All posts by N. D. Coley

N.D. Coley (MA, English, Univerity of Pittsburgh) is currently an English composition instructor. His work has recently appeared in Shotgun Honey, Indiana Voice Journal, Corner Bar Magazine, Jackob's Horror Box, Massacre Magazine, Funny in Five Hundred. and Crack the Spine. In his spare time, he laments the human condition, reads satire and dark, depressing literature, plays with his son, irritates is wife, and tries to keep a smile on his face. You can irritate him at ndcoley1983@gmail.com

Laundered

Mildred sat down on the plastic chair outside the laundromat and lit a cigarette. The warmth of the lighter felt good. It was 20 degrees, and close to midnight. She shivered. Her sweater was thin. Her coat was in a dryer, but the dryer wasn’t spinning. She was short a quarter. She thought she might take a walk and find one, but she’d taken that walk before. She wouldn’t find much. Cigarette boxes. Bottles of Mountain Dew. Maybe a nickel.

+++++She took a drag and snubbed the cigarette into her gas bill. She wished she could taste her cancer stick, but her sinuses were clogged. She sighed and took another drag, but no luck. No taste, and no smell. She wanted menthol. Menthol made her smile.

+++++Mildred crumpled up the invoice. It was their third notice. She got the memo yesterday, when Boyd left the house with gin and chicken wings on his breath, on what she was sure would be another bender. He would probably come home in a few days with an index card detailing how much he owed his bookie, or the phone number of another whore, or if she were lucky, a joint. Boyd probably wouldn’t share it anyway.

+++++“Ma’am, you ok?”

+++++Mildred looked up. Standing in front of her, in a frost free vest, was an old man. He had a thin grey beard and sparkling blue eyes. He sported a trucker cap that said “POW-MIA.” Mildred feigned a smile and shrugged.

+++++“Nowhere to go but down. That’s the only way I ever go.”

+++++“I hear you Ma’am.”

+++++“Yeah?”

+++++“Yeah. My pipes burst this morning. And plumbers? Not a single one answering their phones. This weather. They’re all on duty.”

+++++“I’m sorry,” she said. “I wish I could help. I don’t even have enough to dry my clothes.”

+++++“Can I help?”

+++++“A quarter would do.”

+++++“Yes ma’am, but on one condition.”

+++++“Shoot.”

+++++“Just hold the door for me. I’ve got quite a few baskets of stinking, sopping garbage bags. Just about all I own. The flooding soaked everything. So, how about that door?”

+++++Mildred looked around for a doorstop or anything that would pass as a wedge. Nothing. She smiled.

+++++“Ok.”

+++++The old man peered inside the Laundromat. A light above a vending machine flickered. A handwritten sign on the machine said, “Out of Order,” followed by a crooked frowny face.

+++++“Quiet around here, huh ma’am?”

+++++“I usually have it to myself. The place is all yours.”

+++++Mildred tucked her hair, long and unwashed, underneath her knit cap and leaned against the door. The old man thanked her and went to his truck. His knees buckled as he strained under the weight of a basket. He continued on, heaving, basket after basket. Mildred smoked another cigarette and thought of what it would be like to put it out in Boyd’s eye, to watch it melt like a piece of chocolate in the sun.

+++++“Ma’am, you still there?”

+++++Mildred broke free from her trance. She was sad her cigarette was not in her husband’s eye.

+++++“Here’s your quarter, ma’am. I’ll be back in a little while. You take care if I don’t see ya.”

+++++Mildred clutched the quarter and went inside. She scanned the room, and froze. The washing machines were silent. The dryers were running. All of them. The old man hadn’t washed his clothes. He just put them straight in the dryers.

+++++That’s when she heard the thumps, like there were tennis balls in each load. Boom-boom boom. Boom-boom. She walked up to one dryer. The window on it had a red smear. Mildred opened the door, and there, mixed in with some old towels and sweat pants, was a detached hand. The bone and gristle sparkled in the fluorescent lighting. The wedding ring on the hand was, unmistakably, Boyd’s. Her stomach churned, and she could feel acid and juices and gobs of food rush up her esophagus and into her throat. Her head felt light. She titled this way, and that, and blackness filled her vision like dripping paint.

+++++Mildred awoke moments later, covered in vomit. The back of her head was swollen, and a smear of blood was on the table behind her. She did not remember fainting. Chunks of ginger ale soaked chicken nuggets soaked through her clothes. The dryers were still spinning, still thumping with Boyd. She pulled out her phone, dialed 911, and before she pressed the “send” button, she stopped. She started to laugh, and soon her laughs turned into a howl. The dryers continued to thump, and somewhere, in one of them, were Boyd’s eyes. She thought, once more, about what it would be like to put out a smoke in them. To listen to it sizzle into those glassy, stupid eyes. Mildred lit another cigarette and took a drag. She could taste the Menthol this time. She blew out a cloud, flicked an ash aside, and starting opening the dryer doors.

