Edwina almost fell as she ran to catch the elevator. Her yellow heels– a brave choice, bright yellow- were far too high and likely she caught them in a fold in the carpet or something like that. The apartment building was old and frankly pretty much everything about it was worn out, smelly and crappy. She managed not to fall though and changed that forward momentum into a comical hop, step, jump and then bang, she smacked into the elevator doors. They hadn’t been cleaned since Moses had used the elevator but there were still patches of shiny and after she’d regained her feet she checked out her reflection to see if anything had come unglued.
She was tall, really tall with the yellow heels, and wore a tight matching yellow dress. She thought of it as her Tweety Bird ensemble and she’d given herself extra long and full eyelashes to complete the effect. Her pale blonde hair was piled up on top of her head to make her look even taller. Her lips were red, her eyes brown, and the black dot beauty mark on her left cheek completely fake. She smiled. She always looked better when she smiled. Not bad. She was going clubbing, hitting the lounges and night hot spots on the strip where the cool people hung. She did not consider herself cool. She was hot stuff.
The elevator dinged like a stupid toaster oven and she prepared herself in case there was someone inside. Head high, shoulders back, padded bra out and one foot in front of the other because she thought it made her look curvy. The elevator doors slowly parted and sadly there was no one inside. Well, there was a smell, but it was a permanent resident in the elevator- Reminiscent of sweaty gym socks and dead squirrels. It was the kind of smell that makes you take the stairs, but that was impossible for Edwina in the Tweety heels. She dropped her facade and clunked clumsily into the elevator and pressed G for ground floor.
Nothing happened. She pressed the button again and more nothing happened. She was not going to walk down nine flights in her bare feet either, holding her shoes, so she punched at the button panel in frustration. She was a lover and not a good puncher and the elevator continued to do even more nothing. At least the smell was more tolerable with the doors open. (more…)
Coco was a small yappy black and white Shi-tzu dog with a talent for sniffing out those about to die. She had proven it eight times on dead end Mercy Street where mostly seniors lived, by camping out on the front porches of those about to expire.
As you can imagine the Mercy street residents were uncomfortable around little Coco. Coco’s mistress, 89 year old Annabelle Coumbs, pshawed the whole business and refused to discuss it. But everyone else did. As the older residents passed away with Coco standing guard new younger people moved into the freshly vacant houses. Mercy Street became an interesting mix of older and newer, seasoned and fresh, those about to die and those with long lives still ahead.
Muriel Robert was thirty one. Because she was thirty one, she did not think about her health. She considered herself unremarkable: short and thin with bobbed mousey brown hair. She had smoked for six years in her teens but that was years ago. At first she was pleased to find the charming Coco camped out on her porch, and then perturbed as she remembered the death vigil stories. She petted Coco, who was most appreciative, and then went back into the house determined to ignore the death watch.
Maybe the dog just stopped here for a rest? Maybe it was chasing a squirrel? Muriel chewed at her nails. It’s nonsense. Coincidence. Coco wanders everywhere and people only notice when someone passes away. Besides, I’m thirty one!
Muriel gave the dog a worried look and a pat on the head as she left for her evening shift at the hospital. As a nurse she was no stranger to people dying, she’d hardened herself to it. But now everything was different- she was looking at the possibility of her own death. Was it going to be a car accident? A sudden heart attack? A crazed shooter at the hospitable or maybe even an earthquake? She was too busy thinking such things and didn’t stop at the red light. A dark blue pickup smashed into her passenger side and started her car spinning up onto the sidewalk. (more…)
McKay came back the very next day. Hester was going out for breakfast, which today meant black coffee. There was a young man seated on a bench across from her building. He was wearing shiny black pants, a black shirt and black boots. His hair was dyed black. She could not see how tall he was because he was sitting.
“I took your advice,” he said to her as she passed. “Got some new clothes.”
He stood up then, painfully short McKay, all blacked out. It caught Hester by surprise and she almost said something but bit her tongue instead. They walked together in silence. Entered the coffee shop one after the other, sat at the counter on stools side by side. He ordered what she was having. The barista asked if they wanted separate bills. She said yes. He said no.
She turned to him. “Okay, let’s get through this. This isn’t going to work, you know? I don’t need a boyfriend. And I don’t want you.” (more…)
“I will slash my legs!” McKay shouted. He held a pathetically small pocketknife above his jeans. “I will slash them wide open!”
Hester sighed. “Go for it.” She pulled out her much more substantial switchblade and threw it at him. “This’ll do more damage. Go for it.”
