SLCC's Premiere Art & Literary Magazine

The Collector

Meghan Flynn

I sat on my worn, yet comfortable couch and watched an NFL game. The Minnesota Vikings vs. the Carolina Panthers. And I waited. I had ordered a pizza from Domino's about 20 minutes ago. Pepperoni and sausage. Hated them both. I actually hate pizza in general. No matter. Play by play, the time passed. Word of the latest Adrian Peterson scandal flooded the underlying texts of my big-screen T.V. Perfect. Karma. Dumb bastard. A 70 million dollar contract and he properly had recently shit all over it. There were the accusations of child abuse. Now, he had a peculiar inability to place his hand over his heart during the National Anthem and a possibly torn meniscus. Perfection. I had always been drawn to the drama and the violence of the NFL. So many trash stories. So many lost souls. Pure masterpieces.

Sitting in my old lazy with my soiled socks still on and my anticipation for the next misfortune high, I muted my television to more acutely register the sounds now coming from outside. Gravel. A car door slammed. Excitement so thick that I felt nauseous. I remained in my chair, determined to wait for the doorbell or a knock. After what felt like three hours, the delivery guy finally mounted the exterior stairwell to my apartment. The hardwood floors of the stairs sent a "clump, clump, clump" of warning to the internal registers of my ears and brain. They were here, they were coming.

Scrambling to prepare myself, I glanced into the next room, my kitchen. I spotted all of my things arranged and ready for their purpose. The tarp lay ready on the hardwood floor and the cat licked herself in anticipation. The ancient ceiling fan comforted us with her half-assed "whomp, whomp, whomp." The air fell silent as my senses lent themselves to the moment.

After a time, a timid knock at the door. Exhibiting what restraint I had left, I forced myself to remain in my chair for a full 66 seconds. A second knock echoed throughout my dusty and godforsaken apartment, slightly bolder. The old cast iron knocker that was fashioned to my entrance door rang with vibrations throughout the dusty and disheveled space. The cat jumped off the sofa and retired to the darkness underneath the stained mattress of my bed. It was show time.

Pulling the flanks of my undersized and stained t-shirt down over my hairy and flabby belly, I licked the palm of my hand and attempted to smooth what was left of the hair on my balding head. Mere wisps. No matter. Standing, I walked like the great Brutus had, so many years ago, into the foyer, and broached the heavy and aged wood that was my front door. Staring at the tarnished oblong silver knob, I waited and breathed. This was it.

With a flourish of the hand, one that might've made any cardsman proud, I turned the knob and pulled gently to breach the gap from my world to...whoever was waiting on the opposing side. Pulling the aged door ajar, I immediately noticed that the he was a she. God damn it! I had specifically asked for a male! Put off and more awkward than ever, I took a few steps back. This went against everything I believed. Tits? Forget about it. Disgusting creatures. The best thing to do was to get rid of her, run her off, as soon as possible. No offense, you see. It's just not what we're into.

She stuttered and faltered. She seemed to know at a glance that I was not pleased with her appearance. "I might ask you for your supervisor's contact information" was all I said. While juggling the pizza boxes, she timidly handed me a card with the previously requested information, and I graciously accepted, pushing her back through the doorway of my home with one open palm in her face.

The last under-the-breath and muffled words I heard as I backed up were, "I'm sorry, Captain Asshole. You can expect a response from my supervisor very shortly." Bitch. Someone should teach her a proper lesson. I slammed the door in her face and heard her tantrum of steps echo down the entryway stairs. Holding the card in my hand, I nodded my thanks to her shadow and then reached for my phone. I punched the numbers of the supervisor's number and extension and I waited. After some time, I heard a ring tone. A grumpy and lethargic voice answered with, "hello, Mark speaking. How may I be of help to you?'

"Hi there... Mark, is it? I need to ask why you sent a girl to deliver my pizza. I specifically requested a guy." Long pause and then, "well, Sir, we are shorthanded tonight and had to send whoever we had available, and Maggie was it." "Well, Mark, that isn't going to work for me." "Well, how about I just deliver the pizza myself?" asked Mark. Perfect.

Unpausing the NFL game I had been watching, I settled in, took one more look around to make sure everything was in order, and waited. Minutes passed and after 27, the sound of a car rolling up the gravel drive interrupted my game. Pause. Sweet Jesus! Hooray for Dominos! I waited until I heard footsteps coming up the stairs before I jumped out of my chair and stood anxiously behind the knobby and anciently worn door. Hand on the knob; I could barely control myself as I waited. 10 footfalls. That meant 3 more. 1...2...3...;

As Mark mounted the landing, I turned the knob, maybe just a little too excitedly, and pulled the door open with a great whoosh of air. There stood Mark. Six foot and some inches, with thick-framed glasses and a belly, he was perfect. Never had I had someone like him in my collection. Mark stood warily in the doorway and gave a brief greeting before pulling out a receipt. "That'll be 13 dollars and 66 cents, please."

