The following is a short (really short) story for Joseph Craven’s Sudden Writing Challenge. What exactly is a Sudden Writing Challenge? Those of us who took up the challenge had 48 hours to write a short story containing three required elements. I won’t tell you what they are, but I will post links to the other stories as soon as I can and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out. Enjoy.
This certainly wasn’t the evening I’d planned. I could see the dawn approaching, evident by the dark slowly turning purple just over the rooftops of the buildings surrounding me. I don’t know why this sparked a sense of urgency, but it did. I’d only been locked on the roof of my apartment for close to five hours. Mostly I had just waited for her to come back, certain she was just joking or trying to teach me a lesson.
It was around six in the morning that I began to panic and realized that I was in serious trouble. I tried the door to the stairway for the hundredth time, hoping against hope that, this time, it would open. I even banged against it with my shoulder, but all that did was give me a bone bruise and a sense of despair. There was the fire escape, of course, but I’d made it two floors down when I found a level without a ladder. Figures. You get what you pay for, and I pay next to nothing for this run-down rat trap I call home. I had no phone. She’d made sure of that.
As soon as the sun rose, one of two things would happen. No one would notice me up here on the roof, and I would bake like a roast on Sunday afternoon, possibly perishing from dehydration. Or someone would notice me, which would be a sure ticket to jail. No questions asked. Then the lawyers, the bail money, the court dates. I wanted none of that, but I guess it was preferable to the parched, sunburned death that was the alternative.
I sat down near the bank of air conditioner units that kept the building below me cool and leaned against one. The metal was warm against my skin. I thought of Sarah and began to examine our relationship. Betrayal like this wasn’t easy to overcome. We’d probably need some serious couples’ therapy to get back to the place we were before she left me to die on an apartment rooftop. The more I thought about it, I realized I’d have to be crazy to want to be with someone who would do such a thing. But those eyes. That smile. Crazy.
I dozed off after a few minutes, and, of all things, dreamed of being trapped on the roof of the Empire State building. I guess even my subconscious was trying to find a way out of my predicament. A loud noise startled me out of my sleep and annoyed me, until I realized that I was getting off the roof. Relief swept through me, but only a little, because the person on the other side of the door could be a cop, and my next destination was the can.
But a police officer didn’t open the door and arrest me. It was Glenn, the building custodian. He was an elderly gentleman, probably in his sixties, with white hair and a blue jumpsuit. He was holding a coffee mug and a newspaper, looking like he just woke up. I got up and walked over to him, grateful that I had given him Christmas gifts the last two years. He stared at me with wide eyes, mouth hanging open.
“Sheesh, Mike.” Glenn handed me the newspaper. “Cover yourself up.”
“Thanks.” I took the paper and unfolded it, then wrapped it around my waist. I still wasn’t as dressed as I would have liked, but I had definitely lessened my odds of an indecent exposure indictment.
“What were you doing up here?” Glenn asked.
“Well, my ex-girlfriend emailed me,” I replied. “Wanted to know how I was doing, if we could get together and talk about old times, stuff like that.”
“My current girlfriend–”
“The one with the pretty eyes?” Glenn asked.
“That’s the one. Sarah. She kinda glanced at my phone and saw the email.”
“But she didn’t say anything at the time. Didn’t even let me know she read it.”
“Then last night, we were supposed to go out, movie, dinner, all that,” I said. “Well, she got here early, put a blindfold on me, and led me up here to the roof. Said she had a surprise for me. We get up here, she takes the blindfold off, and shows me my phone, where she had the email up. Asked me—no, demanded to know—what I was doing and was I cheating. On and on like that. Okay?”
“Then she pulls out a taser and points it at me,” I said. “Tells me to strip down to my birthday suit. So I did. What other choice did I have? She took my clothes and threw them off the roof.”
“She threw the phone off the roof, too.” I adjusted the paper around me, because it was slipping. “Then she ran off and locked the door behind her. Been up here for about twelve hours.”
“Well, were you cheating on her with your ex-girlfriend?” Glenn asked.
“No,” I replied. “I deleted the email. Didn’t even respond. But I guess since she saw it, she assumed.”
“What’re you doing up here this early?” I asked. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“I come up here for some peace and quiet before I start the day. Drink my coffee, read the paper.” He nodded toward my waist. “Helps me stay relaxed.”
“So, are you gonna call this girl?” Glenn asked. “The one with the pretty eyes?”
“Well, after this, I’d have to be crazy to do that, wouldn’t I?” I laughed. “And I don’t have a phone to call her with anyway.”
“I guess you would be pretty dumb to go back to her.” Glenn sipped his coffee. “But those eyes could move mountains.”
Glenn looked up into the sky and sort of smiled. I believe he was thinking of some blonde girl with emerald green eyes that could melt your heart. I cleared my throat.
“I should get going,” I said. “Get dressed and explain myself to her.”
“You know, I’m kind of glad this happened,” I said. “It gave me a chance to find out how I feel about Sarah. If I really like her. Sometimes I have a hard time with emotions. Stuff like that. This little episode was like a test, a way to find out how deep my feelings for her are.”
“Well, that’s not how I would have planned it,” Glenn said. “Probably better ways of figuring out if your relationship is real. But whatever works for you.”
I smiled and started easing past Glenn. He stepped back and gave me a wide berth, which I didn’t mind at all. As I got to the door, I noticed he had that look on his face again, and he was reliving some interesting moments with that green-eyed girl from his past.
“Glenn, did you want me to bring your paper back up after I, uh, change?”
“No, Mike,” he replied. “You keep that. Probably burn it when you’re done.”
I laughed as I jogged down the stairs, hoping that the building Super would be as kind when I explained why I was locked out of my apartment.