Two men stood outside Walker’s open front door and he debated closing it back in their faces. Thinking Nilah had come to her senses and did in fact want to put that pretty mouth to work like Walker suggested, he answered the door with a grin and an almost empty bottle of vodka in front of his testicles. It was not Nilah, of course it wasn’t, but there was little to do now that he’d answered the door balls to the wind, a gamble in itself. The tall man, stoic with a constellation of dark moles on his face, held a rainbow-striped umbrella that would have been appropriate for a child to use. If he closed the door slowly enough, Walker thought, inch by inch until only his right eye was visible for a moment, then nothing at all, maybe the men would reconsider whether he was worth the hassle. But the second man, short and flat nosed, kept a boot dripping with water just inside the front entryway, a drenched cigarette in between his thumb and forefinger.
“It’s raining cats and dogs out here, Walker. Rude not to invite us in.” The short one said.
It was well past midnight, the only people who knocked on doors at this hour were crooks and hookers. Walker swayed with waves of drunkenness and poked his head into the long hallway where the two men stood. The carpeted hall was empty save for a smell of bleach and moist that was so powerful, forcing itself into every nook and cranny, it could have taken form of it’s own. Generators in the basement fueled the amber lights that flickered overhead, the faint chainsaw racket carried to Walker’s seventh floor apartment, itself illuminated by dozens of candles.
“I’ve got a girl in here,” Walker feigned a sleepy temper, looked at his empty wrist just out of view of the two men, “and it’s way past curfew hours.”
The short one gripped Walker’s shoulder, “There ain’t no girl in there, Walker, and ain’t never gonna be.”
They pushed past the door and the small man splayed out on the olive green sofa bed like a starfish on a psychiatrist’s chair, pulled a fresh cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it, rolled his eyes in pleasure as he exhaled. The only art on the walls was a framed, life sized photo of the Collective that covered an entire wall so that the only window was closed in. The seven faces of the Collective members varied in degree of suspicion and followed anyone who walked in the apartment with intensity. They wore elaborate robes, a different color to represent each branch of the dictatorship. A half empty bowl of grapes sat on a chipped glass coffee table in the middle of the room. The sofa acted as a makeshift bed, filling most of Walker’s apartment where the living room, kitchenette, and bedroom were one and the same, except for where someone had made an attempt to add division, running old carpet into a 2×4 slot of linoleum in the kitchenette. The short one took another hit of his cigarette,
“Would you put some clothes on?”
“Last time I checked it wasn’t illegal for a man to be naked in his own home.” Walker walked to the back of the apartment and disappeared into a tall cabinet. He came out wearing a small red t-shirt and no bottoms, and sat in a sunken armchair opposite the sofa.
“It’s seldom I have guests so I hope this will do.”
The big one’s face was pinched so his eyes, nose, and mouth clustered in the center of it. He stayed mute and stood by the door with his hands clasped in front of him, still holding the damp umbrella in his hands as if it was the one job he was expected to do right. Walker wondered whether he was one of those invalids the state hired out for menial jobs. A soldier returned home far too mad to fit back into society, so had to resort to holding umbrellas over the heads of midget gangsters. He closed the front door but did not move from it.
“Let’s not waste each other’s time. I’ve been told you’ve been saying some things you shouldn’t be.” The short man said.
“Who, me? You know I know better than that.”
“But you’ve proven me wrong time and again.” Still reclined, he popped a sour grape in his mouth and rolled it in his cheeks. They sagged like old bulldog cheeks. The generator clicked off then on again. “Do you think I like my job?”
Walker flung his right ankle over the armchair and the two men stared, willing the other to back down first until finally, the short man averted his eyes.
“You tell me.” Walker smirked.
“I don’t, it’s frustrating. Day in day out, I deal with people who think they’re above the law, then they lie right to my face when we both know it doesn’t help none. And it ain’t right, Walker.” He tapped ash on the table and went on, “you tell me, what gives you the right to have me dragged me out here at midnight in the pouring rain, just to lie to me; do you think you’re above the law? Or are you just a inconsiderate, lying turd?”
It had been a stupid mistake which, like most mistakes, started with a date at the local bar and ended in criminal activity. Walker was a proud, loud alcoholic. One tumbler of gin after another, he poured his grievances to Nilah, a young secretary he’d convinced going for a drink together would be a good idea. That evening Nilah bowed over her drink while Walker stood like a street preaching Evangelist, his speech punctuated with burps, and proclaimed he would no longer accept the constant observation of the Collective because, no matter what they managed to convince other people of, he would continue to think the Collective was nothing more than a “collective nuisance”. Nilah said nothing but looked anxious. Downing the rest of her drink she asked a haggard bar woman holding a bored looking baby on her hip for another one.
Now Walker found himself sitting across from two of the Collective’s gangsters, struggling to keep his words straight.
