Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Kamikaze. Please enjoy. Sorry about the late post. Technically, I’ve posted the story on Saturday but I realize it is pretty late compared to when I typically publish my stories. Additionally, this one might be a little bit rough so please forgive any grammatical mistakes or missing words. Think of this as a rough draft.
“They call it a kamikaze because it’s the drink they’d give the Japanese Zeros before they had to crash land into US aircraft carriers,” the bartender explained as he plopped the equal parts vodka, triple sec, and lime juice concoction in front of the three coeds.
“Really?” the blonde asked.
“Nah, don’t think so. Just made it up.”
“It was believable though,” said the brunette with freckles, “Sure had me going.”
“You should always check the facts whenever someone says something that doesn’t sound right.”
The chestnut-haired man at the end of the bar thanked the bartender for the drink and the story, then plopped a twenty-dollar bill on the table. It was enough to adequately pay for the drinks and leave a meager tip by most standards but quite an extravagant one for a man who had what could be generously described as modest means.
He would have seen his breath had it not been pitch black as he walked down the cracked sidewalk next to the pothole-ridden street. Winter had a way of making things seem especially rough in the early morning hours. A gun would have provided comfort as every shadow made him jump. The neighborhood was notorious for its high rate of crime.
His mind wandered. He thought of the sweet young woman with burgundy hair draped over her left shoulder with some of it dangling just above her eyes. She had a smile that turned his legs to putty. Despite living next to each other, they didn’t interact much. A few friendly conversations here or there with the typical pleasantries exchanged. Her favorite topic was her boyfriend, much to his chagrin. She constantly harped on his cute smile, his considerate behavior, and overtly romantic gestures.
The man had to take her word for each of these things because he never once saw her boyfriend grin and if he was considerate toward her it must have meant he treated her unlike he treated the rest of the world. As far as romance was concerned, well, even she admitted it mostly consisted of him remembering her birthday once and getting her flowers but she emphasized that she really appreciated that.
He understood her attraction. His short, wiry frame, clean face, and diminutive stature were no match against a man with muscles bulging out of his shirt, a thick full beard, and confidence to spare. He was especially tall too, so tall that he loomed over his girlfriend his a height discrepancy not typically seen outside a parent with their adolescent child, though to be fair, he made everyone except for those on the basketball court.
Frankly, he found her boyfriend to be quite an ass, the kind who had a chip on his shoulder and perpetually looking for a fight. Not that he saw him often but the few times he did he always seemed to be berating someone, whether it was a poor barista for being a little bit late with his order or challenging a man to a fight because he dared to get in his “mirror space” while lifting weights.
But the man figured, who was he to judge? Perhaps the boyfriend treated his girlfriend like a princess behind closed doors. If the two were happy together, who was he to stand in their way? His tough façade may have truly belied a gentle soul like the man’s fair-skinned companion often suggested during their conversation.
Besides, it was not like the man was much better for her, he thought to himself. He was a failure that much he knew or at least it is what he considered himself. Once he was on top of the world, a millionaire if only just barely, with a company that had the potential of someday reaching the Fortune 500. Now, he served hamburgers to make the rent of a dilapidated apartment building whose landlord refused to fix a lighting fixture so now only half the switches worked.
Embezzlement. That was quite an allegation. It was the only explanation as to why his once fruitful company suddenly hemorrhaged money, which caused investors to quickly lose faith which in turn caused his business to fall into a quick and rapid downward spiral.
Yet he refused to believe.
His brother wouldn’t have done it, he couldn’t have.
His mother’s last words to them as she lay dying on that cold and sterile hospital bed was for both of them to protect each other. The man clutched his mother’s hands as she moved them to her heart. He promised he would do anything to protect his younger brother and made him promise to do the same for him.
Even as his assets fell into a black hole, he refused to press charges or even investigate. The gambling debts may have been mounting but his brother would never steal from his own flesh and blood to pay them off. Another explanation had to be there even if he couldn’t find it because his brother would never betray him. He just knew it.
By the end, the man found himself staring down the double-barreled shotgun of a lawsuit and potential jail-time. Luckily for him, crafty lawyers and a great deal of money were able to buy his freedom though the fees did cost him his business. Like sand, it crumbled through his fingers.
Afterward, his brother found a similar menial job in a different part of the state quite a distance away. The man heard from his brother a couple of days after the move. He asked whether he had any money to cover a bet. It was quite a substantial sum that the man had no hope of acquiring with his newfound modest means in the short notice his brother demanded with more than a little hint of desperation in his voice.
The two of them hadn’t spoken since.
