Although summoning the right words for my blog introduction is an often tedious task, wayward lines or rhymes frequently pop into my brain. For writers, one or two bits of dialogue or narrative floating in our minds can open doors to stories or poems that otherwise wouldn’t exist. For me, a line or rhyme out of nowhere is what inspired ideas for most of my poems and short stories, plus my first completed novel. This week’s post also falls into that realm––a short story titled, What About Today?
Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.
What About Today?
He leaned toward me, his crooked nose stopping inches from mine. The unnatural twist and scars indicated this guy’s schnoz had been the target for a fist more than once. Garlic and halitosis tainted the man’s breath as he said, “So, I ask again. What about today? Did you get it done?”
Strapped into a chair, I leaned back as far as I could. “Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year––like I told you, man, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
He reached back then slapped my face with his burly hand. “That jar your memory?”
I blinked and manipulated my jaw then straightened my head. At least the motor-function portion of my brain hadn’t been knocked out my ear and onto the floor. Unsure what gray matter remained intact, I slowly inhaled, held the air for a few seconds then let it go.
“Well?” he said.
“I think you belted it into oblivion.”
“Vivian? Don’t be talkin’ about my woman that way.”
“O-bliv-ion––as in to infinity and beyond.”
He reached back with his other hand. Apparently the big oaf wasn’t a Toy Story fan.
I flinched. “Hold on, pal. Look, I don’t know you or your woman. And I damned sure don’t know why you’ve got me in this musty cellar, bound to a chair. If I did, you can bet your sweet ass I’d be telling you.”
Though he’d hesitated, the guy followed through from the opposite side and knocked me over––chair and all. Guess he didn’t care for my ‘sweet ass’ comment either.
As if the bruiser had turned out my lights, I lay still, eyes closed, and steady but shallow breaths. I tried to picture the moment he’d coerced me through the side door of a van. Where was I? What did he say? Who else was in the vehicle? What did they say to one another?
The big oaf’ called the driver Vivian––his woman…and co-conspirator. But conspirators in what? Why me? What did I have that they wanted?
Lying on the dank floor like a possum, I focused on the scene. I had just left work when I was taken hostage. My mind switched to replaying the dialogue.
Mine was simple. “What the f––?”
So was Vivian’s. “Right,” as she acknowledged the command to drive.
Burly man was the talker-in-charge as he’d grasped my arm. “I’ve got a gun pointed at your gut. Shut up and get in the van.”
Once inside he’d said to Vivian, “Get us and our ticket to the good life over to the house.”
Ticket to the good life over to the house. The house had to be where I was now. But how was I anybody’s ticket to the good life? Then I remembered Burly asking me, “What about today? Did you get it done?” After his second inquiry, followed by my inadequate replies, he stabbed me with a syringe. The world went black. I awoke in the cellar, strapped to a chair.
Still portraying the comatose victim, I listened for movement. Burly huffed a few times then kicked my knee and waited. When I failed to respond, he spit my direction then clomped up the stairs. Once the door slammed, I sighed––no, more like whimpered. From the ache in my knee, the big bastard’s boots had to have steel toes.
Breathing deeply and slowly, I considered what might have convinced Burly and Vivian that I was their path to the high life? I was just one of three IT techs at…the bank. “Shit,” I whispered. “I thought Henderson was acting weird.”
Each tech at First Union Bank had access to a system that dealt with money transfers every day, transfers that, from the right accounts, could amount to millions. My coworker had seemed edgy lately––always looking about the office like a kid with both hands stuffed in the cookie jar. I’d asked him about it, but he’d insisted things were okay––just a few problems at home that he was taking care of. Now I knew how. Henderson and I were about the same height and build. Same color hair. Our boss often got us confused. “Dammit.”
Burly and his woman talked above me, their exchange muted by the hardwood floor. In the dim light, I scanned my surroundings. A reflection from across the space caught my eye. If I moved, Burly and Vivian might hear me. If I did nothing, I’d probably die.
Conversation from above mellowed then ceased. Contented moans replaced the chatter followed by the unmistakable rhythm of passion. I rolled to my knees, winced then managed to stand. Shuffling in time to the lovemaking, I reached the beacon that would assist my escape––a broken mirror. Coordinating rhythms once more, I sliced the strap bonding my right arm to the chair then released my left. At last, I was free. Unfortunately, the only way out was up the stairs. I closed my eyes and formed a plan, one that required patience.
Minutes passed like hours. Burly must have been taking testosterone supplements. Finally, the cellar door opened and his heavy feet clomped down the treads. Standing beneath the stairs, I waited then reached through the riser space with both hands, grabbed the big man’s boot, and pulled. He gasped then tumbled and thumped to the landing. His wasn’t so graceful. His head cracked against the stone foundation. After a monumental groan, he lay limp as a dishrag.
Footsteps scurried across the floor above. Burly’s semi-auto handgun lay beside him. I snatched it from the sweaty concrete and spun toward the doorway.
With the weapon aimed at Burly’s woman, I said, “So, Vivian. What about today?”