Monster sniffed at one of the ears, batted the earring with its paw, then grabbed the ear in its mouth and ran to the window and jumped onto the windowsill. It shook the ear several times then leaned out the window and let it drop into the trash in the alleyway. Monster then began to groom its blistered skin.  

*     *     *  

Sunlight streamed in through the window. Stan awoke sweating. As he sat up, batting from the mattress stuck to his skin. The odor of sun baked garbage and cat urine filled the room. He stood up, feeling the sole of his left foot make contact with the drying, sticky puke on the floor. He crossed the room and opened the mini-fridge and pushed aside the carton of spoiled, curdled milk in search of a can of beer. Finding none he took out an open can of cat food, closed the door, and put it in Monster's bowl. He went into the bathroom, took a piss, then swallowed a few mouthfuls of warm, acrid water from the sink.

As he came out of the bathroom there was a loud knock on his door. “McGorsky, I've come for the rent." It was Mrs. Passy.

He grabbed a yellowed, mildewed towel that had been hanging on the bathroom door and wrapped it around his waist, then opened the door. Short and squat and wearing a threadbare terrycloth bathrobe, Mrs. Passy held her speaking device to her throat and glared at him. On each side of her were her two sons, both over six foot tall and built like linebackers.

“Do you have the rent?" she asked.

“Certainly. I've got some jewels that will more than cover the rent," he said.

“Jewels?" one of the sons said. “Who are you all of a sudden, the king of Kitchen Street?"

“Quiet," Mrs. Passy said to him. “Show me the jewels," she said to Stan.

Stan turned to go to the table. The fingers and ears and the jewels attached to them were gone. Frantically he searched the room, kicking aside beer cans, turning over mounds of clothes and raising the Murphy bed and getting on his hands and knees and searching in the pile of dust that was under it.

“They were right there on the table when I went to sleep," Stan said.

“Sure, sure, a regular kingdom's worth," one of the sons said.

“Take care of him," Mrs. Passy said to her sons as she walked away from the door and down the hallway.

The sons walked in the room and closed the door behind them. One of them picked up Stan's knife that was lying on the floor. “How about we give you a crown, oh mighty king?” he said.

Stan backed up to the window. “I'm telling you I have jewels," he said.

One of the sons grabbed him and held him while the other one very slowly and methodically scalped the hair and skin from around the crown of Stan's head using the switchblade.

"Now his majesty's crown will fit just right," the son holding the switchblade said.

When they had finished with him, they left Stan bent over the windowsill with his head sticking out of window. They left the room, closing the door behind them.

With blood dripping down his face and into his eyes, Stan stared at the pile of garbage in the alleyway. On top of it were the fingers and ears and the rings and earrings attached to them.




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