Friday 30 September 2016

Proof

By: Michael Carta


“There is insufficient evidence or proof of intent; defendant not capable of going to trail. Release after three days for jail time served.” Anna would never forget these words; they were burned into her very being.

The resolving chord of the symphonic work was abruptly cut short by the rash sounding radio commercial spokesperson trying to sell mattresses. Anna could not stand commercials and quickly struck the knob to turn off the radio. She was left with just the ambient sound of the bank’s parking lot; even with her windows down, her own breathing was the most audible distraction. She did her best to slow her breathing and make less noise, but the anxiety of the task at hand began to set in. Using both of her hands simultaneously, she took the keys out of the ignition and removed her seat-belt. She waited for her watch to beep on the hour signifying that it was now 11:00am and began walking towards the bank’s front doors.

Before she could reach for the door, it swung open abruptly, nearly hitting her. A typical business man wearing a suit came barreling out in a flurry of stress and frustration. He must have known she was there, but did not even bother to make eye contact or apologize; her existence was not important. Anna stood for a moment before proceeding in as the door’s pressure hinges fought the ever losing battle of closing. Even the air felt negative to her as it trailed behind the man.

Interestingly, the lobby smelled like a mixture of a wet clothes and bacon. Anna wondered if smelling such things together would lead to her salivating while doing laundry via the associate with bacon. She continued to ponder this and other similarly odd concepts until it was her turn at the third teller’s desk. “Next please” said the teller in a robotic and rehearsed tone. Anna stepped up to the ledge and noted how strangely blue the woman’s eyes were. She had to be over sixty judging by the subtle lines showing around her chin and the white hair, but was very perky with her movements. The skin on her arms resembled a cheese pizza with stretch marks and random dark spots. Anna said to herself; “I keep thinking about food related things, I must be hungry.” Before she could analyze any further, the lady set out a pen and pushed a form to Anna while blurting: “Withdrawal or deposit today honey?” “Actually, neither.” Anna said calmly as she held out an index card ignoring the forms on the counter.

 For an awkward moment the teller stared blankly at her, then slowly reached up and took the card. The women read the card out loud softly to herself; “This is a robbery, please call the police.” “…Is this a joke?” the teller questioned sternly. “No, I am serious, please call the police now” “No, you need to step away from the desk, this is not funny!” “It’s not a joke” “Listen honey, I am going to call Rick in security and you will get into trouble.” “That’s fine, maybe he’ll call the police.” Anna said sarcastically.

At this point, everyone in the lobby was silent and mostly confused. Anna sat down in front of the desk, her knees were tired and all of the commotion was stressful. “Ma’am, you stay right there! I am calling the police!” shouted the teller who was now across the room. “finally…” Anna said to no one as she sat and stared at her hands. They had micro spasms or tremors from time to time; though, she often wondered if it was only in her mind. “The mind is powerful and can make you believe in things that are not there” her brother would say, right before attempting some kind of silly magic trick. She missed him dearly.

                “Where is she?” commanded a voice from behind the corner. It did not take long before the security guard was standing right in front of Anna. She stared at his shinny shoes; she could see the ceiling lights and all sorts of reflections. “Why do they need to be so shinny?” she murmured. “What? Stand up and come with me, the cops are on their way- do you have any weapons? Do you have any weapons!?” looking up at the man, Anna could see that he had a quick temper and very little patience. His broad shoulders and lack of a neck gave him a gorilla like form; there was no doubt that he was strong and took pride in his job. She was halfway through standing up when his stone like hand wrapped around her arm and hoisted her up effortlessly. Though, the grip only tightened as he began to escort her to the lobby bench. Her wrists sent signals of pain and distress as she tried to relax through the handcuffing going on behind her back. The rehearsed motions of the guard were unnecessarily jagged and rough as he continued to pat her down searching for weapons; Anna was not enjoying the experience.

                “Take a seat” his voice was calm now; probably because she was thoroughly searched and handcuffed. It was difficult to sit comfortably with her hands handcuffed behind her back. She tried adjusting angles to make it more tolerable. “Better get used to it; you’ll be in those for a while. What were you thinking anyways, trying to rob the bank?” He was standing awkwardly close to her using his large frame to intimidate and block any chance of escape. After a brief moment he complained; “Fine don’t talk, enjoy your time in the workhouse, you’ll have plenty to say after a night in there.” He now was fidgeting with his belt out of frustration and annoyance, his behavior was strange to her. “I… I need to go to the jail holding cell, but I did not know the way…” Anna confessed while looking at his shinny shoes again. “What? We’ll you’ll be there soon…” Puzzled, the guard relaxed some tension and began anxiously looking out the window for a police car to arrive. “You need to stay here; we will need your statements momentarily, sorry for the inconvenience, its standard operating procedure folks.” announced the guard when he noticed a man walking towards the door.


