Sticking His Neck Out, a short story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

A famous, reclusive pop singer has been drawn outside by a woman who greatly resembles his one true lost love. It didn't go quite as he had hoped.

Paul knew this could backfire, blow everything he’s worked for sky-high. In fact, after wracking his brain for a week, looking for one solid reason he should risk his career for a no-name, struggling artist, and not finding one, not a single, solitary “that’s it” reason, here he is. Hiding behind some bushes outside her artist’s cottage, trying to drum up the courage to introduce himself. ‘Could I be more pathetic if I tried?’ he thought. Then an image of Grace came to mind, the lost love of his life. And Katie could be her identical twin.

Katie had been laboring to motivate herself all morning. With scant success. She walked to the window that looked out on her spacious private backyard. Private only because of the trees and bushes that enclosed it. Sometimes she’d see a few birds flying around and it would improve her mood. No birds today. She’d have to resort to self-manifested determination if she wanted to finish this project.  

Paul saw Katie standing at her window. She brought back all the Grace memories, the rapturous and the devastating. He’d been standing there for twenty minutes. The cottage’s remote location kept him from being discovered by neighbors or passersby. Was Katie worth risking his hermit-like existence? Without it, he’d just be another singer. The mystery made him famous. Deep inside he knew he had no choice. It was ‘go’ time. Go knock on the door or go home.

The more than half-finished sculpture of a block of downtown New Glarus, Wisconsin, a small city full of Swiss architecture stared back at Katie. She believed this piece might garner her some much-deserved recognition. After all these years.

A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Who could that be? And at the back door, no less? Katie took one look at the scruffy-looking man with deep blue eyes standing outside and pulled her phone from her butt pocket.

"I'm calling 9-1-1 if you don't leave."

He really didn't look dangerous. In fact, he looked a little familiar. Maybe he was hungry. She walked to her kitchen table and picked up a banana. Back at the door, Katie opened it enough so she could offer the fruit to the stranger.

"I really don't need--all right, thank you. Can I just--”

She closed the door and put her finger on her phone screen.

”Okay, okay, I'm gone." said Paul. Katie played some popular music on her phone and returned to her sculpture. Moments later she heard another knock.

“Shit!”

She went to the back door again but didn't see anyone. Another knock. The front door. Turning around she could see it was him again.

"What now?!" she shouted.

Paul held up the banana peel for her to see. Behind the scruff he had such an innocent look. Katie softened a little. She opened the door enough to take the peel.

"Are you still hungry? Maybe a sandwich?"

"That would be more than I've eaten in two days,"

Paul replied. He took a step towards the door. Katie closed it quickly. "Wait a minute," she shouted through the glass.

Paul realized he needed to find a way inside that didn't entail gaining five pounds. Or frightening Katie. 'Maybe I should just come clean,' he thought. 'Or mostly clean. If that doesn't work I'll leave and come up with a new plan.'

While Katie was making the PB&J she texted her friend and nearest neighbor, Rachel.

U wont belve it bt i thk Paul Fears is outside house. Diskize bt i no the voice.

Katie returned to the door with the sandwich. She thought for a moment and decided to take a chance. If this was really Paul Fears, he could maybe prove to be a real asset. If it wasn't him, well, she had her needle tool to persuade him to leave.

Katie opened the door wider. Paul entered. 

"So--," they said simultaneously.

"Ladies first," Paul offered.

“I’m Katie. And you’re?”

“A big fan. And thank you for the sandwich,” as he took a bite. “I want to tell you the truth. I'm not homeless. I was at your exhibit last week and fell in love. With your art, that is. If I could just have five minutes of your time..."

"I thought you looked a little familiar.” After an uneasy pause Katie says, "Please don't take offense, but you don't look like the typical art buyer."

"What look is that?”

"Here are my latest pieces," said a red-faced Katie as she pointed to the display table.

"Are they actually existing buildings or your imagination?"

"Real buildings from small towns across America. Everything I create I've seen first hand. This one is a favorite of mine from a town in Oklahoma that’s literally still a one-stoplight town."

"I love it. Takes me back to Mayberry.

"And the one on the end is a little spot in the road in New Mexico. Hence, the Native American influence."

"I'm surprised you haven't been discovered yet."

"It's not easy," Katie said trying not to show the hurt she felt. "You likely don't know the difficulties artists face."

"I might."

"Do you want to buy one?"

"I want two."

"Are you sure you can afford them?"

"They can't be that expensive, can they?"

"Ouch!" Katie replied, the red returning to her cheeks. "I shouldn't judge a book..."

"That's ok. Sometimes looks can be deceiving," said Paul as he pulled off his wig and fake beard. "There. Better?"

No reaction from Katie.

"You don't recognize me?"

"Should I?"

"You're joking." A forced laugh.

"No. Are you somebody?"

"Somebody? I'm Paul Fears."

Katie offers her hand to shake. "Nice to meet you."

Paul shakes.

"You look sad," said Katie.

"I'm not used to this. I started avoiding the public because people wouldn’t leave me alone. That's why I..." Paul points to the disguise.

"So, what do you do?"

"Well, if you don't know who I am, it doesn't matter, does it?"

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Paul. You're a wonderful singer. And I would suggest brown contact lenses to go with your outfit. I kinda thought it was you from the start because of your baby blues."

"I'll give you $500 for each piece," said Paul.

“I’d like to show you my latest. It’s not quite finished, but I think it might be my best.”

They walked over to the work table.

“Wow! What city is this?”

“New Glarus, Wisconsin. It was settled by Swiss people.”

“I want all of them,” he said as he wrapped his arm around Katie's shoulder. She took a side step, but Paul followed suit. She tried to gently remove his hand from her shoulder. He lowered it and tightened his grip on her upper arm. "And you. I'll have my personal chef put together a romantic meal for us."

Katie frowned. Paul proceeded to put a hand on each of her shoulders and tried to kiss her. She stepped hard on his foot. He screamed. In a couple of steps she was able to find her sharp-pointed needle tool.

"I think we're done here."

"I was just trying to be friendly. I felt a strong vibe between us."

Katie began to approach Paul, her arm extended, pointing the tool at his chest. He backed up towards the door.

"Ok, I'm leaving. I could’ve made your career, but if you want to stay the undiscovered...ice bitch..."

Upon receiving Katie's text, Rachel knew she wasn't going to pass up a chance to meet her music idol. As she neared the cottage she could see Katie holding her tool like a weapon. She quickened her pace. A few steps from the door she heard Katie yell, "Fuck you!"

Stopping never crossed Rachel's mind. She hit the slightly open door with all her might. The door smacked Paul unexpectedly in the back and thrust him forward. Katie had not time to react. The needle tool entered Paul's throat up to its hilt.

 


Submitted: March 20, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Michael Licwinko. All rights reserved.

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