Short short story post-

by Bryan Knower

Marvin Goodly looked down at the spreading pool of blood in disbelief. Stuff like this only happened on TV. He was still gripping the kitchen carver he had grabbed by reflex. He willed his fingers open, trying to drop the knife through sheer willpower but the blade refused to leave him. Using his other hand, he pried the digits loose one by one in a macabre game of this little piggy until the carver dropped to the floor with a clatter. It skidded into the widening puddle on the floor, spattering his white sneakers with little burgundy droplets. For a brief moment the blade gleamed in wicked contrast to the dark surface on which it seemingly floated, then, the bonds of surface tension broken, the red tide overwhelmed it, consuming it from the blade up. He moved back in horror, his eyes fixed on the viscous mass, ignoring the body from which it was still oozing; a pulsing endless stream.
Who knew a person had so much blood in them? A fucking river and he was going to drown in it.
An hour ago, this had seemed like the perfect mark, a detached suburban single on the end of the block, lights out, occupants away on vacation. He had done his homework, watched the place for a week after he overhead the thirty something blonde female discuss her plans with a friend at the stop-and-shop counter. Noting that she asked for delivery, he had discretely followed her out and along the ten minute walk to the corner house she lived in. Then it was just a matter of waiting, and Marvin was good at that.
He planned to be in and out within fifteen minutes. Initially, it all went like clockwork. Jewelry hidden under clothes in the bottom drawer. Check. Silver statuettes on the mantelpiece. Check. Mac Book Air on the dining table. Check. He hit the jackpot behind the sofa; a small safe with a combination lock. Three and half minutes to crack that one. Marvin was an old pro and the combination proved no match for his skills. Inside was a bunch of paper, mostly stock certificates and bonds. He scooped it all up, silently congratulating himself on another fine pick. It was a good night.
He should have left then. He’d stripped the house of all that was mobile and valuable. But he got thirsty. It was always like this. Whenever he finished a job, he needed to raid the mark’s fridge. A bad habit and he knew it, but it hadn’t tripped him up yet, and besides, the joint was empty. It was the orange juice that did him in. There couldn’t have been more than three fingers in the Minute Maid carton, and Marvin had his head back, chugging it down, the fridge door open, light blinding him. He never heard the sound of the door behind him, or sensed anything until the voice, shrill in the darkness.
“Who are you? What the hell are you doing in here?”
He reacted instinctively, his hand finding the handles in the knife caddy on the counter, gripping, drawing, turning, stabbing in one motion before his brain had time to analyze the situation. It was a pure adrenaline reaction, completed before he was even aware he had begun it. He heard the meaty chunk as the blade went in, the rasp as it slid off bone, like a saw going into wood, and then a sigh, like a deflating balloon, trailing off into a wheeze. Then silence, as the dark shape fell forward against him and slid off the blade, folding up on the floor like a discarded rag. There was silence for a moment and then an awful sound.
It was Marvin who made the noise, screaming so loud he frightened himself. He felt his bladder void, trickling warm down his thigh as he looked at the huddle on the floor, a shapeless mass that had just now been a speaking moving person. The coppery smell of fresh blood filled his nostrils and the bile came up in his throat. He had just enough time to turn away, spare the figure on the floor the final indignity of a shroud of vomit, before the contents of his guts came pouring out in a raw torrent that burned his throat and his sinuses, making him choke and splutter. When it was over, he felt empty, drained of more than his own body fluids, as if his life had spewed out of him somehow in sympathetic liquid collaboration with the blood coagulating on the floor. He shuffled over to the wall and flicked the switch, keeping his eyes shut as the lights came on. It was an effort to open them, but he did so, his mind registering but not evaluating the nightmarish scene before him.
The woman was blonde and in her mid thirties, the resemblance strong enough to tell him that this must be a sister.
Where the fuck had she been? Downstairs? He hadn’t checked the goddamn basement!
Stepping around towards her head, away from the massive stain dispersing out from her torso, Marvin pressed his fingers against her neck, searching for her carotid. She was still warm, still soft, but there was no pulse. The carver had deflected off her ribs and penetrated her heart, probably severing an artery from the way the blood still pumped like a little fountain from the center of the crimson blossom on her chest.
He had fucking killed her.
Her cell-phone, screen still glowing, lay nearby. She must have dropped it as she fell. He picked it up and thumbed to recent calls. There it was, right at the top of the list. 911. She had called the cops.
So this was how it ended. Not seven years with time off for probation as most burglary charges went, but fifteen to twenty, maybe life, for aggravated manslaughter. Marvin had never killed anyone before; never even thought about it, but right now, right here, he was a murderer. Meet the new Marvin. Not like the old Marvin. The old Marvin was gone, drowned in the creeping ruby tide that was reaching for his shoes once again.
He should close her eyes, but he couldn’t bear to touch her again. Why wasn’t he running? His body seemed strangely lethargic, moving with its own volition. He reached back into the fridge for the rest of the orange juice he had put down before turning. Stepping over his past life, he walked into the living room, listening for the sirens he knew were coming.


