William Turnsby has never been an impressive man. If one were to coax his coworkers into describing him, they would earnestly ask, “Who?” The most crowning achievement in his passive life has quite simply been being there; but as it may seem, this accomplishment will be the demise of William Turnsby. On this day being there will be the one thing he will wish he couldn’t do.
Turnsby works in a small cubical on the fifth floor of a software programing company. He writes HTML codes and provides tech support for budding internet companies under new domain names. He would most often drown himself in his work, never engaging in interoffice relationships or politics. Today he decided to leave early , feeling exhausted after completing some particularly complex lines of code. As he walked down the beige and green halls, he passed by two other unpopular coworkers.
“Well, T didn’t know what else to do so I uh… hit her,” said a poorly dressed coworker to another equally unfashionable man. “Yeah, I don’t see what else you could’ve done. Oh, hey Turnsby, Whitaker wants to see you.” Mr. Whitaker is the floor manager for the fifth floor. He is a mousy sort of man, the kind that one would not bet on in a no holds bar bare knuckle match with a sickly child.
Turnsby rapped gently against Whitaker’s office door, which was open enough to show Mr. Whitaker reading what appeared to be the prior Sunday’s funny pages. Whitaker looked up, and as he did the glare from his bald head momentarily stupefied Turnsby; so much so that Turnsby could only muster a sheepish, “You wanted to see me?”
“Oh, yes Turnsby, take a seat and close the door please,” Whitaker said behind his gold, perfectly round glasses. “Ah, I just love Marmaduke, don’t you?”
“Huh? Oh, uh no. I don’t really read the comics page.”
Whitaker gave a disappointed, almost hurt sigh. “As you may know, Jenkins your department head, has put in his two weeks notice. I was thinking of giving the position to you.”
Turnsby sat blankly for an uncomfortable amount of time, then confusedly said, “That would be great. Thank you, sir.”
“Granted it’s just a modest pay raise, with much more responsibility; but you’ll be moving up…,” Whitaker continued to ramble, but by then Turnsby had stopped listening. Poor William Turnsby had never given much consideration in progressing with his career. He didn’t think the subject would ever come up. He sat there pondering this new life possibility as the white noise of Whitaker sputtering about 401 investment opportunities filled the room. “I just have to run this by upstairs, but it’s pretty safe to say the job is yours,” Whitaker summed up.
Turnsby arrived at his one bedroom apartment, which was devoid of any personality. The walls bare from missed opportunities for fond photos of times and people never met. He sat down in his lime green lazy boy, still in a stupor over the turnout of the day. He started to rest and put things out of his mind when he realized that he had forgotten to stop by the store and get a new bottle of shampoo. He begrudgingly got up to walk to a corner store a few blocks from his building. As he walked he briefly wondered if he even needed shampoo, and why couldn’t he just use body soap to clean his short, brown hair. He walked down the hygiene isle trying not to notice things that made him uncomfortable, such as tampons and hair dye. He stood staring at the multitude of choices for hair care products, as he always did. He struggled with the same battle he had every time he was forced to buy shampoo; whether or not to buy the brand clearly marketed towards women. He decided to do so, as he did often, rationalizing that he did so only because he liked the way it made his bathroom smell after a hot shower. For good measure he also grabbed a bag of spiced beef jerky and a Maxim magazine; reaffirming that yes, he is indeed a man.
He existed the store, surprised at how quickly the night had set in. He began to wonder exactly how long he had been in the store contemplating shampoos, and decided not to find out as whatever the answer could be would only be too depressing. He started to walk his usual way home, when he stopped in front of an alley way he never went down. It allured Turnsby as he was tired, and it would surely cut at least three blocks from his commute. He opted to take the shortcut. A decision that would he would soon regret.
Halfway down the narrow alley Turnsby noticed a large man leaning on small, filthy dumpster smoking from what appeared to be a small metal pipe. A sudden flash of freight struck he gut. He thought about turning back, but decided that he was being irrational and cowardly. The large man noticed Turnsby and started to walk towards him. This unsettled Turnsby, as he did want to be robbed; or in a worst case scenario be sexually assaulted.
“You’re late, asshole. You better not be fucking with me,” said Hands, the large man in the middle of the alley. He hand been given the name Hands by The Wolf, a mid level crime lord in the area, for his penchant for taking victims out with his bare hands. He wore his trade mark black leather jacket and mildly blood stained jeans.
“I’m sorry?” said Turnsby, confused. He wondered what exactly he could be late for, his death he assumed.
“Goddamn right you’re sorry. The Wolf doesn’t like being dicked around with,” Hands said with noticeable irritation as he lit a long filtered cigarette. He kicked a small leather bag laying beside him. “I’ve got the 15 g’s right here. Is that the horse?” Hands growled out as he nodded towards Turnsby’s bag containing his effeminate shampoo.
“Horse?” Turnsby looked down at his bag,”I hardly think a horse could fit in here.”
“Don’t get smart with me, asshole. Is that the H or not?” Hands said, growing increasingly impatient.
“Look, I don’t know what you are talking about, I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.” Turnsby voice quivered, and began to crack; which thoroughly embarrassed Turnsby as he did not want his last words to sound like they came from a 13 year old chronic bed wetter.
“What the fuck are you talking about? You trying to back out of this deal now? I’ll tell you now. There’s no fucking backing out. Either make the deal and get paid, or I shoot you in the stomach and take the smack anyway.” Hands was now all too close to Turnsby, his three day chin stumble nearly touching Turnsby’s nose.
“I told you, you have the wrong gu…” before Turnsby could finish his sentence Hands had punched him right in solar plexus. Turnsby fell to the ground gasping for air while Hands reached to grab the bag Turnsby had dropped on the way down.
“What the fuck is this? Broad’s shampoo, beef jerky, jack off mag; where the fuck is the heroin?” Hands said as he towered over Turnsby.
“I told you, I’m not who you are waiting on.” Turnsby managed out between gasps.
“Shit. I’m sorry man, but no one else comes down this alley except to make deals.” Hands blurted out, genuinely remorseful. “It’s different guys all the time, so you never know who you’ll be meeting.”
“It’s ok, if you just let me go home we’ll call it even.” Turnsby said as he silently thanked God.
“Sure thing buddy, just don’t be going to the cops about this, or I’ll have to find you.” Hands said jokingly, but Turnsby knew that it was more than true.
“Ha, yeah I won’t be doing that don’t worry.” Turnsby said as he planted his hand against the dumpster to get himself up. As he shifted his weight to gain leverage, the dumpster rolled into a pole propping up a broken fire escape ladder. The broken, mangled bottom of the ladder pierced right through the top of Hand’s thick skull, the end of which visible inside of his mouth, now a jar. Turnsby sat there, not a breath taken, as he stared at Hands, whose eyes were open as wide as his jaw, now oozing a slow, steady stream of blood. Hands stood there, motionless, like an avaunt-garde statue at a morose museum.
“Holy fuck!” Turnsby whispered, still dazed by what had happened. Footsteps at the end of the alley startled him.
“Hands! What the hell is going on down there?”