+++++One by one.

Surety

How does it feel to sink a blade into a person, like a chef might plunge a knife into freshly roasted meat? What is it like to tighten your grip and slowly, but firmly, shove it inside until the blade disappears into flesh? You’re not just pushing it, right now, though. You’re twisting it. You’re wondering if the blade, stuck in the middle of his back, is slicing through a lung, or if it has punctured the liver, and you’re strangely giddy off of the thought that somewhere, blood is flowing into the body cavity of the man, drowning his organs. You decide this isn’t enough, and you yank out the blade and sink it again, only this time you don’t take your time, and instead of twisting it, you quickly yank it out, pick another spot, and stab away. You’re playing “Whack an Organ,” and the prize is the game itself. You never imagined you would enjoy this.
+++++You hate the man, and I don’t blame you. Who could fault you? You were the one, standing in a dark alley, a month ago, soft drops of rain soaking into your jacket, watching as he slithered inside your wife. His arms were bigger than yours, and more defined, and that made you jealous as he grabbed her by her platinum blonde hair and rocked his hips into hers. The man closed his eyes and smiled, a wide, clean, triumphant smile, as if his pleasure derived not from her, but from the thought of you, sitting somewhere, all alone, waiting for her to come home. And the audacity of it. The blinds were up, and the curtains were pushed to the side.
+++++You gritted your teeth as you watched your wife, naked and beautiful and loathsome, get off the bed and casually walk to the bathroom. The man slid his jeans up, put a grey t-shirt over his chest, and stood still as she, that bitch, that cheating, filthy bitch, returned and slid his forest green rain coat over his shoulders. You placed a couple of recreational pain pills on your tongue, chewed them, and frowned. You were low on pain pills that day.
+++++That’s when you began to have fantasies. They took different forms. You thought about what it would be like to shove both of them out of the window, to hear the glass shatter and see bits of it stuck in their faces, his body still inside hers, and to see them go splat, doggy style, on the pavement. One time, when you were watching their routine, you closed your eyes and imagined that fall, and how their blood would slowly ooze from their bodies. You thought about putting on rain boots and dancing through the blood and leaving footprints on the sidewalk.
+++++Another time, you imagined yourself as a gunslinger who kicked open the door of their cheap hotel, unveiled a sawed off shotgun from a long, torn trench coat, and, while taking just a moment to revel in the horror in their eyes, turned everything from their necks up into smashed watermelon. You thought about it in slow motion: splotches of blood, detached eyeballs, chunks of brain and scalp and hair, bits of teeth, all in one, ugly splatter of gooey, human shrapnel.
+++++But you’re a good person, and you decided against killing her, and you decided against theatrics. That wouldn’t be classy, and you’re classy. You came up with a simple idea: Wait for the man to pass by in his forest green rain coat. It would be better to do it in the dark, and preferably, on a cloudy, rainy evening. Wait in the alley, step up from behind, stick the knife into his back, and retreat.
+++++Good job. Now you’re here, dragging his corpse out of the dimly lit sidewalk and into the alley. Why didn’t you retreat? You keep pulling at the body, and the man’s blood soaks through your gloves. It feels warm and sticky, and you don’t feel victorious anymore. You feel weak and afraid. You smile anyway.
+++++You kneel over the corpse, panting. The sound of the rain masks your breathing. What about the knife? Best to put it back in the sheath, you think, so you reach inside your pocket, but there’s something else. A crumpled wad of paper. You went to the doctor’s today to get a pain pill prescription. Lower back pain is an easy thing to lie about.
+++++Is your prescription in your pocket? You had better not lose it. You need it. Stay calm. Open up the crumpled medical report, take out your phone, and use the screen as a light. Blood pressure, ok. Slightly overweight. Typical. Stop smoking. Pain pills. Check. The usual notes, but then something else. Decreased depth perception and a probability of color blindness. Color blindness? Were you day dreaming when the doctor mentioned this? Probably. All you cared about were your pills.
+++++Color blindness. That’s the last thing that you think about before, from a nearby window, you hear her voice. Her moaning. Her pleasure. You know it’s her, right? Her moans are so loud, you can almost feel her pelvis throb against you.
+++++Don’t be an idiot. It’s your pelvis, which you have let rest upon the corpse. Frantically, your hands trembling, you shine your phone on the man’s coat, trying to get a better look, but in the darkness, with the soft glow of the screen lighting the body, and with the blood that’s gushed onto it, you still can’t tell if the coat is actually green. You try to flip the body over. Your strength, however, is gone. Of course it’s gone. That’s what happens when you knife someone to death. Didn’t you know that? Maybe you’d recognize his face, but maybe not. Faces don’t look the same when they’re dead.
+++++You look at the coat again under the light of your phone, but the battery dies, and there’s that sound again. You can still hear the bitch moaning. At least, you think that’s what it is.
+++++Run, you idiot. Run.