The Iron Writer Challenge #201
2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #7
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)
Doing a puzzle
Living in Brooklyn can have its advantages. You could say that you would never be bored. For entertainment I have a ten story movie screen wall of the next building where the residents are either exhibitionists or blithely unaware they are exposing their daily drama to the world. It is better than one of those sports bars with twenty-seven different TVs blaring out at the same time. For example: Fourth floor and five windows to the left — a nightly “slug-fest” between Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon. Fifth floor and a few windows to the right — a shapely and more than amply endowed young woman who seems to like undressing very close to the window. I do not reject this odd practice and it is part of my evening enjoyment. Ninth floor, somewhere in the middle, the Boots Randolph (or Charlie Parker) wannabe who practices his alto sax nightly with excessive vigor. Exercises from Exercices Journaliers D’Apres Terschack Tous Saxophones. I can barely hear him but enough to know that although his technique is flawless, he is always a quarter tone flat. “Push in damn it, push in!” (the mouthpiece) I shout.
When my interest in this nightly show wanes, I turn to my puzzles: jig saw puzzles. I am a sucker for them. The harder, the better, like the 1,000 piece monsters you can find at K-Mart. So I usually have a million mili-pieces spread out over two card tables. My latest one is a tranquil fly fishing scene in Montana – cool river colors with a majestic back-drop of snow-capped mountains. So far it has been sitting there for nine month undone because the last piece is missing, the head of the fly fisherman and the central focus of the whole damn puzzle. The puzzle represents all the unfinished business and frustrations in my life. Add to that, Mr. Sax and my stupid cat Morris. The TV cat Morris is much smarter.
On edge lately, but having comforting dreams where I dispatch someone into the NetherWorld with barely a twinge. This may be a Freudian release of some description but is quite satisfying to me and I do not feel in the least bit guilty.
Tonight, after cleaning the cat box and cat house, what should I find but the missing puzzle piece of the fisherman’s head. Oh Joy! Morris had purloined it in the dead of night and hidden the treasure like a Magpie’s propensity to steal and covert shiny baubles. I am thinking: why do I need Morris? Why do I need my puzzles? Why do I need the torment of the off-key musician? I begin to conjure thoughts most pleasurable.
Although I have never considered myself a candidate as a serial killer, the idea holds a certain allure. I could execute the musician, stuff the cat into the saxophone and bury the lot in my basement. At that point, I would totally ignore the admonishments of poet Dylan Thomas and WOULD go gently into that good night, without a rage, and whistling a happy tune!
The Safe House
Nothing about this was what she expected. Not that she’d ever thought much about the Witness Protection System or even considered that being in the wrong place at the wrong time might thrust her into it. She’d seen the crime, and knew she wouldn’t be able to live with herself the rest of her life if she just let it go, but what could she possibly know that might justify Witness Protection of all things?
However, if the FBI insisted that this was necessary, she was not going to go gently into that good night. She was determined to survive. If she could.
But a lot of it didn’t make sense.
For one thing, the trip violated every safety precaution she so carefully insisted on at home. Shortly after getting into the car with what were pretty much strangers with badges, they stopped and demanded that she transfer into the back of a windowless, cargo van that was missing not just seat belts, but also seats.
What if they had an accident? What use was she as a witness if she died in a car crash? As she swayed on a folded blanket all alone on the steel surface, she thought about writing her congressman, but finally decided to let it go. After all, what choice did she have? If the Mafia was targeting her; if fleeing might save the lives of her family, what else could she do?
Hannah didn’t know what a Safe House would look like, but she didn’t expect a rundown two story next to a burned structure across from a weed-infested lot near hookers loitering on the corner. The two agents hustled her inside as fast as possible. She stood in the landing, studied a hole in the door, and wondered if it was what it looked like.
Another agent was inside, sitting at a desk against the far wall, working on a puzzle, listening to a saxophone from the radio. She’d seen him somewhere, but where?
She hesitated, “Is there a Ladies Room?”
It wasn’t such a bizarre question. The place had a have a bathroom, didn’t it?
After a moment, Agent Smith said, “Second door on the right.” They all seemed so tense. He went on hastily, “Not that one. That’s the basement.”
She took a long time, her stomach in knots, a ping going up and down her spine, louder and louder. She swiped her face and tried to think past the image of her husband reading the goodbye note, past the thought of them in trouble because of her, past the thought of why she was here.
That ping going up her spine. It always was a warning. What?
She was about to open the door when it hit her. That new agent. He was Dave Erickson. He was serving 30 years to life. She’d followed his escape avidly: it was right in her county.