The Man in Blue

March 20, 2012

(Author’s Note: This story is just a shell of what it should be. I completed the story parts…but decided I would save a much better edit until later. That means this is a very rough cut of the story I’ve been working on. Sorry it’s not more polished. I’m just a little too excited to share it I guess.)

The storm outside was relentless. The drops sounded like they were the size of quarters banging against the side of the once beautiful home. Now the unkempt home’s missing shingles allowed for a stain to grow in the northeast corner of the ceiling in the living room. James stared up at it as it grew during the duration of the storm.

He had been squatting in this house for the past four months. James did his best to hide from the neighbors but he was sure they knew. He didn’t speak to anybody and only stayed inside at night. One of his safe moves was to make sure he never used lights at night. It was a lonely place at night.

He only left during the early morning hours. During the day he would hang around the back of a Lowe’s closer to town hoping to get picked up by somebody for a day’s worth of work at a construction site. It usually didn’t work out. But the little money he did earn was usually in sweaty dollar bills and rolled up in a rubber band. Today was a wash out, so no work.

That’s why he had been sitting in his borrowed living room all morning trying to cook some Ramen Noodles on a small camping stove. It wasn’t working out too well. The last flavor packet had gone missing. How do you lose something when you hardly have anything to lose? James thought to himself. Today he would just have to settle with the flavor of hose water and plain noodle.

The little money he did earn was quickly sent off the pay for his growing alimony debt. He kept 50 bucks for himself when he could so he could scrape up some non-perishables from the store every couple of weeks, sometimes some propane cans when he was filling selfish.

If I only had more money. This was his daily mantra. He lived and died by these words, not that he had anybody to say these words to.

Thunder shook the house and made the windows rattle. James never liked thunder. When there was thunder there was lightning. He was terrified of lightning. It always brought up bad memories from his childhood.

As his pot of water started hissing, a knocking came form the front door. James passed it off as hail banging against the door.

James didn’t stop trying to stir his uncooked noodles. He looked back up at the stain on the ceiling. It had grown considerably in the past couple of hours. He thought about the idea that may need to ditch this place for another one soon. A different neighborhood always presented more problems. Maybe his future neighbors wouldn’t take kindly to the homeless moving in.

The knocks came again. This time they were much more rhythmic. James knew a person had to have done that. He left his noodles and snuck around the corner into the foyer. He tried peeking through a window for a car but didn’t see one.

Probably the police. I guess I overstayed my welcome. He pondered to himself.

“Mr. Harris?” came the muffled voice from outside.

A man in a blue suit stood under his porch. He had a weak smile and a fedora pulled across his brow hiding his eyes. The stranger looked like he was pulled out of the advertisement for cigarettes in the 1950’s. He was holding a briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist.

This is weird. James thought to himself.

James opened the door timidly. “Yes. I’m here. What do you want?”

“I have something that was determined to be given to you.” said the man in a routine manner. He punctuated his sentence with the same passive smile that he wore before.

“What is it?” demanded James.

“Money. And lots of it.” the man stated with casual ease. He looked up to meet James’s gaze. He had dark eyes.

Bull. That was James Harris’s first thought.

“Bull.”That was also James Harris’s first reaction. He immediately felt like recanting his statement but he didn’t have a choice.

The man in blue shook his head. “You tell me.” The smile never left his face.

He pulled up the briefcase and unlocked it with a key he pulled from his breast pocket. When he opened his jacket James saw the holstered polished steel beneath it. The man in blue continued to open the briefcase displayed it packed neatly with stacks of 100 dollar bills.

“Holy-” James put his hand over his mouth the way an elderly woman shows shock at the sight of women in pants.

“That’s got to be close to a million dollars…” he finished his thought.

“Actually it’s 17.3 million.” piped the man in blue.

“Wow.” James continued.

“So are you interested in what I have to say?” chuckled the mysterious man.

