THE FALL GIRL - CINDY ROSMUS
Lucky for him, you still have those keys.
After sneaking out, late one night. With no notice.
And dirty pots on the stove. Red rice caked to one pot, beans to another. And a plate—half-full—for the roaches. Thanks to them, you always felt “watched.”
“Baby,” Manny said. “You gotta help me. I’m banned from that place.”
Worst super I ever had! the landlady said. Even before Manny robbed three tenants. Sweep before you mop, you shit!
“Thanks to you,” Manny said. “It’s hid.”
Behind your sink, in that hole in the wall. Pounds of it. Like giant lumps of sugar, but sweeter.
“You know,” Manny said, stroking your face, “I depend on you.” Like Sport, from Taxi Driver, only you’re older than twelve and a whore just for him.
“Serves the bitch right.” You meant the landlady.
How you love his smooth, brown skin. Those steady black eyes. Eyes that demand your best. That cut you when you fuck up.
When he fucks up is a different story. And you have no say in who he fucks. Those glassy-eyed crack whores, even that aging colorist in 2-B.
“Baby,” he said. “I do it to get close, see what they got...”
Ghetto gold, widescreen TV. That gilded picture frame. “Antique,” he called it. Trampled the colorist’s wedding photo. “Died of AIDS,” he said, about the husband. But that didn’t stop him from fucking her.
Kool-Aid red hairs you found in his rooms.
Pabst Blue Ribbon in his fridge. Cheapest beer going.
Now you’re sneaking back in, to get his stuff. In your old place.
“The gun’s out back,” he told you. “By the garbage.” Like you forgot.
In the ground, beneath the grill some guy traded him for crack. All summer, you sat in a plastic chair, chewed up by flies and mosquitoes. Barechested, he cooked near-spoiled burgers for his bitches and pals.
Once the landlady showed up. “Where’s mine?” she demanded, smiling horribly. “I deserve a steak. For keeping you on.”
Nibbling your burger, you caught her eyeing him way too long.
“Don’t call me,” Manny warned you. “No matter what happens.”
It’s real late. No baby cries, or music from upstairs. Still, in a place like this, someone’s bound to be up.
Out back, you dig up the gun. With this tiny flashlight that’s still clipped to the keys.
“A .22,” he says it is. A “little girl’s” gun, easy to shoot. You hope you won’t have to. Still, you like its light, “easy” feel.
The back door’s propped open. Can you believe your luck?
As you creep past the laundry room, you smell Tide, hear the dryer humming.
When you peer inside, nobody’s there.
Upstairs, finally, you reach your old apartment. The gun feels like part of you, now.
As you unlock the door, the keys’ jangling is louder than church bells. Tolling for...who?
Inside, it’s like you expected: quiet, stinking. Like the roach kingdom’s been farting all night.
In the bathroom, you stop.
The sink’s been pulled out. That hole in the wall’s like a huge, toothless mouth.
But...you think, wildly. You put down the gun, grab for your cell.
“Don’t call,” he said.
Instead, you reach inside the hole. Rats, you think, too late. Nibbling curious fingers.
A shitload of chains you pull out. Tangled, golden in the light from your tiny flashlight.
Ooooooh, you think.
Suddenly, the light goes on. A figure looms in the doorway.
“Police,” Manny jokes. His gun is no “little girl’s.”
The landlady’s with him. “Don’t break the pipe!” she says, as he reaches in for the goods.
In disbelief, you sink to the floor.
“You dumb shit,” she says.
This time she means you.
BIO: Cindy is a New York textbook editor by day, a hardboiled Jersey female by night. Her fiction has appeared in Black Petals, The Beat, The Cynic, Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, Hardboiled, NVF, MediaVirus, The Monsters Next Door, Out of the Gutter, Devil Blossoms, 13th Warrior Review, Mysterical-E, and Beat to a Pulp. She has four collections of stories out: Angel of Manslaughter, Gutter Balls, Calpurnia’s Window, and No Place Like Home. She is the editor of the e-zine, Yellow Mama. She is also a thrill seeker, a Gemini, and a Christian.
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