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 claimed as he plopped a trio of equal parts vodka, triple sec and lime juice concoction in front of the three coeds.
“Really?” the blonde asked.
The bartender waved dismissively. “Nah, just made it up.”
“It was believable though,” the brunette with freckles said. “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 for the story and the drink, having been served a kamikaze earlier, before plopping a twenty-dollar bill on the table. It was enough to adequately pay for the drinks and leave a tip. It was a meager one 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 has a way of making the early evening feel like midnight. A gun would have provided comfort as every shadow made him jump. It didn’t help that his neighborhood was notorious for its crime rate.
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 the sweetest smile in the world that turned his legs into putty. Despite living next to each other, they didn’t interact much. A few friendly conversations here or there with the typical pleasantries exchanged.
To his chagrin, her favorite topic was her boyfriend. She constantly harped about his cute smile, though the man had to take her word for it because he never once saw him grin, his considerate behavior, which meant he treated her unlike he treated the rest of the world, and romantic gestures, which even she admitted were few and far between but he did once remember her birthday and she appreciated that.
He understood her attraction. Unlike the man’s wiry frame, clean face, and diminutive stature, her bearded boyfriend had muscles practically bulging out of his shirt and was tall, so tall, that he loomed over his girlfriend. Their height discrepancy was not one typically seen outside a parent with their adolescent child, though to be fair, her boyfriend made everyone but professional basketball players look tiny.
The man found him to be quite an ass, quite frankly. He seemed to be 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 were quite unpleasant. He once saw him at his favorite coffee house berating a poor barista for being a little bit late with his order. Another time he saw him at the gym challenging another to a fight because he dared to get in his “mirror space”.
Yet, the wiry man always figured who was he to judge the woman’s paramour. Perhaps he treated her like a princess behind closed doors. If the two were happy together, he shouldn’t even fantasize about standing in their way, not that he could in any meaningful way. Besides, her boyfriend’s tough façade may have truly belied a gentle soul. The man’s fair-skinned companion often suggested as much during their conversation.
It was not like he was much better for her, anyway. 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 in his own right 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 on a room within a dilapidated apartment building. One in which his landlord refused to fix a lighting fixture so now only half of his switches worked.
Embezzlement. That was quite an allegation. It was the only explanation as to why his once fruitful company suddenly hemorrhaged money. Rumors of such also 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. Their mother’s last request to both of them was that they forever look after each other. The man remembered clutching both of her hands with his and moving them to his heart as she breathed her last on that hospital bed. At that moment, he vowed he would do anything to protect his younger brother and made him vow to do the same for him.
Even as his assets fell into a black hole, he refused to press charges or even investigate. Even with the gambling debts his brother accrued, he knew his brother would have found a better way to pay off those men than robbing his own flesh and blood. Another explanation was there, even if he couldn’t find it. Betrayal was just something his younger brother would not do.
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 pile of cash were enough to buy his freedom. His business died as a result, though. It crumbled like sand through his fingers. Afterward, the two went their separate ways with his brother finding a similar menial job in a different part of the state quite a distance away.
Then he heard from his brother a couple of days after the move. The younger sibling needed to ask whether he had the money to cover a bet. It was quite a substantial sum that he had no hope of acquiring, especially in his newfound lowly position and especially not on the short notice his brother demanded with more than a little hint of desperation in his voice.
He hadn’t heard from him since.
His mind turned once again to the young woman. Kickboxing, she said, when the man asked worried. That was why she had those deep purple bruises around her face and all over her arms and legs and she winced with every move. Her sparring partner just went a little overboard. She forced a weak and anemic laugh. The fake joviality she displayed was belied by her eyes which were red and puffy and had tear stains down both cheeks.
The man had 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 unequivocally that they were all untrue.
He had no idea what she was talking about. The man worked nights so by the time he got home it was the early morning. He had missed all the fights, the arguments, accusations, and the hitting noises followed by a long succession of tears, which in turn was followed up with a long series of apologies and some intimate “making up”.
The man did not know of this and wanted to talk to her further about the issue but ultimately let it go. Her explanation sounded off but he did not bother to investigate further.
When he arrived back home, he paused for a moment before going inside. Something had caught his periphery. His neighbor’s door, her door, was slightly ajar. He thought for a that he should ignore it. Why it was open wasn’t his business, after all. Something, though, something deep inside, the same part of him that warned of danger, compelled him to take a look inside. He walked over swiftly and as he opened the door, he called out the woman’s name and apologized for the rudeness of his intrusion.
No answer. Not that he was quite cognizant of that at the moment. Instead, he was standing in the room aghast as his mind attempted to comprehend what his eyes were showing him.
Furniture was flung everywhere. Broken glass and dishes decorated the floor. Electric sparks flew from the demolished television that had been forcefully removed from its stand. Droplets of blood covered the walls.
“Let go of me!”
Feminine screams echoed down the hall. He raced outside and turned his head toward the source. Specifically, an open door that led to the complex’s roof.
The man hesitated for a moment. Perhaps it would be best to let the police handle the matter.
He couldn’t, though. He had to act.
If he didn’t, she would be dead. They would not get here on time. He knew that deep inside.
Besides, this was all his fault.
He raced in that direction through the already flung open door that was barely hanging on its hinges. Its already feeble lock had rotted off, a clear violation of protocol but an issue the landlord was unconcerned with. Through it led to a stairwell which, amongst other places, ultimately led to a door that allowed access to the roof.
The man took two steps outside before he paused and pressed himself against the doorway to hide, not that the persons he obscured himself from would have noticed he was there. He craned his head and looked over. His mind once again had difficulty processing the scene.
“Let go of me!” The woman kicked her feet and vibrated her arms as she struggled in vain. Her boyfriend had her firmly gripped as he dragged her with one hand clutching her shoulder and the other full of her hair. He was forcing her toward the edge of the roof.
“The hell I will! This is what you get trying to leave me!”
“I wasn’t going to leave you!” she shrieked through the tears which were cascading down both cheeks. “I just wanted to get us some counseling, some help, that’s all!”
She screeched and then begged him to let her go. Her wailing became more incoherent until she was just babbling. All the while, her boyfriend’s shouts grew more and more incomprehensible and profane. The couple were only making sounds when they got to the edge.
“There’s one last thing I need you to do for me.”
The sobbing woman barely managed to stammer out, “What?”
He forced her to her knees and then began to unzip his pants. “Oh, God, no…” she cried.
Before his wicked act could be taken to its depraved conclusion, her boyfriend felt a sudden blow to his side. He took a quick glance 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 blow literally left him breathless. He could not even let out a scream as he plunged toward the sidewalk with the mysterious stranger who accompanied him with both arms around his waist.
For a moment, the world slowed down. After the woman realized what happened she reached out to her rescuer, trying desperately to clasp his hand.
In one motion, he let go of his adversary and extended his arm toward her. He reached out as far as he could. His hand swiped in desperation.
Their fingers touched briefly. They were the most delicate ones the man ever felt. The man smiled one last smile as a warm sensation flowed inside.
Time returned to normal. Both bodies resumed their rapid ten-story descent. The woman hastily turned her head before the pair of men hit the cold pavement below.
Her hands covered her ears after she heard the disgusting cracks and thuds as the bodies collided with the ground. The woman let out an exasperated shriek toward the heavens before she started bawling uncontrollably. Both men were pronounced dead when paramedics arrived twenty minutes later after someone in the gathered crowd decided to stop gawking for a moment and call the authorities. The woman told the police she did not know her rescuer’s name.
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