FP300 – Coffin: Returns, Part 1 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Mike Luoma.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his rarely sober roommate, hear an arcane tale of parental terror and loss.
Coffin: Returns, Part 1 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Dorset’s, the tavern, was quietly puttering through the depths of an unexpectedly warm Tuesday afternoon as Dorset, the man, puttered about in the depths of the shadows beneath his liquor display shelves.
He asked, “you sure you don’t want a wee something?”
The scattered selection of booths and tables were empty, but two of the swiveling stools that marched along the bar were occupied. Will Coffin, still wearing his heavy leather jacket despite the unseasonal swelter, sat empty handed, but Bunny, wearing jeans and a mostly-clean white t-shirt, was tightly gripping a glass of water.
Before she might reply, Coffin caught the barman’s eye and said, “tell her about when we met.”
Dorset’s cleaning cloth came to a rare stop and his gaze dropped to a bit of foam disintegrating in the trap beneath the beer taps. It was an odd change of topic, as he’d asked the pair down to discuss a recent, very public, suicide, but he obliged nonetheless.
“I’d hired a detective to find my boy, Keenan. See, when I was seventeen I knocked up a lass who I’d fancied since I was six. We’d always thought we were in love, and, when you’re seventeen, that means some sweaty groping outside a rock show that eventually turns into a first experience in the back of your Da’s car, which he’s expecting back in his drive in thirty minutes.
“Anyhow, it was enough, whatever the tally, and she told me I was to be a Pa. My best mate in the moment, Elmore, told me we should name it after his band, Throbbing Head, as it was their show, and they technically provided the soundtrack. My personal response was a long run of regular vomiting.
“Hell, I wasn’t ready to be starting a family at seventeen. I dare you to show me anyone who is. She decided she was going to have an abortion. I must admit, I was thankful.
“All the same, her parents would have nothing of it. They said it was because of their Catholic heritage, but I still wonder if it was a sort of punishment to make her carry it through, then have it packaged up and shipped to an orphanage. They’d have never let her keep it either, which is the cruelest thing.
“We’d fallen out by the delivery. Oh, I was quite ready, I said, to step up to my duties as a father, but the stress had been too much for us, and we’d concluded we were, at best, friends.
“We still write.
“So – point being, another seventeen years later, I hired a detective to find Keenan. I hadn’t even seen him in the hospital, but there came a period when I was itching to know. I’d just separated from my first wife, and I couldn’t help but think there was this lad in the world who looked like me.
“There wasn’t though. A couple had adopted him, but the fellow had started running around, and so the would-be mother drowned herself, and my boy, in the tub. The adulterer apparently found them both while trying to slip in unnoticed to get the lipstick off his collar.
“That was a low time indeed.”
Coffin cleared his throat and turned to Bunny, who adjusted her attention while still drawing water through her straw.
“I’ve had a few situations like that,” he said. “We used to call them “orphan cases.” Parent wants to reconcile, kid has – moved on. A year before Dorset’s, Sandy and I did the same thing for a British Lady, capital L. We probably shouldn’t have, especially considering how much yammering she did afterward, but we were starving. Not a bad gig though. They pay for the initial conversation, then pay again to get you to unhook the kid. We were lucky too, it was an easy job – the little Lord just wanted to talk with mommy.”
“It was the mouthings of that same dowager that lead me to you,” replied Dorset. “I mean, it was the ’70s, right? So you couldn’t swing a phone directory without hitting fifty psychics, but I finally dug you two out of the rumours.”
“Sandy’s decision,” muttered the shaman, but his lips twitched.
“Whatever the case, we met, right? Sandy’s wearing his jacket, looks like she hasn’t slept in four days, Will-o here hasn’t shaved in maybe two years and smells like a hobo’s crotch.”
“We’d been busy.”
“You’d been robbing graves on the outskirts of London.”
“Listen,” said Coffin, “we weren’t going to meet you at our place and have you coming around daily to ask if we could fix your luck or mystically fill your pants. To be fair, we didn’t know what you wanted exactly, just that you were offering us a Tuscan villa’s worth of money.”
“Inheritance,” clarified Dorset, as he scooped Bunny’s empty glass. “I’d been making good coin until the divorce, and I knew I had plenty to live off of if I chose. Ma did good business running a boarding house with strapping young maintenance men always on hand. People were willing to pay for discretion in those days.
“After she died she left me one tax free safe, and gave everything else to Mr. Bell, her business partner.
“I was young enough to think money wasn’t all that important, and it seemed, at least then, as if talking with Keenan was the solution to my concerns. I was not in the greatest of positions, frankly, my mind had begun to wander, and I do not know what end I might have met if I hadn’t found – if things hadn’t turned out as they did.
“It was a small bathroom, mostly decorated in cream colours, and the elderly couple who were renting it thought we were mad for offering them a hundred pounds for an hour’s use of their loo.
“They made us promise that we wouldn’t ‘undertake any sexy business,’ nor make any messes.
“We didn’t use the full time though. Ten minutes in I was weeping so heavily I couldn’t continue. As it happened, the murderess was there too, eternally locked with him in the tub. His Stockholm Syndrome ran deep, and it seemed as if his span with her was an insurmountable barrier.
“I remember considering mad plans – finding the flat’s owners and offering them what I could for their place, then convincing Will and Sandy to move in so that I could communicate regularly, or, maybe – maybe inviting everyone into the hall, so that I might hold myself beneath the tap and begin my own eternal battle.
“Do you remember what you said, Will, when I asked how long you thought he’d be there? It was the way you said it that made me think that it wasn’t just nebulous talk, that you meant it.”
“Of course I do, I said, ‘Till the end of the world, I guess.’ It was a stupid mistake to let my tongue wag – Sandy got the kid unstuck three years later. You did end up buying the apartment, though.”
“I still own it, in fact. It makes me feel better knowing that woman is lying there, forsaken in the dark.”
Will nodded, and Bunny turned to take in the empty seating.
Finally, with a tight throat, Coffin said, “so – tell me about this suicide.”
The afternoon crawled on.
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