Cold Storage by Michael J. Solender...

“Bet you I could fry an egg in here, yours too?” The guy was wearing a faded Jerry Garcia T-shirt, had more chins than a New York City phonebook, and sucked on one of those God awful Swisher Sweets, the kind that had the plastic white tips and cost two bucks for a package of five.

He was easing much too close to my unit, looking in my storage shed which shared a wall with his. In the fifteen years I’d been at EZStore, I’d never seen anybody even on the same row as my unit before today.

I don’t like neighbors. I really didn’t like him.

“It’s July and we’re in five acres of asphalt, what do you expect?” I didn’t make eye contact and got my small frame between his prying eyes and my unit, where I pulled the crinkled aluminum roller door all the way down.

Sweat mixed with sun-block was burning my eyes and the LA smog, viscous and practically spreadable, wasn’t helping any. The tone in my voice made it pretty clear I didn’t want to chat.

“You got yours fixed with power? Whatcha running in there?” Those were two questions more than I wanted to answer and I started scanning the lot to see if we were alone. Usually I made my visits to EZStore late at night but the electrical storm this morning left me uneasy.

Way too many people during the day. I wouldn’t have come had I not been worried about the freezer.

Open doors on multiple units in my field of view looked like spring break at the dorms at State. Boxes and clothes strewn about, busted up bicycles and crap that husbands try and hide from their wives. Without storage rental units, the divorce rate in this country would be twice what it is today.


“It’s a generator. I’m keeping a generator here and I just wanted to see if it is still working.” This time I looked him straight in his nosy eyes and shot him the meanest back off look I could muster. I had not as yet had the opportunity to check on the freezer and see if my packages survived the power outage.

I could hardly go back in with this shit-bird hanging out.


“Say buddy, you don’t think you could give me a hand, do you? I got this box in my truck..” I was cutting this off right now.

“No! Look, pal, I got stuff I need to do and I ain’t got time to talk or help you out, sorry but no.” I decided right there to split and go get breakfast. The freezer was humming and, while I didn’t get a chance to check, my packages were probably just fine. I wasn’t hanging out here anymore, with mister chatty/nosy, I would come back after breakfast.

**

Huevos Rancheros at Dianna’s always leaves me in a better mood and that’s exactly where I was ‘till I rounded the corner at EZStore and saw that my neighbor was not only still hanging around, he had my unit door half way open and was staring, transfixed at my freezer.

“What the shit is going on?” I pulled my car between him and the door, he was practically penned in.

“Hey now, pal..” He was hemming and I could tell that he could tell this scene didn’t bode well for him.

“I’m not your pal, now suppose you tell me why you’re in my shit here.”

“Look man, you split and didn’t lock your unit, I was only trying to help.” He was sweating and he was lying. I really despise sweaty liars.

By now I was out of the truck and even though I was smaller than him, I pushed him into the unit, spun around, and quickly pulled the door down. The dusty, haze made way in through the top cracks in the unit and it there was enough light in there to see what I needed to see.

“Hey, pal..what’s going on, what are you doing, wait a minute, I was just trying to help you out. I thought you might need a hand.”


“Like I told you partner, I’m not your pal and I don’t need a hand, I got plenty.” With that, I cold cocked him, the palm of my hand coming up swift under his nose which splintered like taffy into the soft fleshy tissue surrounding his septum. Blood, the deep oxygenated purple kind, came out in clumps from the fleshy mass that used to be his nose.

While this wasn’t my normal work space, it would have to do now that I had him here. I get him froze up for a few days and take him back to my workshop at home one evening next week. I pulled his keys and would ditch his truck later.

I spun the combo lock on the freezer. A good thing, I’d had a barbeque last weekend as I had just enough space for him to fit.


A little bleach and a roll of paper towels and I got most of it cleaned up.

I had no trouble getting him up-top the rest of the roasts. One of the benefits of volunteer fire fighting is learning technique for firemen’s carry and keeping fit enough to execute when need be.

**

I hadn’t been back to EZStore since ditching his truck at LAX and leaving him chill up into a fetal shaped ice cube a week earlier.

I couldn’t even believe my misfortune upon pulling up to my unit. The sumbitch on the other side of my unit is there and give me a big “howdy-do.”

Wants to know if it’s hot enough for me.

I say nothing and don’t even unlock my unit. I head back to my truck.

“Where ya going pal? You forget something?” He says as I start it up.

