I write about writing a lot, but I can't really say that a lot of my writing is out there. One of the fringe benefits of having a blog is that I can throw some things out there for the world to ignore. That's exactly what I've decided to do from time to time. I have always loved short stories and before I jumped into my failed novel and the current one, I spent a fair amount of time writing them. The short stories I plan on putting up here are not edited, so they may be a little rough or weak in the detail department. Once the novel is done and out there, I would like to round them up and polish them for an anthology.
I wrote NTSC a few years back. It was pre-iPad and pre-smart phone. I know that this will be one that I will need to update if I plan on releasing it for real. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy.
There was a knock at the door around seven o’clock. I was in the middle of washing the dishes. I decided to ignore it and just keep washing. The last time I answered the door at seven, I ended up with a membership in the Sierra Club. I was just better off ignoring the knock and finishing up the dishes.
The knock came again. This time, it was more insistent, a sharp, staccato knock. The best thing was to just pretend that the water was running a little too loud and I couldn’t hear the knock. I held my breath.
Who could be at the door? No one I know would just stop by. I glanced over at my cell phone on the dining room table. There were no missed calls and no new messages. Everyone knows that you need to call someone first before you stop by.
This time, the knock turned into a slam. Someone was beating on my door. I didn’t move. The only sound was that of the water running. I tried to think. Who did I owe money to? I shut off the faucet, grabbed a towel to dry my hands and headed to the front door.
I turned the deadbolt and almost immediately, the door burst inward. Two men in suits pushed their way into the entryway of my apartment.
“Are you Albert Washington?”
“Yes. What’s going on? Who are you?”
The smaller of the two growled at me in a low tone. “Mr. Washington, I recommend that you lower your voice. Don’t make a scene. We will be asking the questions. Invite us into your apartment.”
I didn’t have a choice. Both men grabbed me by my arms and led me to my living room. Then next thing I knew, I was on my couch. The smaller of the two was seated on my coffee table. The larger man wandered through the rest of the apartment. I could hear him in my kitchen.
“Is there anyone else here with you?”
“No. It’s just me.”
“Mr. Washington, I am employed by the Department of Homeland Security. My name is Special Agent Reed. My associate is Special Agent Marcus.”
He put his hand inside of his suit jacket and pulled out a leather wallet. Reed opened it so that I could see the badge, a white and blue circle with an eagle.
“I don’t know what the badge is supposed to look like. What do you want? I don’t have any money in the house.”
I could hear Marcus in the kitchen. It sounded like he dumped my silverware drawer onto the floor.
“Focus, Mr. Washington. Answer a few questions, and we’ll be out of your hair in no time.”
Marcus reentered the living room. He shook his head at Reed and then exited. I could hear him heading down the hall to my bedroom.
“Mr. Washington, do you recall having a conversation with a Mr. Joe Cimino this afternoon?”
“Joe? The guy who delivers the mail at work?” My mind raced. What did Joe do?
“Mr. Washington, just answer the questions and this will go that much faster. Do you recall a conversation?”
“Yes. I mean, I don’t remember the conversation, but yes, I guess I spoke to him today. I mean, he drops mail off at my desk and I speak to him. ‘Hey, how are you’ kind of stuff.’”
Marcus reentered the living room. He leaned against the wall. “Nothing, Reed. It’s not here.”
Reed turned back and looked at me. He loosened his tie. “Do you remember discussing a certain television show with Mr. Cimino this afternoon?”
“Yes. I mean, not exactly. Joe asked me if I saw that Survivor show last night.”
“Excellent. Now we’re getting somewhere. And how did you respond?”
“I told him ‘no’. I didn’t see it.”
“And why not, Mr. Washington?”
“Listen, maybe you can just tell me what this all about.”
“Mr. Washington, I really recommend that you just answer the questions. Special Agent Marcus has a tendency to lose his patience and professional demeanor at times. Why didn’t you watch it, Mr. Washington?”
Marcus put on a pair of black leather gloves. He moved so that he was standing over me.
“Should I call my lawyer?”
I didn’t even see the punch coming. My head lit up with lightning. When I came to, both men were still in my living room. There was a black doctor’s bag on my coffee table. It was open, but I couldn’t see into it. Marcus had removed it suit coat. He had a pair of pliers in his hand. I tried wiping the sweat off of my face, but my hands were tied behind my back.
“Mr. Washington, let’s try this again. Why didn’t you watch Survivor last night?”
“Because I don’t have a television.”
Both men looked at each other. Marcus moved behind me. I tried to keep my eyes on him, but Reed grabbed my face in both of his hands.
“Good, Mr. Washington. You admit it. I’m going to ask you a few more simple questions and then we’ll be departing. Please don’t anger my associate any further.”
I could feel my heart racing. Reed was too casual about this. He pointed one of his fingers and pressed it into my chest.
“Mr. Washington, why don’t you own a television?”
“My last one broke and I haven’t bothered to get a new one.”
“And how long has this been going on? Living without a television?”
“A few weeks. I’ve been busy at the office. To be honest, I haven’t exactly missed it.”
“You haven’t exactly missed it, Mr. Washington? What exactly have you been doing in the meantime?”
“Umm, going to the gym. I started cooking, too. And I picked up a couple books at the library.”
Marcus pinched my thumb in the pliers. I could feel the ridges biting into my skin. He was beginning to squeeze my knuckle.
Reed began. “Mr. Washington, I recommend that you listen closely. These are desperate times. Your country needs you. A man of you position and education cannot be without a television. It’s a statistical anomaly that needs to be eliminated.”
I felt Marcus loosen his grip on the pliers. He walked back to the coffee table. I saw him put the pliers away. He reached in and pulled out a radio. He pressed the button and said, “He’s ready. Send it in.”
Reed continued. “I mean, really Mr. Washington. You haven’t risen to your level because to choose to run around and chase fantasy. Being conventional is what has paid for everything in this apartment.”
There was a light tap on my front door. Marcus opened it and let two men carrying a large box in. He ushered them down the hall to my bedroom.
“Mr. Washington, your country needs you now more than ever.”
Marcus and the others returned to the living room. Reed stood up. “Mr. Washington, your county appreciates your continued cooperation. Remember, we are the only thing between you and the Huns on the other side of the wall.”
All four of the men exited. I heard the door thump as they left. It took me about a half an hour to wriggle loose from the rope they tied around my wrists.
I had to hold my hand against the wall as I walked down to the bedroom. I pushed the door open slowly. Placed on my dresser was a new plasma television.