A Collection of Lions
Published by Rose Ramirez at Shakespir
Distributed by Shakespir.
Copyright 2016 Rose Ramirez
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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My neighbor had a beat up Chevy truck sitting on a pile of rocks in the back of her singlewide. One night I watched through the blinds as the headlights lit up and pulled onto the street. An hour later I heard the sound of a truck door being slammed shut and I got up just in time to watch her stumble towards her front door. Her shirt was soaked down to her stomach in what looked like dark colors, red and black I was certain, and her hair looked like it had been dragged through the mud. The darkness of night sat in between most of my view, but right before she walked inside, she turned around and looked at me. I drew myself away from the window and hid behind the wall, silently praying that she didn’t see me.
The next morning I put my shoes on and got ready for work. As I headed out the door I shot a quick glance over to her house and saw a figure move away from the window. I wasn’t sure if she could see me or not, but I waved, just in case. When I got home from work I noticed her truck missing. I ran inside, hoping to watch her come home again some time soon. Sure enough, thirty minutes later her truck came whistling down the street. Again, it was dark, and she was dirty. Covered in something thick and gross looking, like she’d just slaughtered a gang of horses, or worse.
The next day I told myself I’d go over there and talk to her. We’d lived across from each other for years, but I didn’t know anything about her beyond what I knew of her recent late night escapades. I knocked on her door and it slowly began to open. Apparently she didn’t close it completely the last time she went in or out.
“Hello? Um, I’m Derek, I live across the street. Miss?” No answer. I opened the door a little bit more and took a tiny step inside, but I nearly slipped as I put my foot down. I looked down at my boot and noticed a dark red pool of thick liquid soaking into the carpet. My heart started racing. Scared, I swung the door open and yelled, “HELLO!?”, but before I could take another step or say another word she appeared from the hallway.
“Oh, hi! Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry! My paint dumped over a few minutes ago, I was looking for something to pick it up.”
Sure enough, at the end of the trail of red was a large paint can.
“Let me clean your boot off. Oh and I’m sorry about leaving and coming back so late at night, it’s when I was contracted to paint a sign for that new Mexican Restaurant up the street. They didn’t want me working on it during the day!”
I wiped some of the sweat off my brow and gave her a fake smile, “Oh, it’s no problem. I thought you were out every night on a killing spree!” I said with a just-kidding type of laugh.
“You, stop!” Shouted a voice in the crowd, “stop running!”
Lydia ran down the cobblestone street with her baby in her arms, the heat from the fire of torches chasing them brushed her neck. “Don’t worry, my sweet Alda, I will protect you,” Lydia whispered to her infant, holding her closer.
“Stop, Witch! There’s no where left to run!”
The water line came closer with every step. Lydia ran as fast as her legs could carry her, knowing that her time, and the street, were both running out. She closed her eyes tight and said her last words:
“Dear sweet Poseidon of the sea
Open your ears and hear my plea
Carry my child to the ocean floor
Let her be of this world, no more”
And with the thrust of her hands, she threw her child into the water and two glowing blue arms came up from the abyss and carried the baby away. In the same instant Lydia felt the sting of a wooden rod pierce her back.
“You’ll burn for your sins of sorcery, Lydia Ralston, you will burn,” said a devilish voice in her right ear.
“What’ll it be, O’Riley?”
“The usual George, and make it tall,” Oren said, ogling at the waitress’s bosom.
“I think you’ve had enough, mate. Why don’t you go on home now.”
“’Spose you’re right, eh? This place is dead anyways.” O’Riley stood up out of his chair and stumbled out the front door. He knew he might not be able to make it all the way home on his own, but he took his chances. People pointed and laughed at O’Riley as he blindly tried to put one foot in front of the other and call it walking. What are all these people staring at, he wondered. Don’t they know that I’m the great Oren Riley? Don’t they know who I am?
“You’re an old drunk O’Riley, let’s get you home,” said a familiar voice.
