Tales of the Storage Space, Part 89

Karen watched the teenager almost choke on her own, endless, insane laughter while Amelia rocked her.  Karen could hardly hear the lullabies Amelia tried to sooth the girl with, or the extraordinary beauty of that old homeless woman’s voice, over the teenager’s sharp, jarring laughter.

The mother…  Who would have thought…

Karen bowed her head, feeling her cheeks burn in shame as she realized they’d all run off to get the cops to protect the teenager from the wrong person.  Why hadn’t they stayed long enough to see who struck the first blow?  Then she felt a strong but gentle hand on her shoulder.

“You all thought I was the one who beat my daughter, didn’t you…”

Karen looked up into a face full of rage that suddenly changed to pathos, pain, and the hurt of indignation.

“Your wife…”

“Her boyfriend does that, not me.  He even takes turns beating my daughter.”

It wasn’t just the odd tremble in the voice; it was something in that hand still on her shoulder that froze Karen’s blood.  Still, none of them had seen him lay a hand on his daughter.  But they’d all topped the stairs in time to see his wife hit him in the head with the lever Karen knew had been enough to kill Irwin.  How had she found it?  What else had she found?

“I know,” he said, biting his lip so hard she was afraid he’d draw blood, “it’s that terrible temper of mine.  I can sure shout up a storm, can’t I?”  A fierce pride was just barely smothered by a sheepish shrug, and a weak little pleading smile.  “But you know what they say about the bark being so much bigger than the bite.”

The teenager’s laughter escalated sharply at that.

The teenager’s father clutched Karen’s shoulder and got closer to her.  “I can’t stand it.  They both have the same laugh.  They’re both off in la-la land.  You can’t believe a word either of them say.”

“You mean like her denying she’s pregnant?”

“She’s…”

The hand on Karen’s shoulder tightened sharply.

It was then that Karen looked over to where the teenager sat on the floor and noticed that she was sitting in a widening puddle of blood.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 88

Martin knew he was awake. Bloody hell, he could smell the inaugural vanilla latte No Name was so busy making him in the kitchen…which would never be as good as Starbucks.

But he looked around the room again just to be sure: No Name’s bedroom in San Francisco. Again, nothing was undulating.

Slowly, very slowly, he looked out the window again at the eucalyptus trees.

Jennifer was still there, but this time she was staring straight up at him.

Martin jerked back from the window so fast he fell out of the bed on the other side and hit his head.

“Mo chuisle! My darling!” No Name was all over him.

His head pounded with pain, but he figured he better not let on because then he’d have to explain Jennifer. So he shrugged her off of him and did his best to act playful, first tickling her ruthlessly, then kidding around as he called out to her, “Officer Worth!”

Although convulsed with giggles and trying to get away from the tickling, she looked up at him immediately in that way that no one would unless they were really…

Martin’s mind froze mid-thought, when he noticed the wall behind her.

It was pink.

It was undulating.

“No!” he screamed, turning away from that wall.

But the opposite wall was suddenly covered with wall paper that he knew hadn’t been there before. Dinosaurs. And the T-rexes seemed to be all waking up together and opening their eyes.

The doorbell rang.

Martin knew who it must be.

No Name looked as startled, surprised, and scared as he was. But for a moment Martin forgot about the doorbell as he struggled to remember something important about No Name’s real name. Something from just a minute ago.

But he forgot about it again when No Name answered the door.

There she was, standing in the hall just outside their door. Jennifer.

No Name was talking to her. “Look I don’t usually open my door when there’s a strange man on the other side, but…”

Martin tuned out the rest. He was staring at Jennifer, shaking all over now. Jennifer was staring at him.

No Name went on, something about thanking Jennifer for bringing a heavy package up to her door, and Martin thought he heard some guy say, “No prob,” but the only one in the hall was Jennifer.

Finally No Name closed the door on Jennifer.

Martin was so relieved he almost laughed, turning back toward the wall with the T-Rexes, figuring what were a few T-Rexes compared to…

The T-Rexes were gone. Instead, standing against the wall, was Jennifer.

Martin screamed. Then he talked: “Bloody hell, I did it! I stabbed Frank through what must have been his jugular with a piece of broken glass and I killed him.”

He heard a gasp and turned to see No Name still by the door. It was hard to see her face beneath all the purple caterpillars but he was pretty sure he’d never seen a human face twist itself through so many different, conflicting emotions until it settled into the greatest sorrow he’d ever seen.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 87

Imogene couldn’t like believe Real Life.  Her dad was going to kill her.