A short short story post-

By Bryan Knower

I am on my way home after work, trying to get to the Forbidden Planet bookstore on the other side of Broadway when the Bicycle Samurai crosses my path. It’s lucky I’m paying attention, because he is serenely oblivious to his surroundings, going by so close that he forces me back onto the pavement. I feel the breeze of his passing, but my mind hasn’t caught up with my eyes. His lordship isn’t moving very fast, but he’s pedaling like crazy, clearly a bike with a low gear and nothing else, and the sheer spectacle of him, a floating rainbow of a figure moving in his own virtual self-contained bubble, chokes my instinctive New Yorker response.

The man is physically imposing, dwarfing the bicycle he’s riding, and I guess he weighs over two hundred pounds, all of that enormous bulk swathed in a colored satiny kimono-like costume that envelopes him like a robe, authentic to the point of hanging sleeves and intricate dragon embroidery on the neck and down the arms. Shades of red, ochre, yellow and orange so vivid they make me blink, remind me of the maroon and saffron robes worn by Buddhist monks, but the burgundy red pants, tucked into calf high laced up boots, pointed conical leather cap with ear flaps and sequined vest are nothing a monk would ever wear.

The mount is as amazing as its rider, a marvel of ceremony and function clearly modified to serve the self expression of its rider. Over the front handlebars hangs a metal mesh waste basket cradling a boom-box turned up as far as it will go. I think the bike is yellow, but I can’t be sure. I stare incredulously at the long whip-like radio antenna fixed to his rear mud guard, waving in the wake of his passing like a conductor’s baton dictating the tempo of the music as it scores his passage. I don’t know if the antenna has any connection to the radio up front, or if it serves some other esoteric purpose, but it is connected to something, because on the tip appears what looks like a ping-pong ball, and it glows bright red. A wicker basket bounces up and down behind the Samurai’s seat, painted red and lined with cloth. In the basket sits a little dog; a Fox Terrier or something similar, posed like the iconic image on old RCA record labels, perched alert on his haunches, with his head cocked to a side and his ears pricked up. I swear he is listening to the music.

Amazingly, a pigeon sits motionless on the top of his cap, like the plume on some ancient warrior’s helmet. Initially I think the pigeon is dead, stuffed and fixed to his headgear but suddenly, startlingly, it flaps its wings to maintain its balance on that precarious perch. The pigeon is as aloof as its wearer.

Leather saddlebags drip down either side of the Samurai’s seat, reaching almost to the rear wheel axle and making the entire assemblage appear bigger, so the bike doesn’t really look like one unless observed closely. In sum, it defies description, a characteristic it shares with its rider.

Surprisingly enough, the Samurai is doing well in the traffic coming down Broadway, although he clearly obeys his own rules. Looking back towards Soho, the traffic signals are red as far as I can see, but the Samurai sails on blithely, ignoring the vehicles approaching from either side at the intersections he crosses. I think the sheer spectacle of him gives him safe passage through those perilous junctions where he clearly does not have the right of way. Nobody honks. Everybody stares. Everyone smiles. I just watch as the Bicycle Samurai sails on into the gathering twilight, his theme music fading as he dwindles into the distance.

Long after he has disappeared from sight, I can see him in my mind’s eye, an incongruous caricature of a figure, inhabiting his own world and supremely comfortable in it, larger than life and so obviously enjoying it. I envy him. When I close my eyes I can see him still.