Hey, guys, here's my short story. Not as good as yours, but still worth looking at. You're the best!
“It’s actually the Milky Way,” said John. Five words that changed everything. Six words, actually. A stickler like him certainly knows that. Tiny little details can ruin a man’s life. Suddenly, they were about to ruin his.
It was 8 o’clock on a dark and freezing Friday afternoon, two days to Christmas Eve. We were in a book café. I was drinking a cappuccino – my third since I came and sixth for the day. John and his friend Martin had arrived two hours earlier. They were having tea.
I shouldn’t have stayed so long, but I had a long walk ahead and no desire to be alone with my thoughts. And John was paying. It’d been ages since that stingy bastard ever bought me anything. Always short of cash. Always whining and looking for a free this, a free that. Maybe we should’ve gone to a different place, where I could order whisky. A whole bottle of it.
As usual, John and Martin were arguing about books. The exchange was getting rather heated. Maybe they’d had something else in those cups.
“Prolific, isn’t he?” Martin was saying. “Thirty-three novels, and counting. But only a handful are really good. His 25th is the best. The End of the Galaxy. Man, I love it!”
“It’s actually the Milky Way,” said John.
“What?” Martin said.
“His 25th novel is the Milky Way,” said John again.
“No, it’s the End of the Galaxy. The Milky Way is the 24th!”
I suddenly realized that thumping sound wasn’t the tram down on the street. It was my heart hammering my brain. John had just confessed.
“You’re wrong,” he sneered.
Martin was no pushover. “You’re a jerk!”
But before I could do anything, a couple of guys from the next table stepped in.
“Knock it off, guys!” The bigger one said. He was tall and just as wide. And the pretty waitress was his girlfriend. The three of us left.
It was awful outside. The snow was raging. I could barely see or hear anything. The storm was ferocious. A ‘blizzard’, a pedantic lizard like John would say. Hell, yeah.
We rushed back inside. “Let’s go my place,” offered Martin. “It’s close. I have a bottle prepared. Expensive. Shoulder Monkey.”
Suddenly, a thought started poisoning my mind. Maybe I could have my vengeance tonight. An early Christmas present. Why not?
“Did you just call me ‘monkey’, asshole?” John shouted. He was the last to make it back in.
“It’s a whisky brand, you jerk. Shoulder Monkey!” Martin shouted back, although back in the shop we could hear each other just fine. A few late customers gave him a startled look.
“Oh, it’s actually Monkey Shoulder,” said John.
Martin just glared.
Certainly, I couldn’t leave those two alone. Martin might do the job for me. But the bastard was mine.
“Let’s go, damn it.” I grunted. Martin and John jumped. I hadn’t spoken for nearly an hour. Maybe they had forgotten about me.
“Well, he speaks. There’s a change. Maybe Scotch’ll loosen his tongue.” John chuckled.
“Maybe, I’ll cut yours out.” I thought.
Martin led the way. I shouldn’t have gone. But I was dizzy and full of rage. And utterly convinced I had the bad guy.
Martin’s place was not a place. It was a damn palace. Two big bedrooms, each as big as our apartment. Huge windows floor to ceiling. An enormous living room, which fully deserved its name, no doubt. A five-member family could live there easily, with room to spare. A ludicrously expensive kitchen. I mean, the fridge alone was worth more than I make in a year.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my chest. “Where’s the damn Shoulder Monkey?” I said.
“Hey, what’s with you? You were nicer company when you kept your mouth shut.” Martin said.
“Give the man a break!” John said. “You know about his heart. I mean his wife.”
“Don’t you dare mention her!” I nearly screamed. But the doorbell rang and stopped me. Good. I didn’t want him to know that I knew. Not just yet.
Martin left us and went to answer it. There was awkward silence. Then the door slammed. Did I hear a woman giggle just before the bang?
“You know, I’m beginning to think it’s a bad idea,” Martin called. “Maybe we should leave it for another time.”
But I’d already hatched my plan. Had to get the bastard drunk. Then I would kindly offer to take him home. And the weather couldn’t be better.
John opened his mouth, but I was quicker: “Come on, the night’s perfect for a drink.” No answer. A few moments later Martin brought a tray: a bottle (not full), two glasses – one clean, one with a smeared fingerprint on it – and a chipped cup. He’d poured some whisky in each. Rich bastards. So stingy! I hate them.
Martin took the clean glass. John wouldn’t drink scotch from a cup, now, would he! We had a silent toast. No cheer, no good wishes or funny jokes. No talk. Suddenly the air turned sour. I had to do something. Or our little rendezvous would break up too soon.
“Guys, I have a confession to make.” I said. Both John and Martin sat up. “But you must promise not to tell anyone.”
“Certainly, man,” said Martin.
“Course not,” said John.
Two replies, one translation: “I’ll tell everyone.” Bastards. But that’s the way to do it. You want to keep people’s attention, embarrass yourself. And I had to be absolutely certain. There couldn’t be the slightest shadow of a doubt. None whatsoever. And so I started. Once the first few words were out I felt it. That was the end of the beginning. No more foot-dragging. No more “Will do something later.” No turning back.
“The thing about my wife,” I said. “I might’ve done it.”