“You may be my new best friend.” said James. I must be crazy. This can’t be happening.

“Fine then.” he gave a slight pause. “Would you mind if I stepped inside briefly?”

“Oh, yes.” said James, seemingly forgetting common courtesy. This guy must be soaked.

The man looked behind him at the storm with indifference as if taking notice of it for the first time. He turned back and smiled wryly. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

They walked into the living room ignoring the storm outside. The man in blue stepped into the foyer without wiping his shoes on the old floor mat. James even noticed that the man didn’t appear to be wet at all. His shoes didn’t squeak on the marble floor. The man in blue turned and extended his unoccupied hand to James.

James returned motion and shook the man’s hand. Feels like this guy has had his hand in ice water.

The man in blue held the grip for longer than normal. “You’ve got a good grip there. You must work in construction.”

“Uh, yeah. Thanks?” James stammered out. “So, what can I help you with?” he eyed the side of the man’s jacket with the gun.

“I’m sorry to intrude like this but I was told that you would be here at this time. Your place of residence looks…lovely.” said the man in blue.

“Oh, yeah, well…” James tried a little humor. “My place in the Hampton’s is still being renovated. So I just pitched my tent here, for now.” James never took his eyes away from the holstered pistol.

“I don’t have much time, so if it’s not a bother to you, I would like to get straight down to business. I think that’s the phrase.” stated the stranger.

“Yes, I think that’s the phrase.” James agreed sardonically. The storm outside was picking up. The thunder really made James feel the uneasiness in his stomach. He felt like something bad was going to happen.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.” the man in blue unbutton his coat jacket, the gun now in plain sight.

“I’m going to ask you if you wish to participate or not. If you agree, you will get this briefcase and you can do whatever your little heart desires with it’s contents. If you disagree-” the man thought seemed to trail off. “Well, let’s just say you’re going to participate.”

James’ heard the threat clearly. He swallowed and responded. “Free money sounds like a good idea.”

“Great.”

The man in blue uncuffed himself from the money and latched it onto James. James contemplated objecting be decided it was in his best interests to cooperate fully. He also couldn’t stop salivating at the idea of all that money on his wrist.

Heck, if this guys going to kill me, I might as well die rich.

“There is, of course, one catch.” said the stranger. His eyes narrowed. “You will have six days to spend all of this money. You are expected to spend it correctly. If you fail to do so within the assigned time period-” the man opened his coat jacket to reveal the gun fully. “I’ll kill you.”

James swallowed hard.

“That’s it.” The man buttoned his jacket again and started toward the door.

“W-wait. You’ll just kill me if I don’t spend the money? And you’ll kill me if I spend it wrong?” he waited for a response from the man.

“Yes. You have six days as well. Don’t forget the six days part.”

James was trying his hardest to not evacuate his bowels in front of this mysterious stranger.

“How am I supposed to spend it the right way? You want me to give it to a charity or something? Why not do it yourself. Why am I being … chosen for this whole crazy scheme.” whimpered James.

“You said you wanted more money. Here’s your chance.” stated the stranger.

Can this guy read thoughts or something?  James wondered to himself.

“Actually, I can.” said the man in blue.

“You can what?” queried James. He felt like he was going to throw up.

“I can read your thoughts. I can also tell a lot of things about you James Allen Harris.”

Woah.

“Woah, indeed. I can also tell you that were the person I picked for reasons you can’t see right now. You’re just going to have to trust me. I haven’t picked a winner yet, but you might be the lucky one.” the man finished. He started walking toward the door.

“You mean everybody who’s done this has failed?” said James.

“It’s a shame to say it. But yes. They have all failed.” The man reached into his pocket and tossed the keys at James. “Catch.”

James didn’t move and the keys hit his chest and fall to the floor.

As the man in blue opened the door the wind from the storm kicked some rain into the foyer. The splashing from the eve above made it sound like a waterfall outside.