Her mom held her tight.  Imogene fumbled for her effin phone.

Her mom held her tight.  Imogene remembered her effin phone was dead anyway.

Her mom pressed Imogene’s head into the crook of her neck, forcing Imogene to close her eyes.  The scent of her mom’s skin sparked something odd, memories from Real Life.  From like some snuggly long ago that Imogene never thought about any more.

Her mom rocked her.  Imogene suddenly remembered her mom used to sing to her, though Imogene hadn’t heard her sing in a very long time.  Like her phone flickering in and out just before the battery died, Imogene just barely began to feel a calm warmth she’d forgotten all about.

Then she heard a heavy footstep.  She didn’t have to turn and open her eyes to know who it was.

“Let her go!” her dad bellowed.

Her mom dropped her so fast that her head hit one of the metal walls.

“Where’s my elephant?”

The elephant she’d thrown against a wall and heard break?  Her dad was like really going to kill her.

Where was her mom?

Finally she opened her eyes.  Her mom was standing next to her dad with her head bowed.  Behind them the old woman with the beautiful voice and the blonde who worked at the storage space seemed to be sneaking away, heading for the stairs.  The girl with the great sweater who’d poked her a lot to be sure she was okay was fumbling for her phone, which was attached to a charger.

Imogene moved like lightning, snatching the charger off the other girl’s phone, and finding an outlet in the hall.  “I, like, really, really need this!”  Just as she attached her own phone a heavy hand fell on her shoulder.

“I said, where’s my elephant?”

“Dad, it was like, really like an accident?”

Behind him, Imogene saw the girl with the sweater’s eyes widen.  That girl didn’t sneak, she ran for the stairs.  Now Imogene’s family was alone.

The first blow was nothing, almost like lame, since her dad was standing and Imogene was seated next to her phone she’d just plugged into the wall.  It was the second one that caught her by surprise, a kick to her stomach.

However feebly, something in her stomach kicked back.

It was then that her mom fled, deeper into the storage space.

The beating went on and on.  But something strange, something new was happening to Imogene.  She started to laugh, even when another tooth loosened.  Even when the laughter she couldn’t stop, like some insane case of giggles, had her spitting up blood.

A lot of clattering footsteps from both ends of the hall at once.

From the end of the hall she was facing, she could see her mom running towards them with some kind of heavy lever.  Imogene’s life experiences were such that she immediately recognized that the stuff the lever was caked with was a whole lot of dry blood.  Her mom swung hard just as the clattering footsteps at the other end of the hall stopped at the top of the stairs.

Her dad swung around at the same time, facing her mom as the lever hit his head.  Blood flew.  But his movement had wrecked her mom’s aim.  He still stood.  Though dazed, he grabbed her mom’s wrist.  The lever with its fresh blood clattered across the floor and came to rest at her mom’s feet.

Did Imogene imagine that her dad was like fighting to suppress a smile?  He turned, still struggling a bit to regain his balance.  First he looked a bit absently at Imogene, then over her shoulder.

Imogene turned around to see a bunch of cops with the blonde, the old woman, and the girl with the sweater behind them at the other end of the hall.

“You got here just in time!”

It was her dad speaking…

“It’s not her fault, really, my wife’s insane.  I have the paperwork at home to prove it.  I kept hoping I could control it, keep our family together somehow, but you see what she just did to my daughter before she started in on me.”

Her mom was looking straight into Imogene’s eyes now, while she fished her phone out of her purse with her free hand.

Phone!  Phone!  Yeah, that was like all that mattered!  Imogene tuned out what her dad and the cops were saying and grabbed her own phone, which now had enough charge to work.

Snapchat…

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  U there?

Nothing.

Her mom was still looking straight into Imogene’s eyes, struggling with her phone a bit before she started to type.

A new message drew Imogene’s attention back to her own phone.

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

WTFwasImogeneCoca:  ?…always?…don’t even no who U R

Imogene looked up to see a cop take her mom’s wrist away from her dad and handcuff it.  Her mom was still looking at Imogene but now tears trickled down her cheeks.  She hurried to type something into her phone before the cop grabbed her other wrist and the phone clattered to the floor.

Imogene stared at her mom’s phone.  On it was Imogene’s Snapchat with ^URS.  Imogene read:

^URSunPC&proud:  Sec…mayB very long sec…

Then her mom’s phone blacked out.

The cops took her mom away.

Her dad smiled down at Imogene, but it wasn’t exactly a smile.

Imogene couldn’t like believe Real Life.  Her dad was going to kill her.

Her mom might never again hold her tight.