               Soon Anna would be in the holding cell; soon she would be processed into the general population of the county jail. Soon she would find Chelsea mixed in with the other inmates, not expecting her; soon she would have the proof that she needed, or at least some form of vengeance. The flat razor blade hidden along her bra strap popped into her mind; they always forget to check there, maybe they’re embarrassed or shy. It didn’t matter, she had what she needed. 

Thursday 1 September 2016

In Being Proven

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

     ‘A little hunchback, a pen behind his ear and a bundle of papers in his hand, entered the erstwhile sacristy.’ Anatole France, The Gods are Athirst

Dominus Hopwood had only become used to his hunchback (which he’s had since his late teens) because of his first name, meaning ‘Dominant.’ He had always felt that maybe, because of this name, if he kept his ears and eyes open, he could manage to be in the right place at the right time to garner a wealthy secret. And the wealthy distributors of this secret would no doubt discount any threat in his, supposedly, inept hunchback capabilities in overhearing it. Hope springs eternal.
     Dominus now entered the front of his shop from the back room, delving into this hopeful well, while bearing some unwelcome papers, a quote for an expensive dress. Miss Evergreen, who was waiting, was bound to be displeased. He had only seven years ago (at the age of forty-three) inherited the dress shop, in the heart of Redferne, Sydney (and they only sold dresses, of all hues), from a friend, whose last letter said that the shop was easy to run as the ladies were all very relaxed customers and simply didn’t mind if you made a mistake, and were super keen to help out. The world is full of errors was their gracious attitude.
     ‘I hope it’s what we budgeted on, Dom,’ began Miss Evergreen when Dominus reached his place behind the counter. ‘Of course, if it’s a little bit more then that’s no problem.’
     Oh well, might as well out with it. ‘It’s a lot more than budgeted for, Miss Evergreen. My apologies.’
     ‘How much more?’
     ‘$300 extra for the whole dress.’ He showed her the papers containing the quote.
     ‘$300!’ Miss Evergreen exclaimed when she confirmed the horrible news.
     ‘Yes, Miss Evergreen.’
     ‘Well, I’m sorry, Dom, but I’m not going to pay that for a dress I’ll only wear once, even though it’s for my twentieth high school get together.’
     ‘Perfectly understood, Miss Evergreen. And if you wish to cancel the order that’s not the slightest problem. But I may have a way where you can still have your fine dress, and only for a very small favour in return.’
     Miss Evergreen was naturally dubious. ‘What sort of favour?’
     ‘I have been writing for thirty-five years, and only last week printed two hundred copies of my first novel. It has been professionally edited, and has a professional cover. I believe the whole book is just as good as any other serious author’s. Thus, Miss Evergreen, if you distribute ten of the books to your sophisticated friends, you would be doing me an immense favour. The novel, I am sure, if only read, will provide a lasting monument to all art lovers and similar intelligentsia. In return I will do the dress you ordered and you’ll only have to pay the agreed price, I’ll pay the extra.’
     ‘That seems a fine trade, Dom, and I’m happy to accept. I’ll collect the books here tomorrow at this time?’
     ‘That would be very kind of you, Miss Evergreen. The editor who worked on it said that it is a very original idea, as well as enticingly written.’
     ‘Well, I’m happy to help, Dom. So now that’s sorted out, when may I expect my darling new dress?’
     ‘Give me a week. Be here at five in the afternoon.’
     ‘I’ll see you then.’ Miss Evergreen then left, the both of them feeling they had done a fine day’s work.

