Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the eleventh story on this blog. This 4,394-word piece is by crime writer Graham Smith.
Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!
I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂
The Smell of Perfume
My life had recently taken a slight turn for the better. A rube called Spratsky had given me a great payday which had let me pay off all my debts. I even advance paid the rent on my flat and office for the first time since I’d laid down the deposit. The advance payment was more precautionary than altruistic, as I knew I’d end up drinking every cent otherwise. This would keep me off the streets for a few more months while I sank my bodyweight in bourbon.
I was heading towards Jimmy’s, my usual haunt. It’d be open soon and I planned to spend the day ambushing Jack Daniels. Once I’d ambushed him I was going to surround him until his fiery tang leeched through my stomach and into my nervous system. When his retaliation captured me from within, I could relax as he chased the ghosts of my past out of my head and halfway down the street.
A voice rang out of the shadows cast by the noonday son. ‘Hey, Harry wait up a minute.’
I turned to look who’d called my name. The voice was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then I saw him across the street standing on the sidewalk. My old army Sergeant. The man who’s teachings had kept me alive when I toured Europe with a pack on my back and a rifle in my hands. Uncle Sam had sent me and brought me back, but it was Sergeant Thomas Hamilton who’d made sure I walked off the ship at New York on my own two feet, instead of being carried on a gurney or in a cheap pine box. Sure I’d had basic training but that’s what it was, basic.
Sergeant Hamilton never once saved my life, but without him at my side I would have died a hundred times over. I owed him my life and I knew it.
My right arm rose into an automatic salute and then dropped when I saw his face. Ten years had passed since we were demobbed, but he’d aged more than forty. His once cheerful and ruddy face was now grey and drawn. This was a man who’d told me jokes to keep me calm as the bullets flew. I couldn’t believe how he now looked.
I felt a wave of shame wash over me. Here I was bleary eyed, still stinking of last night’s bourbon and unshaven. I owed him too much to let him see what I’d become.
I knew I had to face him though. He wasn’t the kind of man you could avoid. If he wanted to talk to you he’d follow you until his shoes wore through, and then he’d get new shoes and keep on coming.
He crossed the street and we exchanged smiles and handshakes. I asked him why he was in town. The last I’d heard he was living nearly seven hundred miles away.
‘I came to see you Harry. I need your help.’