In honor of short story month, I have decided to publish a story. The short story has taken some hits in recent years, seen as a dying art, but I doubt that it is an art that will die completely. Like many things it will evolve – it has evolved into comedic skits and indie short films and one act plays – and will continue to do so with time. With that being said I hope you all enjoy the short story.
By: Gregory Waits, Jr.
Markis didn’t wear his body camera today. He cusses under his breath when he bumps into his manager in the break room. She defines herself as a proud Cougar with a high libido. Markis despises her and her advances. He has tried every tactic possible to deflect her attention from him. He has told her he was gay. He has passed gas (silent, smelly ones) in meetings. She is undeterred. His last resort is variant modes of sarcasm. “Cougar? You’re more like an aged lion with dementia, aren’t you?”
She found his sardonic query hilarious. He was all the more desirable to her. Young. Principled. Ambitious. Stubborn with a solid build. A challenge ripe for takedown.
She licks her lips, approaches him on her way out, then says, “I know everything about you. You got until the end of the week to give up the goodies or –“
His cell rings. He answers, “Hello Dad.”
She offers a crooked smile, sips her McDonald’s coffee, and chuckles while leaving the room. Markis frowns.
He and his father have their routine conversation about absurd things his father has viewed on the internet or the peculiar neighbors habits, Markis’ job and its problems before his Dad asks him how much he will need for this month. Markis always says he doesn’t need anything until his father launches into subtle lectures, masked as tales from his past, about foolish pride. Markis relents then tells him he needs about $400. His Dad will send $800. He always sends double what Markis asks. They speak for a few more moments before Markis hears his manager on the PA aggressively commands for him to return to work. He rolls his eyes, tells his father he will call him later then disconnects the call.
Leaving the break room he notices a bowl of water that a sandwich was left to disintegrate. Markis finds himself staring at the bowl in a dreamlike trance while succumbing to imaginings of his manager and her unkempt, naked septuagenarian body indulged in various sexual positions. He can feel his face twist in disgust. His body jerks a few times before he is bent over the trash bin vomiting. He falls to his knees and hugs onto the edge of the trash bin as if it were a significant other. A few employees catch sight of Markis and begin to panic. One rushes to get the manager. Markis attempts to call to her. He cannot utter for her to abort her mission.
His manager storms near him looking mortified. As a few more people surrounds Markis, he can see the fear on everyone’s faces, especially hers. She is scared she is going to lose her number one employee. She struggles for words. Markis waves his hand, “I’m fine everyone. Thank you.” She goes ballistic on everyone demanding them to get back to work. She pushes one of the female workers in her back then squares off like a middle weight boxer and says, “I wish you would.” The girl continues without a word. She turns to Markis to speak with him, but he tosses a napkin in the trash and has his back to her heading to the bathroom before she could say anything to him. She smiles and calls after him. “Markis. Markis.”
He ignores her. She continues with a smile, “This doesn’t change a thing Markis.”
He disappears from her sight into the bathroom. He stands in the mirror to stare at his reflection. He cringes at her voice calling his name then utters, “I hate that bitch. This is some bullshit.”
He pulls his old 2002 Lumina into the Wal-Mart parking lot, finds a space between an old rusted Dodge Caravan and a shiny new Toyota Tacoma. The car stops without Markis turning the ignition to off mode. “Aw fuck. Fuuuuuuuuuck!” He yells snatches and jerks at the wheel aggressively for about thirty seconds. Takes a few deep breaths. The silence seems louder than the activity in the parking lot; roaring cars, animated conversations, an employee slamming shopping carts together and transporting them back inside the store. He hates the idea of being trapped whether it is a prison or in everyday situations. He feels trapped now. The job. The debt. That crazy ass rapist boss. He cringes, “Gotdammit I hate that -”
An old Raekwon ringtone sounds slicing through his concentration on the loud silence and his problems. He sees it is a call from Las Vegas. He answers, “Hey Cara, what’s up?”
Cara is his former girlfriend that he left in Las Vegas. They met at the Las Vegas DMV. He had recently moved there from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was from Cabuyao, Laguna in the Philippines. Bonding over not knowing much about the new city they had migrated to, Markis seized the opportunity to ask her about the both of them learning new things about the city together. Flattered, Cara gave Markis her number before her number appeared on the display monitor next to the cubicle she was to receive assistance. As she stood, she said, “Bye,” to Markis.
He replied, “Bye. I’ll call you.”
“Please do,” she said with a flirty smile.
