The Urge To Go

Submitted into Contest #219 in response to: Set your story in a type of prison cell.... view prompt

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Drama Historical Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

How long had I been there? Shaking, staring down at what I suppose is an elegant Persian carpet, just like the officer demanded. Waiting for what I didn’t know. It would be bad, of course, but how bad? The two who took me in had punched in my back, thrown me to the sidewalk. In the van I’d brushed away dirt from the street – I’m fastidious that way – and comported myself to be presentable. As if that would help.

That damn officer. If he just yelled and slapped me more, that would be fine. When he slapped me, I put my hand to my face, I couldn’t help it, and the watch was right there gleaming for all to see. “Oh, look at him with his fancy pants watch!” He pulled my arm forward for a better look digging his nails into my wrist. His nails were well manicured. A French manicure. I didn’t know gorillas cared about their fingernails. He could have my damn fine watch if he wanted. He hit me again this time slapping my glasses to the floor. 

At least he didn’t break the watch.

I would need that watch. It would make for a good trade. Or a bribe. There was that border guard who they said would let someone cross, especially for gold. This officer could have it if he let me go, let me walk. It was a fancy gee gah, he was right about that. A Vacheron Constantin; eighteen-carats. I felt guilty when I bought it, in Geneva. It was a stupid purchase, pure vanity, but maybe it would satisfy this thing. Be enough. Maybe the watch would pay for itself. I almost smiled at the idea. 

Geneva. I was there a lot when I was working before the laws changed. It was a lovely train ride, a few hours in a first-class compartment. Naturally, the firm paid. I wished I’d stayed. That silly indulgence of a watch would have paid for a year’s rent. From Geneva, I might have connived a visa to somewhere. Anywhere. Or even stayed. If only, right?

I had to stay standing even though there were chairs in front of the desk. My lower back was screaming. I’d always had a bad back, but the policeman’s truncheon made it worse. “Why are you stooping, you lazy parasite,” he yelled when he pushed me into this room. The senior one, the officer, laughed when I was kicked to the floor. At least it was a good carpet, I could see that now, thick, colorful. Definitely Persian. My nose was touching one of the woven peacocks. It had the rich stuffy smell of old wool. To notice such things. “They stoop, don’t they?” he said not so much to the policeman but out of habit. A way, I supposed, for intimidating people. Scaring them. It worked. I think the policeman snorted at the remark, or the officer. My eyes were on the peacock.

He screamed for me to get up and then kicked my leg when I used a chair for support. Finally, I stood, shaking more, keeping my eyes down. “Stand at attention! Stay that way!” he yelled.

And then they both left the room.

I waited for an eternity before turning around to make see if anyone one was there. The heavy door to what once had been some big shot’s office was closed, thank God. I stretched to each side and bent forward, which helped my back. A chiropractor had instructed me on that at a very different time. Leaning forward I saw on the desk were papers, my papers, and a long list of names. Most had a red check mark next to them, some crossed out, and there was me; Marcus Silberschein. No check and not crossed out. Not yet. I didn’t recognize the other names other than to see the common thread. Jewish names for the most part. Next to the papers was a pile of watches. Nice ones, too. The accumulation of the latest roundup in these Meshuga times. The bastards had good taste. I’ll allow that.

I had to pee. I’d been going several times every night for a while. Nerves I suppose. In this place, I had reason to be nervous. But now it was a true emergency. I had to go so badly. You know the feeling. Why did I have three cups of that bitter ersatz tea before they came for me? 

There was a bin by the desk. I was tempted but if that officer should return, I couldn’t imagine. If I asked, if I pleaded, if I gave him that damn watch – I need to go that badly – would he let me? Or would he bring in his colleagues and have them watch as I soiled myself for their amusement? Odds favored they’d go for the humiliation and force me to clean up the mess.

To hell with it. My glorious watch showed it was after noon. The outside hall was filling with voices and footsteps. Maybe they’d gone to another room to scream and kick someone else off the list. Below my name was one Maximillian Apfelstein. Maybe that unfortunate was getting the officer’s attention. Selfish of me to think this way, but I hoped the bastard would satisfy himself on Max and leave me be. If he returned, if he slapped me, if he merely forced me to wait longer I wouldn’t be able to hold it in.

