The three-story house on Alcott Street sat on top of a hill. Nick could almost see the bridge from the attic if he angled his body the right way. Like many neighborhoods within a city, there was a row of shops across from his window. Each establishment was adorned with a dark green awning. There was Lou & Abe’s Deli, a shoe repair shop, a small drugstore, and Rozano’s Pizza Parlor. In front of Rozano’s, there were four wrought iron tables painted white with white wooden fold-up chairs. The tables were covered with red and white checkerboard tablecloths. All the local people went to Rozano’s; it was a revolving door of friendly faces and ethnic diversity.
As Nick Sabastiani stood outside on the balcony, he took a deep breath and admired the architecture. The few Victorian homes that hadn’t been destroyed for newly built apartment buildings were colorfully painted in various shades of green, terra cotta, blue, and gray. The trolley was just down the hill. The fresh breeze from the peninsula pressed Nick’s shirt against his chest. Nick’s house was converted to three apartments, one apartment per floor. The first floor apartment was vacant. The second floor apartment belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Ashby, who were away visiting their daughter in San Diego for the summer.
When Nick entered his apartment, he threw the newspaper and mail on his desk. He worked at a small magazine company and was recently promoted to assistant editor. Despite the computers he used in the office, he preferred to keep a typewriter at home, an old manual he’d had since high school. He remembered when his mother bought it at a garage sale and gave it to him as a gift for his high school freshman year.
He looked out the window and down at the pizza parlor and the customers. He watched the people enter and exit. Watching had become a source of entertainment lately. Late at night, his silhouette could be seen pacing back and forth behind the shaded window. He couldn’t quite cross the bridge that kept him from putting his thoughts on paper. He tried to relax — listened to music, exercised, took long walks outside the city he even tried yoga. Nothing seemed to unblock the wall between his mind and his fingers. The last eight weeks felt like a lucid dream where he can put himself inside the dream, but not certain he’d wake up.
He left his apartment nightly, trying to figure out the compulsion he felt for the nightly walks but somehow the reason was not important anymore once he was on the streets. The walks helped clear out the cobwebs in his head. His memory lied in wait, for a spark of creativity, an inspiration to write. But it was useless. One evening, while he walked pass the pizza parlor on his way home from one of his long walks, he watched a tall lanky boy leave the parlor. He decided to follow him home.
Profusely sweating and breathless, Nick ran up the stairs to his apartment on the third floor. He clumsily struggled with the old knob that resisted his entrance from time to time. Finally, he opened the heavy oak door and walked to his desk where there was paper on the roller he did not remember leaving in.
“Is anyone here?” he shouted to no one. Bewildered, he gripped his hands on the back of the desk chair. Talking out loud, “What is happening to me? I’ve never … confused before. Tension, that’s it. For Christ sakes, laughing “it’s only writer’s block.” Softly, unnervingly, “Nothing to worry about. It happens to writers lots of times and certainly has happened to me before.” Suddenly he whispered, “I feel… so… angry, so tired. I know what’s wrong. Let me think. Did I or didn’t I leave paper in the roller?” Looking at the typewriter in disgust, he covered his face with his hands and muttered, “It can’t be, it can’t be,” as he read:
DAY 1: I followed a boy home tonight. After only two blocks I
become scared and run back home. What a pity. No guts.
“I thought . . . no, no, no. I didn’t type this…?”
As Nick sat on the sofa, he stared at the typewriter and eventually fell asleep without removing his clothes and shoes. When he awakened, he walked straight to the typewriter that sat across the room. Day 1 was typed on the clean white sheet of paper.
“Am I typing this? If I am, why?” When he turned toward the clock on his desk, it was twelve thirty in the afternoon. His phone began to ring and he quickly picked up the receiver because the ring was so loud. It was Sharon from the office.
“Was anything wrong?” she wanted to know.
“No. As a matter of fact, I’m working on a story.” He didn’t know why he was lying. “I’ll be in Monday… Yeah, I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’ll be in next… If there are any editorial problems give them to Paul. He is capable, you know… So what Sharon?! I’m entitled to taking time off when I want to… Sorry, I didn’t mean to scream. Okay, just ask Paul for his help and I’ll see you on Monday.” Sarcastically, “If that is all right with you, Ms. Reynolds… Yeah… I know… I’m not sick. I feel fine… Well… I’m just having a little crisis of my own here, that’s all, and I need the time… Yeah, thanks, bye.”
After he calmly hung up, he sat up and yelled, “Damn it, can’t they survive without me for a week?!” he paced the worn out Oriental rug, abruptly turning on his heel at each end of the rug.
Nick sat down at the kitchen table and nonchalantly looked at the clock. It was six forty five. “Where has the time gone? Where does time go?” he asked himself. Wearing yesterday’s clothes, Nick reached for his coat and left his apartment.
How long he stood outside the pizza parlor he didn’t know. He watched a young petite girl leave and decided to follow her home. She turned around and defiantly looked at him. Nick became frightened, smiled, and walked away. At home, shook from the experience, he ran up the stairs to the front door out of breath, his shirt was damp. He nervously struggled with his door keys. He removed his coat and dropped it on the floor. He slowly walked to his desk, where a fresh sheet of paper sat in the typewriter roller. He forced himself to look at the paper. It had Day 2.
