Genre: Drama/Thriller/Short Story
Warning: Explicit scenes
Iris held the copy of ‘Everybody Drops The Dime’ close to her chest, as she walked along the country lane. Every so often, she opened it up and took a look at the author’s picture; black and white, Mort Rainey wearing a wide brimmed hand, his hands folded beneath his handsome face.
This was the revised edition, with the re-edited version of the title short story. She had the original, of course, but the ending in this new copy was even better; it was perfect. Mort had faced much criticism over it; those no-good reviewers had claimed he was cheating his fans. They said he was a medico writer who got lucky, and now, unable to produce anything new, was prolonging his career by recycling his old stuff.
These comments made Iris angry; the rumours about his private life had upset her even more. She would tell him how it hurt her to hear the lies people told. She would tell him that she trusted, and believed in him. Most of all, she would tell him that she was in love with him.
In her mind she saw them cradled in each others arms, locked in a passionate kiss. She would take care of him; bring him cups of coffee while he worked on the new book that she knew he had in him. She would fix his meals, run his bath, slip in next to him and make love by candle light. She would go with him into town, ignoring the suspicious eyes of the local people. They would wander through thrift stores, and he would buy her anything she desired, because he loved her, like she loved him.
When she reached the house, (she knew it because she had seen it on the News on television), she decided to take a look around before going in.
The garden was wild and overgrown. The grass reached up her slender calves, the flower beds were chocked by weeds, it would need her attention first. Scanning the ground, she saw only a spade, she would need to go into town and pick up a few gardening tools. The house was in good condition, though it could do with a coat of paint, she would start pestering Mort to do something about it. She smiled to herself.
“Can I help you?”
Iris turned to see him standing on the back porch; “Mort,” she smiled.
“Yes?” He said. “I’m Mort Rainey, and you are?”
“Iris,” she said, walking towards him. She saw him back away, and so asked; “What’s wrong?”
“Why are you here?” said Mort, and then seeing the book in her hands; “You want me to sign that for you?”
“Let me just get a pen,” he said, glancing at her over his shoulder as he went back into the house.
Iris followed him and found him in the living room, searching through a sideboard draw. He jumped a little when he saw her.
“Here,” he said reaching for the book. He signed the inside cover, handed it back; “There you go.”
“Thank-you,” Iris hugged the book tightly to her chest. “Thank-you, so much.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, smiling awkwardly. They stood in silence for some time, their eyes locked, until he finally said; “Well, I’m sure you need to be getting on.”
“Yes,” Iris said, suddenly remembering the garden. She stepped towards him; noticed his body tense up as she kissed his cheek. “You get some work done,” she smiled.
Iris walked back along the country lane to her car. She spent over half an hour looking at the signature, running her fingers over the page. Then she drove into town and spend the rest of the afternoon looking around the shops. She picked up some things for the garden; a lawnmower, a trowel, some plants, a small cherry blossom tree, and a stone bird bath. She also bought some new underwear; black lace, and when she got back to the car, she opened the trunk and put them into her suitcase along with the rest of her clothes.
Night was approaching by the time she reached the house. Not wanting to walk alone in the twilight, she parked in Mort’s drive.
Looking through the window, she saw him asleep on the couch, his back to her. She got the lawnmower out of her car, and in the failing light, she began work. She cut the grass, and picked out a spot for the bird bath, lugging it into place. She planted the flowers she had bought, as well as the tree, which was little more than a twig, but would flourish and blossom, she was sure.
When it was finished, exhausted, she crawled into the back seat of her car, covered herself up with a blanket, and drifted off to sleep; satisfied with a job well done.
Iris was woken the next morning by someone banging on the car window. Frightened, she sat up, but on seeing Mort’s bemused face staring in at her, she relaxed. Winding down the window, she said; “Morning honey.”
“Did you do this?” He said, pointing at the garden.
“Do you like it?” Iris said. “I worked really hard on it.”
