Tales of the Storage Space, Part 31

The Storage Space was quite astonished to find itself pondering, of all things, the city of San Francisco. The Storage Space knew it existed, of course, some rough space where an unemployed gold miner…so uncouth that he referred to himself as “Jack” instead of John…fancied himself literary because he told a story about a dog going wild.

Really it was too, too much! All so tiresomely absurd.

But the real question was, why was it even deigning to think of such a muddy camp?

And why, pray tell, was the San Francisco it envisioned no longer muddy?

And why, pray tell, did it somehow find this new San Francisco, of all things…comforting?

Utterly perplexed, the Storage Space concentrated. Windows. Huge windows that covered entire walls. It was envisioning this New San Francisco through windows from across a bay. A simile came to mind, something about the fog marching between its towering spires of glass like fuzzy giants on an old projection TV. But it didn’t know what a projection TV was.

Sorry, bad simile.

The Storage Space would have leaped out of its skin, if only a building could leap. If only a building had skin. For those three words about the simile had not been spoken aloud. Nor, as was all too tragically customary in this place, were they the thoughts of a…it was loath to even think of such things…ghost. Nor did they have anything to do with whatever Le Grand Rat was doing in the hall.

But they were from someone alive, alive but who must somehow be very sympathetic to the poor, long-suffering Storage Space, such a profoundly sympathetic soul that it could actually hear…her.

It was that Karen. Perhaps it was hearing her thoughts because she’d been there for so long. Perhaps it was hearing her thoughts because she…unlike the others…had depth.

Do I?

Again the Storage Space would have leaped out of its skin, if only a building could leap. If only a building had… But, never mind. What was this? A horrible, sickening wave of self-recrimination was washing over it, something about that horrid Martin…naked. The Storage Space would have shuddered, if only a building… But, never mind. Now there was piercing pain, something it had never experienced like this, as if it was some kind of animal with soft skin. And now there were tears, as if it was capable of producing fluid, and a whole torrent of soft, animal-based memories.

The Storage Space would have done its very, very best to think of something else…anything else…but those soft, animal-based memories were delicious. Feeling the sun on an arm. Running fingers over thick velvet. Giggling. Then they were gone.

I betrayed everything I am. I caused someone’s death.

The pain was excruciating this time. If only a building could cry out, if only a building could say, No, you didn’t. Everything you are is still inside you.

Really?

She heard?

“Really?” She asked it aloud this time.

More soft memories. Digging toes into warm sand. The sun setting in…was that the Pacific Ocean?

But suddenly all softness was gone as the door to her storage unit rattled open further. Le Grand Rat!

“Who’s in there?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 30

Alex managed to kiss the forehead of the bloody old homeless woman he was carrying back to his place, where he had all the medical supplies needed to attend to her wounds the right way. He dropped his voice an octave, to the gentlest purr. “You have nothing to fear from me.” Then he pulled his head back slowly, not wanting to alarm her with any sudden motions…as if she were the bird with a broken wing Alex had rescued the week before. Studying her, he looked deeply into her still beautiful eyes, hoping his words had had the desired effect.

They hadn’t. She still looked at him warily. It cut Alex to the quick, and he had to fight back a flash of what other people called his irrational rage. Why didn’t any one understand him? Why didn’t any one see the kind of person he really was?

But he caught himself this time, able to appreciate that with all this poor woman had undoubtedly suffered being homeless, it was understandable that it might take a while for her to believe in Alex. Eventually, though, she would. Alex would see to that. “How could I?” he whispered to her. “How could I have failed to notice your need immediately? I’ll take care of you. Don’t worry.”

He reached his trick corner, where he could always lose anyone following him…and he knew he was being followed. That young woman with the twitchy lips and straight, dark hair. In shoes too dressy for daytime but with heels that clattered over the sidewalk…making it easy to gauge her distance and rate of approach.

Alex listened to those shoes and slowed down. He wanted just enough time for her to think he must have disappeared into one of the buildings on the first block when he turned the corner.

Instead, as soon as he made that left, he ducked behind a tall shrub that seemed to stand in front of a solid building. Actually it concealed a tunnel that, combined with a hole in the backyard’s rear fence, allowed access to the next street. A little power walking and he’d backtracked to a different block. Through all of this the homeless woman he carried looked puzzled, but Alex was gratified by her visible wonder when he carried her inside the brownstone that was his alone.

“All that stained glass…original Tiffany, is it not?”

Her voice was even more beautiful than all the sunlight streaming through his helter-skelter collection of stained glass that was, in fact, original Tiffany. Alex beamed, his heart leaping when he saw her astonishment replaced by a huge smile of sheer delight. “I’m a bit…Noveau Victorian,” he demurred, “as you’re about to see from my library.”

With a bit of flourish, he swept her into a dark-paneled room with a huge stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. But the expected leather-bound books were not there. Instead, his eclectic found-object sculpture exploded from the shelves, along with such an extensive collection of high-tech gadgetry that he liked to think he put James Bond’s Q to shame.

