FINDERS KEEPERS - J.F. JUZWIK
Abner Fendal felt like he hadn't eaten for days. He couldn't remember the last time he had been this hungry. Sissy had scolded him severely the last time she came by to check on him and had found his refrigerator and cupboards to be empty. He really didn't like it very much when she went through his things. Her nosing around in his kitchen was violation enough; but when she did her, as she called them, inspections on his living room, bathroom and bedroom, it was all he could do to restrain himself from telling her to leave and never come back. He knew she would never have tolerated his behaving that rudely, and would most likely have retaliated by forcing him to move back in with her and her family. Abner really enjoyed being his own person and having his own place and had decided long ago never to do or say anything that might make Sissy question his ability to live independently. If she just didn't always touch everything...
Mother had known the value in having one's own personal bits of life. That's what she had always called them--bits of life. The few times she had come upon him in her room when he had disobeyed her and tried to touch some of the pieces in her special box, she had explained to him how evil it was to put your hands on other people's special things. Evil, it was, because it resulted in you taking a bit of the life from them for yourself. She would then lock him in that dark little room in the basement that Daddy had built special for naughty boys--the one that had the voice coming through the wall telling him over and over what a bad boy he really was.
After a couple of days, she would retrieve him, give him his bath and a hearty meal. That was the best part, Abner remembered with a smile. When the door opened and she was standing there with her arms reaching out for him--the voice had stopped by then--and he would run to her for his good-boy-now hug and kisses. When Mother had come to retrieve Daddy after having locked him in the dark room for being a naughty boy, he hadn't run to her for his good-boy-now hug and kisses. Mother said that he hadn't run to her at all. Abner had never seen Daddy again after that. Mother said he wasn't strong like Abner was and told Abner not to think about Daddy ever again. Soon, Daddy's things began disappearing from around the house and memories of him began to fade. Abner was happy to see them go. Mother was right. He was the strong one. And would always be. For Her.
Abner remembered how Mother had never paid much mind to Sissy. She had been fed and cared for alright as was expected, but Mother had never taken her on their special outings or given her a special box, nor had she ever expained to Sissy how to take care of the treasures stored within. When Mother had died so long ago in her bed, Abner had taken her special box for his own and hidden it from Sissy. He had taken each item in his hands and felt the life flow into him from each one; a necklace, a small comb, a bottle cap, an ink pen--so many bits of life that she had gathered. Sissy would have questioned where each item had come from and might have attempted to return them, and would never have understood Mother's and his special times together. He had kept his special box hidden from her all these years and wasn't about to let her spoil everything now. At least Sissy checked on him on the same day at the same time so he could make sure his special box was secure from her prying eyes. But she was getting suspicious lately since he had forgotten to keep food in the house and when she got that way, she would open drawers and closets and look under and behind and pull out and push in... Abner shuddered, barely able to picture the horror of it all. He made up his mind that after work today, he would stop at Mr. Granger's grocery on the corner and pick up a few things to put in the refrigerator and the cupboards. When Sissy came by next time, she would look and touch and violate, but she would be satisfied and go away.
Abner looked at the wall clock above the stove. Time to finish my breakfast, clean up and get on to work. Abner enjoyed his job at the flower shop. Sissy's husband had arranged for him to work there so he could get his own little place and wouldn't have to be under foot there with them. That's what he had said to Abner, 'under foot', and Abner hadn't really understood what he had meant by that, but didn't think it was nice. Didn't matter, though. Abner had his job watering the plants out back and got his pay every week and was able to pay for his own place. It was small, but it was his, and that was all that mattered, and he wasn't 'under foot' anymore. Maybe he would ask Mr. Granger what that meant when he went to pick up some groceries, if he remembered to do it. Maybe he would.
Abner washed and dried all the dishes, frying pan and silverware and put them all away. He wiped down the table and counters and took a step back to admire a job well done. Perfect, he thought, absolutely. The people who live here will never know that I was here. One last chore, though. He had to find a little bit of life here to take with him just as he and Mother had done on their outings. Abner looked around the living room and made his way over to a desk that was placed next to a large picture window. The sun was peeking in through the slit in the curtains and something shiny on the corner of the desk caught his eye. When he saw it, he knew this was it--this was the bit of their lives he would take--a large gold paper clip. Abner thought it probably was used as some type of book placekeeper or stack of paper binding, but it was so beautiful and shiny. As he held it in his hands, he felt the lives and thought again of Mother and how he missed her on this, and all, his outings. But, no time for that now. He needed to hurry so as not to be late for his job.
He exited the house as he had entered, through an unlocked window in one of the back bedrooms. People should really keep their homes more secure, he thought, all my windows are always locked.
Sissy's visit this week was most annoying. While she was nosing around Abner's own personal home, looking under and around, pushing and grabbing, touching and shaking, she kept talking. Talking and talking and talking--all about some person who was breaking into people's own personal homes and taking their own personal things and then killing whoever was there. This was a dangerous and disturbed person, she kept saying, someone who did not belong in civilized society, someone who should be locked away somewhere forever--somewhere dark and cold. Abner just sat in his own personal living room chair, closed his eyes and kept trying to block her out, but it was so hard because she just would never stop talking about it. She said it was all over the newspapers, but told Abner that he should be glad he didn't know how to read because the details were just too terrible to get in your head. Well, Abner thought, if the details are just too terrible to get in your head, why are you telling me about them? He thought perhaps Sissy deep down enjoyed these 'just too terrible' details a little bit and that was why she kept going on and on about them.
