Single Handed: A Noir Mythology
With a shout of panic I fell out of bed, limbs tangled in the comforter, and crashed onto the tiled floor. Eyes streaming in pain, I glared up at the ceiling, trying to divine some hidden meaning in the cracks, which stubbornly refused to give any answers.
Looking up at the clock on the side of the bed, I groaned as I saw that it was only 4:22 AM. The bank wouldn’t be open for several hours, and after the dreams I’d just thrashed out of, I wasn’t eager to go back to sleep. Grumbling at the bed, my sore wrist, and the general unfairness of the universe, I disentangled myself from the covers and threw them back on the bed.
The apartment I was living in at the moment was a small efficiency. All of it was one room: living room, bedroom, and kitchen. The only other room in the apartment was a bathroom the size of a urinal cubicle, and made me feel claustrophobic just thinking about going in there. It was a piece of shit, in a bad part of town, but it had two things going for it. It was right next to a bank and grocery store, and it was cheap enough that I didn’t go broke on rent with my retirement check.
I walked across the room to the kitchen and turned the coffee maker on. Refried coffee grounds bubbled in the maker and I swore when I went in today to cash my check I would get some fresh grounds.
I looked out the small, dirty picture window above the sink. Today was the kind of day Asgard saw so rarely: the snow was falling in gentle powdery drifts on the street with little wind to speak of. It almost made the hellhole look picturesque. It was the perfect weather for a quick stroll down the street and back.
The coffee machine let out a sad, almost despondent beep, and I was going over with a clean-ish mug from the rack when the answering machine across the room went off. The first thing I’d done when I’d retired was take the ringer out of the phone. I didn’t have any close friends who would drop by if I didn’t answer. I was reaching for the coffee pot when the voice came out of the machine and I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Hey Tyler, it’s the Chief…Chief Locke,” the voice paused, and I felt my hand grip down hard on the pots handle. Locke sounded like he always did, as if he were grinning from ear to ear at some private joke and I could just imagine the smug look on his pointed face.
“I’m calling to remind you that the Mayor is still trying to set up a time to deliver your commendation. He’s been very patient since your retirement, but he seems to think he’s waited long enough, and I’m beginning to agree. It’s time to get off your ass, stop lounging around, and accept thanks for all your hard work. Call me back, you know the number.” There was a genial laugh, and the line went dead with another sad beep.
It was the last beep the answering machine ever made. With a shout, I twisted around, throwing the coffee pot. It spun in the air, flinging sludge-like coffee around the room, making angry little Rorschach inkblots on the floor and accumulated clothes. With a blast of coffee, the pot hit the answering machine and exploded in a million pieces.
I glared across the room at the mess for a few minutes before slamming my arm down on the counter, bruising my already sore wrist, and cursed bitterly.