Do Some Damage is running a writing challenge for Christmas Noir Flash Fiction. The following is my entry. Check out others at http://dosomedamage.blogspot.com (on my blog list)
Room at the Inn
Red on white glowed, holiday festive, in the halogen alley light. Blood on ice behind the mission. A big splash near the back door and a wide trail to the dumpster. My second thought is call the cops. I act on my first thought instead- check it out myself.
It’s not like I hate the cops but they don’t do their best work in this part of town. Even the few who mean well never get the truth out of anyone they question. All of us here have something to hide.
I get to the dumpster, being careful to stay on the hard flat parts where I won’t leave much of a footprint. I pull out a stray plastic bag and use it to lift the lid. Yeah, I gave my gloves away yesterday. What can I say, a sucker’s born every minute and in one of those minutes my mama had me.
Sure enough, the body’s there, lying on the fixings of Christmas dinner like a big turkey. Carved like one too. Blood indistinguishable from cranberry sauce. Even with the cuts on his face, I recognize him. He’s unmistakable. Ricky Cagney, wannabe big time hustler, real life small time creep.
Without thinking I can name off half a dozen folks who’d want him dead. When I’m through with that six I come up with a dozen more. There are at least four ex-girlfriends who’d love a little payback for injuries inflicted. The numerous drug dealers he stiffed or robbed would like a piece of him. And who knows how many snitched-on co-conspirators would happily take him down. Even his own sister would probably smile as her knife sliced through his flesh.
I fumble to unzip his coat, plastic bag still in use. The wallet’s there in the breast pocket. Not a robbery, but better if it looks like one. I slip it in my own pocket and roll the body, looking underneath for the knife. Damn, he, she or they were sloppy. The bloody weapon lies half imbedded in the remnants of the green bean casserole. I find another plastic bag, drop the knife in it and pocket it with the wallet.
Seeking anything incriminating, I sort through the rest of the holiday dinner refuse. Only a comb and nail clipper seem out of place in the stuffing and gravy. They join the other items in the bag in my pocket. I roll Ricky on his back, like I found him, satisfied that I made it harder for the cops to find their culprit.
The blood swirls down the sink. I feel a bit like Lady Macbeth washing again and again to get rid of it all. I dab at my sleeves with a wet paper towel. This coat is doomed to hit the trash along with the bag in my pocket. Luckily I have a few bucks to get a new one at Goodwill. I smile my thanks to the lady manning the desk at the warming center and get rid of her by claiming an overflowing toilet. A quick punch of 911 and I’m on the line giving directions to a cold dead body.
The sirens should be announcing the arrival of the cops, but as every quiet second goes by I get more anxious thinking I’ve missed something important. “Frosty the Snowman” plays on the radio. Colored lights twinkle in the building across the street. I have to check. It’ll take just a moment.
My stomach turns as I pull up the dumpster’s lid. Knowing what’s there sickens me now as it didn’t before. I glance at the body as I turn it. Ricky’s mouth pops open like he’s smiling at me, a big toothy grin. I push around the Christmas detritus, nearly snagging a needle I hadn’t spotted before.
“Hands up! Turn around slow. Real slow.”
“It’s not me. I called the cops after I found the body.” I lift my hands and turn, because that’s better than getting shot.
“They all say that.” The man in blue nods back the second cop behind him. “Look in the dumpster. I’ll keep an eye on this one.”
I notice the plastic bag I used to open the lid earlier laying on the ice inches from the first cop’s foot. I had missed something.
“Boy, this is sick.” Cop number two is gagging near the dumpster. “Damn, if it isn’t Ricky One-ear. Somebody finally done him in.”
I gulp down my own vomit as I think of the things stuffed in my pocket, the blood on my sleeves.
“You did the world a service, bud.” Cop one pulls the cuffs off his belt as a distant choir sings “Blue Christmas.” “But you guys never learn. You always return to the scene of the crime.”
I started a second blog to represent more of my interests, but I'm not keeping up with either! Therefore in true feline style I will do one blog and post about whatever whenever according to my whims. Today it's a sunset at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Next time who knows!
I have one more day of community service to complete and this place will see my ass for the last time. Not that missions are a bad thing when you need them. But when the urine scent from the curb outside seeps in and mixes with the smell of boiling cabbage…need I say more?
I’m sweeping up before the lunch crowd stampedes in. They’re impatiently mooing and pawing at the pavement, eager to graze on today’s pile of tasteless starch and mushy veggie.
One of the guys in front, pressing his nose into the glass door, has an old boom box balanced on his shoulder. As the lunch commander flips the latch, turns the knob, and opens the pasture gate, I hear the classic Eurythmics song, “…everybody is looking for something…”
The herd breaks up, dispersing to their favorite tables. Beneath the screeching of metal chair legs on worn linoleum, a steady rhythm taps. When the dust clears, a woman pauses in the middle of the floor, her cane still clicking out her discontinued steps. Her gaze darts back and forth about the room, searching for something.
She is old. The carrot red of her hair stops a good two inches from her scalp, exposing the real steel gray. A wrinkled, faded, formerly electric blue dress hangs on her skinny body. Bony wrinkled arms protrude from the narrow straps. Gold house shoes peek out from under the hem. Somebody probably wore that dress to their disco prom thirty years ago and I’ll bet the old lady liberated it from the bins at the Goodwill.
Her wandering gaze finally falls on me and she smiles with the biggest, straightest, yellowest set of false teeth I’ve ever seen. Cane thumping, she strolls up to me. I’m paralyzed, gripping my boom handle so hard my knuckles hurt.
She nods at me. “You’re my date.”
You know how you see people in movies who are so dumbstruck that when they open their mouths to speak no sound comes out? Well, that was me.
“A little under-dressed for the prom, aren’t you?” Her voice is kinda low and throaty. Her teeth click like her cane.
“Ah.” That’s all I get out.
“Hold your head up.” She looks me up and down. “You’re a little on the scrawny side, but you have pretty eyes. You’ll do.”
“Nice dress.” Did I say that? I must have because she smiles, dreamily, into my pretty eyes.
“Thank you. I got it special for the dance.” She tries a twirl, but her cane twists in the long dress.
I catch her before she falls and steady her back on her feet. “Okay?”
“You do a graceful dip. That last song will be better to dance to.” She winks at the boom box guy and he restarts “Sweet Dreams.”
Somebody hands me a ragged sport coat. I slip it on grateful for no smell, hoping for no bugs.
I don’t know why I do it, but I take her gnarled fingers in my right hand, slide my left arm about what I guess is her waist, and pray I remember how.
Annie Lennox sings “…who am I to disagree…” And we dance.
Copyright 2010 R. L. Kelstrom
To see other stories in the Sweet Dreams challenge go to http://pattinase.blogspot.com Check out my critique partner's stories: Evan Lewis and Kassandra Kelly