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The King of Kitchen Street by Steve Carr … My horror story “The King of Kitchen Street” in Jakob's Horror Box, out now. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

3:06 PM - 30 Oct 2017

The King of Kitchen Street by Steve Carr

One of the blades on the tabletop fan was broken, but the fan worked. It slowly swiveled back and forth circulating the fetid air that rose up from the garbage in the alleyway and wafted through the window stuck in the raised position and into Stan McGorsky's studio apartment. His emaciated hairless cat, Monster, was stretched out in front of the fan, licking its rash and pustule covered stomach. When a pigeon landed on the windowsill, Stan sat up in his Murphy bed and threw an empty beer can at it. The can hit the wall beside the window and fell onto a small pile of other cans. The pigeon didn't move.

He flopped back down and squirmed, trying to escape the pressure of the mattresses' stuffing that stuck out and pressed against his lower spine. He rolled onto his side and pressed his nose into his arm in an attempt to block out the smells of sweat, urine and stale beer that rose up from the mattress. A large brown cockroach crawled out of a tear in the stained mattress and crawled to the foot of the bed and disappeared into another rip. Stan groaned, then leaned over the edge of the bed and vomited.

There was a pounding on his door.

“McGorsky, your rent is overdue," Mrs. Passy said from the other side. Speaking through a small device she held to the hole in her throat, her voice was raspy and sounded like she was talking through a tin can. “If you don't have the rent by tomorrow morning, I'll have my boys take from your hide what you owe."

Stan wiped a chunk of puke from his lower lip and sat up on the edge of the mattress. “I'll have the rent," he said.

“You better," she said. Her blue fluffy slippers sounded like whispering as she shuffled away on the rotting floorboards in the hallway.

Stan stood up, accidentally placing his right foot in the puddle of vomit. “Damn," he said as he raised his foot and looked down and watched brown liquid with small chunks drip from his toes. He took another step and wiped his foot on a white t-shirt that was dark green from a mix of sweat and dirt. When the pigeon cooed, Stan lunged toward the window, grasping for the bird. It flew off as his body slammed against the window, causing another jagged crack in the glass.

He stumbled away from the window and went into the bathroom. At the sink he turned on the hot water. Tepid, brackish water flowed out. He filled his cupped hands with the water and threw it on his face. With the water dripping from his beard stubble he stared at his reflection in the small dingy mirror that hung askew above the sink. “It's time to collect what's owed me," he said to his reflection as he pushed up his lower lip revealing his bleeding gums.

Kicking through mounds of dirty clothes strewn around the room, he pulled out the least soiled underwear, shirt, pants and socks that he could find. As rivulets of sweat ran between his pecs, down his spine and between his legs, he dressed. After putting on his boots he went into the bathroom and pissed into the crap coated toilet bowl. When done he tried to flush it; the handle jiggled but no water entered the bowl.

Before leaving the apartment he put a switchblade in his back pants pocket and rubbed Monster's head, eliciting a growl from the cat, and turned off the bulb that hung on a wire from the middle of the ceiling.

He walked out into the sweltering heat of the dimly lit hallway, closing the door behind him. As he walked down the dark five flights of stares he brushed aside several large squealing rats with the steel tip of his boot. Going out the front door of the apartment building onto Kitchen Street, he walked into a cloud of vehicle exhaust fumes and the odor of rotten garbage. He turned left and walked past the prostitutes walking along the curb or leaning against the run down buildings. Their combined perfumes filled the still air with a noxious fragrance.

He stopped at a lamppost and stood in the pale white light cast by the lamp for several minutes. “Where ya goin', Candy?" he said to a middle aged woman walking by. Her bleached blonde hair was piled into a bouffant hairdo. She was wearing a tight leopard skin print mini dress and thigh high black patent leather boots with spiked heels. On her fingers, rings sparkled.She stopped and gazed at him through overly made up eyes with a mixture of fear and disgust. “I have business to tend to,” she said, running her tongue over the thick red lipstick on her lower lip.

“I thought you were getting out of town and starting over in another city on the money I loaned you a few months back," he said.

She nervously brushed the fingertips of her left hand across her brightly rouged cheek. “I decided not to leave," she said.

“I figured that out a month ago," he said. “Where's my money?"

“I don't have it," she said. “Besides you gave me the money. It wasn't a loan."

He stepped nearer to her, out of the circle of light around the lamppost. “You think so?" he said. “Where'd you get the money for all those diamond rings you got on your fingers?"