El-Ay. Suburbs in search of a city. 9 million Angelenos most who don’t give a shit about their next door neighbors or who their kids play with. I’ve been on the same block for 14 years and don’t even so much as get a wave from anyone who eats, sleeps and craps 20 yards from me.

Now, in the span of two weeks I’ve got two storage neighbors who think I’m their pal. I’m NOT anyone’s pal. I look neighbor two in the face and tell him where I’m going.

“I need to pick up another freezer. I’ll be back soon.”

Michael J. Solender is the editor of Full of Crow’s nonfiction magazine,  On The Wing. You can find more of his work at his website and also at the NOT.

34 comments:

David Barber said...

Michael, this was fantastic. From the start you had a feeling this guy was trouble and then the "nosy neighbour" just can't help himself. Great story and very well written. Thanks for sending it over here!

Erin Cole said...

I've always felt uncomfortable in those storage unit areas, especially when people start talking to me. Yeah, don't they know that some poeple are crazy.
Fun story, MJS!

Harry said...

Ha! Excellent Michael, cool voice and great ending!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Great stuff. Cool pay off

umbrellalady said...

Good story - those storage units give me the creeps - this certainly helps to solidify that feeling.

Jim Harrington said...

That's it. I'm canceling my storage unit contract. Well done, Michael.

Jeanette Cheezum said...

Lord have mercy. I'm never going to strike up a conversaiton with you unless I have a bodyguard.
This was so creepily good. :}

Chris Allinotte said...

This is wicked-good Michael. I loved the language, and the character. Too many good lines to pick one.

Very well defined arc, and the payoff was fantastic.

Great job, Michael.

John Wiswell said...

Haha, nefarious, Mr. Solender.

Jesse Lee said...

Nice one, I felt chilly just reading this!

Chris Rhatigan said...

This is perfect flash. Suspenseful, great pacing, details that pop. And anyone who uses the term "shit bird" is cool with me!

Col Bury said...

A great character, bubbling with mystery and venom. Hope to meet him again some time... from a distance! :-)

Phil Beloin Jr. said...

that is one cold story...great stuff

Laurita said...

Storage units creep me out. This is exactly why. Excellent story, and some great lines. Loved this one: "He was sweating and he was lying. I really despise sweaty liars."

pegjet said...

Kick-ass ending. You can almost here your character saying after the fact, "I told him what I was doing."

I can't believe I'm laughing over a serial killer...you bring out the worst in me (in a good way).

Marcus Speh said...

wow, great ending. i can't believe that you got me to look at the gutter...such cool venues. cheers!

alisonwells said...

Really great, loved the character's the language, the style, great depictions and great use of freezers.

Steve Green said...

Haha, curiosity not only kills cats, it also kills nosey neighbours too. :)

Jodi MacArthur said...

More chins than a new york city phone book? Oh my! Hee! What a fantastic set up. And haven't we all wondered what some people really store in their storage units? Awesome Mike S!

Benjamin Sobieck said...

Great line: "Without storage rental units, the divorce rate in this country would be twice what it is today."

And a great story, too!

Deanna Schrayer said...

At first I kept wondering if the chatty guy was going to turn out to be the killer, but nope, you played it straight, which was actually more of a surprise than if you hadn't.
I too have always felt uneasy around storage units and now I know why! Great work Mike!

Richard Godwin said...

Perfect dialogue. Perfect Solender.

Lynn Alexander said...

Michael, you twisted SOB.
I like the way those rows of closed doors get the imagination going, more than fake Christmas trees and clutter in those things!
Well done, my friend.

laradunning said...

This guy is intense! His mood and motiviations jumped out of the page. Almost felt like by just reading it I would be in the freezer next.

Chuck Allen said...

I love the ending. A creepy tale that leaves me laughing - great job.

Madam Z said...

Boy howdy! I'm not going anywhere near EZstore, and I'm definitely not going to eat any meat at this guy's barbeques! Very COOL story, Mike.

Bukowski's Basement said...

"Killer" of a piece...

AJ Hayes said...

There's storage complex in Mission Valley that alters its twenty foot tall neon sign every Christmas from SELF STORAGE to ELF STORAGE. Next Xmas I'll wonder about that thanks to you Michael.
Dunno about the quality of those roasts though. Neither of those nosy parkers sounded like Prime to me.

Michael Solender said...

Thanks all for reading and props. Now back to the barbecue..

David Cranmer said...

Very fine flashing, Mr. Solender.

Naomi Johnson said...

Outstanding. Darkly funny.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great read!

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Great stuff, loved it!

kurtnewton said...

Perfect pacing. Killer ending. Great job!