Tales of the Storage Space, Part 131

The Storage Space was no longer appalled, simply or otherwise.  It no longer cared.

Its newest customer, the blond boy, pummeled a wall that rattled and clattered as he uttered a string of the crudest obscenities…apparently directed toward something he called “vanilla Minecraft.”

Amelia called out, “Tommy!  Please!  There’s enough clatter here already from the renovations!”

The Storage Space couldn’t possibly imagine the craft of mining vanilla, since vanilla couldn’t be mined.  Amelia had stopped singing its favorite aria.  The supposed “renovations” were only a lie by that oddly dressed Pat so he…or “they” as Tommy would call this strange Pat person…could crowbar his way to all the Storage Space’s hidden treasures under Amelia’s nose.

But the Storage Space didn’t care.

Slithering announced yet another visit from the ghost of Irwin, Le Grand Rat.

The Storage Space didn’t care.

Le Grand Rat whispered amid slithers of his hatred for Karen who’d had the effrontery to kill him in self-defense.

Karen…  Did not deserve to be thought of ever again.  Karen had betrayed the Storage Space.

Elsewhere something akin to sepulchral silence reigned as that other young boy, Fifi’s clandestine lover, crept around on his rainbow shoes, using the keys he’s stolen from reception long ago to stuff all his empty suitcases with treasures from other people’s storage units.  Amelia of the beautiful voice…and Karen when she returned…would get in trouble.

The Storage Space didn’t care.

Then that even more oddly dressed Pat, crowbarring treasures hidden since the 19th century out from behind the metal walls, freed a pocket of air subtly scented with starched linens, oiled leather, fine cigars, and exquisite perfumes that were no longer available.

Amelia aahed, stroking some freshly exposed wooden paneling.

Pat told even more lies about restoring the old theatre and pocketed a sterling silver snuff box when she wasn’t looking.

If the restoration hadn’t been a lie…if the grand old theatre was really, truly, going to be returned to its former dignity, its former glory…the Storage Space still wouldn’t care.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 130

Marie couldn’t douche long enough, hard enough.  That emergency worker had been disgusting.  She deserved an Oscar for acting that shouldn’t even have been necessary.  Instead of handcuffing Karen to her hospital bed for stabbing the prick, they should have awarded her the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Finally Marie stopped douching, leaned back in her tub, rested her head against the wall, and closed her eyes.

Karen…  Free…  Fabuloso!

But it had cost Marie everything…even her own face, altered beyond recognition by witness protection’s plastic surgeon after she neutralized the mob connections to Karen’s boyfriend Frank.

Marie let her eyes flutter open in the steamy room, then squeezed them shut again, imagining she could still feel the pain from the plastic surgeon’s stitches.  Her favorite playlist, from the phone she’d plugged into a speaker by the door, would end soon.  Good thing she’d set the volume low…

And, speaking of low, all Karen would ever remember was Marie’s resorting to the same tactic as she did with the emergency worker to get all the information she needed from Frank.  Karen would never know it had been the only way Marie could protect Karen.

Marie thought she heard something in the hall, then laughed at herself…naked in a bathtub.  What was this?  Psycho?

Had it been the only way, sleeping with Frank?  That sudden thought hurt worse than Alan Bates stabbing Janet Leigh with the knife.  All the others, even those in the mob, she’d slept with, and finally that emergency worker…

What was this, the 19th century, not the 21st?  Wasn’t there some other way she could have done it all, accomplished it all, other than sleeping with…at least…Frank?

Her gut knotted.  Her eyes flickered open again.  The douche she’d left on its side drizzled its last remaining liquid over the tub like a garden sprinkler someone had knocked over.

Douching wouldn’t help with this.  Her gut re-knotted as the next stab of emotional pain came:  Had she hidden all her own flaws…including liking to credit herself with everything, an odd self-absorption, and false pride…beneath the supposedly pure altruism of helping her friend?

The shower curtain was yanked aside.  Some guy she thought she recognized…some cop from the hospital, though he wasn’t in uniform now…clamped a hand over her mouth.  Some other guy with him turned the volume up on her least favorite playlist.  She couldn’t catch all they were whispering, but she knew it had to do with making it look like an accident. 

Shit. False pride indeed.  She’d thought she could escape the mob.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 129

Karen couldn’t have cared less about anything.  Except it was fun to torment roommate Lydia with…or, Karen smirked, should she say without…the amputated leg.

Soft shadows from the sunlight passing through the leaves outside danced across the floor.

Karen couldn’t have cared less.

The plaintive, heartbreaking cry of a child could be heard in the hall.

“Stupid brat!”

Lydia stopped weeping for long enough to ask, “Who are you calling a stupid brat?”

Karen smirked again.  “Not you, gimp!  At least not this time…”

Some cop came in with a look of absolute disdain for the donut he was eating.  “Anyone know where I can get a jelly donut?”  Then he gave Karen a sharp look, mumbling something about “the crazy blonde,” before he approached with a pasted-on smile.  “Good afternoon, young lady, Officer Grover Sanders here, at your service with some very good news for you today.”

Karen eyed him suspiciously.  Despite the smile, something in his eyes and body language suggested he was there to get something from her rather than give her anything.  But she went along while he made his way through some preliminaries like confirming her name and a home address she’d all but forgotten at this point.