“What? You did it?” John said.
“Well, not actually did it,” I said. “But I might’ve pushed her.”
I had to bare my soul. Had to share every lurid detail. So I talked. They drank. Especially John – he loved the taste of that monkey! And it was free.
“You know, we were really happy together, the two of us. She had a great job, I helped with the housework. Unlike so many men. It was just fine.
Her boss was an asshole. But you’d expect that, wouldn’t you. Then suddenly that was fine too. They finally saw how good she was. Gave her a big pay rise. Now we could plan some fun. Visit places we’d always wanted to see. The French Riviera, even.
But then came the late nights, the fancy clothes. An iPhone. At first, I thought: “Well, she deserves it.” But who was she hanging out with? We didn’t have that many friends. What if there was someone? A womanizer milking a hard-working woman.”
“Didn’t you do anything?” John was perked up on the sofa, eyes gleaming with whisky, slightly shaking with excitement. The filthy reptile.
“Well, sure. It got a bit heated. She said she needed a break. I called you, John, to arrange a trip to that bloody place. Don’t you remember?”
There! He looked away. I knew it! Guilty people never look you in the eye.
Sure he remembered. So pedantic, so eager to be correct. But that faithful day I’d asked him to book a train for her. I didn’t know she’d need a bus for the final stretch. John had said nothing. When she arrived, she called me and said all bus seats were booked. Said she’d hitch a ride. Never saw her again.
For weeks, I blamed myself. I thought it’d been my fault. But in that book café, it suddenly dawned on me. John moonlights as a travel agent. How the hell could he have failed to say: ‘It’s actually a train and a bus.”? Surely he knows better. And the money for the cappuccino! He was the womanizer. He’d been meeting her in secret. He’d been using her. And now she was gone. He was going to pay for it.
Suddenly, I felt sick. The room blurred.
“Let me take you home,” said John. He seemed worried. I didn’t object. There is a big construction site on my street. They’re pouring concrete there. Soon, I hope. I mean, they had to be ready a year ago.
The taxi left us a block away. I snoozed in the warmth of the air-conditioner.
But now I was simmering. The bastard was a few meters from his nemesis. I leaned against the construction wall and bent over.
“You OK?” John asked. Actually, I needed some momentum to push him into the hole. ‘OPENING SOON!’ said the sign. “Correct this, John!”
I was safe home. Still shaking violently. Poured myself a good glass of Wild Turkey – I deserved to celebrate. Now that tasted so much better. Not like a monkey’s ass!
Pushed aside some ripe clothes, some old papers, and lay down on the sofa. 9 o’clock. What an hour it’d been. I dozed off.
The next hour was calmer. Then a doorbell rang for the second time that night. And my life began to unravel.
“Wh-wh-who is it?” I stuttered.
I could barely stand up. Opened the door. He came in. I crawled back to the sofa.
“Hell you want?” I asked.
“You OK?” Martin asked back.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Don’t be daft. Pour me a drink.”
The asshole helped himself to a huge glass of my Turkey. Started talking. ‘Sorry ‘bout the wife. Sorry ‘bout the heart problem.’ Hell did he know? I’d never mentioned it to anyone. Only she’d known.
My head was throbbing, my chest hurt badly. And why the hell was he here? He mentioned John.
“John? What about him? As good as he’s ever gonna be.” I chuckled. “No more earthly problems.”
The doorbell rang. The third time. The beginning of the end.
“I’ll get it,” Martin said angrily. I couldn’t see who it was. Heard a whisper: “Don’t know where John is. And he’s saying funny things. Something’s not right.”
“Honey, what have you done?”
I knew that voice.
“Eve? I thought you were…”
“I was what, sweet heart? Willing to bankroll you for the rest of your miserable life?!”
Martin pushed her aside. “Let me do it.”
Do what?! And what’s that shadow creeping behind Eve? Shut the damn door!
He bent over and whispered in my ear. “The pain in your chest…” I could hardly believe what I was hearing. “Too much coffee and alcohol… But that fingerprint… Did you see his eyes?…”
Suddenly, Eve screamed, followed by a deafening noise. Bang! Bang!
I blinked away some blood and saw a ghost. ‘John?! You’re dead!’ But no words came out.
“Surprised, asshole? Learn your English! The fine print. ‘OPENING NOON. On Christmas Eve.’” He was hysterical. “The hole – it was filled.”
“Eve? Martin?” I tried to scream.
He read my lips. Smiled grotesquely: “No more Eve. No more Martin. It’s just you and me now.”
I paused a beat. Thought for a second or two. Calmed down. Then smiled. I was saved.
“It’s just me, actually.” I said quietly.
“What? What did you say? You’re about to die! With blood on your hands. You killed them!” John was shaking uncontrollably.
“Actually, you killed them. Just shot them. And that Monkey? Sweet, wasn’t it? Martin screwed you. He knew you’d found out about Eve. Wanted me to take the fall. He poisn…”
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was an angel.
“Am I in heaven?” I muttered.
“No,” she laughed. “In hospital.”
“The bullet just grazed your head. You were lucky.”
I tried to smile. “M-Merry Christmas.”
“It’s actually Happy New Year, Mr Adams,” the nurse smiled back.