Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chapter 1: The Lady in Red

It was a cold and dreary November afternoon. Brink’s back didn’t feel any better than it did last week. Maybe shoe shining wasn’t going to be as fulfilling as he’d hoped. The evening rush hour was coming and although that meant more people, it would mean less customers. Today he hadn’t made much. Enough to pick up some groceries to have sandwiches over the weekend.

“Maybe this city just isn’t my home anymore. I wonder how Sandy and John are getting along in Kansas.” Brink’s sister Sandy had married a carnie the year before. When she became pregnant they decided to cash it all in and buy a farm. At the time it didn’t seem like the best of ideas to Brink, but “maybe those fresh open skies would do me good.”

Brink stopped at the corner bodega and picked up salami, swiss, some whole wheat bread and a quart of milk. The shopkeep’s daughter smiled at him politely. She always did. She was a beautiful young woman, but she was going to be married soon. Brink’s heart always sank a little when she smiled at him.

Dinner wasn’t much. Some left over roast beef his neighbor, Mrs. Crutchman, an elderly widower, brought over when she heard him getting home. “You don’t eat enough, Mr. Brinkman. Soon enough you’ll be nothing but bones!” She was a sweet old lady.

“Thank you, Mrs. Crutchman. Your cooking is always so delicious!” It wasn’t. “How’s the faucet I fixed holding up? It’s not leaking, is it?”

“Oh, that old thing. It was driving me crazy. My grandson came by yesterday and had the super change it out. That old curmudgeon wouldn’t change it for me no matter how many times I asked, but my Billy, he said ‘Now see here, this just isn’t right.’ Old MacGillicuddy couldn’t say no after that!”

Billy wasn’t really her grandson. He was a local thug. He did bear some resemblance to photos Brink had seen of her grand children though. And he didn’t take advantage of Mrs. Crutchman. In fact he did his best to look out for her. As long as he helped that sweet old lady and didn’t give Brink any trouble he was willing to look the other way.

“But when are you going to find a nice girl to settle down with? You need someone to take care of you and feed you! I’m not always going to be here to look out for you, you know!”

And she wasn't. Later that night she passed in her sleep.

It was Saturday and Brink didn't usually work on Saturday. Not his usual job anyway. Today was a little different though. He was feeling lonely with the passing of that sweet old lady. Even Billy the Thug had crumpled up on the curb and let it rain. Maybe Saturday wasn't the best day for shining shoes, but it was better than sitting home and thinking about his life and it’s inevitable dull and uninteresting end.

Two customers and five number puzzles from the paper were the sum of his efforts for the day. One of the customers hadn't paid. Brink accidentally used black polish on his brown shoes. He liked doing the number puzzles. He was good at them. He especially enjoyed Saturday’s puzzle. Saturday was always the hardest and finishing the puzzle always gave Brink a nice feeling of satisfaction.

It was time to pack up and head back home, though. It was pretty late and he didn’t want to miss the last train back.

Just as he closed the latch on the box he could hear someone sit in the chair. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir, but I’m packing up for the day. I've got to...” Brink stopped mid utterance, his mouth agape and in danger of drooling. A woman’s shoe, her ankle, her calves.. his eyes slowly worked their way up. Her thigh, oh my the slit in that skirt was quite something.. a hand in a long silk glove. The hand reached for his face and delicately cradled his chin in it’s finger tips.

“Oh, but I’m not a sir. Surely you have time for me.”

Brink was so stricken he couldn’t even move his jaw to make words. He failed to even make a sound.

“I’m sorry. You did say you were done for the day. You probably need to catch your train, don’t you.”

She was magnificent. Sequined dress, feather boa, long cigarette holder. It was like she stepped out of a movie screen.

Still Brink didn’t make the slightest of sounds.

“I very much wanted to have my shoes shined, though. I’ll tell you what. You take this and meet me here tomorrow at around three o’clock.” She leaned over slowly, slipped something in his chest pocket. She kissed her finger and pressed it to his lips. Brink was frozen. “My, but you ARE handsome.” She got up and began to walk away. Brink remained a statue. She looked back over her shoulder, winked, and blew a kiss before disappearing into the night.

As the train pulled away Brink remained frozen, box in hand.


  1. So far so good.

    One little mistake worth fixing -

    Mrs. Crutchman changes to Mrs. Crutchfield

    in what I think qualifies as the seventh paragraph.

    1. Thank you and thanks for point it out the error.

      Happy New Year!