Oren looked up to find George, the barkeep trying to lift him up by his shoulders. “You’re drunk but you’re not dead, help me, you fool.”
“George, how ever did you find me here?”
“You’re only a foot away from the bar, Oren, that’s how. Now get up!”
As Oren pushed his feet into the ground to help George lift his own body up, the smell of ripe reaches caressed the air. “George, I didn’t know you had taken a liking to perfume.”
“Oh shut up, you mongrel, that’s probably the woman who just walked inside the bar.”
Oren held onto George as they slowly made their way down the street. O’Riley had been staying in a one roomed loft above an old bakery, paying nearly pennies to rent it out. It was a rotten place to stay, it smelled of mildewed bread and the walls were covered in cracks. A fifteen-year-old WANTED poster of O’Riley’s face hung above the door. “That’s me George, you know that’s me! I’m wanted! I’m a wanted pirate captain!”
“Yes Oren, you tell me every time, I know,” George said as he led Oren into the shanty and laid him on the stack of unfolded blankets that were on the floor.
The screech of the town’s bell tower filled the room. Oren shot up from his sleep. The sun was beaming. I’ve got to get these windows covered, he thought.
As he walked to the seashore to meet with his fishing boss, he passed George’s pub and they exchanged smiling nods through the front window. As Oren was getting closer to his job, he expected the smell of rotting fish to greet him, but something strange happened. Peaches. Peaches happened. The sweet smell engulfed him. Where have I smelled this before, he wondered.
He looked down the street and could see a small table covered in peaches. Behind it was a woman with golden hair, talking to some other ladies about the sweet fruit. The smell, and the pink of her cheeks drew him in.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before,” Oren said, straightening out his jacket.
“Well I’ve sure seen you, Mr. Riley. Would you like to buy some peaches?”
“I guess my reputation precedes me,” he said smiling out of the side of his mouth.
“Well, you’re not a pirate captain anymore, are you.”
“I suppose not,” Oren laughed. He picked up a peach and slid two quarters on the table. “I sure hope you’ll be here after I finish working.”
“We shall see,” the woman said as she smiled and turned to another customer.
Oren thought about that porcelain face all day at work. In between pulling up barrels of fish, he would reach into his pocket and move the peach pit in between his fingers. After work he went back to the peach table but she was gone.
Oren walked down to George’s pub and sat at the bar.
“Jesus Christ, son. Go home and go to sleep for once,” George said.
“I can’t sleep George, I’m in love.”
“Ha! What do ya know about love, Oren? You never loved a damn thing yer whole life, I reckon.”
“She had golden hair, and she smelled like peaches,” Oren said as he reached into his pocket and sat the peach pit down on the bar.
George stared at the peach pit for a second. “O’Riley, you ain’t got no business with that girl. Trust me, too high maintenance for you, mate.”
“Maybe I need that structure in my life, anyways, what do you know about love? I’ve never seen you love anything except ale.”
“Well son, I guess we both have that in common. Anyways, I know that girl. She travels a lot, wouldn’t be your thing anyways considering you’re nothing but a big ol’ hermit crab.”
“George, please, you’ve been in this town longer than anyone else here. Please, tell me where I could find her?”
“Boy,” George said, getting closer to O’Riley’s face, “I’m not gonna tell you again. You ain’t got no business with that girl. She’s way more complicated than you know.”
O’Riley bit his tongue. George poured O’Riley a drink and sat it down on the bar. O’Riley placed a few coins next to it, thanked him, and left the bar without taking a sip.
He walked passed town and closer to the beach. He walked along the shore, counting the stars. He thought for a moment how lonely his life was, and how lonely it had always been. But just then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something on the beach. It was a yellow scarf wrapped around a pair of small but dusty brown shoes. He looked around the beach but saw no one. He then looked out onto the ocean and saw something small moving about. He squinted his eyes and noticed that it was a woman! Her hair moved back and forth in the water and her face plunged under and over. Oren threw off his jacket and plunged into the sea.