“Why?” He said shaking his head.
“Because it needed doing,” Iris shrugged her shoulders.
“You had no right to do this,” Mort said. “You had no business noising around!”
“What do you mean ‘noising around’,” Iris said, confused.
Mort lean in through the window and, in a low voice, said; “You shouldn’t have been digging up my garden.”
“I was just trying to make it nice for you,” Iris said, she could feel the upset rising inside her.
“If I want my lawn mowed, or a tree planted, or anything on my property made ‘nice’,” Mort said with a twisted smile. “I’ll do it myself. Thank-you.”
“I’m sorry,” Iris said, and she began to cry.
Climbing into the front seat, she started the engine and drove away.
Once she was out of the drive and down the road, she screeched the car to a haut, folded her arms on the steering wheel, lay her head against them, and wept.
She did not understand why he had reacted like that. Didn’t he love her? She didn’t know what to do; if Mort didn’t want her, life wasn’t worth living. She let out a tortured scream, and cried harder, squeezing her eyes, her head beginning to throb.
Suddenly, Mort was there at the window again, rapping softly on the glass this time. She hesitated before winding down the window.
“Look,” he said, calmer now; more tender. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I was just trying to help,” Iris wailed.
“Okay, okay,” he said quickly, then he made a ‘ssshhhh’ sound. Reaching through the window, he placed his hand on her shoulder. “Please stop crying.”
“I can’t! You’re mad with me,” Iris chocked on the words, her breathing coming in hurried, sharp gasps.
“No, no I’m not,” Mort said, and he made the ‘ssshhhh’ sound again and he rubbed her shoulder. “Look,” he said again. “I’m very grateful that you enjoyed my book and I’m sure that this… gesture,” he pointed back towards his house. “Makes some kind of sense in you’re own head, but I just wanna be left alone. Please, please don’t get upset, but please, please stay out of my garden.” He turned to go.
As he was walking away, Iris climbed out and called after him; “I don’t believe any of the things there saying… about Amy!”
Mort stopped, turned around; “I asked you politely to leave me alone,” he snapped.
“You don’t mean that!” Iris said. “I know you don’t. I can see you’re hurting, why won’t you let me help you?”
“I don’t need any help, and I don’t want to have to call the cops; so please.” He walked away.
“Mort! Please, don’t shut me out!”
He kept walking.
Iris checked into a motel. The room was small, with a red carpet and cream walls. She flicked through the television channels, then decided to take a bath. As she sat submerged in the hot water, she thought of Mort; his handsome face with it’s high cheekbones and five o’clock shadow, his endearingly scruffy hair, and his piecing, dark eyes. She would make herself presentable, have a good night’s rest, clean herself up, and then she would try again in the morning.
She felt so sad; Mort had been through so much, he had built up so many defences. She would make him see that he could love again, and trust again, and be happy again. She had worked so hard for this; she was no longer the fat, spotty seventeen year old she had been a year ago. The plain undesirably who spent all her time living in books because no-one in the real world wanted to know her. She had slimmed down, worked out to get a body she could be proud of. Revelled in the excitement of walking down the street and catching men staring at her. She had her hair cut and dyed, changing her from a lank and forgettable brunette to a sleek and sexy blonde, because she was sure that Mort preferred blondes. She was sure he found her attractive, even if he had tried to hide it.
Yes, she thought, smiling to herself. She would get up early and go back to his and plan the next step from there.
Mort came out of his house at around noon, and Iris followed him as he drove to New London. He was dressed in a brown V-neck sweater, over a white t-shirt and jeans. His hair, the blonde tips, stuck out from beneath a black beanie, and on his feet were a pair of beaten up boots; scratched and worn. He went to a grocery store first, and came out carrying two brown paper bags back to the car. Then he wandered about the thrift shops; just looking, not buying. He had coffee at a small café, sitting at an outdoor table, eating a pastry with it, and reading the paper.
