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Friday short story time: "Taking It On The Chins"

New Friday story this week! Brought to you by a particularly agonising series of rewrites. Anyway, I gather no-one likes seeing how sausages are made, plus if I don’t put some trousers on soon I’m going to be late for work, so let’s brush over that. More stories available in the archives.

Taking It On The Chins

By Nick Bryan

It was almost pitch black outside and Luke was struggling with a piece of coathanger in a keyhole. This looked a lot easier on television. On TV, any idiot armed with a long, thin object could access any door in seconds. But he had been trying for ten minutes to feel some connection, and nothing.

It wasn’t helping that his piece of wire only fitted in at one point. He’d attempted a credit card in the Yale lock out front, but that had been a dead end, as there was a proper keyhole below it. So the party had moved around back, where it was less conspicuous and the neighbours would not call the police. Thanks to the wonders of, ironically, Facebook, Luke knew that all the students who shared the house were away.

Unfortunately, two problems remained. One was the lock that still would not give way. The other was, well, the running commentary. The problems had started when it became too dark for Dani to read her book and Luke had denied her permission to switch on a torch.

‘So I gotta say, Luke, I didn’t realise you were so vain.’

‘Shut up. Busy.’

‘You’re pretty bad at home invading, by the way.’

‘Please quieten down.’

His tormented wire, after an eternity wiggling in a tiny slot, snapped suddenly, leaving Luke to sprawling onto his knees. He’d been leaning too much weight on that flimsy thing.

As his head hit the floor, kicking up mud from between the paving slabs, Dani stifled a chuckle. That came as a pleasant surprise to Luke, actually; he’d been expecting her to laugh out loud.

‘You alright down there, cat burglar?’

She stretched out a hand and pulled him to his feet. ‘Yeah, just…’ And he glanced sideways at the chunk of wire now stuck in the back door keyhole, before giving it a futile tug. ‘I think they might realise we’ve been here.’

‘We’ll tackle that in a minute.’ She pointed at the metal drain pipe next to the door. Even in the darkness, it appeared slippery, but was also definitely secured to the wall with chunky rivets. ‘So, wanna try climbing this?’

‘I thought you hated this idea?’

‘I do.’ She shrugged. ‘But if he really did steal your essay, we have to get it back.’

So Luke stared up the pipe. The hallway window was open, because the residents were not particularly thorough, so all he had to do was shimmy up his own height, grab on to the windowsill and pull himself up.

 ‘Come on, then.’ Dani pointed up the pipe with a shrug. ‘Let’s do this if we’re doing it.’

His determination bolstered by Dani’s apparent support, Lucas clamped his hands around the pipe as tightly as he could muster. Fortunately, he’d worn his black gloves in case they dusted for fingerprints, and they seemed to give a decent grip.

Still, he wasn’t sure what to do next. He almost attempted a two-footed leap into the air, when Dani came up behind him. ‘Okay then,’ she began calmly, ‘I’ll give your foot a boost up, and then you might be able to reach the window.’

She knelt down behind him and latticed her fingers together. ‘Obviously, you’re on your own after that.’

Well, Luke thought, it was the most dignified approach on offer. So, with a wince, he let his left foot rest on Dani’s hands and braced the other one against the wall. Hauling his hands over each other as she slowly stood up, he was beginning to gain altitude.

As he rose, he tried to keep his weight off Dani’s hand. It would be bad form to break her fingers, after all. Still, as his grip on the damp pipe slipped, he could feel it slipping back onto her.

‘Dani…’ He heaved out as she began to shake, taking his leg with her. ‘You okay down there?’

‘Yeah, hope this is all worth it’

‘Oh, totally,’ he growled, as his left fingertips finally reached out and touched the edge of the window. ‘That damn picture will be gone in a second, and then I… I…’

He trailed off as his legs shook with the effort. Unfortunately, Dani’s brain chose the same moment to become distracted. ‘Wait, “picture”? What?’’

‘I… nothing, I mean…’

‘Oh, seriously? We’re doing this to untag that photo where you have a double chin?’

In that moment of annoyance, her fingers slacked off. And, at the same time, Luke had let his right leg slacken whilst he tried to get his weight up to the window.

All of which conspired to leave him in freefall. If he had landed on Dani, it might’ve been okay, but he didn’t manage it. Instead, he hit the ground with his shoulder, which made a very uncomfortable crunching sound, then started throbbing.

 ‘Wow. Um.’ Dani stood over him, momentarily calm. ‘You’re going to be pissy with me when you get out of traction, aren’t you?’

He didn’t reply, just groaned a little, so she added: ‘You still shouldn’t have lied about the essay though.’

This story was inspired by a random word generator. True story. Please don’t steal, as ever, copyright me 2011 if it makes any difference. Email me to ask if you are an exception.


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