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It Was (Chapter One)


by Darryl Price


getting late and the dangling light left on in the bathroom was beginning to annoy me, so I took a drink of the good cheap stuff I keep in the bottom desk drawer for such lousy occasions, closed my eyes, and rubbed the back of my sore neck. 

   If something didn't happen soon, as in yesterday, then it wouldn't be just the light in the bathroom going out, but all the lights in my careening head. Ah, shut up, I said to myself and also to the desk for good measure. The chair squeaked in agreement and we all went back to pretending we were doing something mighty important. Only I couldn't tell or didn't want to remember what that something was. Might as well call it another missed opportunity kind of day. I don't know maybe that's too insulting to the idea of what a day is. Go figure.

   I rose, adjusted my suspenders and holster, and went to make a grab for my coat. Just then I heard a crazy loud commotion out in the hallway. Somebody shouted, "Let me go!" And somebody else said, "Not likely!" And something thudded hard against the outer wall that sounded suspiciously like a body or a heavy sack of missing Dear John letters. 

   Either way I was already involved. I opened the door and peered toward the noise when bullet number one went whizzing past my ear. I ducked and returned some fire before thinking maybe I should wait to see who was who that was firing in my general direction before I started firing again. 

   Bullets number two and three took several sharp chunks out of the wooden door frame like they were blown out by tiny sticks of dynamite. I heard a woman's voice cry, "Help! Help me!" So I jumped across the hallway to get a better view of the situation and a different angle of aim. 

   What I saw wasn't all that unusual in my line of work, but it startled all my last nerves just the same. Maybe the very sameness of it is what left me pissed off and careless. Big hulk of a man. Tiny shadow of a woman, in an even tinier black dress, like a fight between a tarantula and an ant. I barreled toward the both of them without thinking what I was gonna do next. They both looked up. He with a cat's widening grin. She with hugely magnified eyes. I couldn't find the brakes fast enough. I ran right into them and ran out of tracks.

   The big guy hit me once square in the jaw with a right hook that brought out all the right stars and stripes and then some. The band played its last note and left by the back door. The ear splitting cymbals crashed into shadow that smelled like peeling paint and turpentine. And, wouldn't you know it, the bathroom light finally went out. Turned itself off all on its own. That's nice, I thought. Maybe I'll just take a little nap while we're at it.  My head hurts. I couldn't feel my feet.

   Someone had put an open bottle of stinking perfume directly under my nose hairs and I coughed suddenly back to life. A face with a purple black eye and a cut corner of a swollen mouth smiled in my general prone direction, like a pretty beat up cloud in a run down sky. I recognized the same old sleeveless books, the abandoned aluminum floor lamp, the brown stained hole in the ceiling and knew at once I was back in my office. Someone had put me on the Naugahyde couch, lumps and all. And that someone was wearing a tiny black dress. And that same someone had somehow managed to make a steaming cup of coffee out of a broken coffee maker that sat unused in the cobwebbed corner for countless years before. I took a tentative drink. "Why don't you start at the beginning," I said. Tell me everything.
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