His mind turned once again to the young woman. Kickboxing, she said, when the man went over to talk to her deeply concerned over her condition. That was the reason she had those deep purple bruises around the face and all over her arms and legs and she winced with every move. Her sparring partner went a little overboard. She forced a weak and anemic laugh. Her fake joviality did not hide her red and puffy eyes and the tear stains that streaked down both cheeks.
The man remained silent when she suddenly became defensive. Her boyfriend was the most caring man in the world and she loved him deeply and he loved her just as much. She heard the rumors and insisted quite emphatically that all of them were untrue.
The man had no idea what she was talking about. He typically worked nights so by the time he got home it was the early morning so he missed the fights, the arguments, the accusations, and the hitting noises followed a long succession of tears, which in turn was followed up with a long series of apologies and some intimate “making up”. He had no idea any of this happened yet something within told him he needed to talk to her further about the issue and investigate.
He let it go. Even though he did not believe her rambling explanations or her odd double-speak or contradictory statements or the concocted on-the-spot lies, he let it go. The reasons why defied even his explanation.
When he arrived back home that night, he paused for a moment before entering his abode and decided to peer over next door where the young woman lived with her boyfriend. He noticed that the door was slightly ajar. On most nights, he’d have ignored it and gone inside his home for another marathon of watching old movies via online streaming services, but something compelled him to take a little peek. He opened the door a little further and peered inside after calling out the woman’s name and apologizing for his rudeness.
No answer. He continued to open the door further until it was completely open.
He was aghast at the sight as he entered the room. Furniture was flung everywhere. Broken glass and dishes decorated the floor. Electric sparks flew from the bifurcated television that was in the process of sliding off its stand. Streaks of blood lined the walls.
“Let go of me!”
Feminine screams echoed down the hall. The man raced outside and turned his head toward it which led him to an open door leading to the complex’s roof.
The man hesitated for a moment. Perhaps it would be best to let the police handle the matter, he thought to himself. He even got so far as going a couple of steps inside perfectly content of simply calling “911” and forgetting about the situation until he passed a mirror.
His reflection made him resolute. He knew if he didn’t act, she would be dead. The police would not arrive on time.
Besides, this was all his fault.
He raced to the rooftop where its door whose lock had already rotted off, a clear violation of protocol but an issue the landlord was not particularly concerned with, had already been flung open and was barely hanging on its hinges. The man took two steps out before pressing himself against the doorway to hide. Not that the persons he obscured himself from would have noticed he was there as they were busy with other others matters. The man craned his head and looked over and once again had difficulty processing the scene.
“Let go of me!” The woman kicked her feet and swung her arms as her boyfriend dragged her by her hair and shoulder.
“The hell I will! This is what you get trying to leave me!”
“I wasn’t going to leave you! I wanted to get us some counseling, some help, that’s all!”
Her cheeks were stained with wet mascara tears as she screamed and begged. Her wailing became more incoherent until she was just babbling. Her boyfriend’s shouts, in the meantime, grew more and more incomprehensible and profane. The couple was reduced to little more than grunts when they arrived at the edge.
“There’s one last thing I need you to do for me.”
The sobbing woman barely managed to stammer out, “What?” before he forced her to her knees and began to unzip his pants. “Oh, God, no…” she wailed.
Before his wicked act could be taken to its depraved conclusion, the boyfriend felt a sudden blow to his side. He glanced down and noticed a wiry man driving his shoulder into his side with the ferocity of a charging antelope. A second or two later, he found himself hovering in the air. The force of the charge left him breathless. He could not even let out a scream as he and his mysterious assailant plunged toward the ground.
For a moment, the world slowed. The woman was slow to realize what had just happened but when she did, she reached out to her rescuer in a desperate attempt to clasp his hand. In one motion, the man released his adversary’s waist, which he was clutching with all of his fragile might, and extended his arm toward her reaching out as far as he could. Their fingers touched briefly. They were the most delicate ones the man ever felt. He smiled and a warm sensation flowed inside.
Time returned to normal. Both bodies resumed their rapid ten-story descent.
The woman hastily turned her head and she covered her ears in a vain effort to shield herself from the disgusting cracks and thuds when the bodies collided with the unyielding concrete. Though she dare not look at the corpses, the knowledge of what happened overwhelmed and she could not help letting out an exasperated shriek toward the heavens before she bawling uncontrollably.
Both men were pronounced dead when paramedics arrived twenty minutes later after one of the crowd decided to stop gawking at the disgusting scene and call the authorities. The woman would tell the police she did not know her rescuer’s name.
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