A Short Story
by- Tom Kubrak
“Ah see I missed Mr- uh what’s his name-never mind.” Mumbling to herself, Wanda continued to walk back towards her camp on S. Center St. She walked for a while; her mind wandering in many directions. She passed her favorite liquor store and walked inside.
Eyeing her, the owner knew what she wanted and scanned the three shooters of Smirnoff vodka. She handed him the 6 dollars leaving her 3 dollars for the rest of the night and tomorrow morning; maybe even the rest of the week. She walked out without saying a word to the owner of the shop. Just how they liked it. Strictly business.
Continuing to walk Wanda still had it on her mind:
“What’s the catch though?” Looking up now to the sky wanting God to give her an answer. “Now there’s two possiblities for tomorrow…” She stopped. Silence.
In the middle of the road she saw him. He was just looking at the house. His eyes scanned from the attic down to her eye level almost as soon as she locked eyes with him.
“I love this house. Your house? I love it.” Continuing to walk.
“No not mine- just the house my father grew up in.” The man called back to her wheeling his way over to the driveway where Wanda stood excited and ready to talk.
He continued though, “So do you walk past this house a lot?” Quizzically asking her.
“Everyday yes sir. I walk on this road a lot.” Shifting now, “I don’t know what his name is, but this man down the street always gives me a dollar fifty so I can have my coffee and a cigarette in the morning. Isn’t that nice?”
“Yea that is nice.”
“I clean up people’s yards around here too. Sometimes they pay me sometimes they don’t.”
Wanda was filled with thoughts on the day, but she was filled with a life needed to be told and someone to lend an ear. The stranger, fixated on the place and the time of the moment stood at attention, awaiting to hear every word she had to say…
The words flowed from her like an expert pianist and somehow intermingled the stories of the world with the stories of her life- her voice was hoarse, but had a sweet undertone of joy to it, that made the man smile. He struggled to follow at times but was determined to get at least part of what she was trying to say.
She was thin- maybe 5 foot 3. Her teeth had been worn from the years of abuse. She was in her mid fifties. From an early age she learned how to survive on her own having parents who..well lived a different type of lifestyle. Maybe it was ingrained in her since her mother attempted to abort her but failed.
“What’s your name?” The man finally asked after the tangled storytelling was at a pause.
“My name’s Wanda.” She said directly completely fixated on the man .
Newark — 1987, Thanksgiving Day
Through the broken wood floor boards she saw it. She reached down and attempted to snatch it but her arms were just too short.
“Reggie!” Kicking him and watching the drool edge from the side of his lip. “Reggie get yo dumb ass up and help me get the bag. I got customers waitin.”
SWreEEEP- Reggie turned over sucking the spit back into his mouth. “God damn girl get ur shit together. I’m fuckin tired.” Groggily Reggie obliged himself. “Let me sleep.” Rolling back over thinking he was going to get away without helping her.
“Reggie get your dirty ass up and help me get the fuckin bag!”
“Fuckin hell woman alright alright!” Irritated now, he struggled to his feet. “Alright where’s this bag?” Following her attempting to wake himself up.
“Right there.” Pointing through the floorboards. “You just gotta come over here for yourself.” Reggie waltz over groggily cracking his neck.
Last night they were up late walking around Newark. They smoked an entire pack of cigarettes and downed a whole bottle of Vodka. They fell asleep at the train station for a few hours and then woke up and proceeded back towards their place.
“You see right there.” Wanda pointed. Reggie was trying to see it as he reached his hands through the small gap but couldn’t see or feel it.
BAK BAK BAK BAK
“I told you they was coming- now grab it quick-it’s right there- Reggie just grab it.”
While Reggie tried to get the bag, a voice came from the door.
“Yo Wanda it’s me Ty- I ain’t buyin just needa spot to light up real quick.” His voice echoing through the near empty house yelling through the mail slot.
It was 10am; prime time hours for Wanda was from 11-12, so she was going to be okay… for the moment.