That night he called her. They made arrangements for a date. Friday night. Buca di Beppo. Excalibur Hotel. Las Vegas Boulevard. To make a long story short things went well enough between the two of them. Eventually they were leasing a townhome in a newly developed complex, The Sahara Estates, dating for two and a half years and nearly married.
The marriage was halted by a ding in the economy that sent Las Vegas in near ruins; high unemployment, mass foreclosures, and rising homelessness. Markis and Cara were not exempt from the economic turmoil that ravaged the city. Soon finding themselves struggling to keep their jobs, and their townhome once Markis lost his job. Cara found herself submitting to a demanding manager’s request for sex in exchange for money needed for her and Markis to stay afloat. It went on several months before Markis became suspicious and started snooping around. Cara and her manager were devastated when he caught them entering a Siegel Suites hotel room. Markis heatedly confronted Cara and promptly decorated her managers’ face with several blows and kicks that knocked him unconscious. Cara cried and begged as Markis yelled at her to explain herself. She screamed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! He made me!”
“He made you fuck him? He made you lay on your back? He made you suck his dick?” Markis screamed back.
A crowd formed in the parking lot and on the railings of the second and third floors of the hotel. She continued to cry, “I didn’t mean to. Don’t do this. Don’t. We had to pay the bills Markis.”
It was at that moment that Markis pulled the engagement ring from his pocket and threw it at her. He stared at her with hostile eyes and said, “Pawn that bitch and get by cuz we through.” Markis rushed to his car and sped away. He went to their townhome and packed what he felt was important, loaded them into his car and drove until he was out of the state of Nevada. He drove until he was groggy, pulling over into a truck stop somewhere in New Mexico. A few hours later he was awake and driving until he reached Houston, Texas.
He has been in Houston for five years and has found some success with getting a job, but he found it hard to keep them. Someone would not like him for some odd reason and start to give him a hard time or flat out terminate him because Texas had become an at-will state. He is constantly seeking investors for some of his business ideas but with no success. At wits end, he is exhausted and simply wants to be left alone. Recently he has been finding himself muttering that he hates people before starting work or exiting his car to go into the store for something.
Cara found him on Facebook and sent him a friend request. When he accepted she was excited and sent him messages frequently to his inbox until she finally gave him her number to call her while asking for his. Markis did so accepting the idea that he and Carla were just in way over their heads; moving too fast with their emotions without a plan for real world shit.
Now he is resting his head on the steering collar, turning the phone on speaker, listening to Cara making conversation about everything under the sun before asking him if he was okay. “Yeah, I’m cool,” Markis says.
“You don’t sound like it. Why don’t you tell me? Maybe I can help you Markis.”
“No. The last time you tried to help me you wound up fucking your manager and we broke up.”
She was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry about that Markis. I told you that. I can’t keep apologizing.”
He lets out a frustrated sigh, “Look what do you want from me, Cara? You want me to tell you what’s bothering me? Well here it is. I am in the same position in Houston that I was in when I left Vegas. I’m not making half the money I was making there or even before I left Minneapolis, but I catch more bullshit from my manager than I did on any high-paying job I ever worked. She like fucking seventy and keeps trying to force me to sleep with her. I’m against the wall because if I don’t do it I may be unemployed and homeless. I haven’t accomplished a single goal in life I set out to accomplish. My father is paying the bulk of my bills in spite of me having a job. I have a crazy ex that I screw from time to time whether she’s between relationships or not. She doesn’t respect me if I don’t treat her like garbage. Everybody thinks I’m nice and think it’s a license to walk all over me. No matter what moves I make I’m always in a Catch-22 situation. Lately I’ve been wondering what the hell was I born for. Now how do you think you can help me from my situation Cara?”
“I can try. I-“
“It’s not going to happen again for us Cara. I’m sorry. Things were good for a while, but then it went bad. That seems to be the way life is. Things only good for a minute and then bam havoc for hours. No need hanging on to memories, huh?”
A frustrated sigh escapes him, “It’s okay. Cara, sorry it’s just a bad time for me right now. I’ll have to get with you later.”
“Okay,” she says solemnly.
Markis turns head to observe the phone until it read Call Ended. He buries his face back into the steering collar as if it were a sympathetic friend or relative.
Monday Night/Tuesday Morning:
Markis parks his car in the lot number 17. The number given by the leasing agent when he rented the apartment. “Why does it matter that we have designated lot numbers? It’s an oversized lot, who the hell cares where a tenant parks?” He had asked the leasing agent in a low, pensive and confident tone that seemed to disturb her ability to think and speak. She stammered incoherently before saying it was what the company wanted them to do.
“Uhm. Figures,” he said.
He hated lot number 17. Now he hated the number itself. He swears about it then gets out the car.
