Fiction
12.1 / FALL / WINTER 2016

HOW WAS YOUR AFTERNOON, DEAR?

1:15 pm, Plum Key, Florida.

The yellow taxi pulled up to 5555 Beach Harbor Drive. A shapely woman in a mauve Chanel suit exited the cab and walked into the building. Her heels made staccato clacks on the terrazzo lobby floor as she walked to the elevator.

When she entered the elevator, she saw a deliveryman holding a white vase of pale purple tulips. The woman gave the man a tight smile and pushed the button for the penthouse.

—Which floor? asked the woman.

The man did not reply.

—Pretty tulips, said the woman.

The man said nothing.

—The flowers almost match my suit, said the woman, holding the sleeve of her suit jacket alongside the flowers.

—Do not touch the flowers, ordered the man.

The woman backed away. She stood opposite a glass-covered compartment containing a fire extinguisher. She read the notice on the glass: IN CASE OF FIRE, BREAK GLASS.

 

1:19 pm.

The Superintendent of 5555 Beach Harbor Drive stood outside the front door of the building watching a blue heron perched on a frangipani tree. The heron’s eyes were fixed on a gecko hidden under one of the lavender frangipani flowers. Heron, gecko, and man formed a diorama of imminent mortality.

The Super heard a woman scream. He turned and entered the lobby. He saw that the elevator was at the penthouse. The Super pushed the elevator call button.

When the elevator arrived at the ground floor, the Super found the woman in the mauve suit lying on her back on the floor of the elevator, hands to her face, an ice pick stuck in her bare chest. Pale purple tulip petals covered her body. The tulip stems protruded from underneath the hem of her skirt. The deliveryman stood holding a fire extinguisher.

—Holy shit! shouted the Super.

The deliveryman discharged the fire extinguisher at the Super’s face. The blast froze his face in the half-smile of his last alveolar “t.” The Super covered his face with his hands. The deliveryman brought the half-discharged fire extinguisher down on the back of the Super’s head. The Super fell forward landing atop the dead woman. The deliveryman finished the job with another blow to the Super’s head with the bottom of the fire extinguisher. He dropped the fire extinguisher on the floor of the elevator car, pushed the penthouse button, and exited the elevator. He sauntered across the lobby and out the front door.

Outside, the heron was still poised to deliver the coup de grace to the lizard that remained motionless under the lavender flowers of the frangipani tree.

 

1:12 pm.

The Superintendent of 5555 Beach Harbor Drive stood watching a blue heron perched on the limb of a frangipani tree. A yellow cab pulled into the circular drive of the building. Alice Cunningham, a shapely woman in a mauve Chanel suit, exited the taxi.

—Beautiful afternoon, said the Super.

—Yes, Charles. And look at that blue heron. Whatever is he doing in our gardens?

—Red tide. When there’s a red tide, the wading birds come inland and hunt terrestrial food.

Mrs. Cunningham entered the building.

—Oh, Charles, did some flowers arrive?

—Yes. I sent the deliveryman up. I told him to leave them on the table in your foyer.

—Thank you, Charles.

She entered the elevator. A deliveryman stood holding a large white vase of pale purple tulips. She acknowledged him with a tight smile and pushed the button for the penthouse.

—Which floor? Alice asked the man.

The man did not reply.

—Pretty tulips, said Alice.

The man said nothing.

Probably one of those recent illegals with no English, thought Alice.

—The flowers almost match my suit, said Alice, holding the sleeve of her suit jacket alongside the flowers.

—Do not touch the flowers, ordered the man.

Well, thought Alice, he’s a native English speaker and a rude one.

She moved to the side of the elevator and stood opposite a compartment that held a fire extinguisher. She read the notice on the glass: IN CASE OF FIRE, BREAK GLASS.

Strange, she thought, it doesn’t tell you how to use the fire extinguisher.

Alice could feel her lover’s semen oozing onto her thigh. She hoped it wouldn’t spot the skirt of her expensive Chanel suit.