"But why all the awkwardness? Please, come in." I requested, pouring on the honey. Mark hesitated for a moment and then seemed to remember that he was the store manager and that I was a "certified Domino's Platinum member". For life! Whatever the fuck that means. He stepped over the dusty stoop like a man wading into an alligator infested river. Once inside, I gently grabbed the hook of his arm and guided him further into my living room. Before he could look around, I began with the banter. "So, Mark, do you like football?"

Practically shoving him down into the worn, torn, and stained loveseat that was placed next to my lazy boy, I took the pizza from his hands and then placed it down on a huge pile of old pizza boxes, molding, and smelling of rot. As Mark surveyed the room, the familiar tonality of panic swept over his face. "What's the matter, Mark?" I asked calmly. "Haven't you ever been in a bachelor's pad before? No one cleans up after me anymore. The missus couldn't cope with my…habits." As Mark looked around the room in horror, I began to feel the slight sensation of arousal. "My housekeeper just quit and the old lady next door just stopped kickin', so, you see, I'll get to cleaning when the snow begins to melt and it suits me." Mark rubbed his hands along the tops of his thighs and sighed. "Mr.…whatever your name is…I'd like to collect my dues and be on my way if it's all the same to you."

"Mark! Mark! Mark! Why the rush? A man of your…ambition should be allowed for a break every now and again. Is that not so?" Mark appeared to think it over and then said, "you know what? You're right. I work my ass off for pennies. A bit of football for a few minutes never harmed a man." Perfect. "No, you're quite right. Football never harmed a man. Except maybe those poor, dumb dipshits that trusted their teammates a little too much and then got decimated by a cluster of 300 pound men."

Turning the volume back up to the game, I myself leaned back into the lazy boy and allowed the finger that was adjusting the volume to remain fixed, turning it all the way up. Noise, so loud that it was impossible for Mark to think clearly, filled the room and distracted him from my shabby and somewhat filthy apartment. "Say, Mark, want a beer?" I yelled over the sounds of cheers and leers.

Mark hesitated for a second and then seemed to say, ‘fuck it' within the confines of his small rodent brain. "You know what? I won't mention this if you don't," he yelled back.

Rising to my feet, I glided, almost dancing, across the dusty hardwood floors on my way to the kitchen. There's Anthony. Oh! There's Al. Hey, Justin! There's Ryan. Hello, gentlemen, I thought as I passed over the floorboards where pieces of them rested underneath. Gravitating to the fridge, I pulled the orange-stained handle and opened up the door to the solitary row of brown bottles that sang their existence in front of me like a choir of rejects. Grabbing 2, I walked over to the counter and pulled my novelty bottle opener magnet from Minnesota off of the fridge and opened both bottles, saying," Hey Mark! You comfortable? Be right there. Just a minute." Dumb fuck. This was going to be fun.

Reaching into the top drawer of the six in my kitchen, I grabbed the small plastic Ziploc that held a few teaspoons full of gorgeous and potent off-white powder. Dumping a fair plop, and coughing simultaneously to hide the sound, I waited until the powder finished fizzing and settled. Biting my right thumb until I drew blood, I then picked up the bottles. His in my left hand, my own in the right. I walked back into the room just in time to hear the crowd erupt into cheers. Another touchdown for the Vikings! Mark was on his feet and watching intensely, his pudgy little fists balled up, tummy flopping as he jumped for joy. "A Vikings fan, I think, Mark?" "Oh, yes. I was bummed that I wasn't going to get to watch this game tonight. But here we are." He said. Yes, here we are indeed.

Plopping back down into my chair, Mark followed suit. I handed him the beer from my left hand and gingerly licked the blood from my other hand before he could notice and then sipped. "Great game, eh?" I asked. "Oh man, brother, you missed what happened when you left the room. That rookie really went for it." "Cheers", I suggested and extended my arm with my beer towards Mark. Clanking our bottles together, I referred back to my fraternity days and began to chug the entire bottle of IPA. Mark followed suit. Perfect.

The average man takes around 45 seconds before his body goes into a comatose state. Mark took only 13. I kept on the trivial conversation until I was sure he was gone, and then I wiped my mouth with the dirty sleeve of my shirt and slammed the empty brown bottle I had been holding down onto the cluttered coffee table that sat before me. Playboy and Penthouse magazines with a few traces of coke laid like tattletales next to the empty bottle. Wiping my hands along the filthy arms of my armchair, I rose.