I looked at my stupid watch. There were more people in the hall now. Of course! Yes, of course. It was past noon. Lunchtime! They’d be off for an hour if these people were like everyone else. But they weren’t. Would they linger longer over their lagers? Or were they those uber-efficient types who would scarf down a roll and sausage and rush back to their busy work? Either way, it was not good. I was going to burst. Funny, but I was more nervous about that than whatever they wanted from me, whatever they were going to do. There was that story by a fellow named Kafka. I didn’t care for it then and cared less now. What was it called? I can’t think. It was about a fellow arrested and he doesn’t know why. No reason. No explanation. Just the waiting. Just like me. But I know why I’m here, not that that’s a good reason. I’ve done nothing wrong. None of us have done anything wrong except maybe to be born to the wrong parents.

The Trial. That was the name of the story. The Trial. It wasn’t a good ending.

Enough. I’ve got to go. Simple as that. If it means a beating, so be it. If it means worse? Worse than what? Everyone they’ve arrested, the ones I know, the ones I knew, are gone somewhere. Hopefully somewhere rather than gone. I grabbed my papers. You had to have papers these days. I’d be in worse trouble if I didn’t have papers.

The door was heavy. That’s good. It only opened a few centimeters. There was a crowd of people scurrying to lunch, chatting, laughing, moving. Some in uniforms. Some in those awful black leather coats despite the weather. I just realized how warm it was. And women. Secretaries I suppose. They were gossiping the way young women do. Such a normal thing in this house of the decidedly abnormal.

I couldn’t find my officer in the hall. Or his henchman. I hardly remembered what they looked like and there were more officers than I dared to count. Some glanced at me coming out of the large office and averted their eyes as if it was mine and I belonged there. I was standing ramrod stiff, my jaw taut, holding in the urge to go. Then I joined the flow, trying to look intent, severe, while I scanned for the vital room. In a side hall, I saw my salvation; a door marked WC. There a piece of paper was on it.

“Damn. Out of order,” said a gruff voice.

A man, in a black uniform, stood next to me. “Damn it,” he growled. “And I’ve got to crap.” He laughed at what he perceived was a joke. I stared at him, sucking in my cheeks in agony. He looked away. “Sorry for my language. There’s another on the next floor,” he said. 

That was all. Another on the next floor. We walked together as if colleagues. I didn’t know if I should accompany him or not. He said something about toilet paper, how they sometimes didn’t have any, and waved yesterday’s newspaper in front of him. Don’t ask me why but I had some tissues in my pocket. I’d forgotten about them. I offered them and he said, “Thank you, sir.” Was he toying with me? But no, he seemed genuine and oddly deferential. 

We walked down the stairs, blending in with the lunch crowd, and I followed him to the bathroom. He made a loud sigh of relief when he opened the door and rushed to a stall while I faced the wide urinal in relief. I heard him grunting, squeezing until he gave a loud ‘ah’ that followed an expulsion that needed no explanation. We were both relieved. I buttoned my trousers and washed my hands, a good habit even here. He left his stall. He didn’t wash his hands.

Such a slob. I couldn’t help it, but I stared at him my left eyebrow raised. People say it makes me look arrogant and haughty, but it’s a habit I can’t control. He turned to wash his hands muttering something about officers keeping their hands clean. “And leave the dirty work to men like you, eh?” I said.

I didn’t mean to say anything. I was so nervous it just came out. He stood up, to attention no less, and apologized. To me! I almost vomited but it came out as a laugh. I laugh when I’m scared. “No worries,” I said, as much to me as to him. He actually said thank you.

“You going to the canteen?” he asked. He handed over a remainder of the unused paper, but I shook my head. “You can keep it,” I said. He nodded a thanks. “Canteen?” he repeated.

Not only was I not hungry, but the last place I wanted to be was in a cafeteria where my hosts might be dining. That’s not accurate; the last place I wanted to be was back in that office, in front of that lofty desk, stolen from some high hat no doubt, waiting for whatever they had in mind.

It just came out. “Some other time perhaps,” I said. “I have a car waiting. I’m late.”

He gave a salute, a salute mind you! And then he pointed to a door. “It’s a shortcut we take, you know, with the guests. Or what’s left of them!” He laughed at that, then covered his mouth embarrassed by the overly familiar tone. “Go left and you’ll be on the street. Avoid the lunch crowd.”

I turned to the door when he jumped in front of me. He held it open. For me!

“If I ever get promoted the first thing I’ll do is get a watch like yours. I could tell you were a boss right off.” He added. “Sir.”

I stiffened almost to attention and returned a casual salute, the way an officer might to a favored underling and hurried to the right out the door.  

October 07, 2023 16:19

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2 comments

Mary Bendickson
21:32 Oct 07, 2023

What a way to go!😆

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David Ader
12:02 Oct 10, 2023

Ha! This idea came to me, well, I was standing on line at the DMV.....

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