The elevator arrived at the penthouse. The door opened onto the foyer. The deliveryman dropped the vase and broke the glass covering the fire extinguisher compartment. Alice screamed when she heard the vase break. Before she could react, she received a full blast of the freezing carbon dioxide on her face. Startled and blinded, Alice tried to protect her face with her hands.  Suddenly, a man in a white terrycloth robe entered the elevator. He ripped open her blouse and jacket. His gloved hand plunged an ice pick into her bare chest.

The deliveryman plucked the pale purple petals from the tulips and scattered them on the inert body. He handed the stems to the man in the white terrycloth robe, who lifted Alice’s skirt and forced the stems into her wet, engorged vulva.

 

1:19 pm.

—That sounds like Alice, said the Super aloud. He walked to the elevator. It was parked at the penthouse. He pushed the call button. He would go up and investigate.

When the elevator arrived, the door opened, he saw Alice Cunningham lying on her back with an ice pick in her bare chest.

—Holy shit! shouted the Super as a blast of ice-cold carbon dioxide hit his face, freezing the half smile of the final alveolar “t.” Something struck the back of his head. He fell on Alice’s dead body, pushing the ice pick further into her chest.

The deliveryman bludgeoned the back of the Super’s head with the bottom of the fire extinguisher. A piece of the Super’s brain stuck to the pant leg of the deliveryman.

—Damn! he said, wiping off his pant leg with the sleeve of the Super’s shirt. The deliveryman pushed the elevator’s penthouse button and casually walked out of the building.

Outside, the blue heron remained perched on the limb of a frangipani tree waiting for the gecko that was hiding under a lavender frangipani flower to move.

 

1:25 pm.

The gecko instinctively knew that if he moved, he was dead. The blue heron knew that if the gecko moved, he would see him, and the gecko would be his.

A ladybug rounded the edge of the lavender petals of the frangipani flower. The gecko forgot the heron and snapped up the ladybug at the same time the heron snatched the gecko into its beak. The gecko squirmed to escape. The lizard jettisoned his tail. The heron flipped the gecko in the air and caught it so that the gecko faced down into the heron’s gullet. In two swallows the gecko and the ladybug were lunch.

 

1:16 pm.

—Whatever is that blue heron doing in the frangipani tree? asked the shapely woman in the mauve Chanel suit exiting a yellow taxi.

—He’s stalking a gecko, said the Super. The Super had been watching the heron and gecko’s test of wills.

—Well…a beautiful day, Charles, said the woman.

—Yes, Mrs. Cunningham, but the law of the fang takes no holiday.

—But, of course, Charles.  Did any flowers arrive for me?

—Yes, ma’am.  I sent the deliveryman up. I told him to leave them on the table in your foyer.

She entered the elevator. A deliveryman stood holding a large white vase of pale purple tulips. She acknowledged him with a tight smile and pushed the button for the penthouse.

—Which floor? asked Alice.

The man did not reply.

—Pretty tulips, said Alice.

The man said nothing.

—The flowers almost match my suit, said Alice, holding the sleeve of her suit jacket alongside the flowers.

—Do not touch the flowers, ordered the man.

—Aren’t you delivering these flowers to me, Alice Cunningham, in the penthouse?

The deliveryman ignored her.

She moved to the side of the elevator and stood opposite a compartment that held a fire extinguisher. She read the notice on the glass: IN CASE OF FIRE, BREAK GLASS.

Why would someone put a fire extinguisher in an elevator? thought Alice.

Alice could feel her lover’s semen oozing onto her thigh. She hoped it wouldn’t spot the skirt of her expensive Chanel suit. She wished she had put on her panties, but she had soaked them in her excited anticipation of her noontime tryst.

When the elevator arrived at the penthouse, the deliveryman dropped the vase, which shattered with a loud crash.

Alice screamed.

