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Short Story 29

Errand



The banana was completely brown, even the inside. Staring at it, there was no doubt that even banana bread would have protested having this used in the recipe, let alone a person being given it to consume. It was a wonder there was no mold on the external flesh. All of this didn’t seem to bother the man who held it, he was handsome, beautiful even, so it was quite a surprise when with a large swinging motion, he took a bite.


“So, what exactly do you want?”


Raina strained to think, her stomach turning as the banana reluctantly slouched in a smooshy puddle against his fingers and its former outer shell, “Well I…”


“Listen, I am a busy busy person, I appreciate that you have nothing better to do, but I do. So, you understand, I don’t have time to wait for your thoughts to reorganize themselves into something cohesive.”


“Uh, no I’m sorry. I uh, I was told to give this to you.” She slid a piece of paper across the desk.


Sucking out the remainder of the banana he tossed the peel in the garbage taking the note. He stared at it for a long time before looking over at her, “Have you even read this?”


“I was told not to, so no.”


“So, you delivered it without knowing anything it said?” A devilish smile.


“Yes.”


He stood, “Alright, I’ll be just a second.”


A sudden burst of discomfort. The running question of what was on the paper going through her mind several times. Was this one of those things where you ordered your own death? Was he some kind of assassin? Wait, she wasn’t important enough to pay someone to kill her. She was just a part timer, a freelancer. She didn’t know anything. She just did personal shopping jobs that was it. She only took this because the client said it would be quick.


The clock ticked in the rather posh office. She glanced down at the garbage can, the banana peel was already calling flies. Three minutes had passed since he had left. Her right leg began to bob up and down with her nerves. She should have read the note. Who is so stupid that they just take a note from someone they don’t know, a client they don’t have a relationship with, honor their ‘don’t look at it’ policy and take it to some undisclosed location where a gorgeous man eats rotten fruit. Her stomach turned.


After five minutes he returned with a box. He glanced at her with a shrewd edge and then took a seat setting the box near his computer where his fingers quickly began to dance across the keyboard. After another minute he took the box and put it on the desk in front of her.


“There you go.”


“That’s it?”


“What were you expecting?”


“I don’t know… I well… I guess this is enough.”


“I’d say so.”


Raina took the package holding it loosely wondering what exactly was hiding inside.


“Oh, and here’s this too.” He slid a piece of paper across the desk.


Expecting it to be the same one she had given him, she was surprised when she turned it over to find that there were directions written on it.


“What’s this?”


He blinked at her slowly, “Direction, I’d say that was pretty obvious.”


“But where’s it too?”


A sharp smile, “You came all this way without knowing what you were doing, why not continue the theme.”


She glanced at the list of instructions and then at the box, and then at the man who had turned back to his computer.


“You know what’s in this, don’t you?”


He glanced at her, “Yep.”


“And you know where it is I am going?”


“For the most part.”


“You think you could tell me, or just give me a hint?”


“I would, but as I said, I would hate to mess with the theme of your mission. Good luck by the way.”


“Yeah, thanks.”


Raina left without saying anything else. Her car was the lone compact in the small asphalt parking lot. With a heavy breath, she got into the driver side. Shutting the door, she sat for a moment with the box in her hand. It felt lightish. She wanted to shake it, but was too afraid to try.


What if she wasn’t the one someone was trying to kill. What if, in fact, she was the one delivering something to someone who was going to be killed. What if this was a bomb or something, or like a poisoned cupcake? What if she was a mule moving drugs.


Carefully she placed the box on the passenger’s seat. She had to think of something. There had to be something she could do without getting more wrapped up in this. But then, it was possible she was over thinking everything. Maybe she was making this bigger than it was.


Taking her seatbelt, she buckled herself in. Yeah, she was just overreacting. That was it. That simple. Nothing to it.


Glancing at the directions she turned on her car, shifting into gear. There was an explanation that was perfectly rational. There had to be. She was smart enough not to get herself wrapped up in anything untoward. Right? Right.


Following closely the directions she made quick progressed toward the destination, while the whole time trying to convince herself not to overthink her role in the whole thing. Shopping was something she was good at. It was one of her few talents. Tell her to fetch a deal and she could. Give her an idea of what to look for and where to go, she’s got it. Provide a vague idea of something you want, she can find it. She was still new to all of this, but she was aware that some clients were just a bit pickier than others, some needed special treatment. This was just one of those moments, one of those clients. There was nothing weird about any of it. Nothing at all.