“So,” continued Officer Grover Moore, “it seems the individual you allegedly assaulted with a scalpel has…suddenly and miraculously, one might add…decided to drop the charges.”

What?  Why?

“You look puzzled.  You…”  He trailed off.  Karen shivered.  Something in the stillness of the air reminded her of a lion about to pounce on its prey.  “You don’t happen to have a friend named Marie?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 128

Tommy had to respawn a skin because he got distracted by a bitch like that?  He’d thought she was cute for a sec, like that puppy in the elevator, but…no.

“I…I…like I need to borrow your tablet.”

Enough of this vanilla Minecraft shit; he was going back to mods.

“Like…  Please?”

He was too busy installing a mod.  That’s why the door opening behind him didn’t register until it was too late.

“Tommy!”

That fucking nurse.  Tommy spun around.

“How long have you been playing with that tablet instead of doing your work?”

Real Life.  The same RL where his mother had laughed as she drowned his puppy.  Tommy’s gut tightened.  He could feel the sneer deepen on his face, even though he figured he was about to lose his job.

But then the pregs spoke up!  “Like, it’s not his fault!  He was just turning his tablet off after I, like, kept him from cleaning up after The Gray…after the woman who was my roommate…because I kept asking him for…like, all kinds of effin’ stuff.”

The nurse looked suspicious.  She made a point of looking around the empty room.  “Like, what kinds of effin’ stuff?”

Pregs had it down.  “Like, none of your business.”

The nurse opened her mouth, then shut it.

Tommy mentally crossed his fingers.

The nurse nailed him with her ruthless RL eyes and slammed her hands around her scrawny little hips.  “Well…’like’…you just better have all your work done by the end of your shift or else.”  She spun, left, and tried to slam a door that wouldn’t really slam.

Tommy almost laughed.  “Hey, Pregs, why’d ya’ do it?”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Okay!”  He guessed he owed her that much.  “But why?”

“I…I…like really need to borrow your tablet.”

“For what?”  He was beginning to think she looked kinda’ cute again. 

“Snapchat.”

Hell, he would fuck with Pregs on Snapchat.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 127

Imogene was like watching that blond boy she hated on sight play Minecraft on his tablet rather than clean up after The Gray Monster.  Just because she hated him, she used The Gray Monster’s words to tell him in what she hoped was a sickening singsong, “Denial of what’s real, no matter how ugly, is your biggest enemy!”

“Yo, Pregs, shut the fuck up.”

“I am not pregs!”

The Blond Monster actually looked away from Minecraft long enough to look at her, stunned, before laughing so hard he could hardly singsong back to her, “Denial of what’s real, no matter how ugly, is your biggest enemy!”

It was Imogene’s turn to be stunned.  Like, why was he effin’ telling her that?  She wasn’t playing Minecraft instead of changing a bed that was, like, cray cray gross and really needed to be changed.  Hopelessly puzzled, she could feel her expression change to what her father had always, like, actually thought was cute and called her puppy face.

At that The Blond Monster’s face changed too.  He wasn’t sneering anymore.  Even though she could see and hear that his latest skin on Minecraft had just died, he was still watching her.  “Do…do you like Minecraft?”

Not one, but two drops from the ceiling hit the side of her face, making her suddenly furious.  “What are you, some kind of noob?  Minecraft is so so so def not woke!”

The sneer, and a short snort of laughter were back.  “If Minecraft’s not woke, what the fuck are you?  Woke?”  He turned his back on her and went back to Minecraft.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 126

The Storage Space was appalled, simply appalled, watching poor Amelia do all the work now that its beloved Karen was gone.  Why even Sweater Woman, the supposed “cop” who seemed to have appointed herself Karen’s guardian angel, was currently absent.

Still…Amelia sang so sweetly while she worked.  Having spent the day with Bellini, she had finally arrived at his most enchanting aria, “Casta Diva” from Norma.  Even the tinny acoustics from all its corrugated metal walls resonated, a dreamy and thankfully subtle echoing as if she’d been singing in a canyon.

Until the subtle echoing of Amelia’s sweet voice suddenly turned into a perfectly dreadful clanging.  Why it was that oddly dressed Pat.  He’d just ripped a wall open with a crowbar!  Oh no!  Oh no, no, no!  Not that wall!  How had he known, who could have told him, that was the exact location of the old theatre’s most valuable possessions?

Karen…  The only person in all these long, lonely years who had ever heard the poor, long-suffering Storage Space share its secrets.  She had…she must have…betrayed it.

Amelia…racing toward the source of that horrid, horrid noise…had stopped singing.  It wouldn’t have mattered.  Even her magnificent voice couldn’t have reached the Storage Space now.

People.  Each and every one of them.  Even Amelia.  Even the dead ones like Edward and most particularly that rodent Irwin.  Even Bellini.  Even Puccini.  Even Karen…  Even…her

Nothing but a most hideous infestation that should have been exterminated immediately.  None of them, not a one, should ever have been allowed to draw a single one of their breaths.

It felt a vast, unimaginable cold creep steadily over everything it had once held dear.  Why revere the grand old theatre it used to be?  It had only been yet another vehicle for the use of…people.

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.