Last Call – A Short Story

An old man sits alone by a large green dumpster that helps to radiate the green sickly glow about his face. He is the type of man people pass and never give a second look, but he used to have a life. Derry Collins used to matter to the world. At one time in his life he was happily married and hoping for children, but one phone call changed everything. He now spends his time talking to a bottle of generic whiskey and remembering the past, reliving the nightmare that ended it all.

Kim and Derry Collins had known one another for about six years; married for two. They met at an art fair in North Carolina. Derry was attending the fair in hopes of a story, perhaps a budding new artist in the midst, or a scandal within the artsy class. He never really thought of himself as a journalist. The title of novelist was the same as royalty to him. He stumbled around the convention with his notebook, talking to thousands of different people, but forgetting shortly after. Derry was not the typical reporter; he dressed extremely casual with hip hugging leather pants and baggy black t-shirts. His skin was as pale as paper. His sunglasses guarded his big blue eyes and protected him from the harsh reality of daylight. As his lengthy legs maneuvered throughout the convention, an aroma of ecstasy tickled his nose. He followed the smell to a small booth in the corner of aisle twenty-five.

Kim, whose name at the time was Bloom, was showing what she called, the Bloom Collection at the corner booth. She normally sold her pottery to a local retailer on Main Street, but a friend of hers suggested she branch out. She had never been the face of her art before and the excitement of this new experience radiated from her captivatingly green eyes. 

As this somewhat mysterious character approached her booth, she jumped up from her chair to greet him! 

“Hello there, looking for anything in particular?”

Pulling his sunglasses from his face and inhaling the intoxicating aroma of his greeter, he smiled and introduced himself. 

“Your pottery is beautiful, is this your first show?”

“It is!” She replied with enthusiasm. 

“I am a journalist looking to do a piece about budding new artists in the area, do you mind if I interview you?”

Flattered, she agreed and began filling his ear with the inspiration surrounding her new collection.

Derry stayed by her side for the rest of the day. They started dating immediately after and three years later; they were married. Those were the happiest times in Derry’s life. Every good memory he held somehow included Kim. Their life together although simple, was one of much love and satisfaction, until last last year when a phone call came in the middle of the night.

“Derry, are you ever coming out of that room?” Kim yelled up the stairs at the closed door that shielded her husband from the world. There was no answer. She stormed up the stairs in hopes of freeing him from his writing. As she opened the door, there he was, crowded with a stack of crumpled up paper and broken pencils.

“You have to eat hun. You have been in here for days. Take a break!”

“Kim, baby, I have to finish this novel. I’m on the last chapter. If I stop now I may never be able to pick it up again.”

“Well, if you don’t eat, you might not live to finish the damn thing anyway.”

“Just a few more pages Kimmy. I promise. I’ll eat.”

Kim slammed the door behind her and muttered some comments of frustration under her breath. She then shrugged off her attempts to save her husband from starvation and decided to get some work done herself.

Kim’s workroom was an extension off the backside of the house. Lined with neatly planted flowers and two large rose bushes climbed up the corner pillars. Her pottery wheel sat next to a small antique table that held several large candles and a small radio. The flooring was solid red brick and was partially covered by a large throw rug of distinct African descent.

She stepped over to her work desk, lit all three candles and turned on the sounds of Reggae for some background music. Kim gently placed her aged hands into a large clay bowl and scooped up a handful of water over to the pottery wheel. Holding the clay between her fingers, she closed her eyes, breathed in deeply and indulged herself in the atmosphere of her work. She was only truly happy when she was working. Her hands glided along the clay forming the large, shallow serving dish as she took her time perfecting it’s shape. Time moved on wildly. Before she knew it dusk had fallen leaving a frigid chill throughout the air. She closed up for the night and headed toward the still comfort of home. Her eyes were heavy as weights and it was becoming very difficult to keep them alert. Just as she headed up to sleep the phone began to ring violently awaking her from a daze. As she answered, a deep almost familiar voice, replied,

“Kim, is that you?”

Not sure who this man was she responded with a faint, “Yes…who’s this?”

“Please don’t hang up…it’s Anthony.”

It had to be bad news. She had not heard from her ex-fiance in years and they ended on extremely bad terms. Now in a much sterner voice, she asked, “What do you want?How did you get this number? Haven’t you done enough?”

“Listen Kim, I’m clean now and I’m sorry for the way things ended, but this is serious.”

“Make it short, I’m listening”

Kim’s knees buckled as he began his confession. The phone plummeted to the floor, landing with a loud, smack!

Her chest began to feel as though it would burst and just before she was certain it would, an uncontrolable scream released itself. She then began to shake. Her entire body became weak and her stomach twisted and turned with fear.

Derry came running to the sound of her screams only to find her leaning against the freshly painted kitchen wall, holding her stomach. Her face had lost all color and her enchantingly green eyes turned a faint shade of gray as a glaze of fear coated their pupils.

“Kimmy, baby I thought I heard screams, are you ok?”Kim didn’t respond.

“Look at me, what the hell is wrong with you? Who called? Did somebody die or something?”

She burst into tears. Clutching to his chest for protection for her inevitable doom, their inevitable doom. She managed to sputter out, “I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry!”

“Sorry for what, talk to me!” He tried to get her to talk, but it just wasn’t happening, so he picked her up and took her to bed. She lay there helpless, staring at the ceiling. Derry was completely lost in confusion. This was not like Kim at all.  He had never seen anything make her act like this. She was completely lifeless and her eyes screamed with the need for reassurance, but he had no idea what for. She gazed up at him for a moment and he figured he would try again to find out what was going on. Softly he asked, “Kim can you talk to me now? What happened?”

Her eyes began to fill up with salty bubbles as they looked directly into his. Her voice was as soft as he has ever heard it as she said, “It was my ex…he has” she paused for a second to wipe the tears from her face. Kim’s lip began to quiver as she looked at Derry in shame. She didn’t have to finish. He had a feeling what she was going to say. Derry’s lungs became tight and he suddenly found it hard to breathe. He managed to remain composed, clutching his fist tightly.

She nodded and pulled her fragile body to his chest. The two of them laid there inertwined in each other’s flesh, silently. The stars gleaming through the small skylight above shined a small bit of hope upon their seemingly lifeless bodies. Nothing more was said.

Monday came too soon and the test results shortly followed. They were both put on medication, but the illness took quick. Kim was first. Within several years, she was already showing signs of it’s progression. Her face took on the permanent color of white and large sores filled her throat. Speaking became impossible and walking was a thing of the past. She was closer and closer to death every day and there was nothing Derry could do. The illness was still in the incubation stages for Derry and his health appeared to be fine, however his mental state was lacking sanity.

“She died on a Sunday” he would mutter from time to time, but no one ever understood what he was referring too. After Kim’s death, Derry’s life took a drastic change. Work became something he simply talked about and a bottle of whiskey resided as his new companion. The illness continues to share his body, showing up now and then in the form of a sore throat or a ulcer, nothing major yet. He now spends his time sitting next to a large green dumpster asking those passing for change. People rarely contribute, most think of him as just a bum on the corner, but he used to be one of them. At one time in his life he was happily married and hoping for children. No one can see that now, but no one ever asks.



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