*

Dominus was as equally surprised as Miss Evergreen that his freely distributed books were a smashing success. So much so that Miss Evergreen had no trouble in raising some extra small monies towards the author’s printing costs. The donors gave easily and thought that it was money well spent if the author continues with such astounding literature.
     This acclaim, despite expectations, didn’t let up, and Dominus soon had some visitors to his humble shop to ask if he had any more novels planned. By the second such enquiry Dominus had decided to start work on a new novel that very night, feeling easily able to draw a story from the notes in his plethora of literary notebooks. He then told the visitors who enquired after a possible new novel that they could expect something in a few months. He planned to sell them from atop his counter, at a modest $15.00 each.
     Dominus was even more surprised when the initial print run of 200 units of the second novel, three months later, sold out in a week and a half. He was ecstatic! Here then was the inevitable proof that his hunchback had marked him out positively from his fellow citizens, had shown him to be a fellow who thought very deeply and very wisely. He was so happy that he considered giving himself a few days’ holidays, just close up the shop and have lots of very nice Chardonnay. Maybe a cigar or two. A week’s loss of business he couldn’t afford but he well thought he could close up for a few days. And he’s got all that book money. But, alas, wistfully thought Dom, that’s going into another print run, more books this time. Now the world will see my real mettle!
     It was soon after he had received the second print run of the second novel, 400 units this time, that customers began returning to his shop to ask for refunds on this book. Sure, it was a good book, they said, but absolutely paled in comparison with the first. All the returning customers said they were expecting an even greater masterpiece, but only met with shallow bourgeoisie fiction.
     Dominus was of course happy to refund them their $15, somewhat agreeing with the response to this second novel. After all, he clearly remembered thinking to himself soon after starting it, he was rushing things a bit. One just doesn’t dash off substantial literature; he really must go about it a lot more slowly, plan things more. Yes, thought Dominus, I have a natural talent and it’s bound to shine through.
     Shine through it must, his first work showed that, and Dominus had now learned his lesson. He would now work an hour less per day in the shop and spend exactly a year in getting together a collection of short stories instead of a novel. He had so many pocket-sized notebooks filled with ideas that he could probably cull through them to come up with a vague outline of contents overnight. In fact, doing so should be pretty easy.
     Accordingly, he closed up shop early that night, a few days before the start of a cold summer, 2015, and began work on the book that he fully feels will save him or damn him as an author. He was, of course, entirely confidant in his natural literary ability.
   
*

It was Miss Evergreen who brought him the delightful news, exactly one year and one day since he began work on his first short story collection.
     ‘Dominus, Dominus, Dominus,’ she said, actually fanning herself. ‘I’ve just read your new book.’
     ‘And what do you think of it, Miss Evergreen?’
     ‘Dominus, I absolutely loved it! You are such a better short story writer than a novelist. I absolutely adored each of them! You are such a distinguished writer, Dominus, that I’d like to be somewhat of your patron. Continue printing these gems and I will be thrilled to help out with the costs. And I absolutely insist you keep all the profit.’
     ‘Well, thank you, Miss Evergreen. You leave me breathless with thanks.’ And indeed, Dominus had to stop for a short while to collect his breath and realise his sudden good fortune. Once collected, he resumed. ‘That is a kind offer that any serious writer would consider. Let me do so for a week or two. Thank you again, Miss Evergreen.’
    ‘Call me Joanna.’
    ‘Would you like some more copies for your friends?’
     ‘Certainly, Dom. Give me 15. You don’t mind if I sell them for a small, tiny profit?’
     ‘It is but your due, Joanna.’
     ‘Thank you, Dom. You’ve always been so kind.’
     Dominus was even more surprised when he sold 300 units of the short story collection in two weeks. Dominus felt that now he had found his rhythm, now he had found his purpose and stride in life. It was quite plain to him, and to all his dedicated fans, that he could quite easily make a good living out of selling his books personally. He just had to find a quick way of getting more people to sample his wares, and his talent, as it already has done, is sure to hook the savvy reader into handing over $10 or $15 for his obviously unique books. This called for a celebration, a nice hearty meal at some interesting café.
     While he was waiting for his seafood linguine he quietly looked into the future that beckoned and the struggling past that had led there. Dominus clearly saw, quite simply, that he was upon a cusp, at the exact fork between two paths his life could go: probable lasting literary fame, or a virtually guaranteed, regular job, with regular income, and almost completely devoid of anything potentially threatening. So, Dominus asked himself, do I want eternal fame, when I might end up living in the gutter? Or worse, sleeping on surly friends’ couches. Or do I want almost assured security? Safety?
     When the linguine arrived he realised that he owed no-one his stunning literary talents but he did owe himself security, owed himself the diligence to never let his hunchback keep him from what is rightfully his. Yes, security above all was what he owed himself, never to be in any way subject to those who see him as worthless. And indeed, his readers would see him as worthless if he did not continue creating fantastic books. Not only that, if he were to continue successfully self-publishing his obvious masterpieces he was in fact justifying those who said he’d never amount to anything because of his back, pandering to their agenda.. No, they were not worth his attention, not worth engaging at a fundamental level with his literature. They were only worth ignoring, only worth letting them perish into their own barbaric souls by withholding from them the fantastic possibilities of his fiction.
     While eating the perfectly al dente pasta he was surprised to feel relief flooding through him. He was happy with himself now, the happiest that he’d ever been, happy that he had discovered his quiet path of success, be it an ever so humble dress shop. He celebrated with two glasses of Chardonnay after the meal.


~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing and you can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com