“Yo Markis! What’s up man?”
Markis turns to see Rodney, the hustler from around the block. “Kinda late for you ain’t it Rodney?”
“No doubt, but hey it’s neva a bad time to make money, right?”
“I hear you. Look you still got access to Peete?”
Rodney looks at Markis quizzically. Peete is code for untraceable heat. Markis knew of it through other people that bought some guns from him back in the day.
“It’s been awhile but I can call him when I need something, why you need me to call him?”
“Yep. How fast can you get in touch with him?”
“When you need -”
“Now. Now Rodney. Whatever you got I’ll take it.”
Seeing that Markis is serious with a desperate look in his eyes he asks Markis, “You aiight man?”
“Yeah. You got it or not?”
“Yeah. Lemme get it. Wait here,” Rodney goes a few lots over and opens the trunk to an old 2004 Toyota Camry. Grabs a gym bag, slams the trunk, and brings it to Markis. Before Rodney could unzip the bag Markis asks how much it would cost for the entire bag.
Rodney is stunned “Everything?”
Markis responds flatly, “Everything. Give me a number.”
“Usually I’d get about a couple grand for it all, but you cool so I’d let ‘em all go for about a thousand. I’ll give you eight hundred.”
“What? Man -”
“I’ll give you the two grand if you give it to me now and pick up the dough Tuesday. Next Tuesday. Make it twenty-three. I like the bag.”
“I only give credit on rare occasions.”
“Make this one of ‘em. I got you. You know where I live. Work. What I drive. I got you. Promise.”
“Aiight man but that shit ain’t mines. I’m the in between. I’mma need that money Tuesday or that’s both our asses.”
“Got you. Tuesday. Next Tuesday.”
“Aiight Tuesday. Next Tuesday.”
Rodney leaves. Markis throws the bag of guns in the trunk of his car with reckless abandon. Takes out cell, dials a number while jumping in the car, starting it up and racing from the lot. “Hey Angela wake up I’m comin through.” He did not wait for a response. He disconnects the call and tosses phone to the backseat.
Angela is an old flame that Markis indulged when he moved to Houston from Las Vegas. She is a political brat that enjoys tempestuous relationships. She used to tell him he was too nice and would start arguments, break off the relationship then beg him to come back, get him a job then get him fired only to demand her people give him another one, finally he left her. She had him arrested for domestic abuse only to get the charges dropped when he went to her and cajoled her through sweet talk and memories of their relationship and sex. Once the charges were dropped he slept with her cousin, in their bedroom. A huge scene was made. He was heartless about it all at the time. It was her punishment for trying to control him, break him down, making him the evil person that was reduced to such treachery. Also, he wanted out and her catching him in bed with her cousin was sure fire. She told him to get out. He did and went to the bank the next morning and took fifteen thousand dollars from her account and left her for good – or so it seemed at the time.
She found him on Facebook and sent him a friend request with a message:
Sorry. I know that person you was the last
time we saw each other wasn’t you. Call me.
Markis called her and they met up a few times, but found themselves running into the same problems that led to the other break-ups with less histrionics, but he knew she always wanted him back.
He hears Angela anxiously unlock the door as he comes off the elevator. Once close enough she reaches out and pulls Markis into the apartment. She tears at his clothes until enough of him is exposed to jump on him, wrap her legs around his waist and allow her body to move him into her. He goes to work on her.
An hour later they are lying in bed together. He rises to leave. Angela asks, “You still working that rinky dink retail job?”
“Somethin like that,” Markis replies while rising to get dressed to leave.
“Why do you keep doin this to yourself?”
“C’mon you know what. Look your job skills far outmatch the jobs you’re working. You should be making ten times more than what you’re makin and you know it. You’re staying in that piece of crap apartment when you should be living better. Come on let me help you.”
“You wanna help me?”
“Then be there when I need you. Not being some deranged, controlling political brat that attacks when she doesn’t get her way.”
“You’re too nice Markis. I’ve always told you that. And nice equals weak ass chump to -”
“Markis walks over to the bed gives her a peck on the lips, “Bye.”
As he turns she thinks of a way to try and get a response from him. Her desired response.
“See. Soft. I told -”
At that moment Markis turns in an apparent rage, snatching her from the bed, pins her to the wall with his left hands around her throat. She is frightened. He tightens his grip. She tries to squeal but he commands her to, “Shut the fuck up.” She obeys. Scared and confused she attempts to wiggle her body away from him.
“Shh,” Markis says as he tightens his grip. Her eyes water, a tear descends along her right cheek.