“Yeah sure whatever.” Unlocking the door letting him in. As he came in he saw Reggie’s arm on the floor board and held back from any questions.
“Wad up Reg.” Ty nonchalantly asked.
“What’s goin on Ty.” Releasing a high pitch of relief- “Got it!”
“Finally Thank God!” Wanda yelled. “Gimme Gimme.” Immediately grabbing the fish scales and setting up a line for herself.
“You gonna set me up?” Reggie asked, a little agitated by Wanda’s lack of respect for his presence.
Wanda returned a menacing smile to his neediness- “Of course your highness.” She walked over to him slowly and reassured him of his worthiness. Something a crack-head doesn’t get much of, but when they get it-it means everything. Wanda knew this but didn’t care too much as she threw the back of her left hand into his right cheek.
“Jesus Christ- what was…” Before he could finish Wanda was on him like a leech, arriving an inch away from her lips touching his. “Listen buddy-Ty don’t you ever come in here again and expect something- you understand?”
Ty paused, but just nodded, understanding now what he did. He never was a fan of Wanda and this just proved his theory of why everyone seemed to look down everytime they passed her on the street.
“Here you go though!” She said setting up the line for him.
“Jee thanks Wanda you didn’t have to do that?” He said, grabbing the dollar bill and taking the line swiftly.
“Yes.. I did…now get the fuck out of here.” She said walking into the other room leaving him on the fold up chair in shock.
Ty was a little in shock but grabbed his things slowly…
“Alright I gotta post up. Ty you got five and you better be out that door by the time I get back.” Wanda added putting on her best blouse in the large pantry of the abandoned house.
“I only need two!” He called sprinting for the door now.
The sun beamed in through the gap in the boarded up window lighting up the room. Ty was seated on the fold up chair and Reggie was in the kitchen; who’s white countertops sported a thin layer of dirt and dust.
Wanda now moved into the bathroom who’s sink had been cracked long ago from residents before they moved in. They used jugs of water for their needs and held them in the tub that may have been cleaned twice in the last five years.
The stink of mold was overpowering but their senses had become immune to the pungent odor of filth and decay. The rats had begun to welcome themselves by hanging in the open rather than scurry away into the walls because of the people’s lack of awareness of their presence. A euphoric moment for any rat.
Around noon, traffic was almost at nothing. Wanda’s thoughts on why that was, never occurred to her. She never thought to look at the calendar or signs in the windows of business’ to see if there was any significance behind the massive slowness of the day. Finally though someone came up to her:
As he approached he held up two fingers low by his waist to signal to Wanda what to go and grab from her spot. Wanda walked into her stash area quickly. She knew the drill. He waited on the corner for her to return.
‘Just two- son of a bitch.’ Wanda thought to herself as she went down the alleyway. “Gotta times that by twenty if I’m gonna make up for this, or maybe thirty, I don’t even know anymore.’ she paused rubbing her eyes, “What the fuck!” Grumbling now she continued toward the spot in the alleyway where her stash was.
When she returned she found the man in a perplexed position on the curb- sitting crossed legged like a good grammar school kid, awaiting instructions from the teacher.
He jumped up right as she was almost going to say something- “What the…oh it’s you- you got the stuff?”
“Yea right” He scratched his head. “Sorry about that.”
As he fumbled through his pockets a few cars drove by. One of those cars was a minivan and Wanda noticed five kids in the back of one. She wondered where they were headed. It also made her miss her family a little bit. Her and her two sisters. She was the middle child.
“Here you go.” He said snapping Wanda out of her trance.
“Thanks.” she said motioning to him to follow her to the edge of the alleyway so they could complete the exchange.
This was a routine Wanda always did, but Wanda, in her confused state of mind failed to notice the signs of what was just about to happen to her. Normally, she was on point with these things but her lack of attention on this day would have drastic consequences.
“It’s a good batch man- you’re going to enjoy this trust me.” She said enthusiastically as her voice trailed into the alleyway. “Hope you’re alright though.” She added calling back. “You didn’t look good back there.
