a short story
He was seated in the bookstore, nestled in a large arm chair, a mug of black poison in one hand and a book resting on his knee. The leaves of the book were held open by his other hand. From time to time, his eyes would drift toward the strange satchel on the next to him. Its worn buckles were just barely locked together. He half expected it to burst open with a snap any moment.
Beyond the shop windows, the rain soaked everything in existence below the ominous gray sky. But inside, the air was still and silent. The sound of breathing and the rustling of paper served as the store’s soundtrack. Besides the man, the store contained the elderly shopkeeper and a handful of patrons.
Suddenly, a shrill ringing shattered the tranquil atmosphere. Heads which were previously bent over engaging print, snapped upwards, searching for the intrusive noise. Disturbed, the man eyes the satchel from which the noise rang. The silence took over as abruptly as it had been interrupted. In the ensuing silence, the man argued with himself. First of all, the satchel was not his, all the more reason for him to keep his hands off it. But if the owner was the one who now called, would it not be best if he answered the call?
When the device within the leather bag shattered the silence a second time, he hesitated, then sprang into action. He snapped open the straining buckles under the disapproving glares of the other patrons and spectacled storekeeper. He reached into the front pocket, hoping that it would be in the first pocket he chose. Fumbling, his fingers slid across the screen to accept the call. To appease the disapproval emanating from the other people, he retreated to a corner of the shop.
“Oh thank goodness,” A young woman’s voice responded, “ I thought I left my stuff at home!” There was a foreign twang to her light voice.
‘It would have been better if you did.’ He thought bitterly, his thoughts still in the tropical desert located between the hardcover’s yellowed pages. “No, it’s with me at the bookstore.” He responded.
“Could I enlist your help?” She asked.
“Erm,” he glanced at his mug and book, placed on the table next to her bag, “I guess.” He reluctantly complied.
“Thank you, so I’m actually waiting for a flight right now but it’s been delayed for an undetermined amount of time.”
He gave a noise of understanding.
“Do you think you could bring it over for me?”
His head spun, “I don’t have a car and it’s pouring rain.”
“Excuses, she scoffed, “Take the bus! I bussed here myself!”
He bristled at her tone, “What if you’re not there by the time I arrive if I even decide to go?”
She laughed, “I’m sure it won’t take you more than two hours.”
“Don’t talk to me like that,” he retorted in a controlled voice, “Your bag is in my hands.”
She was silent and he wondered if she had hung up.
“What flight are you catching, and to where?”
“The less you know the better.” She replied, “Like I said, I’m sure that if you had quit stalling with this phone call, you could deliver it to me before I exit this darn country.”
His eyes widened at the contempt which flooded her voice. “But if I don’t get there in time, I can send it!” He reasoned.
“No, I just asked the attendant. The flight leaves in three hours, perfect timing for you to get here and pass it to me. Then you can return to your mug of coffee containing two sugars and a cream, and an unrealistic story set in the tropical desert.”
“Huh?” Goosebumps sprang up on his skin. She was correct in everything! But how?!
“Can I count on you? My phone bill’s going up with your dallying.”
“If you really can’t then don’t bother. Just hang up now, please and thank you.”
“Who do I look for when I get there? How do I know where to find you?” he inquired in a single breath.
“Oh don’t worry, Brewster, I await your arrival… with pleasure.”
When she hung up, his face was pale and his fingers clutched the metal shelf closest to him. This person, this woman expected his assistance without providing a single detail on herself yet knew every minute detail about him!
Less than minute later, he was dodging pas traffic towards an idle cab. Ever since an unpleasant experience a year ago on the bus, he dare not try his luck again.
Close to two hours later, he paid the taxi driver, stepped onto the slippery curb and rushed into the looming airport entrance.
At exactly one forty eight in the afternoon, he skidded to a stop just within the second set of glass doors.
“Brewster, nice to see you again.” A platinum haired woman raised a pair of sunglasses onto her head. Her cool gray eyes met his own trembling ones.
“You?! It was you on the phone?” He shook harder than a leaf in a windstorm.
She tilted her head to one side. Her sharp eyes regarded him with amusement, “Voice lessons and ventriloquism have had a great effect, have they not?”
He staggered backward, “You said… you promised me you wouldn’t!” The bag-her bag- weighed him down.
“And you promised me a happy life, but we separated a year ago.” She threw back, “you threw me out with nothing but a denim dress on my back and broken dreams. “
“You spent all our money on your drugs. You were killing me along with yourself.” He choked out.
“I’m glad I left. I’ve reached the peak of my career. I’m ready to end it all, filthy rich, buried in a diamond studded casket.” She leered.
“What are you talking about?” He shuddered and swivelled his gaze around their surroundings. Everyone else paid no heed.
“Ever read the news, magazines, or listened to radio broadcasts?”
He shook his head, watching her close the distance between them; stiletto heels clicking on the tiled floor.
“Such a shame, for all your reading, you never care to know what’s really happening.” She slid her manicured hands into her pockets, “I’m Hollywood’s biggest commodity right now.” He stared at the forced smile which had crept onto her face. She sighed and straightened, eyes meeting his again, “Drop the bag, Brewster.”
Silently, he slid it off his shoulder and let it thump to the ground.
“Excellent, now do you remember a couple years back when you proposed to me? You told me I was your life.”
“Yes, he breathed out and resisted the urge to retreat backwards.
“Well,” as she spoke, both of them glanced at the bag between them, which now resonated with an urgent beeping. She continued, “ I said that you’d be the death of me when you kicked me out. Do you remember?”
The contents of the bag exploded, “And so you are.” Bystanders screamed as the floor beneath their feet crumpled and collapsed. Flames licked across its remains. Shards of glass were all that remained of the grand entrance and the high vaulted ceiling scorched dark then crashed down.
However, Brewster felt numb to all pain except that which he heard in his own voice as she shoved on envelope into his hands then fell on top of him in a dead weight as their hearts ceased beating simultaneously.
A terrorist attack? Oh no, just a loving contract gone wrong.