The King of Kitchen Street

by Steve Carr

One of the blades on the tabletop fan was broken, but the fan worked. It slowly swiveled back and forth circulating the fetid air that rose up from the garbage in the alleyway and wafted through the window stuck in the raised position and into Stan McGorsky's studio apartment. His emaciated hairless cat, Monster, was stretched out in front of the fan, licking its rash and pustule covered stomach. When a pigeon landed on the windowsill, Stan sat up in his Murphy bed and threw an empty beer can at it. The can hit the wall beside the window and fell onto a small pile of other cans. The pigeon didn't move.

He flopped back down and squirmed, trying to escape the pressure of the mattresses' stuffing that stuck out and pressed against his lower spine. He rolled onto his side and pressed his nose into his arm in an attempt to block out the smells of sweat, urine and stale beer that rose up from the mattress. A large brown cockroach crawled out of a tear in the stained mattress and crawled to the foot of the bed and disappeared into another rip. Stan groaned, then leaned over the edge of the bed and vomited.

There was a pounding on his door.

“McGorsky, your rent is overdue," Mrs. Passy said from the other side. Speaking through a small device she held to the hole in her throat, her voice was raspy and sounded like she was talking through a tin can. “If you don't have the rent by tomorrow morning, I'll have my boys take from your hide what you owe."

Stan wiped a chunk of puke from his lower lip and sat up on the edge of the mattress. “I'll have the rent," he said.

“You better," she said. Her blue fluffy slippers sounded like whispering as she shuffled away on the rotting floorboards in the hallway.

Stan stood up, accidentally placing his right foot in the puddle of vomit. “Damn," he said as he raised his foot and looked down and watched brown liquid with small chunks drip from his toes. He took another step and wiped his foot on a white t-shirt that was dark green from a mix of sweat and dirt. When the pigeon cooed, Stan lunged toward the window, grasping for the bird. It flew off as his body slammed against the window, causing another jagged crack in the glass.

He stumbled away from the window and went into the bathroom. At the sink he turned on the hot water. Tepid, brackish water flowed out. He filled his cupped hands with the water and threw it on his face. With the water dripping from his beard stubble he stared at his reflection in the small dingy mirror that hung askew above the sink. “It's time to collect what's owed me," he said to his reflection as he pushed up his lower lip revealing his bleeding gums.

Kicking through mounds of dirty clothes strewn around the room, he pulled out the least soiled underwear, shirt, pants and socks that he could find. As rivulets of sweat ran between his pecs, down his spine and between his legs, he dressed. After putting on his boots he went into the bathroom and pissed into the crap coated toilet bowl. When done he tried to flush it; the handle jiggled but no water entered the bowl.

Before leaving the apartment he put a switchblade in his back pants pocket and rubbed Monster's head, eliciting a growl from the cat, and turned off the bulb that hung on a wire from the middle of the ceiling.


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