Mark sat, disheveled in my couch, halfway sliding down the cushions, glasses sliding down his pocked nose. The cat ran out of hiding for a moment, only to return to the dark recesses of the house, knowing what was to come. A single strand of greasy hair fell in front of his face, and I stared in pity. Poor, sunken soul. You Failure in life! You ugly, fat, bastard! Shaking my head, I walked towards the kitchen.

I grabbed the handle on the cart that I had bought from IKEA specifically to hold all of my tools and I walked towards my bedroom, where the giant blue tarp laid waiting. I pressed the play button on my boom box that sat on the upper tier of my fabulous cart. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians began to play "What I Am". Select ‘repeat'. Perfect song for a perfect evening. Parking the cart exactly 2 inches from the end of my tarp, I turned and headed back to the living room where Mark was still unconsciously watching the final minutes of the Vikings game. I used the remote to mute the game. I needed to concentrate now. Grabbing his wrist, I yanked and then shuffled him atop my right shoulder, in a drunken fireman's carry of sorts, and moved him to my bedroom.

Arousal at the thought of what was to come made the waistline of my pants tight. Flesh, in my hands. I anticipated the next part. I laid Mark down in the middle of my 12x12 tarp from Home Depot and positioned him much like Leonardo Da Vinci had done with his diagram of the human body. This wasn't an effort to appear artistic, mind you. It simply simplified my process. I removed Mark's clothes and clucked softly in sadness and empathy for the poor man when I removed his Fruit of the Loom underwear. Poor guy. No wonder he had no choice but to surrender to the mundane task of running a Domino's chain. The man would hardly please Thumbelina, for Christ's sake.

Leaning over my IKEA cart in robin-egg blue, I grabbed the bolt cutters. I clipped each limb off from the main body, enjoying and savoring each crack and snap of bone that broke. The blood spilled forth and I was in Heaven. I continued on with the process and used the various tools in my collection until each piece was small enough to place under my floorboards or in my cupboard, all the while carefully saving the main part of Mark's body for under my bed. The head would be buried in my spring garden, as I have learned that the head makes my crops flourish. But until spring, Mark's head would sit safely inside my deep freezer.

Placing the arms under the 66th floorboard in my living room, the legs in carefully arranged pieces in my cupboards, the thorax of the body under my bed, I rolled up the tarp from my bedroom, rinsed my tools, washed my hands and arms, and placed everything back in its proper place. Opening a few windows, I threw the tarp into the large hearth that was burning center of the north wall of my living room. Acrid smoke began to fill my apartment space, but only for a moment. The chill winter air's current carried the smell off and away into silence. I reached for my phone.

Dialing the number for a different Domino's, I ordered. Then, I again waited. And I waited. An hour passed and then I heard the growl of a large and ancient engine roll up into the gravel driveway of my apartment, backfiring as it shifted into park. Two in one night?! Hell, yes! The Vikings had won, and now this? It was going to be a great night! Peering through the tattered curtains of my front window, I looked down and saw what must've been a classic from the early 1900's, only rusted and forlorn, forlorn and forgotten in time. Pity. She must've been gorgeous in her day.

Running to my lazy boy, I threw myself into her filthy embrace as I waited for the footfalls to begin their signal of ascent up my stairwell. Turning the volume of the NFL Network back up to give the appearance of acting normal, I forced myself to breathe and calm down. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Just like they taught us in yoga class. Namaste. Then, the most peculiar of footsteps climbed my stairs. It sounded like hooves. Damn it! It's another female in goddamned heels again! ARGHH! The progression paused as if reading my mind, then mounted the last 6 steps of my entryway stairwell. A long pause at the top, and then a soft knock at the door.

Rubbing my hands together in anticipation, I walked towards the door. I placed my hand on the silver knob, only to draw it back in pain. The doorknob was red hot and had burned through the first layers of skin on the palm of my hand, blisters immediately forming. I took a step back and screamed in pain. "God dammit!" I yelled to ease the burning pain. The door opened itself and in stepped...a thing. It had horns and hooves and eyes like two cinders burning a hole into the darkness, my darkness. "Hello, Damian. How are you?" It asked in a low and breathy tone as it breached my doorway, rubbing its knotted hands together. Side stepping and almost crablike, the thing sauntered slowly into the middle of my living room and began slowly circling me. The door shut, by itself, behind the thing.

"Who the fuck are you?" I asked in pure defiance and dwindling courage. "I am exactly who the fuck you think I am", it said as it began to circle closer. "You see, Damian, we are ways. We are... collectors... of sorts." "Well, what the hell are you doing here?" I asked. "I am here to collect," it said, still rubbing its ancient and hairy hands.