by Greg M
Twisted tea time. Draft short story beginning. Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Cup of tea time. Necessary preparations already made. A favourite teaspoon, wiped again with a clean linen tea-towel, to be sure. Plain white cup and saucer, one of a set of four given by mother the birthday before last. Three others remain in their box, waiting for friends to find time to visit. Very busy, you understand. Fine white China pot, just big enough for one cup and a couple of top-ups. Silly to have one of those big pots…so much waste.
Water in the pot. Usual chair. Table….brown laminate, metal legs. Across from the kitchen window, bowl of fruit between. An orange, an apple. Must get another apple to last the week.
Three clockwise turns of the pot, then one the reverse. Two minutes to steep. Pour…two short dips at first, then one long draw. Two level teaspoons of sugar, four stirs. Let it settle.
First sip….ahhh…Calming, soothing, been looking forward to it.
Curtain half drawn, cloudy, no sound.
Six more sips, two top-ups, finished.
3.38pm. A knock at the door.
“I’ll do my best to remember it all Sergeant, but as you can imagine I’m still pretty shaken by the whole business”.
The officer reassured him. “Take your time Mr Stubbs”.
“Well, it was about 3.30pm by the time I got there. We’d had a few other emergencies in the building that day…the pipes are getting old and busting all over the place. Some clown also got into the pool area and sprayed graffiti on the change room walls.
I got his note in my letterbox the night before…me and the missus must have been at the club for dinner when he came down. I think my wife still has the note if you want to see it.
‘To the Caretaker’ it said. ‘Problem with my toilet. Please fix ASAP – Apartment 5B.’
It was all very strange, right from the start. “Who is it?” he said, before even opening the door. Dopey bugger, he could have looked through the bloomin’ spyhole for himself to see it was me. He’d made me put the damn thing in a few months ago, but he’d not thought to use it, had he?
“Mr Stubbs” I said, “Building Caretaker”.
He didn’t say a word, but stood aside as I took in all me gear and dumped it in the lounge room; toolbox (done a few miles that thing, I can tell you), a plunger for the inevitable blocked dunny, and my book…with all me jobs listed in it.
His unit was very neat. He didn’t have a lot, but everything he had was in its place, clean and tidy. Not much furniture – a lounge, green I think, and a small dining table over by the kitchen window. There were no books, not even a TV or radio that I could see. Christ, how the bloke knows what’s going on the world I’ll never know. It was so empty, you’d almost think no-one lived there.
“Right then” I said, “show me to the troublesome shitter”. He looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about, so I continued. “Your toilet, mate… I got your note saying there was a problem.”
“Ah yes, of course”. He seemed to wake up then. “It’s in here.”
He showed me to the bathroom, just off the lounge area. It was pretty much like all the other bathrooms in the place. Toilet, shower over the bath and a small hand basin. Funny though, no personal things, not even a toothbrush.
I put down me gear and began to check out what was happening with the toilet. The smell was pretty ordinary… thick with air freshener or that bloody pot pourri stuff that women like. There was something else though , another smell. I couldn’t quite tell what it was at the time.
He hung about the doorway, watching me as I got started. Him standing there was a bit off-putting to be honest, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I was probably the first visitor he’d had since I was here a few months ago.
I tried to put him out of my mind and got to work with the plunger. Up, down, up, down. No luck, so I gave it a flush. I could sense him watching me still, his eyes drilling into the back of my head. “Just piss off and let me get on with it”, I can remember thinking.
Up, down again, up, down. Then there was gurgling noise, and something floated to the surface. A bit of toilet paper, water turned pink, and something else. At first I had no idea.
I poked at the toilet paper with the end of the plunger and there it was, plain as day. A long, slim finger, hacked off at the base. It was obviously a woman’s. Pink nail polish and a wedding ring still attached, and pale blood, oozing out.
I just about shit meself.
I turned around to look at him just as the door closed. The lock turned.