Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A short story about a couple of old friends.

The stairs up to the studio apartment cause her shoes to have a slight tack that sounds like someone snapping gum. She stops at the fourth floor where an old grey cat lays curled up in a small triangle of sunlight that is hitting the worn wooden slats of flooring. She is out of her element here. Tall, statuesque even, with shoulder length white hair she is past her prime but just as sexy as when it was jet black. She wears a white thigh-length dress that shows off her still powerful and shapely legs. Apartment 4D. She lifts her gloved hand, ready to knock when the door opens.
            “Hello Diana,” he says.
            “Hello Clark. I see you are adjusting to retirement.”
He stands in front of her his belly poking out pass a soiled red robe. His hairline seems to have relocated to his chin. Long peppered whiskers dangle with remnants of past meals. The afternoon sun makes its way through torn blinds and filthy windows into an apartment littered with papers, unread mail, and empty pizza cartons. An unwatched television drones on in the background and the smell of unwashed clothes hang in the air like a curtain. She crosses the threshold.
“It’s not exactly a fortress of solitude, but the rent’s cheap,” he shows an uneasiness that is rare for him.
“I should hope so. What happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“This, you, all of it.”
“Funny story. You know that radiation Lex was always sending me? Well, it seems to have had some (looking for the right word) residual effects. Speed…strength…pretty soon it’ll all be gone.” He fiddles with the couch clearing a spot for them to sit. “Hell, I can’t even shave myself anymore. I’m practically human.”
“Practically. But why live like this? You must have money saved?”
“I didn’t plan on retiring Diana.”
“What about all your possessions?”
“All of it? Even the diamonds?”
“All gone. Most went to my lawyers. Apparently, I did quite a bit of collateral damage over the years.” A stack of bills marked ‘Past Due’ is piled high on an end table.
“But this is no way to live, Clark. Not for you. Why won’t you at least move out of here?”
            “The paparazzi would love that. They’re staked out 24/7 down there, just waiting to get a shot of me.”
She looked down to the street below. A stretch limo is sitting in a handicap parking space. The litter cover sidewalk is empty of people.
He shuffles into the tiny kitchen and plugs in a small heating coil to warm up. Reaching for a glass coffee pot he begins to wipe it with a dirty rag, which only makes it dirtier. He lets the water run from the kitchen sink until it turns from a deep rust to a pale yellow.
“You want some coffee? I’m putting a fresh pot on.”
“No, I’m good.” She makes her way around the one room studio, careful not to step on any leftover food. “Why don’t you give Bruce a call? I’m sure he would love…”
“I’m sure he would, but I’m not taking charity, especially from a smug psychopath like him. I’ll be fine. Have you been reading my blog?” he asks with the most enthusiasm she has seen since she arrived.
“Ah, yeah. It’s really great. Clever.”
“What did you think of the last one?”
”Last one? Which one was that?”
“You know, the one where I compare reality shows to cave paintings.”
“Oh that one. That was one of your best.”
He stares at her. Although, his body has betrayed him his mind is sharp and alert.
“You didn’t read it did you?”
“I meant to.
“Have you read any of them?”
“Clark, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
He plops down into the red upholstered chair, the arms of which are worn threadbare. The chair tilts to one side due to a broken leg and clunks down.
“Maybe I better go. Listen, I have to fly back home in a couple of weeks. Why don’t you come with me? We can take my plane.”
“Fly inside? No thanks.”
The coffee percolates and he rises to turn it off the bitterness filling the air. His hand accidentally touches the hot coil.
“Damn. I still have to get use to that,” He laughs and puts the tip of his finger in his mouth to cool it off. He pours himself a cup.
She gets an idea. Wiggling the toe of her high heel into a loop of electric cord strewn across the rug she wraps the cord around her ankle. She makes small talk with the big man to distract him. Suddenly, she screams and falls backwards. In a flash he’s in from the kitchen and catches her in his arms before she hits the ground. She smiles up at him.
“You still got it Clark.”
“Not quite,” His eyes point over to the kitchen and the broken coffee mug he let fall to the floor, “but thanks for trying.”

Back out on the sidewalk the woman puts on her orange Chanel sunglasses. She turns and looks back up to his apartment, lets out a long sigh, and heads towards the waiting limo. The smoke colored windows let in very little light. She steps inside where an old man sits. His long arthritic fingers lean on a kane for support.
“What did he say?”
“You were right,” she answers him. “Driver we can go now.”
With a life filled with pain and loneliness, saying goodbye to her friend for the last time was the hardness thing to do.

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