Flash Fiction: When the Coffee’s Ready, You’ll Smell it

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He was what you’d call today a little person, but back in those days you’d called him a midget.  Either way he was known around here as Henry after he was kicked out of Tinseltown. I will spare you the nicknames he acquired during those days because this only soured his attitude whenever you mentioned it. 

He used to view life as fresh and thought every opportunity was a gift from heaven when he arrived in this little town I had lived in since birth.  Right up to his death, he still barreled down the stairs as fast as his legs would take him. Everyone knew he racked up more than a few problems that stayed past their invitation.  I’m convinced it partially sent him to his grave early.  God rest his soul.  The rest was done by one or more people.

Henry had a brother named Corky, a nickname he had given himself at an early age, and one he insisted everyone use in his adulthood.  With their parents long gone, no one was aware of his actual name except Henry, and he sure wasn’t about to mess with Corky’s pride.  Unlike his brother, he was of average height and while he was known to be kind, there was no telling what might set him off.  Some attributed it to him being dropped on his head as a child one too many times, but these were only stories told by others who thought they knew him. 

The morning, roughly two weeks before his death, Henry barreled down the stairs as normal with his metal cup in hand.  There were two things that either woke him up every morning: a gal by the name of Sofia or a cup of coffee.  Sofia woke him up on special occasions. The coffee did so on a much regular basis.  The routine for him was to climb onto the stool, in order to bang the counter with his palm, and within seconds the coffee was in his cup.  It was black as coal, no sugar or milk.  On even less occasion, Corky joined him while he watched Henry slurp his coffee.  Henry and Corky had a bond like any brothers have, tightening even more as they got older.

One night after Henry went to sleep, Corky had a stern talking to with Sofia.  He hadn’t liked her influence over him lately.  She asked how she had changed him.  His response was for the worse.  She didn’t like that much.  It wasn’t a good enough answer.  She kicked him hard where it counted the most.  He buckled over and managed not to fall to his knees.  There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do to protect herself.  If her survival meant the disintegration of another, so be it.  She had paid her dues to society.  It was her turn to be given respect.  She made sure to take it whether it was willfully given or not. 

Michael liked high pitched noises.  It didn’t matter where they came from, human or object.  When he found Henry, the person he regarded as his best friend, he screamed and kept screaming for two reasons.  One, because he liked to hear his voice, and two, if you stopped before people realized something was wrong, there was no point in even opening your mouth.  His screams continued until a large enough group was in the room.  They rushed over, taking their turns to feel a pulse, but there was nothing but partially warm flesh to touch and deadened pupils to gaze. 

As more people came to see the commotion, others left the room.  It became a rotating dance of in and out except three people.  Corky had lost his composure and fell back against the wall, periodically glancing from Sofia to Henry to Stewart to Michael and all over again but in a different order.  Sofia was on her knees next to Henry.  She cried the most and gave the appearance of a grieving lover.  Sofia’s brother, Stewart, watched everyone mourn and gawk at the dead midget. 

I knew none of them were responsible for Henry’s death even though I knew more than a half believed differently.  I had seen the person who had killed him, his eyes not lifeless or deceiving.  He looked like any of us, searching for a better life, in this small town.  This person had poisoned the air we breathed and made us mistrustful of each other that day. While I didn’t know the person’s name, the face was imprinted in my memory.  There would be no forgetting what he wore.  His smell reeked of something I hadn’t identified. When I find him and I will, it will be more than words that are exchanged between us. 

2019

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