At least whatever it was she was going on and on about kept her from staying too long in his own personal home. She said she didn't feel safe being out and about and was planning to go home and lock her house up tight and strongly suggested he stay home and do the same. There was no work for him that day, and since he did have food in the house (stopping at Mr. Granger's grocery had been the right thing to do), he should just lock his doors and windows and stay put. She got a telephone call on that little phone she carried in her pocket and told Abner something had come up and she had to run. He never thought he'd be grateful to a little blue thing in Sissy's pocket, but since it made her go away, he certainly was. He wondered if someday maybe he could get one of those little blue things for his pocket, so he could get telephone calls, but quickly dismissed the idea. Any telephone calls he got would probably be from Sissy anyway, and that wouldn't be enjoyable--not enjoyable at all.
After Sissy had gone, Abner dressed for dinner. He wasn't sure what he had a taste for this evening, but was certain one of the homes on Ranford Street would have something he would enjoy preparing. The families on Ranford Street all gathered each Friday evening for an outdoor meal at the park on the corner of Harcourt; some type of neighborhood thing. Abner was happy he had never become part of a neighborhood thing. All those people talking to each other all the time and shaking hands over and over--all that touching and taking a bit of life away each time--no. It was better on your own, as Mother had taught him; just take a bit of life here and there and that's all you'll ever need. Oh, how he wished Mother could see him now.
Dinner was spectacular, Abner was so proud of himself. The hot roast beef sandwiches he had prepared, along with the mashed potatoes and potato salad, made him feel all warm and cozy inside. That, along with the freshly brewed coffee and chocolate cake, made the evening perfection. He wanted to have his dinner in private so he moved the bodies of the Mother, the Daddy and the two little boys into their respective bedrooms and tucked them soundly in their beds. Blood had splattered everywhere, but Abner had found a mop and some bleach, and things were all spic-n-span in no time. They should have joined in the neighborhood thing at the park on the corner of Harcourt--they really should have.
Abner washed and dried the dishes, as was his duty and put everything away. He wasn't certain if this family might be missed at the neighborhood whatever-it-was, so he tried not to dawdle. Now, only to search for, and find, the perfect bit of life from these people. What could it be?
While riding home on the cross-town bus, Abner kept his right hand in his pocket, resting on his treasure. He had never seen a sno-globe that small before, and it had such a lovely and serene scene. He wondered how anyone could craft such a perfect little cottage with a white picket fence and leafy oak trees on either side. When it was shaken and the snow fell, it became a magical winter wonderland that Abner knew he would be able to enjoy for hours at a time. Lots of life in this one, he tightened his grip on it, lots of life.
As Abner approached his front door, he noticed it slightly ajar. That is not possible, he thought, my doors and windows are always securely locked--both when I am in and when I am out. How is that possible? He went around to the side and, as quietly as he could, entered through the kitchen side door. He heard drawers being opened and cupboard doors being slammed shut. Someone was here--someone--looking around and under, pushing and pulling, seeing and touching, knowing...
He looked around the corner into the living room and saw a man throwing the couch cushion on the floor.
"What are you doing in my own personal home?" Abner stepped slowly into the room.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the retard," the man began. "I've been watching you, retard, watering your plants down the street and shuffling your way home every night. I was hoping your bitch would be here tonight so I could have some fun with her before I put her down. She doesn't come around too often, does she? What is she--your aunt or your cousin? She sure couldn't be your girlfriend, a retard like you couldn't get anything as fine as all that."
Abner was horrified. Yes, Sissy was annoying with her weekly visits, but this man was calling her bad names.
"She is my sister," he said angrily, "and she deserves to be spoken about with respect. She comes weekly to check on my well-being and to inspect my own personal home, and it is a bother to me, but do not speak that way about her. Sissy is a good person and she wants me to keep being on my own so I am not under foot in her house, whatever that means. Who are you and why are you messing up my own personal home? Sissy will not be happy about that--not happy at all."
"Well, fuck me, and then some," the man got to his feet. "You're not just a regular retard, you're stone-cold brain dead. Let me tell you what I want, mister-under foot-sissy's boy-piece of shit. I want whatever valuables you have stashed in this hole, because people always leave expensive jewelry and shit like that to fuckers like you because they know you won't know to hock it. Then, I'm going to enjoy watching you die, just like I always enjoy watching them die. But you, especially, Danny Boy, you especially."
"My name is not Danny Boy, it's Abner. Abner Fendal."
"Oh yeah. This is going to be my best one yet. I can't wait to..."
The man didn't so much see the blade coming as sensed it; but, of course, by then, it was a little too late. He was surprised at the lack of pain as it was pulled across his throat. He felt only warmth--gentle and soothing--covering him like a lover's embrace. His last thought was that this was probably the way one felt as one were dying.
Abner was very excited. Today's breakfast was going to be hash brown potatoes, fried eggs, toast and butter, sausage and bacon. He decided to go all out this morning. Sissy had come by yesterday afternoon and issued her stamp of approval, and he wouldn't have to see her again for another week. As he got the coffee maker going, he decided to have a look around. Lots of bits of life here, he thought, from lots of lives too, and he would take them all. He would take them and hide them and keep them all safe from harm. They were, after all, his and no one else's. That terrible man thought he could take Abner's personal bits of life, but Mother had taught him well--finders keepers.
Abner decided to sit and watch the television for awhile. He didn't have one at his own personal home and liked to watch the programs once in awhile during his special outings. He had the time. There was no work for him at the flower shop today, and the terrible man had, after all, been considerate enough to be carrying a wallet with his name and address. It was an adequate enough place, Abner thought, and besides, it wasn't like the man would be coming home...
BIO: J. F. Juzwik has had a crime fiction novel, a horror short and two crime shorts published. Her thriller will soon be appearing in an anthology. She is a member of several writers' networks and maintains a blog for both writers and readers at J.F. Juzwik's Blog. Information on all her projects can be found on her website at J.F. Juzwik - Author.