Wednesday January 27th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: neighbours.

I nailed the back of my left arm, just above the elbow, on the sharp corner of the new fridge's door handle this afternoon. I'm hoping I'll still be able to fully extend my arm when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Especially with having to work at Town Hall, covering for the receptionist, from 8:30 to 1:30.

I still have no idea why I'm suddenly getting all these calls after seven months of nothing. Tis the season to be sick, maybe?


Nicholas was sitting in his favorite chair, a plush recliner with enough beer stains to leave its original colour in some doubt, when the doorbell first rang. He hadn't had a chance to move before it rang four more times.

"Hold on! Hold on!" he shouted, fumbling for the lever that would allow his feet to touch the carpeted floor. "I'm coming!"

Despite his pleas - or, perhaps, because of them - the bell rang nearly a dozen more times before he reached the front door. By that point Nicholas was about ready to knock somebody's block off. Preferably whoever it was that was standing on his porch.

"What the... oh." Nicholas cleared his throat, forcing his voice back down to a more conversational level. "Hello, Henry."

"That's Henri, Nickyboy." A cloud of cigarette smoke obscured the neighbours from each other's view before Nicholas waved it furiously away. "You know that. I've told you at least twenty times now. Don't make me tell you again."

"Or what?" Nicholas regretted the challenge the moment after it had escaped his lips.

"Or I'll have your dog shaved bald and my name tattooed on its sides," Henri said, tilting his head to the side and allowing a bored expression to settle on his face.

"That... that won't be necessary..."

"And if that doesn't work," Henri continued after exhaling another cloud of smoke in his neighbour's face, "I'll have your son's name legally changed to mine."

"You can't do that!" Nicholas shouted, his returning anger pushing caution aside. "I'll call the police!"

"Nickyboy," Henri said with a smile that would frighten the Grinch, "you do not want to test me on this."

The two men stared at each other for a long time then. Nicholas was red in the face and breathing hard. Henri was the picture of calm and patience - a terrifying omen to anyone that knew him in the slightest.

"Whatever, Henri," Nicholas said at last. "What did you come over for anyway?"

"Oh, right," Henri said, perking up noticeably. "I was wondering if I could bother you for some sugar?"


Kyle said...

Post 1

"Hey Derek, dude?" Todd claps me limply on the shoulder as he slurs this out. He's blitzed, and I'm not far from it. Happy Hour at Delaney's Pub usually goes like this.

"Yah?" I stifle a bubbly, awful-tasting belch, that doesn't smell too much better.

A slurry of words falls out of his mouth, almost inaudible over Steve Perry bleating about some kind of "Wheel in the Sky" on the radio. I never did get that song; Journey's overrated anyway. I tune it out, and with my fluency in Drunkenese, can pick out what he's saying. Booze sharpens the mind, you know!

"Geddus anothr'n'em pitchers. I goddago take a leak." He shuffles up from the booth and toward the mens' room with an awkward grace only possessed by one who is used to being thusly unstable. With my own vision swimming a little, he almost looks like a Jenga tower in the delicate end-game stages of near-collapse. I laugh at this, a little louder than I intend, and I get a couple of slightly annoyed looks from around the bar. That cute blonde chick at the corner of the bar looks over at me - or somewhere in my vicinity, but I really hope it's at me. Her number would fit really well into my phone's address book.

I can feel the grin of the cocky prick spread over my face, but I don't care. The liquor has made me happy, as it often does if I stop before it makes me sick. I have a feeling Todd is on his way to sick on a bullet-train (or maybe the Night Train Express), but I'm warm and comfortable in my booth. I'll check on him in a few. Gotta see if that honey at the bar is still looking my way.

The little bell-thing above the front door jangles as Journey fades out. Over the speakers comes Sting and the Police, stuck on that damn island again. At the same time, in walks a fat, wild-haired dude in a sweat-stained polo shirt, the exact color of the vomit I'm gonna have later. He glares around, looking for someone. Is that . . . ?

Aw fuck, it's Charles. He's my neighbor in my duplex, and also, kinda-sorta my landlord. And I may or may not be two weeks behind on the rent.

I try to melt into the booth, but too late. His eyes narrow on me and he strides over, full of purpose and piss.

"How did I know I'd find you here, Derek?" He's mad, real mad, but I'll give him a little credit. He sits down in the booth across from me and lowers his voice, instead of yelling to the entire bar about what a freeloader I am. His tone is hard, but he's civil. Or I'm sloshed and making him out to be less of an asshole than he's being. Who knows?

Kyle said...

Post 2

"Derek, you're two weeks late. You tell me it's because you and Shannon split, and she fucked your bank account. I get that, man. Been divorced twice. But then I go and find you here, getting shitty?" He slaps the table with his palm hard enough to jostle the people around us. "Priorities, man!"

I try to un-melt a little, to seem more sober and proper, to make him see that I'm not two beers away from forgetting where I live, much less worrying about it.

"Ch-charles. I know -- I know whasshur shaying, man. I -- " I clear my throat, trying to make some of the cotton in my mouth go away. "I get choo, an' I'm shorry, man. You're good to me, an' I won' forgeddit."

Charles looks a little appeased, but he's still the hound to my fox. "That doesn't pay what you owe, son. When can I see it?" He lets out a heavy sigh, looking weary. "Don't make me get Sam Dermot involved, kid. That'd just be a headache for both of us." Sam Dermot, "esquire," is Charles' attourney.

"Lissen, Charles." I lean forward and steeple my hands, trying to look sage instead of dizzy. "Todd's with me. He's payin'. I-I-I got more work in two days. I'll have it then, yeah!" I grin broadly, pleased at such an easy solution.

Charles' lips press together, and he sits there for a moment, thinking. He nods and slaps his palm on the table again, less hard this time. Which is good - a meathook like his could snap the table if he had a mind.

"Alright, Derek. I'm gonna trust you. This time." His eyes narrow a little again as he says this. "Do you have a way home?"

"Todd's -- " I belch. "Todd's girlfriend's gonna come pigusup. Don' worry Dad." I laugh at my own wit, and he rolls his eyes as he stands up from the booth.

"Alright, Derek. You've got my number if you need a way home." Without another word, he's out of the bar and into the night.

Were I more sober, I'd think he's one hell of a guy. Right now, though, I just find it hilarious that his pants are so far up his ass.

morganna said...

We don't always agree,
but we always know
we can help each other out in a pinch.

Greg said...

Ouch, I hope your arm is alright! Sorry this is brief today; it's been a very long day and I'm tired. I really appreciate seeing Henri in action again though and thoroughly enjoyed your tale; all the little important details are there, and I'm sure that whatever Henri wants, it isn't really sugar!

No more sensation; like a mildewed shroud
Enrobing, enfolding and engulfing
Immunising against life, the
Grasp of our neighbours fingers numbs us all.
Heart pump, but clotted
Blood rots in veins that split and tear.
Our is the past, not the future.
Undo the winding cloth, unwrap these mummified
Remains and join our hands with our neighbours's.
Salvation has passed us by.

Marc said...

Kyle - some great details and characterization in this one. The dialogue is spot on as well. Nicely done!

Morganna - short but sums up good neighbours just about perfectly :)

Greg - I thought you might like an appearance from Henri :)

No need to apologize for brevity when the result is this good! Lovely word choices and imagery carry the reader through to the end. A grim but excellent bit of poetry.