The deliveryman kicked in the glass door of the fire extinguisher compartment, grabbed the fire extinguisher and blasted Alice Cunningham’s face. She covered her face with her hands.

A man with dyed black hair in a white terrycloth bathrobe entered the elevator from the penthouse foyer. He held an ice pick in a gloved hand. He ripped open Alice’s blouse and jacket with his ungloved hand. With the gloved hand, he thrust the ice pick into Alice Cunningham’s bare chest.

The deliveryman methodically stripped the petals from the tulips and scattered them on Alice Cunningham’s body.

The deliveryman handed the tulip stems to the man in the terrycloth robe, who pulled up Alice’s skirt and shoved the stems into her engorged vulva.

—Whore! snarled the man in the terrycloth robe. He spat on her bare breast.

 

1:07 pm.

The Superintendent exited an Uber taxi and stood by the entrance of 5555 Beach Harbor Drive. He noticed a blue heron perched on a limb of the frangipani tree. The bird was stalking a gecko that stood motionless under a lavender frangipani flower.

A yellow cab pulled up the circular drive of 5555 Beach Harbor Drive. Alice Cunningham, a shapely woman in a mauve Chanel suit, exited the cab.

The Superintendent’s eyes widened as he watched Alice Cunningham leave the taxi. He could see up her skirt. Seeing her shapely thighs, he remembered their heat encircling his waist thirty minutes earlier.

—Beautiful afternoon, said the Super to Alice Cunningham.

—Yes, Charles, she replied, giving him a conspiratorial smile and a wink. Look at the blue heron, she said pointing at the heron. Whatever is he doing in our garden?

—Red tide. When there’s a red tide, the wading birds come inland and hunt terrestrial food.

As Alice walked past Charles, her hand brushed his hand.

Her touch excited his memory of their recent assignation.

—Did any flowers arrive for me? Alice asked.

—Yes, I sent the deliveryman up. I told him to leave them on the table in the foyer.

—Thank you.

—Is my husband home?

—No, I believe he’s at the country club.

 

1:17 pm.

The Superintendent held the elevator door for Alice Cunningham. When she entered the elevator, he followed her inside. The elevator door closed and they embraced.

—Not here, Charles, whispered Alice. She put her lips on his and they engaged in a mashing of lips and tongues. He lifted her skirt and massaged her swamp. She moaned softly, her mouth was full of his tongue. She reached into his trousers.

—I hear someone in the lobby, whispered Alice. Charles removed his hand. Alice removed hers and straightened her skirt.

—Yes, that button seems to be stuck, Mrs. Cunningham, said Charles in a loud voice, while alternately pushing the door-open and door-close buttons.  I’ll call the service company.

—Thank you, Charles.

—Is the elevator safe? Alice asked, exiting the car.

A deliveryman carrying a white vase of pale purple tulips entered the lobby and boarded the waiting elevator.

Alice re-entered the elevator and gave the deliveryman a tight smile. She pushed the penthouse button.

—Which floor? Alice asked.

The man did not reply.

—Pretty tulips, said Alice.

The man said nothing.

—The flowers almost match my suit, said Alice, holding the sleeve of her suit jacket alongside the flowers.

—Do not touch the flowers, ordered the man.

She moved to the side of the elevator and stood opposite a compartment that held a fire extinguisher. She read the notice on the glass: IN CASE OF FIRE, BREAK GLASS.

 

1:27 pm.

The blue heron flew from the frangipani tree down to Beach Harbor Drive. The bird’s keen eyes had spotted another lizard scurrying across the street. The bird stood, head erect, eyes riveted on this new lizard. Suddenly, a motorcycle turned the corner and hit the heron.

—Fuck! yelled the motorcyclist, who frantically tried to regain control of his bike. The bike hit the rear of a parked car. The cyclist flew over the handlebars and landed on a low wrought-iron fence. The spear-like slats skewered the cyclist’s abdominal aorta. He bled out, splayed upon the wrought iron fence.

 

1:19 pm.

