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.