“Don’t worry, I’m coming,” Oren screamed.
The woman looked up in shock. “No, I’m not drowning!” she tried to yell back, but Oren was already submerged in the water and rapidly swimming towards her.
Oren caught up to the woman and looped his arm through hers and pulled her up.
“You, it’s you!” Oren said with excitement as he attempted to swim with the peach seller to shore.
“Let go of me! I’m not drowning!” She said as she pushed O’Riley away.
“Well why the heck are you way out here in the middle of the ocean?”
“I’m . . . exercising my legs. Now please leave.”
“Can’t you at least tell me your name? So I know how to properly greet you next time I see you?”
“I don’t know how long I will be in town, but sure. My name is Alda. Alda Ralston.”
“Alda,” Oren said quietly to himself, “Well, Alda Ralston, I sure hope you’ll stay. I’m usually at the pub on 9th street, please come by sometime.”
“Ok, Oren. I will think about it.”
Oren smiled at her and turned around to swim to shore. But before he got too far away, he looked back and noticed that she was gone. Seconds later, what looked like a mermaid tail pushed through the top of the water into the night sky. He followed the tail with his eyes and saw that it belonged to a body, the body of a woman, who flew away into the ocean with golden hair.
“You see the new girl in the coffee shop? Alda. What a pretty name.”
“You still stuck on that? Forget about her,” George said, trying not to spill the drink carrier.
The wind blew freezing cold through their jackets as they walked along the sidewalk. The city was gray with dirty air and fog.
“It’s high time we put the pedal to the metal, dear boy.”
“But we don’t even have a car, Riley.”
“It’s metaphorical, see. We don’t need one. We’re riding the wind,” Riley said, waving his arms in front of him as if he were flying.
George followed Riley into an alleyway directly under a streetlight that had burned out. George sat the drinks on a large trashcan and picked up a small bag of keys that had been stashed in a crack in the wall. Riley picked up each coffee and poured them out.
“The Deichmans will be out of town until Sunday, as well as the Roberts and the Smiths. Can’t be too sure about the Rhodes, so I’ll hit that one first. Grab the keys, first stop is a block away.”
“You know what, Riley? Youda made a good pirate back in them old days.”
“Perhaps I was one in my past life,” Riley replied.
Riley and George went in separate ways down different sides of the block, each holding an empty coffee cup.
Riley slid a key into the door and let himself in. “My, my, Mrs. Rhodes, you sure do look quite lovely this evening,” Riley said to himself as he quickly looked around the large living room, looking for anything of value. “What a lovely ring you’re wearing, may I take a look? Oh how wonderful indeed,” he said as he picked a diamond ring up off the counter and placed it in the coffee cup. “Oh and of course I can’t forget about you, Mr. Rhodes, he said while opening up a drawer in the kitchen, how ever did you manage such a fine piece of clockwork?” He placed the watch in his cup and considered this a job well done. “It sure was a lovely chat, ta-ta for now.” He put the lid back on the cup before exiting the home.
“So did you get anything good?” George asked as they met up in the backyard of the vacant home next door.
“What do you think?” Riley said, slightly opening up the coffee cup so George could see the jewelry. George’s eyes lit up.
“Well, I didn’t do as good as you. Stupid dog damn near bit my head off!”
“You talkin’ bout the Smith’s chihuahua?”
“Hey man, you should have seen the look in his eyes. He ain’t right.”
“What did you get, you old fool?!”
“Some silver cufflinks, that’s all.”
“Well, perhaps better luck at the next house.”