Day 2: I followed a girl home from the pizza parlor and smiled. She caught me looking.
The volume of his voice rose, “All right. Somebody’s playing a real cruel joke on me! Sharon. Sharon came over… nah… who…stop it! Who the hell is playing with my head?! Nick sat at his desk chair watching the typewriter, waiting for the keys to move. He turned his head, hoping it’ll start to type while he wasn’t looking. But the typewriter won’t be fooled. He jumped up and went to the bathroom. After taking a shower, he realized how tired he was; from what, he doesn’t know. It was ten o’clock at night when he began to set his alarm clock, changed his mind, and fell asleep.
It was two p.m. when he awakened the next day, wondering what time he went to bed. “It was ten p.m., I remember now. Wow.” His stomach was churning he was so hungry. He hadn’t eaten for two full days. Famished, he went into the kitchen and prepared his breakfast. Eggs, toast, sausages, and a tall glass of milk. Feeling full and satisfied, he proceeded to wash the dishes.
He lost his grip on the empty glass and it crashed to the floor. As he picked up the pieces, his eyes caught a glimpse of the typewriter. He forgot all about Day 1 and Day 2. But at that moment it all came back to him. He followed the first boy and then the young woman. Both incidents already typed by the time he came home. He stopped picking up the pieces of glass and approached his desk. Frightened to look at the paper still in the typewriter, he hesitated. He tightened his face and read what was on the paper, hoping that what he had seen in the last couple of days was a figment of his imagination. The messages of Day 1 and Day 2 innocently stared back at him confirming their reality.
He thought about Sharon. She still had the keys to his apartment. They broke up a month ago and working with her wasn’t easy after that. Although he pretended he could handle it, his heart stung whenever he saw her. “No, she wouldn’t do this to me. Besides, how would she know unless she watched and followed me? No, it’s not Sharon.”
Sharon refused to tolerate his moods, she never knew what to expect or how to please him. He thought of their last day together in his apartment. His moods and insecurities were the subjects of a lot of arguments between them.
It was eight thirty at night when Nick looked at the clock. He slowly got up from the desk chair and went into the bathroom, he showered and got dressed. When he walked out of the bedroom, he reached for his coat on the hallway floor and left.
Unlike the other times, he decided not to wait outside the pizza parlor; instead he entered and waited, carrying an ice pick. It was in his left inside pocket. Every so often, he slipped his hand into his pocket to make sure it was still there.
When a middle-aged woman entered, he became aroused, not sexually, but mentally. As though for the first time he’ll be able to carry through. Complete something. He waited for her to finish her pizza and vanilla egg cream. When she appeared ready to leave, Nick went outside ahead of her and waited. Apparently, she was in a rush because her pace was brisk. He followed her with a smile slowly stretching across his face.
His hand gripped the handle of the pick. When she opened the front door to her building, Nick pushed her inside from behind. She started to scream and he placed his hand firmly over her mouth. The terror in her eyes froze him. He didn’t know whether to hurt her or let her go. His cold, damp hands now gripped the pick tighter, pressing it against her neck.
By the time Nick reached his building he was calm. Whistling an old tune, he went up the three flights of stairs and opened his door. Nick didn’t bother to remove his coat and went directly to his desk. Cautiously, Nick looked down and read.
Day 3: I followed a woman home and this time, you fool, you actually pushed her inside the building.
What were you planning to do? When will you succeed at anything, Nick?
Confused and angered at something he wasn’t sure of, he paced back and forth on the carpet, talking to himself. Unaware that his voice swelled in volume as he questioned his talent. “How can I call myself a writer? The typewriter is the writer, I can’t even cross the block… the block… the typewriter creates my thoughts. I don’t even have to type it in.”
Nick used the wall to sharpen one of the keys from the typewriter and then he angled it so that the point protruded from the top of the machine. He positioned himself so the hollow space between his collarbones was exposed to the gleaming key. With one swift movement forward, he impaled himself on it. The shock of the sharp object caused his eyes to widen from the pain, and the warm blood coated his neck. After struggling for his last breath, his body slowly surrendered to death.
The paper wrinkled in the machine had Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and now Day 4.
Day 4: Congratulations, Nick. You’ve won.
The ugly muffled noise shook Phillip off his chair. He had worked at the Hall for one year. This was the first sign of trouble he has had to personally become involved in since he started. After dialing for assistance he thought about waiting for someone to arrive, but since it was pass midnight the staff is limited. Phillip decided to investigate for himself. Half running, half walking to Nick’s room, he thought about the three people Nick brutally murdered. When Phillip unlocked the door, he found Nick slumped over his typewriter. Phillip wondered why they would allow the mentally ill to even use a typewriter, but no one considered it a threat. Phillip recognized the old S.F. Hall for the Criminally Insane letterhead, before he read:
By Nick Sabastiani
The three-story house on Alcott Street sat on top of a hill. Nick could almost see the bridge from the attic if he angled his body the right way. Like many neighborhoods within a city, there was a row of shops across from his window. Each establishment was adorned with a dark green awning. There was Lou & Abe’s Deli, a shoe repair shop, a small drugstore, and Rozano’s Pizza Parlor. In front of Rozano’s, there were four wrought iron tables painted white with white wooden fold-up chairs. The tables were covered with red and white checkerboard tablecloths.
by Jo-Ann Rodriquez
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