“How does it feel Angela? Huh? How does it fuckin feel to be powerless?”
She sees an irate emotion in him that she never seen in him before. She never thought she would see it. He stares deep into her eyes, striking more fear in her, then he tightens his grip again.
“You see Angela. This is what happens when you attempt to build Frankenstein’s, tryin to control shit. You lose control. You understand.”
She blinks and he releases his grip. Angela falls to the floor gasping for air and clasping the edge of the bed. Markis kneels down behind her then says, “Now. I’ve proven myself to you. When the time comes will you prove yourself to me?”
Angela looks into his eyes again. They are not so derange anymore, but sincere, soft. He kisses her on the forehead then leaves.
Markis does not go to work. He does not call and tell his supervisor that he is not coming. He stares at the phone as the number of missed calls and voice messages from her and Angela add up. He does not bother to check them. Fuck ‘em, he thinks as he fires up a blunt and listens to the silence in his shitty apartment.
Markis feels groggy as he is being shaken to wake up. He hears his name being called by a feminine voice. “Markis. Markis. Wake-up,” the feminine voice becomes more demanding.
Finally his sight and hearing are more lucid. He squints a few times before to be sure he is seeing things correctly.
She steps back from the sofa-bed, “Good. Finally you’re up.” She goes over to the window to open the blinds. The sunlight blares into his apartment and his face. He frowns then attempts to cover himself with a sheet.
“What the hell are you doin Angela. Fuck outta here.”
“No. You have to get up Markis. We have to talk,” she snatches the cover off him. He looks at her with disapproval.
“Stop doing that to me Markis, would you? Please.”
“What do you want Angela?”
He rises to go to the bathroom. He shuts the door. The sound of him urinating can be heard through the apartment.
“I was concerned about you. You didn’t answer your phone yesterday. I went to that job you work and some frantic old woman told me you weren’t there and hadn’t called in. She’s talkin about firing you from that piece of shit job. What’s going on with you?”
The toilet flushes. The water is on then shut off. He opens the door, “I’m fine.”
He brushes past her. “That’s bullshit Markis. Are you on drugs or something?”
“I smoke a lotta weed. You know that.” He says carelessly as he opens his fridge, grab a carton of milk then a box of Frosted Flakes from the top of the fridge. After taking a bowl and spoon from the dish rack he pours them into the bowl and commences to shovel a spoonful of cereal into his mouth, chewing loudly knowing it will annoy Angela.
“You must be smoking something harder than your usual shit cuz you been trippin lately.”
“Whatever. Is that why you came over here to give me some bullshit behavioral analysis. Save that psycho-junk for some other nut sack.”
“I came over here to get you outta this rat hole. And since you’re too stubborn and foolish to make the move I figured I’d help you out.”
“I’m not for sale Angela. I’m not some fuckin handbag you can purchase and tote around. You still don’t get it.”
“Ugh! You are driving me crazy. Why won’t you just let me do it! Is it because you’re bangin that old fart bag at your job. I saw the way she looked at me when I came in to look for you. You know that’s some really sick shit, Markis?”
“Hey look she the one tryin to force me to nail her. I ain’t -”
Markis realizes he said more than he wanted to say. Angela looks shocked.
“Look why don’t you just leave?”
“Because I love you.”
“Then you’re a fool. Love don’t exist.”
“I swear you’re an asshole.”
“Then that makes me your perfect man, huh?”
“Shut up and tell me how long she’s been harassing you.”
“The last coupla months now. Since her last fuck buddy bounced. Got a new gig in Garland.”
“So you’re Marcus Graham and she’s Lady Eloise,” she laughs. He does not. “Oh come on. That was classic. Eddie Murphy. Eartha Kitt. Boomerang? I know you remember that?”
Markis smiles, “Yeah I do. She don’t look half as good as Eartha Kitt did. Not ever.”
They share a laugh.
“She wants me to fuck her by Friday or she’s gonna fire me.”
“Wait. What? Are you serious?”
“So you gonna do it? I hear old women know tricks?”
“Fuck outta here. I’m not nailin that old bitch. I got a plan.”
“I hope so. Markis don’t do nothing stupid.”
Without a response he ate another spoonful of cereal. “So how did you get in my apartment Angela? You don’t have a key.”
“Huh, my ass.”
“Okay I broke in.”
“That’s some psychotic shit Angela.”
“You’re the one who taught me how to break into stuff.”
“That’s when I thought you were sane.”
“Shut up,” she giggles.
“It’s okay. I’ll forgive you this time,” she smiles as he winks at her.