George and Riley went their separate ways for a second time. As Riley walked to the next home, he noticed a familiar face. He ducked down behind some bushes and watched Alda, the girl from the coffee shop, enter the home. Shaking, he looked behind him, but no one was watching so he continued to approach the home. He looked in through a side window and saw Alda remove her jacket and walk into the downstairs bathroom. He had robbed this home many times before, never knowing that Alda lived here. He made his way to the back of the house, slowly slid his key into the lock, and let himself in. He heard the shower start and let out a small sigh. He began by looking on all of the tables, but there was nothing. No money left out, no jewelry. He clutched his coffee cup so tightly in his hand that he could hear the two items in the cup clinking together. What am I doing? He thought to himself. He stood there in the kitchen for a few seconds more, then removed the lid from the cup and took out the ring. He placed the ring on the counter in front of the microwave, and exited once more through the back door.
“Well it’s about time! It took you double the amount of time in there than usual.”
“Somebody was in there, George!” Riley said, breathing heavily and resting his hands on his knees. “I couldn’t find anything, and I think I dropped the ring!”
“YOU DROPPED THE RING? What, do you think some old cufflinks and a dirty watch are going to buy us a warm place to sleep and some food for the night?”
“Why don’t you cut me some slack, I almost broke my leg running over here,” Riley said, still panting from exhaustion. “Let’s just get out of here.”
They took the cufflinks and watch to a nearby pawnshop and sold them both as a combo for fifty dollars.
“This might get us a room at the motel down town if we hurry,” Riley said.
“Sure, let’s just ‘ride the wind’ and maybe we’ll get there before the night’s over.”
“You’re an ass, you know that?”
The next morning the two woke up in the alley. The temperature had risen just enough to keep them from freezing to death during the night.
“Ok, now I want some real coffee this time. No fake cup mission today.”
Riley and George went into a small convenience store and cleaned up as best as they could in the bathroom sink. When they got to the coffee shop, Riley saw that Alda was working inside.
“Oh man, there she is again.”
“Riley, come on mate, not again. Let’s just get our coffee and go. Don’t take this the wrong way man but you haven’t much of a chance. We’re thieves, and poor ones at that.”
“Right,” Riley said, still hesitating to go inside.
George walked into the shop and Riley quickly followed.
“Good morning, guys! Can I get ya’ll the usual?” Alda said from behind the counter.
“Oh, not today darlin’, just two regular coffees, one black, one with two creams please,” George told her.
“Right away!” Alda said with a smile.
Riley smiled back at her with bulging eyes and a crooked grin, trying not to reveal how nervous he was. But just as she turned sideways to reach for a stack of cups he noticed that she was wearing the ring! As if the moment couldn’t wreak any more havoc on his nerves, now he was scared that George would see the ring on her finger.
“I’m gonna head out for a smoke,” George said, easing Riley’s nerves.
Riley turned around and leaned his back on the counter.
“So, you two live around here? You sure come in often,” said a sweet voice.
“Oh, you’re talking to me?,” Riley asked nervously.
“Yes, unless you know another tall gentleman with nice hair who has his back turned to me.”
“Oh,” Riley said, letting out a small laugh, “Um yeah, you could say that.”
“Well, glad you could stop by this morning. That will be four dollars and ten cents.”
“You know, that’s a really beautiful ring.”
“Oh yeah, I found it on my kitchen counter this morning. We had a family get together last weekend and I guess someone left it at my house. I’m not sure where else it could have come from, unless an angel sent it down to me,” she said with a big laugh.
“Yes, well, that angel must really like you,” Riley said while handing her the money and taking the coffees.
Before exiting the shop, he noticed a small HELP WANTED sign in the window. He looked outside at George, freezing cold and dirty, then looked back at Alda.
“I don’t suppose you’ve filled the position then?”
“No, we haven’t,” Alda said as her lips curled into a warm smile.
About the Author:
Rose Ramirez is a small time writer from San Antonio, TX. She loves to share the art of literature with others and finds great solace in connecting with others through writing. Rose’s diverse background in many different genres of literature and her love for the spoken word has greatly affected her work and lifestyle. She hopes you’ve enjoyed the journey with her thus far.
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