“You’ll be comfortable here,” he purred, laying her out gently on a huge chaise longue. “I’ll be right back.”

In moments he returned with water, a collection of delicacies for her to eat, and his medical supplies.

The homeless woman looked him up and down. “Clearly, you’re not really homeless.”

“No,” he acknowledged with a laugh.

She looked puzzled again when he brushed some feathers aside from his medical supplies.

“A bird with a broken wing that I rescued last week.”

She smiled broadly. “May I see it?”

“Sure.” He retrieved the bird’s shoebox, meticulously lined with soft cloth.

“But…” She seemed troubled. “It’s dead.”

Now it was his turn to be puzzled. “Of course it’s dead. I had to kill it when it pecked me.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 29

Karen sat up with a jolt. Frank was furious with her! She could feel it in her bone marrow. It reminded her of sitting on a hill above Sausalito at sunset and feeling the mist that seemed to swirl about not just around but inside her.

Frank inside her…

She blinked, trying to take in her surroundings. They were at Frank’s place, weren’t they? Hadn’t they just made love for the first time? Hadn’t her climax been so thunderous that she both screamed and wept? And even started to laugh, manic, until he pulled back and locked eyes. Then, transfixed, she imagined new dimensions opening before her, one after another, like flower petals. A fourth dimension. A fifth. A sixth.

Martin. That shallow nobody. No, that wasn’t fair. Martin was a nice guy and her friend. But Frank was furious at her because of Martin. So furious that he must have killed Martin.

That thought was like a bucket of cold water dumped over her head. Her eyes had been open already, but now she saw. No, they weren’t together in Frank’s apartment in Sausalito, looking through his huge windows at San Francisco across the bay. She was alone in a tiny storage unit in Brooklyn with no windows at all.

Karen whimpered and started to sob as she looked down at herself then, insanely, started to laugh.

She was sitting up.

She was alive.

She laughed and laughed as a whole lifetime of memories washed over her. She was alive. Whatever her present circumstances, she would find joy…and beauty…again.

She started to scramble out of her storage unit but almost fainted.

Not that alive, she amended. Not yet.

She sat back, surveying her surroundings. Her stomach clenched when she remembered mistakenly dipping the French fries in Martin’s blood.

Poor, poor Martin. Who was she to think him shallow or to use him for sex that would be free of emotional pain because, truth be told, she couldn’t love him. Poor, dear Martin. He had been her friend. More importantly, he had been alive and was no longer. Karen was so very sorry.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 28

Martin was starving. He’d had bugger all to eat. Rifling through the fridge, he was finding a lot more meat than he remembered buying, but the real question was what he could cook fastest.

Meat… Meat… Finally he grabbed the thinnest piece. Canola oil in the frying pan. Didn’t even bother to wash the meat, just tossed it in the pan to sizzle. In so much of a hurry that he dropped some on the floor.

Hands shaking, Martin leaned over to pick it up. Funny, the floor was solid black, not the vintage linoleum he’d paid so much for online. And he couldn’t find the meat he’d dropped until he reached under the stove and pulled out a slab of Karen’s face.

Martin sat up on his mustard-colored, vintage Danish Modern sofa and screamed at the top of his lungs. How could he have allowed himself to fall asleep again?

Jennifer’s phone. He remembered the ringtone. Somewhere on the sofa. Ringing again. Maybe it was Ms. Morales from work again. Maybe calling to say the tall man with the gun, looking for him…and Frank, who he’d killed…was gone. Maybe they’d had him arrested.

Martin scrambled to find Jennifer’s phone, wondering why Ms. Morales hadn’t called him on his own phone. Found Jennifer’s phone between the cushions just as it stopped ringing.

Bloody hell!

Maybe Ms. Morales had called Jennifer because she couldn’t reach him. He checked his own phone for voicemail. Battery was dead.

A beep from Jennifer’s phone. Martin picked it back up and saw a message about new voicemail. But how could he get it without her bloody password?

He called her voicemail and tried “Jennifer” for her password, and all possible permutations of her birthday, without success. Then inspiration hit. He typed in “Martin.”

“You have six unheard messages.”

None of them indicated that the tall man with a gun had been arrested. The second to last message was from a dry cleaner complaining that he, Martin, hadn’t picked up Jennifer’s dry cleaning…which she hadn’t yet asked him to pick up. The message that had just come in was from a collection agency. It said they had tried, and failed, to reach Martin about paying her bill…which she hadn’t told him about either.

Bloody fucking hell!

Martin sat on his expensive Danish Modern sofa, stained with the sweat of his nightmares, and stared down the endless road of what his life imprisonment by Jennifer was going to be like. Could serving the time in a real prison really be worse? Tortured by frustration and helplessness, he clicked around in her apps, idly noting the stupid games she played. Really by mistake, because his shaking finger hit the wrong thing, he clicked into “Notes,” then started reading…eyes widening. Suddenly he heard something he hadn’t thought he’d ever hear again: his own laughter.