A work of original fiction.
A couple of long weeks ago I was fired. I worked as a secretary for a lawyer at one of the law offices in Kenning, OH. The office was small and had a brown sign that stuck out over the entrance to the parking lot. It was stupid, really, the way I was fired. I’d been working at the office for eight months and two weeks and the only complaint I ever heard about my work was that I didn’t greet everything with the same amount of enthusiasm. They called it “enthusiasm.” Never anything serious until a woman named Heather with velvet lips and a tape recorder hidden under her coat came in to document her complaint. I found out later that she was like one of those secret shoppers but for law office secretaries. You know, to make sure we do our jobs right. Well she found my smile to be less than amicable and I was let go shortly after for a daughter of someone in the building. I took the opportunity to find a new job as a way to change scenery. Nothing was working out. I only told my girlfriend I was leaving. Her name was Joy. “What a shame,” she said. “You’ve got nice teeth.”
Within all of the hours of the day I am in front of my grandfather Ed’s condo in Naples, Florida. I am down here because he told me once I graduated from college that if I ever needed someplace besides my hometown to start my life in I could stay with him and right now seems like as good a time as any for something like that. The front door is open and the light is off.
It’s quiet. I can hear my own breathing and I have the time to check my pulse, but everything else has me prepare for the worst in my head. I imagine Ed toppled over upstairs, a gunshot wound to his head; pealed open like a zombie took a bite out of it. I imagine he struggled, but I also imagine it a completely different way; with Ed quietly asleep in his bed although his chest is still. None of my dreams come true, if you want to call them that.
At the glass patio door next to the kitchen I see Zoey, the dog, who is at least ten years old and the short hair running over her body is checkered with white and gray wavy plots of hair outside under the only tree in the twelve by twenty five foot backyard. Not like her hair’s falling out, but like certain spots don’t get washed anymore. It makes sense to turn around and check upstairs, but when I’m in there looking at my grandfather’s Tempur-pedic bed with nothing on it I step outside to ponder why it’s so quiet and why Ed isn’t here. Before I do this I grab some whiskey out of the fridge in the kitchen and pour two shots worth into a glass.
The sun is angled like a spotlight on the patio, or a little square of cement with a plastic chair and table, as I sit in front of the whole place and there is a woman, a busty woman with bouncy blonde hair, walking her child around the neighborhood. I look towards her as I am finishing my drink and she smiles at me and pulls on the leash attached to her son, a chubby little boy who is kicking around in the shade of a palm tree, and begins walking again.
“Hello?” I say into the telephone hanging on the wall in the kitchen a moment later.
“Ed? . . . is Ed there?” a scratchy voice on the other end of the line says.
“No, this is his grandson. He’s. . .”
“Oh. I thought he was going to be in town for a little while. Who’s this?”
“My name is Richard”
“Ah, he’s never mentioned any grand kids before. Could you leave him a message for me?” The man on the other end talks in a hurry. I hear a car honk in the background.
“I need a name.”
“Oh that’s right, Jackson Bennoy. I’m an old friend of his, you know? My friends call me Benny,”
“Could you tell him to give me a call; I’m in town and need a place to stay.”
“He’s not here.”
“Shit,” I hear him shuffle the phone around.
“Well . . .” I say, “If you need a place to stay, you can come by. But not tonight.”
“Really? That’s what I’m talking about!”
“Come by around noon tomorrow.”
“Alright. . . what’s your name again?”
“Thanks again, Dick.”
In the morning there is a knock at the front door. I hear it from upstairs and slide down and to the door and peak through the peephole. It is the woman from yesterday. She doesn’t have a kid with her and says, “Hello there!” as I press against the door to get a better look. A quick peek over my shoulder and I open the door.
“Can I help you?”
“I bet you’re wondering why I’m bothering you at eight in the morning, aren’t you.” The blonde woman says as she shuffles her weight from foot to foot.
“Well I live down the street. My name is Sunni. I’ve been keeping Edward company for the past few weeks and I saw you outside yesterday so I thought I’d just introduce myself. You are?”
“I’m Richard, Edward’s grandson. I didn’t know people in Naples were so polite. Last time I was here I don’t think I talked to anyone new.” I say as I realize it’s still eight in the morning and she is holding today’s paper in her armpit, against her breast.
“Yeah, huh. My husband and I moved in a couple months ago and I ran into your grandpa at the beach shortly after that. He’s great.” She was smiling like I do when I am all alone and I couldn’t help but want to invite her in and spend the afternoon having sex. Her eyes look like something out of an Egyptian painting, where the black around the white is so shocking it takes the attention off of her gaze even when you tell yourself you’re looking directly in them. I get lost in this. She makes me forget how human I really am for a minute.
“Well, I don’t want to bother you too long,” she says with her eyebrows up. I look down and notice that I have let the front door open all of the way and my happy trail causes her eyes to follow a line to my boxers.
“Oh sorry about that. I guess I forgot.”
“No problem. Everybody here goes down to the beach around two o’clock. Don’t be a stranger if we see each other down there.”