Markis enters the job and sees his supervisor. She eyes him. He feels his face twist as he thinks, Agh! I hate that bitch. As he goes to sign in she asks him to step into the office. He follows her and closes the door behind him.
“You know Markis you ain’t call in yesterday and –“
“Shut the fuck up. Look I’ll meet you at the hotel Friday.”
She is in shock, “What?”
“Hyatt House over by SH6,” he does not wait for a response, but leaves the office and goes to the stock room to do an inventory check. It was his busy work to keep him away from her until she left work for the day.
Markis is following her home. She does not see him tailing her. He stays a few cars behind her, stops two blocks before hers and parks his car in front of a newly developed housing complex with an ostentatious sign that reads Lone Star Estates Apartments and Townhomes. He pops the trunk and takes out the bag of guns he bought from Rodney. After closing the trunk he activates the alarm on his car and proceed to her block.
She was in her second floor apartment with the lights off. He went to work fast. Markis quickly pops the locks on her car. She did not have an alarm. Good ole Natalie. The only fool in Houston without an alarm on yo ride. She should know betta. He mutters aloud sitting in her car with his razor inserting cuts and guns in various sections of her car. He pops the trunk, locks the doors and quickly moves to toss the last two guns in her trunk under the spare tire with a rusted crowbar under an old dirty towel. He closes the trunk and goes back to his car and heads home.
Thursday Night/Friday Morning
It is 11:30PM. Markis is parked on Natalie’s block. Again he waits for her as she pulls her car into an available spot. Markis quickly jumps from the car, lightly shuts the door and jogs towards her car. Her back is turned as she is removing some grocery from her car. Markis stands behind her, when she turns around she is dazed with several blows. He hits her two more times. Her face is badly bruised and bleeding. Markis takes her wallet purse from the front seat and races to his car. He drives away. A few blocks over he pulls the car into a parking space, rummages through the wallet purse, and takes out all the cash he could find. “Seventy-five dollars,” he mumbles, “Broke bitch.”
He starts driving again and tosses the wallet purse out the window. Pulling off the gloves and brass knuckles at the next stop light, he notices two Houston PD cars racing in the opposite direction. He drives forty-five minutes to Baytown to an old mineral factory that looks abandoned but is operational during the evenings and early mornings. He crawled up a ladder attached to the oversized furnace and dropped the gloves and brass knuckles into it. He watched until the gloves turned to ash and the brass knuckles were unrecognizable. Going back down the ladder and getting into his car, he is remorseless as he starts the car and heads over to Angela’s apartment and spends the morning with her.
Fellow coworkers, Cheyenne, Tamara, and Ric rushes Markis as he enters his job to excitedly inform him that Natalie had been beaten late the previous night. “Oh wow, “ Markis feigns sympathy trying not to overdramatize the effort while not seeming too cold. “Is she gonna be okay?”
“She’s critical right now, man but who knows,” Ric responds with a grin.
“Well hopefully she’ll get better,” Markis says solemnly.
“I don’t,” Tamara says.
“For real. As long as that witch is not here things is cool.”
“Word,” Ric follows, “you know you’re a good one man. You of all people should be happy that old pigeon finally got hers.”
“Whatchu mean,” Markis asks suspiciously.
Cheyenne and Tamara race to answer the phones as Ric moves closer to him. “I had to do her to keep my job bro. So I know she was riding down on you cuz she wanted you to tap it too.”
“Ew Ric, you hit that?”
“Hey man I gotta wife and two kids to take care of. Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
“You deserve a medal of honor. A purple heart. Something,” they share a laugh as Markis continues, “Well who am I to judge. Guess I got lucky.”
“Yea bro guess you did,” Ric says as he grabs a broom. “I’ll be cleaning the bathroom boss man.”
Markis nods as Cheyenne races back to him, “Hey Markis the plot thickens. I just got a text, they’re investigating Natalie and may arrest her if she comes around.”
“Cuz she had unmarked guns in her car. Some of them bad boys got bodies on ‘em. That bitch goin down,” Cheynne was full of joy. She looks at Markis who looks seriously disturbed. “Aw Markis don’t feel sorry for her. She’s a bitch that’s done a lot of dirt to people. Fuck her. If she dies we’d all be too lucky.”
“Alright C back to work. I gotta take care of a few online client orders.”
They disperse. Cheyenne to her cubicle and Markis to the office. He smiles as he pulls some files from the top desk drawer and start working.
That night Markis asks Angela to marry him and she gladly accepts. As they kiss then snuggle on the living room sofa, Markis thinks about Natalie and if she dies. Well at least my wife won’t testify against me.
Copyrighted 2015 Gregory Waits, Jr. All rights reserved.