Ballad of Him

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Thirty

He rented a room on F Street, three days a week washing dishes at a local restaurant. The building he was in was broken. Small rooms split into smaller rooms by cheap drywall.
Her room was down the hall. Someone he realized he knew. After work he stood outside her door.
Go away, she said.
I have cigarettes, he offered.
He didn’t smoke. He remembered she did.
Tall and lanky, he slipped into her room, a dead tree looming in the doorway.
He gave her cigarettes.
I know you, he said.
A friend’s house, he told her.
A few of them. Drove out to a hill to watch the sunrise, ending up squeezed together in a packed diner, her next to him.

She was hiding from a Man she stole money from (payback she called it) and sees him roaming the streets. She kept a blade underneath the mattress, for when the Man comes around.

He stopped showing up to the restaurant. His face reminded her of a parrot, she laughed, viewing him upside down from the floor. He’d done some time in jail. Before that he was in a hospital. Drove off the road and into a ditch. Watched his father’s eyes roll to the back of his head.

She became increasingly paranoid. The Man had found her. In the cold, they got as far as the bus station. Slept on a bench and prowled for loose change.

If he could think back he’d remember it was his idea to hit the restaurant, smash the back window, search for a lockbox the size of a briefcase. Couldn’t manage the lock so he took the whole thing out the window and into the alley where she waited for him in the falling snow.
His hands were ice cold.
The Man’s footsteps had been concealed.
He looked over his shoulder.
The blade, familiar, plunged in his gut.
He fell.
She screamed.
I told you he found me. I told you.
Her voice blew away in the wind.
She looked so small beside the Man.
Snow fell dizzily from the sky.
He knew it wasn’t her. It was never her.

Read more Fiction | Issue Thirty

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