“Fine Fine.” He said edging into the alleyway so she wouldn’t notice.
“Almost got it buddy just give me a sec.”
Protocol was the buyer never went into the alleyway. It was so the buyer wouldn’t see where the whole stash was. Normally she had someone else running watch, but on slow days she sometimes sent them home.
“Yo chill man.” Noticing he was in the alley. “One sec.”
“I need this now.” He said itching his arms
“Jeez bro- I’ll get it- hold on though.”
But he didn’t listen and when she disappeared in between the two dumpsters she didn’t think he was going to pull what he pulled out.
She grabbed the bag, “I got it right here.” But it was quick and the gun was right in her face when she turned back around.
“Oh come on man.”
“Just get me the shit alright!” A yelled whisper and spit accompanying the command
“Bro, you being serious?” Wanda said not budging.
He cocked the 22 revolver- “You can test your luck and find out.”
“Okay okay.” Wanda said, putting her small hands up walking to the spot where she was holding it. She reached between the two garbage cans to a loose brick in the wall off the side of the building and pulled out the brick; she then grabbed the big bag of fish scales.
“Here you go.” Throwing him the bag
“Thanks.” Cocking the revolver. “The rest.”
“What do you mean the re…”
“Listen here you fucking bitch. I know this ain’t the whole lot. “You give me the rest right now or I’m blowing your fucking brains out ya here.”
“Dude chill… that’s the whole lot.”
It was as if the lights quickly turned off when a power outage happened. The butt from his 22 revolver hit Wanda right in the temple and she was knocked out cold.
Her eyes began to flicker but she saw glimpses of him fumbling through some of the trash and checking for more loose bricks. She wasn’t out for too long though.
“Ughh.” Wanda mumbled. “ughhh.”
“Where the fuck is it!” he yelled kicking her side.
“Ugghhh you’re going to regret this…do you know who the fuck I am?”
Delusional, her head still spinning. Wanda just peered around not having a clue what was going on.
“Fuck you fuck you fuck you! Oh and Happy Thanksgiving!” He yelled at her as he delivered the side of his boot to her head, finishing the job.
An hour later Wanda finally got her bearings and arrived on her two feet. She had been in this position before so she wasn’t completely oblivious to the consequences of what was going to happen afterwards but was still nervous of what her guy was going to say about the money. ‘There’s no way I can make this up.’ she thought as she leaned against the wall in the alleyway. ‘There’s no way.’
“Ughhhhh.” Wailing so if anyone was on the block could hear.
She began to walk out of the cramped alleyway into the thin stream of a street light on the deserted block. Day had turned into early evening and she was lost on what to do next. Wanda didn’t want to face the consequences. She was thinking about leaving town for a little while in hopes her guy would forget about her measly 500$.
‘Wait.’ Pausing in thought on her walk back to the house. ‘Thanksgiving?’
That explained it; almost everything. Wanda was 26. On her own since she was 15 but always made time to come back to her Grandmother’s house in West Milford on Holiday Road for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was always an escape and a sight into a small part of her family. Her grandmother’s life always gave her hope that hers could one day get better.
At a pace that wasn’t smart in her condition, she ran to the nearest pay phone which was 3 blocks away outside of a chinese restaurant, to call home.
She had forgotten all about it.
It took 3 rings before someone picked it up.
“Halllooo.” Her grandmother said.
“Granny- it’s me Wanda. I’m so so sorry I didn’t come today.”
“Oh Wanda Oh Wanda- ohhh.” Sniffling
“Granny…what-what is it?”
“It’s your father…he’s…”
“He’s what?” Sensing the aura Wanda began to tense up.
“He’s gone Wanda- he died of a heart attack earlier.”
The phone dropped from her head. It wasn’t like she had a close relationship with her father, but a sharp pain sprang up from her abdomen to her throat and she was lost for words. The phone continued to swing from the coard and the faint voice of her grandmother-
“Wanda…Wanda… Are you still there?”
By- Tom Kubrak