“They're gifts from real gentlemen, not a two bit slob like you," she said.

He raised his fist and said, “I should knock your teeth out for that crack," he said.

She stepped back, nearing the entrance of a dark alley. “Listen, Stan, you can't threaten me."

He stepped forward again, within a foot of her. “I don't need to threaten you," he said, then grabbed her arm.

She looked up and down the sidewalk and opened her mouth, about to scream.

He grasped her by the neck and began squeezing with all his might and pushed her into the alley. In the almost complete darkness he shoved her against the wall with the one hand as he took out his switchblade and flicked it open with the other hand. He pushed upward with the one hand, lifting her off the ground.

As she kicked and tried to free herself from his grasp, he said, “Are you sure you don't want to rethink giving me back my money?"

She spat in his face.

He removed his hand from her throat and let her fall to the ground. He straddled her and as she struggled and tried to cry out, he took her left hand and slowly sliced off each finger of both hands. He put her fingers with the rings in his pants pockets.

“I'll kill you for this," she screamed as she held up her bloody hands.

He said, “You're lucky I didn't cut your throat. It's important to pay your debts." Then he walked out of the alley.

* * *

The Crow's Beak Saloon was across the street from Stan's apartment building. Its red neon sign flickered on and off, intermittently casting pools of red light on the litter strewn sidewalk. Stan stood in the shadows of the doorway of the vacant store next to the saloon and pulled out one of Candy's index fingers from his pocket. He brushed off the lint and hairs that had become attached to the dried blood while inside his pocket and held the finger up and gazed at the way the jewel in the ring brilliantly reflected what little light there was. He removed the ring and put it in his shirt pocket, then stepped out onto the sidewalk.

“Here, boy," he called to a mongrel sniffing around a nearby overflowing garbage can.

With its head lowered and its tail between its legs it cautiously approached Stan. Its mange-ridden skin was stretched taut over its rib cage. The odor coming from it was the same as its diet, rancid meat.

“I have a treat for you," Stan said, and held out the finger.

The dog quickly snatched the finger between its jagged teeth and swallowed it.

“Good boy," Stan said before walking away and into the saloon.

The mix of odors from filthy bodies, cheap perfume, disinfectants and alcohol washed over him. He paused for a moment, fighting the urge to puke again. Two ceiling fans at opposite ends of the saloon whirred noisily and jazz blared from a jukebox. Almost the entire interior was red; red faux leather upholstery on the booth seats and stool cushions, red painted walls and ceiling and a tattered and stained red carpet on the floor. The dim lighting almost hid the four other customers. Two sailors were in a booth, a man in a wrinkled gray suit was standing next to the jukebox and a woman with a fox head stole draped around her shoulders and long dangling earrings was sitting at the bar.

Stan crossed the room, sat on a stool at the bar and reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the ring and slapped it on the bar. “The usual, and keep 'em coming, Nick," he said to the bartender.

Nick picked up the ring with his meaty, hairy fingers and held it up and stared at it. “That a real diamond?" he said.

“No, it's a synthetic diamond, a fake" the woman said from the stool next to Stan.

“Keep your mouth shut," Stan told her.

She took a drink from her glass of whiskey. “Believe me, I know jewels and jewelry."

Nick slid the ring across the bar top to Stan. “Come back when you have cash or something worth something."

Stan grabbed the ring and slowly rose from the stool while glaring at the woman. “All you had to do is keep your mouth shut," he said. He walked out the door.

* * *

Standing in the vacant store's doorway in a puddle of his own urine, Stan licked his parched lips. His hand trembled as he grasped the handle of the switchblade. He watched the man with the wrinkled suit come out of the saloon and walk the other direction and disappear into the darkness a block away. A few minutes later the woman came out and stood in the red glow of the neon sign for a moment then started his direction. He stepped back into complete darkness.

Her heels clicked like small exploding firecrackers on the hot cement. When she stepped in front of the doorway, Stan jumped out and grabbed her and pulled her back into the shadows of the doorway. He clasped his hand over her mouth and held the knife to her throat. The tip of it pierced her skin. Blood trickled down her neck and into her blouse.

“How much are those earrings worth?" he said.

“Nothing. They're costume jewelry," she mumbled into his hand.

“Liar," he hissed into her right ear. “You have money written all over you."

“I have ten dollars in my purse you can have," she said.

“Ten dollars isn't going to pay my rent," he said. “If you would have kept your mouth shut in the saloon I might have made some real money."

