A Price For Nothing [A short fiction story written by Matthew Munsey]

2년 전

“I’m telling you, you should hear the way he talks to his staff.” Gordon Smetler spoke dryly, his head resting comfortably on the plush down pillow beneath him, his eyes looking absently as he spoke towards the women in the bed laying besides him to his left. “It’s positively reprehensible. Why, just the other night he-” Before he could finish his sentence the homely young woman besides him interrupted with a small, poorly stifled snort.

“Oh, I’m so sorry” The young woman exclaimed, stifling her snickering again behind her balled, meaty fist. She gazed apathetic towards across the covers into Gordon’s small, pinhole eyes and grinned sheepishly as she watched his face slowly twist and contort itself into a agonized grimace of deflated rage.

“You don’t understand!” Gordon Smelts shouted, jolting his body upright on his elbows and staring determinately now into his young companions innocent, if bloodshot eyes. “The way he treats us - the whole Goddamn staff - you’d think we were simply his playthings. Animals for him to command and conquer.” A great gust of breath eked painstakingly out of the man’s bone-thin chest, his ribs seeming to tinkle like chimes, one after the next as his air slowly passed over them and left his rawboned, friable body. “Even his wives!” He continued cavalierly, ignoring the exasperated expression on his young companions acne spotted, and wholly disinterested face. “And yes, that is plural, darling.” He paused for a brief, ghoulish wink. “Even they get treated like the help. And don’t you even get me started on his business partners, those poor pathetic fools…” He trailed off abruptly again, his osseous chest heaving reluctantly as he did, his hollow eyes darting quickly away from the young woman to his left and up towards the steadily rotating brown and white ceiling fan that hung loosely on its rusted, timeworn screws above them. The thing oscillated as he stared deeply into it, transfixed momentarily as if by the hypnotists watch, forgetting for a time just who, and where he was.

“I think you’re just being a fucking pussy.” Gordon’s young companion uttered at last, gazing resolutely into his hollow, age blackened eyes - dark and round as if suddenly they had been transmogrified into hard, dusty lumps of lifeless coal. She smiled her toothy smile again before she continued in apparent glee. “If you hate your job some damn much, why don’t you just quit?” She spoke again, staring directly now into Gordon's blazing, hellacious eyes, her own soft blue peepers determined and unabashedly unafraid.

For a moment, Gordon only seethed, aggrieved and exasperated in the wake of his young companions curt and flippant remark. Until suddenly, he calmed. Looking down at himself as he lay, still propped up awkwardly on his left elbow, Gordon opened his mouth slowly to speak, before closing it with a snap. When he finally did talk again, his voice had changed. It was lower, sweeter - even. But within it, it was clear still that something was wrong. “I can’t.” Gordon moaned at last, looking as he did directly into his sheetmate’s brilliant, wet and innocent eyes. She stared back calmly for a moment, but within her, something had changed. No longer was she an innocent observer, watching a man fall apart before her eyes. Somehow, she suddenly felt afraid. Like prey. Like she were the mouse and he were the snake, and while for now they had wrought some form of loose truce, it could never last. It was merely human nature, and she knew all too well. And there’s never any fighting that, no matter what you tried to do.

“Why?” Was all she had managed to say, her brazen fearlessness suddenly dropping off of her body like last evenings mottled and dingy cloak, rain soaked and encrusted with all of the roadways stinking, blackened shit and mud.

“Because if I left what could he do?” Gordon Smetler shouted at last, his voice suddenly and all at once reaching a fever pitch, his wild, bloodshot eyes pulled open as if tethered on strings and pulled - hard - by some unseen puppet master rising way on high, far above. “Without me, he is nothing.” As he spoke the words, his emaciated, sunken chest suddenly swelled wickedly with egregious pride. “Without me, what could he possibly-”

But then she was snickering again, stifling her short chortling snorts behind her fleshy mitts and eyeing him meticulously, as if she were just now, after everything else, finally beginning to size him up as man, and not - as something else.

“You’d laugh?” Gordon shouted, his red face burgeoning now into the brilliant state of purest crimson. “You’re just a fucking fool!” He shouted, throwing the pillow from beneath his head towards the young girls cracked and snickering face. “Get out of here, now!” Gordon screamed, the veins on his neck standing out in brilliant contrast to the bony, emaciated state of his throat and gullet.

She didn’t need to be asked twice. Hopping quickly from the sheets, her supple naked body dashed as if in a blur towards the cheap motel dresser, her hand collected the crumbled pile of one hundred dollar bills that she had instructed Gordan to leave out of here before they had begun the night before.

As if in a mere moment, the young woman was clothed and heading for the door. Before she left, she turned and looked again, one final time towards her woeful, wanted companion. But he only had eyes for himself, staring up again towards that steadily undulating ceiling fan, some small, metallic item now entrenched carefully in his right hand just above the moth eaten motel room sheets.

With a brief sigh, and one last forlorn look towards the man who had so recently been inside of her, she closed the door, and was gone. It was better this way, she thought, as she walked down away from Gordon, through the stuttering, bare lights of the dingy, run down hall. Behind her there was a long, drawn out bang, as if a dresser had been tipped and had crashed resonantly to the moldy, poorly carpeted floor. Before she had even had time to consider what might have happened, she was out. Walking towards her beat up four door, whistling dryly through her cracked and blistered lips in the cold, midwinter sun.

Dear Reader,
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read this story, and to let you know how much it means to me that you did! If you enjoyed this story (or hated it), please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section! If you did enjoy this story, it would also mean a lot to me if you would be so kind as to upvote, resteem, and generally just let people know that you thought that what you read was worthwhile! Thanks again Reader, and I hope to see you next time! -Matthew Munsey

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