It had been a torturous three days. McKay had first appeared at an art exhibition opening put on by an ex-boyfriend of Hester’s. She had come of course, because several of the paintings were nudes of her, but also because she wanted to see who he was dating . She hung on the edges of the chatting drinking crowd; a tall thin scarecrow girl dressed in black with stringy dyed black hair and rather nice black boots with silver buckles. McKay approached her, dressed in jeans, like he wore now, and a green plaid shirt. But it wasn’t just his clothing that marked him as out of place- or his short stature- or the no-nonsense cut of his boring brown hair -he seemed to be bouncing off things like a demented ping pong ball. (more…)
Arno heard the scraping of a blade against a whetstone while he toiled replacing wooden shingles. The old farmer, Mr. Kensett, had been sitting on the front porch sharpening his knife ever since his daughter had come outside and introduced herself. She had given Arno an appraising look with a smile that made Arno blush and the old farmer narrow his eyes. He resisted the urge to remove his shirt for fear that Lomi, the farmer’s daughter, might make another appearance. He did not want the farmer to grow suspicious or think that something uncouth might pass between him and the girl. It would not be the first time that he had been run off of a farm without being paid.
With the last broken shingle replaced, he climbed down the ladder. Lomi rushed out the front door just as he placed a foot on the ground. She carried a single cup and walked past her father without a glance. When she offered the cup, Arno glanced at her father and noted his irritation. He took the cup with a nod and quickly moved to stand directly in front of Mr. Kensett.
“I believe that completes the list you gave me this morning.”
Mr. Kensett put down his whetstone, wiped the dust from the blade on his pants and walked with Arno to inspect the day’s work. “You have an eye for detail. I would say it was worth every coin.”
Arno accepted the day’s wages with a hand shake and turned to go. Lomi ran from the front porch to Arno’s side and grabbed hold of his arm. (more…)
She did not notice the man following her until it was too late.
She saw the duck first. Seeing a duck downtown was unusual. It was standing by a bike rack, unperturbed, as if it were waiting for someone. It looked up at Cathy as she passed. Surprised, she stopped and stared at the bird. But she was going to be late for work so she continued on. The next duck was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, unconcerned about all of the people passing. It was obviously not the same duck. It was coloured differently and had a scrunched up foot.
Cathy shook her head in disbelief. Two downtown ducks in one day? Perhaps there had been some kind of a storm that had stranded them in the city?
She did not even see the goose. It was a big Canada goose, standing quite tall and waddling along the sidewalk. She was almost at the office, where she worked as an accountant, and she was checking herself in the window of the bakery nearby. Her short brown hair was tastefully arranged and her makeup completely natural. She was wearing her blue business suit, which made her frown because she had never liked the cut of the jacket. And then the goose pinched her bum. She jumped angrily, intending to shout down whoever had dared poach her derrière but there was only the goose behind her. No one else. It had to have been the goose. (more…)
She felt trapped. They sat at a beautiful table in an elegant dining room but she could feel the invisible bars around them. The supper was some fancy stuff but she could not taste it. Her boyfriend Morman the giraffe was a talkative animal and he and his mother kept the conversation light and constant. Oblivious. She sawed at everything with her table knife. Daddy scarface sat silent, smiling politely and staring at her. She glared back and sawed her potatoes into even smaller pebbles.
The rest of the evening was spent in banal conversation. As they were leaving Norman’s father managed to catch her alone, a strong hand on her thin arm.
“What are you going to do?” He hissed.
“What are you going to do?” She hissed back and twisted his grip away. (more…)
She could not pinpoint the beginning of it. As a child she had been obsessed with knives. A cute little girl with a shining blade in her hand. Her parents, predictably, had scolded and slapped and shaken and hidden the knives until she learned to pretend that she was not interested in them. She was only nine when her mother found the first scars on her arms. That had been a freak out. She’d been hauled away to see doctors and therapists and she told them whatever she thought they wanted to hear. Now, as a woman in her twenties, she realized that those therapists had just nodded and collected their hourly fees. No one can care forever. No one can understand everyone. What if you were born not caring or not understandable?
She liked blades because they were powerful. They shined. They were hard, yet they could easily slip into a stuffed animal, or an armchair or a thigh. They could transcend barriers. They could take life. And sometimes when life was taken, it could give life. She didn’t believe in vampires but she knew that humans had always killed and eaten. And that was how she thought of herself. Huntress. (more…)