She pulled into another parking lot stopping in a stall near a lone building that looked like it was used as the hub for an insurance company. She checked the directions for further instructions, but there was nothing there to tell her what to do. Taking out her phone she texted her client hoping for a quick response, unbuckling her seatbelt as she waited for a reply. It came shortly thereafter simply, ‘take it in.’


Peering through the window she took in the building one more time. It was a simple thing. With apparently nothing to give other than a quick quote and slightly lower rates then its leading competitor. Putting her fingers through her key ring and taking the package in her hand, she left her car going to the glass door, with its timeless rectangular handle with weird tread lines.


Inside she was greeted by a robust air conditioning system and a white room with a single glass desk in the front. There was no one there. There were two doors leading further into the building, and a computer set to the side of the desk, but other than that there was nothing to show that anyone was or had ever been there.


“Hello?” Her voice trembled as it spilled out into the room, “Is anyone there?”


There was no answer whether direct or indirect.


“I was sent here, my name is Raina McClure. I’m from Shop for Me McClure. I’m here for a client.”


“What do you want?”


She nearly jumped out of her skin. A woman had entered from just behind her. She had short hair, baggy, but still somewhat appropriate, business attire, and slender frameless glasses. In her hand was a bag, it looked like something someone might have gotten from a small convenience store, with three Thank You’s sprawled in big red letters across the front.


“I brought this box?”


The woman glanced at it and then walked around to the desk, as disinterested as she had been when she first walked in. Setting her bag on the table she sat down in front of the computer and began to type. Finishing with this she stood reaching into the bag.


“Set that down over here.”


“Oh, alright.”

The woman produced a corndog as well as a very large bottle of Mr. Pibb. Putting the top end of the corndog in her mouth she held it with her teeth as she opened the bottle. This being done she took the stick in her hand biting down. Carelessly, she took the box and left the room through the back door without saying another word.


Raina stood there feeling awkward. She had forgotten all about lunch, her stomach gave a long burble to let her know it had also just noticed. She was getting tired of all these uncomfortable meetings with strange people. Besides that, with the way this job was going she probably wouldn’t be able to do another one until tomorrow.


She frowned wishing she had somewhere to sit, but there was nothing besides the chair just behind the desk and it didn’t seem right to sit there. Shifting on her flats she considered the fact that she had overreacted over the package. Obviously, it was nothing too dangerous. The woman had taken it away so carelessly and here she had buckled it into the car seat. Ridiculous. She had far too big of an imagination. She had to stop watching all those true crime shows online.


The woman reentered without her corndog. She was holding what looked in shape like the same box only now it was wrapped like a birthday present. She set it on the desk and went for the soda bottle downing a fourth of the contents before taking out a bag of chips. This whole time she didn’t pay Raina any attention. She went back to the computer and typed a few more things in before taking out a hand full of deep-fried potatoes covered in flavor powder shoving them in her mouth.


“That’s yours, and so is this,” Reaching into her pocket with her clean hand she pulled out a folded bit of paper.


Raina took it freeing the woman to return to the bag covered in thank you’s to take out a sandwich. On this new sheet of paper were more directions. Raina frowned glancing at the box and then the woman.


“Is this it?”


“Yep.”


“But where are these directions to?”


The woman looked at her biting into one side of the sandwich. Realizing that there was no point in asking anymore questions she took the box and left. It was another long drive, only this time it was filled with nothing but paranoid thoughts and her general misgivings over continuing with this particular job and no true rebuttals for her misgivings.


It was just a present, that was all. Nothing more, she was just, obviously, delivering a gift. But how could she be sure that that was the same box? How could she be sure of anything when it came to this job, no one told her anything? She just needed to get this over with so she could move on. This would be her last stop, she wouldn’t go any further than this. She wasn’t interested in going anywhere else, and if she was presented with another set of instructions it would be a big fat no, and she would duck out before anything really bad could happen.


But wait. She had already gotten in with them. She had already seen this job through to almost three locations now. What if the person she was working for was some mob don or the head of some drug syndicate. Would the police honestly believe her when she said she didn’t know anything? Would the people behind this just let her leave without a fuss?


She began to panic imagining a special done on her where her family members and friends were crying saying they had no idea where she had gone, talking about how much potential she had. This last thought revolved in her mind nonstop up until her arrival at a warehouse.


Raina peered over the steering wheel, suffocated by the callousness of the structure in front of her. She wasn’t even sure where the door was to get in or how to let anyone know she was here. This was a terrible idea. There must be something wrong with her for doing this. Unbuckling the package, she stepped out of her car hitting the lock on her key fob. There was a loud reverberating ‘bee boo’ in response causing a nauseating shiver to run the length of her spin.