It was while he was in the video rental shop that he caught sight of Iris. She ducked behind one of the stands, and watched him through gaps between the shelves. He didn’t come over to her, didn’t even look her again, and she began to wonder if he had actually seen her, or if she had imagined it.
Mort finished browsing, and made his way out of the store. Iris waited a few moments before straightening up and heading for the door. She wondered where he was going next. It was a shame he hadn’t rented anything; it would have been interesting to see what movies he was into. Never mind, there was plenty of time to find out all that kind of stuff.
It was as Iris was leaving the store, that she was pulled into an alleyway and pushed against the wall.
“Why are you following,” Mort demanded.
“I just want to see where you were going,” Iris said.
“Just wanted to see where I was going?” Mort repeated. “Stay the hell away from me!”
He stormed off.
Iris went back to her car, then she drove back to Mort’s. She decided to give him some time to cool off, and to speak to him when he got home. He did not come home for another two hours, and went he did, he did not seem any calmer.
Striding up to the car, he pulled open the door, leant inside, and said; “Lady, who are you? Why are you trying so hard to piss me off?”
“I’m not,” she said.
“I beg to differ,” said Mort.
“I don’t get what the problem is,” she said. “I did my hair nice, my make-up, my outfit. Don’t you find me attractive?”
“What?” Mort said, his face dropping.
“Don’t you want me?” She said, reaching out and stroking his cheek. He was silent for a while, staring at her, then his eyes widened, like he was waking from a dream, or a trance.
“Lady, you’re fucking crazy; digging up my garden in the middle of the night, following me round town, sitting outside my house. I just want you to leave me alone. I don’t know what the hell is going on in your head, but if this is how you try to pick up guys, I think you need a new approach. Normal people go out for drinks.”
“Would you like to go for a drink?” Iris said, trying her best to please him.
He let out a wearily sigh, shaking his head he said; “Don’t come back here again.” He slammed the door shut, then skulked into the house.
Iris went back to the motel.
Over the next few days, she sent Mort letters telling him how much she loved him, how she would wait until he was ready to be in a relationship again. He never sent anything back, but she knew he got them because she hand delivered each one and watched him through the sitting room window as he read them.
She was overwhelmed by the kind of passion she could provoke in him. The kind of heat she caused to serge through his veins, making him explode in such a tremendous way.
One afternoon, having just received another letter, without even opening it, he overturned his coffee table and knocked over a floor lamp. He ripped up the letter, and Iris breath caught in her throat. Then he paced the sitting room, glancing over at the letter from time to time. Finally he picked up the lamp and the table and sat down to reconstruct the letter. Piece by piece he fitted it together and read it.
After six days, and six letters, Iris drove up to Mort’s house just as night was drawing in. She looked in the window to see him asleep on the couch. She went into the garden and wandered about, admiring the work she had done. Time passed, and Mort came out to join her; he was dressed in jeans and a green t-shirt.
Iris gasped as he seized hold of her waist, pulled her against him and pushed his mouth down hard on hers. His hands groped cruelly at her curves, reached between her legs, tore at her clothes, forced her against the wall of the house. His lips snapped at the flesh of her neck, his fingers dug inside of her, brutal and shameless.
“You’re hurting me,” she said.
He covered her mouth with his hand, the fingers of his other hand still inside her. He was fast and ruthless, but still her body responded. She felt the rush of hot waves, banishing all inhibition, so that she found her brain screaming out for more; never stop, never let go, you can do what ever you want to me, I’m yours. Then it was over, and she was giddy, and her legs felt shaky, giving out beneath her.
Mort let go, and she slide to the ground, crawling away on hands and knees. Then he was behind her, unzipped, mounting her in an animalistic frenzy. She listened to him grunt and groan, over and over again; one hand gripping her breast, the other tangled in her hair, pulling at it until she whimpered.
When he was finished, Iris lay curled up on the grass listening to him panting. She looked at him; he was sprawled out on the ground, his eyes shut, one hand resting on his chest, as it rose and fell rapidly, the other was pressed to his forehead.