Alice screamed. The deliveryman sprayed her face with the freezing carbon dioxide from the fire extinguisher.  A dark-haired man wearing violet sunglasses and a white terrycloth robe lunged into the elevator from the penthouse foyer. He ripped open Alice’s blouse and suit jacket. His gloved hand plunged an ice pick into her bare chest.

The deliveryman plucked the pale purple tulip petals from the flowers and let them fall on Alice’s dead body. He handed the tulip stems to the assassin, who brutally shoved them into Alice’s engorged vulva.

 

1:21 pm.

—Christ, is that Alice? asked the Super aloud. He turned and entered the lobby. He saw that the elevator was parked on the penthouse floor. He pushed the call button.

When the elevator arrived at the lobby, the door opened. The Super saw Alice’s body lying on its back. Her blouse and jacket had been ripped open, and an ice pick penetrated her bare chest. He could see green flower stems protruding from under the hem of her skirt.

—Shit! shouted the Super, just as the deliveryman blasted his face with freezing carbon dioxide. Charles, the Super, and Alice had spent the noon hour in a sexual rut. Now his face was frozen in the sardonic smile of his final alveolar “t.”

The blow to the back of the Super’s head cracked the base of his skull and drove his body atop Alice’s body. It was an ironic tableau of the position they had been in not thirty minutes earlier in the Super’s beach cottage.

The corpses of Alice Cunningham and Charles rode the elevator to the penthouse.

The deliveryman walked across the lobby, down the driveway, past the dead heron. He stepped over the arms of the dead motorcyclist impaled upon the fence.

 

1:45pm.

The man in the terrycloth robe moved the two bodies from the elevator into the penthouse. He carried Alice Cunningham into the bedroom. He wheeled the Super on a cart to the patio. After checking that no one was on the pool deck, he pushed the super’s body over the parapet where it fell silently. And then the explosive smack of a body landing on the tiled pool deck.

 

2:01 pm.

A group of residents gathered around the broken body of the Super, which lay covered by a beach towel beside the pool.

—I guess he fell off the elevator roof, said one of the residents.

—The elevator was acting up earlier today, said a woman. He probably was trying to fix it.

—Has anyone called 911?

 

4:00 pm.

Alice Cunningham lay nude on the bed in the penthouse bedroom. Her legs were open, and her buttocks rested on a pillow. The dark-haired man in violet sunglasses removed his white terrycloth bathrobe and mounted Alice. There would be no more sharing of her sexual charms.

 

7:00 pm.

Pieces of heart skewered on bamboo sticks grilled over an open charcoal fire on the penthouse patio. An opened bottle of Valpolicella sat on the patio table next to a white vase of pale purple tulips. A dark-haired man in violet sunglasses, wearing a white terrycloth robe, basted the pieces of heart with a spicy marinade.

A shapely woman in a mauve Chanel suit walked onto the penthouse patio and poured herself a glass of Valpolicella.

—Pretty tulips, said the woman.

The man did not reply.

—The color of the tulips almost matches my suit, she said, holding the sleeve of her suit jacket alongside the flowers.

The man continued turning and basting the heart meat.

—What are you cooking? she asked.

Anticuchos de corazón.

—Yum. Grilled hearts, my favorite.

She walked over to the man and watched him basting the meat. She put her hand in his robe and kissed his cheek.

—How was your afternoon, dear?

 

 

 

 

 —

Daniel Harris is a writer, composer, painter and sculptor. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, he worked as a professional musician and audio engineer in New York City and Europe for over fifty years. His music compositions have been performed in the United States, Japan and Europe. Mad Hatter Review, Eclectica and Fictionaut have published his stories and serialized his novels. His story, The Butterfly Effect, was listed as a notable story in the 2013 Million Writers’ Award. After living in Brooklyn, NY for 30 years, he and his wife, Maureen E. Mulvihill, now reside in Sarasota, Florida.

 

 

 


12.1 / FALL / WINTER 2016

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE