Tales of the Storage Space, Part 125

Grover still rankled at his demotion.  Ridiculous.  Even if his equally corrupt duty officer had also lost out on his share of what the mob would have paid them if that witness had met with a “most unfortunate accident.”  He, Grover, demoted to watching minor perps in a hospital so bad they’d be lucky to survive anyway?  Wasn’t his fault if that asshole in witness protection hadn’t accepted his bribe to tell what happened to that bitch the mob wanted offed.

His new partner returned to their hospital corridor with the donuts and coffee, but it wasn’t the jelly donut he had requested.  Also ridiculous, but Grover thanked him profusely anyway, knowing all too well how important it was for a “bad cop”…such as his illustrious self…to stay on everyone’s good side.

His new partner went back to the only thing he was any good at:  ogling pretty nurses.  “Look at the dreamy eyes on that one!  Why I remember her from yesterday.”

Grover choked back a bite of something that wasn’t even close to being a jelly donut.  Whole grain, or some such shit.  But he managed a conspiratorial leer.  “You’re right, there, buddy.  I remember her from yesterday too.”  Why it mattered whether or not the bitch had been there yesterday was beyond him.  But he blinked at his new partner with what he hoped looked like admiration.  “I’m not good at facial recognition like you are.”  Then he looked at the only part of that nurse he cared about anyway and wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest when he added, “But I never…ever…forget a figure.”

Voices.  Behind them.  Even too far away to make out the words it was easy enough to pick up that self-important but lazily delayed cadence of two people flirting.  When they got close enough, their none-too-subtle references to what they’d just done to each other in a utility closet confirmed it.

After a particularly lewd giggle, the woman changed the subject.  “So, that crazy blonde in that storage space building didn’t really hurt you all that badly with that lil’ ole scalpel anyway?  I mean, a big strong emergency worker like you?”

That voice!  Grover froze.  He didn’t even listen to whatever the guy said back.

“Fabuloso!” said the woman, just as they walked around Grover’s back and came into view.  Whatever the emergency worker had said had apparently made her very happy…and very friendly.  The guy took advantage of her mood by running his hand down the back of her tight sweater to pinch her butt.

Grover checked out the only part of any woman he cared about, then leapt to his feet with a huge smile.

“What is it, Grover?” asked his new partner.  “She’s not all that pretty.”

Grover was laughing.  “Looks like you’ll need to find yourself a new partner, buddy!”

“But you just…”

“I’ll be going back to my old job.”

“How do you know?”

“Trust me.”

Just then Ms. Fabuloso turned toward the emergency worker, and Grover saw her face for the first time.  Wrong face!  His heart sank for a moment.  But then he remembered:  witness protection.  He went back to checking out her body and even his idiot partner joined in when Grover laughed again, long and low.  No, that was her all right.  The hell with the face.  He, Grover, never forgot a figure.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 124

Karen felt like she was no longer Karen.  Even her face, with its now-permanent frown, didn’t feel like her face anymore.

Her new roommate started screaming again.

“Shut the fuck up, Lydia,” Karen heard herself screaming.  “Know why they amputated your leg?”

Lydia stopped screaming just long enough to ask, “Why?”

Karen savored each word of her answer.  “Because you deserve it!”

Lydia screamed even louder.

Karen hit the call button, delighted when it was answered by the middle-aged nurse.  “Need one of your killer injections,” she said, nodding toward Lydia.

The middle-aged nurse looked at Karen.  “Sure you won’t be needing a little one yourself, Blondie?  As long as I’m here?  I’m getting to like you, I am, but Lord Jesus Christ you can scream even louder than that Lydia.”

Frank!  Karen remembered screaming so hard about his death that she didn’t think the whole planet full of people could, even if they all screamed at once, scream louder.  But…

Frank?  A slight twinge tightened her muscles at the thought of his death but…so very oddly…was then gone.  She stared at the nurse, who she knew had almost killed her with one of her killer injections.  But Karen didn’t care.  Someone screamed in what was obviously excruciating agony in an adjoining room.  She was amazed to find that she didn’t care even one little bit about that either.  Fugettaboudit.    

Karen smirked at the nurse.  “That was another person, that version of me that used to scream.  But she’s gone.  You were right.  I don’t have anything to scream about.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 123

Tommy like finally had his diamond pickaxe in Minecraft.

“Tommy, look at the sky!”

Ugly Nurse speaking, thirsty for a BF, like actually ran her ugly little fingers through his golden blond locks once.

“See that cloud?  The curvy one?  Looks like a heart?”

Tommy had no use for any clouds that weren’t square.  Had to get back to his pixelated mine.  Shoved the gurney with the dead feet propping up his tablet into the elevator without a word.  Hell, he wouldn’t even fuck with Ugly Nurse on Snapchat.

Morgue.  At least the button on the elevator was square.  Mine.  Had to bring the tablet back to life.  Like, what had he needed that diamond pickaxe for?  Tablet actually did come back to life.  Zayum!  Minecraft was like a 100 times better on his tablet now than when he got it six years ago and had to struggle with the camera and blue flowers all the fucking time.

Elevator doors opened.  He started to shove the gurney with the dead lady on it out, then realized it wasn’t the right floor.  Some idiot, probably a visitor, got in.  Then he spotted what the visitor was trying to hide under her coat.

“A puppy!”  It scrambled out of the coat, jumping right into his arms.

“Sh!” said the visitor.  “Don’t tell!”

Tommy nuzzled the puppy and laughed.  “Tell on a puppy?  Never!”

“Thanks,” said the visitor.  “I knew it would cheer my father up to see it, but it’s against the rules.”

But he wasn’t listening.  Instead, he was gazing into the puppy’s soft eyes.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 122

Imogene like couldn’t effin’ believe she’d been so effin’ bored she’d like actually resorted to Real Life.

She watched The Gray Monster Effin’ Uber-Boring Story Teller take one last, shuddering breath.  Some alarm went off.  But like Imogene didn’t care.  She turned back to the ceiling, waiting for the next water drop that arrived on schedule to slide down her nose.  The effin’ ceiling was better than that effin’ Gray Monster.

Finally there was some commotion around the door.  Imogene yawned.  Doctors and nurses came in and went out.  Some blond boy she hated on sight rolled a gurney in with a tablet she spotted Minecraft on.  He yanked The Gray Monster onto the gurney, propped the tablet up against her feet, cursed about lava and the lack of a diamond pickaxe, remembered at the last minute to jerk the sheet over The Gray Monster’s ugly face, and was gone.

Shame he hadn’t left the tablet…

But The Gray Monster was gone too.  “Def not woke!  Dumbest effin’ stories I’ve ever heard!” Imogene told the ceiling.

The ceiling responded with a bull’s eye water drop that hit Imogene’s right cornea, making the world look…for a moment…as if she were under water. 

“Cool!” Imogene told the ceiling.  “Better than Real Life.”

What had that cray cray Gray Monster said?  Something about denial of what’s real, no matter how ugly, being your biggest enemy?  Def not woke.  Imogene was so glad she’d never had a mother to tell her such effin’ shit.

With effin’ “legendary” accuracy, the ceiling hit her left eye, and it looked like she was under water again.  Cool.  Except somewhere, deep inside her, something stirred…just a little bit…something about something The Gray Monster had said about truth and finding coral reefs filled with treasure.  But Imogene huffed at it.  After all The Gray Monster had been so def not woke.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 121

The Storage Space was enthralled, simply enthralled.  That rude, odious child “Suzy Q” and her mother had…at last…stopped all the shrill screaming about the pregnant teenager’s father hitting them and left.  Amelia had gone back to singing Puccini.

The only thing left to worry about was that very oddly dressed “Pat” with the crowbar.  Why did he keep wandering around places where only the Storage Space knew there were magnificent 19th-century treasures still hidden behind those hideous new metal walls?  How did this “Pat” know its secrets?

It simply refused to worry about such things.  Really, when all was said and done, people were all perfectly dreadful creatures.  A vile disruption of all that was holy.  A desecration of any true beauty.  Perfect justification for a mass extermination.  Still, for now, the Storage Space would content itself with listening to Puccini.

But it couldn’t help getting distracted again when a new person, yet another cause for worry, walked in.  A blond boy with a “device” he was pecking at in one hand and a suitcase he dragged along behind him with the other…this one even bigger than the ones that other young boy with the rainbow shoes, currently with Fifi, had brought in.

The worst of it was that Amelia, while arranging for this new person to have a storage unit, had to stop singing.  And he was odd too, because when that Pat with a crowbar walked by and he asked Amelia why he had a crowbar, he referred to Pat as “they.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 120

Beth wasn’t sure if she was thinking or speaking.  She wished she was typing; she had so many stories to tell:

“So that’s how I ended my marriage to the only man who really did love me.  Who loved the pilgrim soul in me.  For the first ten years after my divorce I was sure I’d ended it because he was distant.  For the next ten years I was sure I’d ended it because I was distant.  Finally I realized I’d ended it because, in our strange and mystical way, we were closer to each other than either of us ever was to anyone else…either before or after our marriage.  I’d ended it because it was the only way I could free myself of my constant, nagging fear that I was going to lose that closeness.”

Beth’s mind twisted and turned through even more complexities in her life, all of which were finally clear to her:

“Denial. Denial of what’s real, no matter how ugly, is your biggest enemy. If only I’d had the courage to stand firm and let those hard waves of truth wash over me, I could have found so many more coral reefs teaming with life’s treasures beneath those waves.”

Suddenly the memory of Beth’s mother surfaced from deep below the roiling waves of her subconscious:  A woman she hadn’t thought about for years.  A complex woman Beth had also separated herself from, supposedly because her mother was the consummate embarrassment and just too crude to be endured.  But now a hard wave of truth hit and she realized it was because her mother had threatened Beth’s starry-eyed idealism with actual facts.

Equally suddenly, her long-estranged, and even longer-dead mother was standing in the center of the brightest light Beth had ever seen, beckoning toward her, saying something about it being time.  Her words wafted toward Beth, warming her with long-lost memories of bedtime stories, yet swirling around and reverberating within her now in a refreshingly cool breeze.

“Def not woke! Dumbest effin’ stories I’ve ever heard!”

The pregnant teenager sharing her room.  For a moment Beth’s eyes flickered open, and her heart reached out one last time to the world she suddenly felt so removed from.  With every feeling Beth had ever felt, every memory, and every story she had ever had to tell, she wished this teenager well.

Then her eyes closed again and she could feel other things in her closing as well, a bit like dominoes falling.  She grasped her mother’s outstretched hand, took a giant step into the cool light that now surrounded them both, and just…let go.

All the pain was, at last, gone.

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, odious child in Unit 37 again.

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

Said child’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 that odious child 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?”