Saturday, October 16, 2010

638 Steps

The stories 600-700 over at A Twist of Noir are the same length as their entry number. I was a little slow picking up on the call for stories, but when they put up a post saying what slots were still free, I decided to have a go at number 638. Aware time was short I drafted 638 steps the same evening and sent it off. I never received an acknowledgement or reply, so a week later I sent it again. Then they put up another post listing which slots were still free and 638 had been taken. Fair enough. The story either wasn’t good enough, or it got lost in cyberspace, or I was too late, or whatever. The 600-700 series is a great idea and there’s a stellar list of people writing, so head over there and check it out. Below is my lost entry.

638 steps

There is only so much a man can take before he snaps. Mild irritation simmers to anger, then boils into fury, before exploding into rage. Kayleigh knew what was coming before Charlie turned the corner.

‘Fucking ... bastards!’ Anger contorted his fat, sweaty face, his mouth sucking in air. ‘The wee fucking ... skanky bastards.’

The elevators had been working that morning. By midday two had died of their own volition. After thirty one years of servicing the hapless, hopeless and disgruntled residents of a twenty two storey tower block they spent more time stuck between floors than rising and falling. By five o’clock the remaining two had been decommissioned by a rival gang from another block and the stairwell freshened with half a dozen streams of stinking piss.

He looked as if he’d just entered a wet t-shirt contest, the damp material glued to his glutinous body, dark nipples topping his moobs. Four plastic bags, bulging in odd-shapes, hung from his drooping arms, crashing against legs burning with lactic acid.

‘Don’t just ... sit there ... you lazy cow. ... Give me a ... fucking hand.’

Kayleigh toppled forward and skipped down a few steps to meet him. ‘At least you got some exercise.’

‘It’s a wonder ... I’m not fucking dead.’

The word ‘pity’ formed on her tongue before she bit it back. She took the four bags and climbed up to the landing, leaving him leaning against the railing, wheezing like a punctured bagpipe.

She headed to their decrepit flat, battered after three decades of unloving care from a revolving set of tenants, furnished with cheap fittings and crappy second-hand furniture. The only saving grace was the view – south across the sprawling city to the mountains beyond and north to the dark grey sea and an indistinct horizon.

She’d emptied the bags and put most of it away before he staggered in. The stupid bastard had managed to buy his four cans of beer and bottle of whiskey, but forgotten the milk.

‘Fucking council,’ he snapped. ‘Lazy fuckers.’

He’d lost none of his anger. He grabbed one of the cans and popped its lid, sucking down the beer.

‘You forgot the milk,’ she muttered.

She knew it was a mistake the moment she said it; knew that it would tip him over the edge.


She turned away.

‘What did you say, you ungrateful bitch.’


‘You forgot the milk,’ he mimicked and drained the rest of the beer. ‘You forgot the milk!’

The can caught on the side of the head.

‘Well, you better go and get the fucking milk, hadn’t you?’

He’d grabbed her hair and was pulling her out into the hall, back to the door.

She was screaming at him to stop, clawing at his arm. ‘Charlie! Fuck! Oh, fuck! Charlie, please. Charlie! Shit!’

She grabbed hold of the door frame, trying to stop their progress. In response, Charlie gave her a bit of slack before smashing down on one of her arms with his free hand and yanking her hair viciously. They tumbled out into the passageway.

‘Fucking ungrateful bitch.’

She’d reached her tipping point, her fingernails digging into soft flesh.


He let go of her hair and punched her hard, his rage fully ignited, wrapping her in a bear hug and carrying her to the stairs. He released her and pushed.

She tumbled into space, cartwheeling down to the landing below. He followed her down, his body bouncing rhythmically.

Dazed and livid, she was struggling to her feet when he arrived. Instead of cowering away, she launched herself up into him, driving forwards, knocking him backwards and off-balance. The railing dug into his buttocks, providing a pivot, his upper body tipping back, arms flailing, then he was gone.

638 steps bypassed.

‘Low fat, please,’ Kayleigh muttered to herself.


Anonymous said...

Rob - This is an utterly absorbing story! What especially work for me are the sense of place and lifestyle, and the twist at the end. I truly wish it had been included, because it is superb. Thanks for sharing it.

Christopher Grant said...


First, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

It must have gotten lost in cyberspace because I don't recall ever seeing it, either time.

I have sent you an e-mail to extend an invite to you to write in the Challenge, as there are still three spots open, even if they say RESERVED.

I would like to apologize for any confusion this may have caused you.

Paul D Brazill said...

This is a fantastic story. . Perfect pace and ending.