“I warned you not to come back here,” he said in a slurred mumble.
Iris moved over to lay beside him, wrapped her arms around him; he opened his eyes, turned his head towards her.
“Why are you doing this?” He said. “Why do you keep haunting me?”
“We’re meant to be together,” she said.
She stroked his hair, and then traced the lip of his mouth with her finger.
“You must see that, you must have felt it when we made love.”
“That wasn’t making love,” he laughed.
“Oh Mort, why do you keep resisting this. Why can’t you just except it. I know that Amy…”
“Don’t you say her name!” he warned.
“Oh Mort,” she said again. “She hurt you so much, didn’t she? And now you have to deal with all the rumours, all the gossip.”
Mort got to his feet and zipped himself up.
“Get dressed,” he said. “Then go away.”
Iris stood up, threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed at his lips. He kissed back but then pushed her away. She went at him again, and again he kissed her, then pushed her away, this time shouting; “No!” She watched as he stretched his jaw in an alarming fashion.
“I believe you, trust you!” She said. “I love you.”
“Fuck off!” He shouted.
“No, Mort!” She grabbed at him. “Please! I’ll do anything!”
He had picked up the spade now, the one she had seen in the garden earlier, and he used it to try and warn her off.
“Mort, I need you, we’re supposed to be together.”
“Listen you stupid bitch,” he said. “I don’t want you, need you and I certainly don’t love you.” His jaw stretched again, and then he smiled.
“I know you had nothing to do with her disappearance,” Iris said.
“Yes I did!” he said, the twisted smile playing on his lips.
“Then I forgive you,” Iris cried out; none of it mattered, she just wanted to be with him.
“I killed her,” Mort said.
“I forgive you,” Iris said again.
“Listen to me, bitch! I killed her, and now I’m gonna kill you.”
Iris ducked as he swung the spade at her head. She threw her body against him, and they both tumbled to the ground. He lost his grip on the spade and she straddled his waist, slapping him hard across the face, three times. He struggled, bucking his body as he tried to throw her off. His hips rolled, over and over again, and she felt the familiar excitement rise up between them.
His hands reached out to squeeze her. She unzipped his pants and pushed herself down around him, grinding her hips against his. She came twice, and when he came, he stretched his jaw as he had before, then lay panting, his hands roaming across her skin. She smiled as she watched him admiring her body in the moonlight, his fingertips fluttering across her flesh. His hands ran down her back, around her buttocks, and he gave five steady, stinging smacks. He grinned, his arms fell back into the grass above his head, she felt his body relax, and he closed his eyes. She picked up the spade and hit him in the head, twice, to make sure he was out cold.
Mort didn’t wake up until late in the afternoon of the following day. By then Iris had tied him to the bed.
She made him sandwiches, and opened the window to let in some fresh air.
“Hello Sweetheart,” she said. “Did you sleep well?”
“Let me go,” he said, tugging at his restraints.
“But you tried to kill me,” Iris said; she was still a little upset about the whole thing.
“And I’ll fucking do it again it you don’t untie me,” he grinned manically.
“Oh Mort, why don’t you just calm down? Look, I brought your laptop in here so you can get some work done.”
She pointed to where she had put it on the bed, next to him.
“How am I gonna type if my fucking hands are tied up?” He said, the manic smile still on his lips.
“Well, you say it out loud and I’ll type it for you,” she said.
She settled on the edge of the bed, and when she had given Mort a bite of one of the sandwiches, she switched on the computer and opened a new document.
“Come on,” she said. “How does the story begin?”
Mort pushed his head back against his pillow. His eyes roamed across the ceiling as if the words were written there, waiting to be spoken aloud. He glanced at her, pressed his lips together; thinking.
“Okay,” he said, after some time. “I’ve got it. Iris held the copy of ‘Everybody Drops The Dime’ close to her chest, as she walked along the country lane.”