“Oh, and I’d hate put you out like this, but you should probably use some of that money to replace these windows.” said the man ignoring the torrent outside.

James looked like a bewildered owl. “Windows?” he inquired.

His question was ignored and the man in blue stepped outside and closed the door behind him. No less than than 3 seconds later lightning crashed just outside of the same door.

Glass shattered and the windows blew inward. James thought a bomb had went off and threw himself down to the ground covering his head with the briefcase.

For a moment the shock took away all memories of the man in blue. James opened his eyes half expecting this whole ordeal to be a hallucination but he felt the cold handcuffs around his wrist. When he picked himself up he raced to the door and threw it open. The rain persisted but the man was gone. Vanished into thin air. It smelled like flowers.

Only a small piece of paper lay on his porch. James picked up the sopping wet rag.

It read:

June 9th at 9:00 p.m. I’ll see you then.

P.S. – Sorry about the mess.

James forgot his fear of lightning and stood outside as more arcs bolted across the sky. He ran down the street not caring if the neighbors saw him.

Six days. 

The Man in Blue.

D.A. Bancroft

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3 Responses to “The Man in Blue”

  1. Alba Says:

    Okay, I’m going to overcome my fear of writing in English and actually comment on this.

    First of all: I liked it. I like the feeling you build up, the way he struggles to earn money, the depressing food and all. I like the way the man in blue states the exact sum of money. I like details.

    And then for the nitpicky part.
    *
    “The drops sounded like they were the size of quarters banging against the side of the once beautiful home” – The flow in this sentence is a bit off. The description is good, but I think it would sound better rewritten. I’m not sure how, though.
    *

    “Actually it’s 17.3 million.” piped the man in blue.

    The first period should be a comma, like:

    “Actually it’s 17.3 million,” piped the man in blue.

    *
    “You can what?” queried James. He felt like he was going to throw up.

    Good description, but I’d have gone with “asked” instead. Your writing has a sort of plain, everyday feeling (which is awesome, because it contrasts so well with the actual stories told), so fancy descriptors just throws me out of it.

    *

    “Yes, I think that’s the phrase.” James agreed sardonically.

    Once again, the dialogue tags feel a bit clumsy. It’d be better if you could *show* how he was saying it sardonically.

    *

    “Oh, and I’d hate put you out like this, but you should probably use some of that money to replace these windows.” said the man ignoring the torrent outside.

    The first part of this is my favourite sentence in the whole story. The last part of it just gets repetitive (you had the word “outside just a few lines up) and kind of bogs the whole sentence down. If the thing is that he stands in the torrent and just ignores it, why not get a bit more descriptive?

    “Oh, and I’d hate put you out like this, but you should probably use some of that money to replace these windows,” said the man ignoring the water splashing around him.

    Okay, now my example wounded even worse. I don’t know. I’m Swedish.

    *

    No less than than 3 seconds later […]

    Always write out numbers. At least numbers smaller than… oh, I don’t remember. Thirteen, maybe? Three should definitely be written out.

    *

    James forgot his fear of lightning and stood outside as more arcs bolted across the sky. He ran down the street not caring if the neighbors saw him.

    Six days.

    *
    No, I’m not going to complain about this part. I just had to quote it because it’s the perfect ending for this story. I love that it’s cut off so suddenly. I can see the rest of the story stretching out, could see it from the point where the man in blue told him the rules, but it doesn’t have to be written out. This would be great as the prologue to a longer work (as, for example, 50 000 words or so…), but it works perfectly as a separate piece of flash fiction.


    • Alba, I feel like I should pay you for an analysis like this.

      Thank you. All these notes will be considered once I re-edit the story again.

      (Which will probably be a long time from now.)

      • Alba Says:

        Aww, thanks!
        This is the reason I don’t comment much. I can’t seem to find a middle ground between “Good story” (which is boring) and a wall of text that makes me feel nitpicky and self-important mean.


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