Susanne Langlois's Novella Blog:

"Dial 'L' for Lounge"

 

 Chapter 1 -- Sanctuary --


 A wrong turn, a few blocks back, landed me in an unfamiliar neighborhood. There wasn't a soul around, and the traffic, which not five minutes before had been bumper to bumper, had vanished completely.  

 Boarded up pawn and package stores, an abandoned bodega, all with three stories of vacant apartments above, lined both sides of the block. On the corner was an empty eatery. A faded 'closed' sign hung askew  inside the front door.  A giant neon pot in mid pour in the window, it's neon smashed,  advertised  'Otto's Home of the  Bottomless Cup'.  The charred remains of burned out taxi waited at the curb and a tireless bicycle with it's padlock and chain still attached lay in the gutter. The street sign, if there had ever been one, was missing. 

 

 The weather changed with the scenery. Perfect, bright blue and cloudless turned to grey flannel, just before a tornado, oppressive. The air smelled electric.

 

 " ... Go back the way you came" I told myself. " picking up my pace to near speed walk.

 

 The first  bolt of vertical lighting crackled... hairs on the back of my neck  buzzed.  Thunder followed in seconds. The sky opened dumping horizontal rain. Rivulets ran in my eyes as I felt my way along the locked storefronts, fingers reading  Braille, the brick, ... the glass, the brick again.  A door ajar !

 A vestibule to escape the deluge !

 

 Inside smelled old ... derelict ... stale cigars, wet newspapers, urine. A bank of vandalized mail boxes, an overturned ash canister  were the only items I could make out in the near pitch black. The entrance was  cramped maybe six feet square just big enough for the postman. Outside the rain came down in sheets.  

 

 I fumbled for my cigarettes. The box was damp but the smokes were  dry -- the matches useless. "Damn !" I said to no one. "Wouldn't you know it."  

 

 A flame  appeared in the darkness inches from my face, a lighter revealed another refugee seeking  sanctuary from the storm. 

 

 "Can I bum one, mine are beat ... some rain huh ?" said the stranger in a trench coat who had been standing  in the shadows.