“Liar is a strong word.” Walker said.
“What’s a better word for someone who’s been caught lying through their teeth?”
“Unfortunate, I’d say.”
“I’m doing you a huge favor. I would’ve come here solo if I’d been given a choice. But don’t make me have Big Herbert sort you out.”
“You mean he’s not here just to keep your pretty little head dry?”
It had been a few hours since Nilah abandoned Walker and he’d dragged himself home alone. Still happily in the middle of a drunken tip he had no plans of getting sober any time soon, although first seeing the two men at the door had straightened his vision slightly.
“Did you call the Collective a ‘collective nuisance’ or not?”
“I did, but only because I was trying to impress a girl.”
The short man motioned to Big Herbert who muddled over, his trunk-like body dripping water on the carpet.
“That big one’s dripping wet!” Walker jumped off his seat, “carpet cleaners aren’t cheap, you know.”
“Walker, you messed up big time tonight. We’ve made people disappear for much less than that. What do you think we’re going to do to you?” The short man said.
Like a puppet coming to life with a hand in it’s back, Big Herbert removed his coat, boots, and socks, and placed them neatly on the laminate passthrough of the kitchenette. It was then that Walker saw how big Big Herbert was, six foot five and at least 300 pounds, his foam textured hair scraped the comically low ceiling. Crouching down to undo the buttons of his mud colored khaki’s he pulled out an ill proportioned penis, aimed at the coffee table and urinated over all its contents, turning the bowl of grapes into a stomach turning soup.
Big Herbert swayed left and right, peeing dehydrated amber on the glass until it spilled onto the carpet underneath.
“He can keep going on like that for ages, it’s amazing.” The short one watched from the sofa bed, kicking his legs like a blissful toddler.
“Make him stop!”
“He’ll stop when I’m good and ready.” He pointed the lit end of the cigarette at Walker, “I’m warning you now. You know you can’t go round saying and doing whatever it is you want. If we have to come back here, I’ll have him smash your skull without a second thought.” Big Herbert trickled his way to the front door dripping all over his own feet, and pissed on the Welcome rug. “We clear on that?”
Walker watched Big Herbert wizz merrily in a cracked flowerpot that started to overflow.
“Clear as crystal.”
“Good. I’d hate to see you get your brain tossed because you couldn’t learn how to shut up.” The short one threw a white envelope on the soaked coffee table, the edges absorbing yellow. “Report to the bureau tomorrow at 0800 hours. Don’t bring nothing but this letter.”
“Or else Big Herbert’ll take a shit in my bed?”
Finally, Big Herbert shook the last dregs on the plant, buttoned his khakis and dressed himself by the front door as if nothing had happened.
“Or else.” The words came slow and overpronouced. Big Herbert’s eyes met Walker’s for the first time. They were dark, glossy pinpoints that cooled blood. Holding his pointer and middle finger to his temple with the thumb extended, Big Herbert curled his lips into his mouth then let out a POW as his thumb bent like a trigger.
Walker locked the door knowing it would be little help against the men if they chose to come back. The envelope lay on the table growing more yellowed. Pinching a corner of the paper he peeped through to read what was already visible, Subject: Walker Damsen, Crime: Public Defiance, Sentence: At the discretion of the Collective.
I hope you enjoyed this short, ”upcycled” and edited from last semester’s creative writing class but could still use some fleshing out, I think. This scene was inspired by a scene from Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (which I highly recommend), and an assignment where something unexpected happens. As usual, comments and feedback are highly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
7 thoughts on “Walker Learns the Cost of an Emergency Carpet Cleaning: A Short Story”
Oh no, he didn’t! I was expecting them to beat him up or something! Your imagination is wild and I envy it. Good story. Your characters came on as weakly and as strongly as you wanted. Keep writing.
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Haha thank you! I got inspired by a Haruki Murakami book and my teacher telling me to write a scene where something unexpected happens. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
It was unexpected alright!
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You definitely nailed the unexpected part. Really enjoyed it. It had me hooked. One thing I did miss from it was the relationship between Walker and the short gangster. It almost seemed to me that there was some sort of history there, or at least that Walter is well known by the Collective’s gangsters for some reason. I would have liked to know why.
This reads like the opening to something larger. I’d love to read more.
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You’re right, they do know each other from before! Originally, there was more explanation of Walker and the short man’s history, I took it out, but have wondered whether the story would be better with that extra detail or not. Thank you for your following, your feedback, and I’m really glad you enjoyed the story! 🙂
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Sharp story, sharp dialogue and amusing as well as filled with tension.
I can see the hardboiled influence, and I think you wrote a great story, lots of well timed humour and the descriptions and pacing were spot on.
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Thanks for the feedback, you’re too kind! 🙂 I’m trying to work on more dialogue in my scenes so I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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