Nothing bad was going to happen. Nothing was going to go wrong. There wouldn’t be any after school specials about her, or any Fifty-Fifty or Forty minutes interviews, or police reports. She was going to be fine. It was all going to be fine.


“What are you doing here?”


A shriek ripped up the inside of her throat bursting out as she jerked around toward the voice. A short man no taller than three-eleven glared up at her, apparently irritated by her sudden outburst. As if on cue her lips clapped shut and she present the package and, in a yell, announced, “I am here to deliver this!”


He jammed his pinkies into his ears swirling them about. When he pulled them free, they gave a little pop and the gentlemen proceeded to whip his soiled fingers on the front of his jump suit, “Who’s it to?”


“Who’s it to?”


“That’s my question.”


“Well yes, I know, I just don’t really know who it’s to or for. I was given direction and told to take it here.”


“And you did? Do you want to end up on the news, are you an idiot. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter if you are. Follow me, I’ll take you to the office.”


She did as the small man asked trapsing behind him, feeling more of a fool then she had when she was the only one accusing herself of taking this imbecilic adventure. They made a long U shapes path to a small building set a bit away from the warehouse. It was nothing all that special the typical image of a portable with an air conditioning unit in the window.


He went to the glass door set at the top of the ramp disappearing inside. Raina followed entering an office with an overtly homey feeling. There was a desk and chair, with a computer where a woman sat and a sofa near a water cooler. There was a coffee pod machine and a door open to a restroom. To the far left there was another door which looked as though it led to a private office.


The man stopped near the desk and began to converse with the woman behind it. “This girl came here to see Gale.”


“What by herself? Is she an idiot.”


Raina couldn’t help a sigh.


“No just a little stupid, I think. Is he available?”


“He should be, one second let me check.” The woman stood going into the office.


“Liz, will take you from here kid.”


“Wait, who is Gale?”


“Gale, he’s the guy who runs this place. I assume with a box like that you would be looking for him.”


“The box told you that?”


“Yeah, he loves things with wrapping paper. The only one in the whole place who does. The more interesting the print the better. Anyway, I’ve got work to do.”


She stood there in the rather shabby looking waiting room unsure of what to do next. She realized she had made quite the fool of herself, at least to everyone who worked here. She wasn’t exactly sure why she felt so ashamed of herself. She was after all doing her job, just as they were. So why did she feel like such a complete moron.


Going to the sofa she plopped down, her arms still braced around the box. Today had been like no other, she was exhausted, all she wanted now was a bath and her bed, and maybe a slice of cheesecake, New York style, with whipped cream. She loved whipped cream. If she had that she would need a hot chai to go with it, with foamy milk. Oh, and that new book she had just bought, what was it? The name eluded her. That would be perfect. To put this whole box thing behind her and have all of that waiting.


“Excuse me.”


Raina jerked up, she hadn’t realized she had almost dozed off, she looked at the frazzled red head who was staring down at her as if she were some lost piece of lint on the couch, “Yes.”


“Gale will see you.”


“Oh, okay. So do I just go through that door?”


“Yep, just right through that door.”


Raina stood as the women went to her desk. Correcting her posture, for no discernible reason, she marched to the door. This was her last stop; she was sure of it. This would be the end. Opening the door, she stepped into the office.


“Leave it there and get out.”


Raina was perfectly still, “Excuse me?”


“Liz told me you were slow, but I didn’t realize by how much,” A man’s voice poured over the huge monitor directly across from the door, “There is a pedestal by the door, leave the package there and go.”


Turning back to face the door Raina spotted the plan rectangular stand near it, “Right here?”

There was no answer. Going to it, she placed the package on the spot, at once the bottom opened up and it dropped down and was gone.


“Was that it? There is no other boxes or locations?”


Again, no answer came from the other side of the computer screen. Raina waited a few seconds before going back to the door stepping out into the office beyond. Liz looked up at her, her screwy red hair bobbing insentiently around her face with every slight gesture.


Her phone buzzed, Raina pulled it from her pocket clicking on the screen. There was a notification stating that money had been transferred to her account.


“So, it’s done.” She stepped outside, the shadow of the industrial building beside the small portable casting a wide rectangular shadow.


Going back to her car she let herself in, the vision of the huge warehouse filling the breadth of her front windshield. It was all over, that quick. She leaned back against her seat before turning on the car, driving off away from the building.


“I always hate when things have an anticlimactic ending, but I guess it can’t be helped.” Raina smiled, driving, taking the quickest way she could think to her favorite bakery.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: The banana was completely brown


Word Count: 3144


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to LuckAlex Turcu from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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