She opened her mouth wide and bit hard into his hand. More surprised than hurt, he let go of her. In the moment that she hesitated to run out of the doorway, he put his arm around her neck and pulled her to him. Very quickly he sliced off one ear, then the next. Screaming, she managed to turn around and stared into his rage-filled eyes. He shoved the knife into her open mouth and slashed up and down and side to side. Blood gushed out of her mouth as she fell to her knees, choking on pieces of her tongue and gasping for air.

He flung the ring at her. “Next time keep your mouth shut," he said as he scooped up her ears and ran across Kitchen Street. Running into his building he tripped over a bucket of mop water left at the base of the stairs and fell on the floor in a pool of sour smelling water. Cursing, he rose up and dashed up the stairs, not stopping until he reached his door. Holding the woman's ears in one hand he opened his door and stepped into the still, foul scented heat of his apartment. The fan had stopped working.

He closed the door and turned on the light and put the ears on a rickety card table then emptied his back pockets of Candy's fingers, placing them next to the ears.

Dripping mop water formed a small puddle around his boots as he took off his boots and clothes and threw them on a mound of other clothes sitting near the window. He went into the bathroom and turned on the cold water in the sink. The smell of rotten eggs came out of the faucet first, followed by rust colored warm water. He rinsed the blood from his hands and watched it slowly swirl around the clogged drain before it disappeared down the pipe. Then he splashed water under his arms and onto his hairy chest. When he came out of the bathroom, Monster was taking a crap on the Murphy bed.

“Damned cat," he yelled as he picked up a beer can and threw it at Monster.

Monster hissed and leapt from the bed and onto the card table.

As police sirens echoed on the street and down the alley, Stan brushed the cat poop from the mattress, then laid down. Within minutes he was sound asleep and snoring loudly.

Monster sniffed at one of the ears, batted the earring with its paw, then grabbed the ear in its mouth and ran to the window and jumped onto the windowsill. It shook the ear several times then leaned out the window and let it drop into the trash in the alleyway. Monster then began to groom its blistered skin.

* * *

Sunlight streamed in through the window. Stan awoke sweating. As he sat up, batting from the mattress stuck to his skin. The odor of sun baked garbage and cat urine filled the room. He stood up, feeling the sole of his left foot make contact with the drying, sticky puke on the floor. He crossed the room and opened the mini-fridge and pushed aside the carton of spoiled, curdled milk in search of a can of beer. Finding none he took out an open can of cat food, closed the door, and put it in Monster's bowl. He went into the bathroom, took a piss, then swallowed a few mouthfuls of warm, acrid water from the sink.

As he came out of the bathroom there was a loud knock on his door. “McGorsky, I've come for the rent." It was Mrs. Passy.

He grabbed a yellowed, mildewed towel that had been hanging on the bathroom door and wrapped it around his waist, then opened the door. Short and squat and wearing a threadbare terrycloth bathrobe, Mrs. Passy held her speaking device to her throat and glared at him. On each side of her were her two sons, both over six foot tall and built like linebackers.

“Do you have the rent?" she asked.

“Certainly. I've got some jewels that will more than cover the rent," he said.

“Jewels?" one of the sons said. “Who are you all of a sudden, the king of Kitchen Street?"

“Quiet," Mrs. Passy said to him. “Show me the jewels," she said to Stan.

Stan turned to go to the table. The fingers and ears and the jewels attached to them were gone. Frantically he searched the room, kicking aside beer cans, turning over mounds of clothes and raising the Murphy bed and getting on his hands and knees and searching in the pile of dust that was under it.

“They were right there on the table when I went to sleep," Stan said.

“Sure, sure, a regular kingdom's worth," one of the sons said.

“Take care of him," Mrs. Passy said to her sons as she walked away from the door and down the hallway.

The sons walked in the room and closed the door behind them. One of them picked up Stan's knife that was lying on the floor. “How about we give you a crown, oh mighty king?” he said.

Stan backed up to the window. “I'm telling you I have jewels," he said.

One of the sons grabbed him and held him while the other one very slowly and methodically scalped the hair and skin from around the crown of Stan's head using the switchblade.

"Now his majesty's crown will fit just right," the son holding the switchblade said.

When they had finished with him, they left Stan bent over the windowsill with his head sticking out of window. They left the room, closing the door behind them.

With blood dripping down his face and into his eyes, Stan stared at the pile of garbage in the alleyway. On top of it were the fingers and ears and the rings and earrings attached to them.


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