about her chances of escaping very serious consequences for her confession that Karen didn’t know?  Plus that detective’s look of terror was stirring some reasons Karen had had for not confessing, even if she was now feeling too faint again to remember.

Amelia took Karen gently by the shoulders and pushed her back to a seated position.  “There, there, Sweetheart, better to sit before you faint again.  I’m sure you had a very good reason.  And I’m sure this detective will understand that.”

A yearning screamed through Karen, so strong it hurt:  Karen wanted more than anything in the world to believe Amelia.  Her voice was so beautiful, like a full symphony orchestra.  But there was one harmonic, one instrument in that orchestra, that was off…as if out of tune…and Karen knew what she was hearing:  doubt.

Amelia massaged her shoulders.  “It’ll be okay.  I promise.”  But Karen felt the tremble in the ancient hands that massaged her.

Karen opened her mouth again.  “Thanks for seating me.  I’m sorry I got to feeling faint again, or I would have told you both right away that I wasn’t serious when I made that ‘confession’!”

Both of the other women sagged with visible relief.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 78

Martin checked his new, trusty to-do list.  The first entry read:  If it isn’t normal, ignore it.

She was treating him to a really expensive meal at San Francisco’s best:  The Bimini Twist.  Head honcho Don had just, himself, brought out oysters on the half shell and was telling them all about sustainability.  The wine was excellent.

She was excellent.  Her skimpy black dress had a V-neck that dipped all the way to her waist.  Every guy in the place had his eyes on her, though one just looked confused.

Her eyes were only on Martin.  “Whatever happens after this…Randolph,” she said in the velvety deep voice she sometimes used, “I want you to remember this night and please believe me when I tell you how very much I’ll always love you.”

Martin, yet again, cursed inwardly over not even knowing her name, as he struggled to figure out what to say in return.  Bloody hell!  He could never find anything like her purse or mail when she went to the loo.  She lived in this town; why didn’t she ever introduce him to her friends, one of which was bound to utter her name at some point?  Why, for that matter, didn’t she ever even get any phone calls or texts or anything?  He raised his glass, about to toast her with words he still hadn’t figured out, when he caught something in his peripheral vision:  the confused man was no longer looking confused.

“Officer Ann Worth!”  The guy was on his feet, running at her with what now looked like murderous intent.  “The homicide detective who commits homicide!”  He was almost frothing at the mouth now.

Head honcho Don must have signaled someone.  What were obviously bouncers pounced.  The guy was literally dragged out screaming.

Martin looked at her.  Ann? 

But just then Don put a comforting hand on her shoulder.  “This dinner is on the house, with our apologies since we should have spotted that crazy.”

Maybe not Ann, Martin thought.  Crazy bugger they’d hauled out had obviously lost the plot.  And she bloody well did not look homicidal.

Starved, he popped one of the now-free oysters into his mouth.

Was it his imagination or, when he bit into it, did he feel it squirm?

Martin tried to pull himself together and put a comforting hand on her other shoulder, then looked up at Don.  “Oysters on the half shell…are still alive?”

But again he caught something in his peripheral vision and looked back down at the remaining oysters.

One wasn’t an oyster at all; it was Karen’s eye, winking at him.

Martin ignored it.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 77

Imogene was laughing so hard over the shots ^URS was firing at finstagram “sincerity,” in between sending pics with funny Snapshot filters, that Imogene like knocked the effin elephant over.

It like clattered to the floor, cray cray noisy with all that shit rattling around inside.  And a leg looked crooked.  Maybe it was like broken.

And just then her phone screen went black, and she like effin remembered she’d forgotten to plug it in before going to bed the night before.

“Effin battery!”

Imogene jumped, startled at the sound of her own voice echoing around the teeny storage unit.  That made whatever was inside the elephant rattle more.

Then there was silence.

Imogene like forgot about the battery and looked back at her phone, all ready to laugh at something new from ^URS.

Only darkness.

Normally she’d like run out of there as effin fast as she could and like ask the first person she saw if they had a cord so she could recharge.

But she like had to get at least some of those effin carvings out of that effin storage space or her effin father would kill her.

But she couldn’t move.  She felt so strange.  The walls, the carvings…they were all…like…staring at her.  Everything in RL was so…big.  So…not in her hand.

And she was even starting to hear things, like stumbling noises, and she was sure she heard some guy say, “Clumsy, Hank, clumsy.”

Then she started to see them, the Snapchat filters all over the walls, all over the carvings.  She laughed at Snapchat’s bunny ears on one of the carvings.  She felt much better.

Only thing was, they were all the same color:  a weird, misty green.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 76

The Storage Space was dreadfully upset on behalf of poor long-suffering Karen, who had turned as white as a sheet.

But then the poor, long-suffering Storage Space shuddered again, and again, and again…though by all rights a building shouldn’t be able to shudder in quite that same, animated if you will, way.  Shift perhaps, reverberate in response to some subterranean influence or other, but not that quick animated shudder.  Well, really, would its next move be a sneeze or a soliloquy?

That slithering again, then something nice again, a gentle prompt to comfort Karen.  But the Storage Space was beginning to recognize a pattern.

So it waited.

And waited.

No odd thoughts.  No inappropriate language.  At last it relaxed just as the female detective and the old woman turned from their conversation to notice, as the Storage Space had previously, poor Karen’s condition.


That single word, directed toward dear Karen with the utmost compassion, had come from three different sources at once, in perfect harmony.  It was as if a conductor had prompted it from an orchestra.  The lowest, though nowhere near as low as her previous speaking voice, was that female detective.  The Storage Space rather liked to think of itself as a rare countertenor, though of course it hadn’t spoken aloud but rather spoken directly into Karen’s mind and, hopefully, her heart.

But of course the pièce de résistance was Amelia’s gorgeous soprano, perhaps so high because she seems genuinely shocked to find Karen in such a state.  She went on, dropping to a richly resonant contralto, “You don’t want this extraordinarily kind officer of the law to get to the bottom of whatever’s going on around here?”

Her voice was a veritable symphony.  What remained of the grand old stage, hid under the stair creaked so deeply it was as if a lion purred.  The poor, long-suffering Storage Space was feeling positively languid.

But the “kind officer” had stiffened after her last speech, as if she had been caught committing a crime when she spoke in a voice nowhere near as low as her previous speaking voice.  Finally, with renewed vigor and her usual deep voice, she resumed her interrogation of the old woman Amelia.

Meanwhile the Storage Space comforted Karen the only way it knew how to comfort itself, with tales rich with the extraordinary, and long since gone, elegance of the 19th century.



The Storage Space paused after another odd shudder, cautious and waiting, but instead of odd, nonsensical thoughts and inappropriate language there was an eerie silence.  It was about to go on describing the glories of a curricle with a matched pair of greys, when it noticed Karen’s face flipping between terror and a rebelliousness that suggested she was having an argument with herself.  Then, just for a moment as if the volume had been turned up too high but was quickly corrected, the Storage Space heard the words “tell them!” inside itself.

The detective was grilling Amelia about Le Grand Rat!

Karen leapt up to grab both of the detective’s hands.  “Irwin no longer works here because I killed him.”