Short Story – Promises

I wrote a short story for my Creative Writing course inspired by ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar.

Promises

Rain punched down like a thousand fists on the withered and crumbling roof of Sunshine Manor. Maddie’s heels sank into the squelching mud as she ran up the pathway, shoulders hunched against the wind. A barricade of rain blinded her as she stumbled to the front door. She threw out a hand, fist clenched in preparation to bang against the wood. Instead, the rickety door jumped out of its frame and flew open. She stumbled in, catching herself before she hit the ground.

“Hello?” She squeaked.

No one responded. She took a few nervous steps into the building and looked around.

The wooden window frames were peeling, and around the edge a strange black mark had spread and gave off a pungent smell. Large cracks ran along the plastered walls, the same black stain was creeping up from the ground and around the corners and cracks. Somewhere a faint tapping indicated that there was a leek in the roof. Though the walls were bare, a few pieces of furniture were littered about. She tip-toed closer, carefully avoiding suspiciously creaky floorboards, and inspected a small faded photograph that was propped up on a rotting desk.

“Completely illegal,” scoffed Dr. Kendall, “You’d never get away with it.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Luther waved a finger in his face, “It’s not illegal, just more temporary than it should be.

“There’s no way you can get this through,” Kendall stood, shaking his head and preparing to leave.

“Stick around, Kenny, I could use some support on this one, and you’ll make a percentage.”

“It’d have to be a very reliable percentage to keep me interested, especially if you insist on that damned nickname.”

A silence fell in the dank office, broken only by a draft ruffling the discoloured papers on the small desk. The light bulb barely lit the room, throwing only a little light on the housing blue prints that were untidily pinned up everywhere. Cobwebs hung from the corners where the hastily put up papers had disrupted them. There was only enough space in the tiny room for the two men.

They were exact opposites of each other. Where Kendall was tanned by the sun , Luther’s naturally brown skin was greyed from hiding in the shade. Kendall’s chocolate hair was recently trimmed and he was dressed tidily, and Luther’s hair jutted out in a black scruff and his clothes were untucked and stained. Kendall stood tall and proud, regarding Luther’s relaxed posture with his feet up on the desk and back curled into his chair.

“Ken, doc, come on. I’ll make it worth your while. All I need is your support on this,” Luther grinned at the other, exposing coffee stained teeth.

Kendall’s lips pursed and his brow furrowed, then he nodded, “All right. Let’s talk my percentage.”

Maddie flinched and spun around as the front door banged open, the moans of the wind rushing in as though it too sought shelter from the rain. Someone staggered in, dragging in a river of rain water behind them. The door slammed shut and Maddie stared into a set of dark eyes under a mop of black scraggly hair. They kicked back, slamming the door back into its frame.

“What are you doing here?” Their voice was softer than Maddie had expected.

“I.. I was looking for shelter. The next town over was too far to run to..” She trailed off nervously.

The other shrugged and brushed their hair from their face, revealing a youthful woman with dark skin “Got a name?”

“Maddie..” She said, somewhat less scared “You?”

Fall, that was the name she’d given, was looking for something of her grandfather’s. She’d been staying at the local town, having come over from the USA, and walking down to the old manor to snoop around for clues. It happened that she was also unfortunate enough to be caught in the storm and was too far from the town to go back.

“Apparently he’s left something really important to be inherited but… I can’t figure out what it is” Fall shrugged and curled up on the chair she’d taken seat on.

“Why were you walking from town?” Maddie asked, “It’s almost an hour’s walk.”

“Don’t have a car,” Fall answered simply, “I don’t have that kind of money.”

“Oh..” Maddie looked around nervously “So your grandfather.. he lived here?”

“No, not really. He built the summer home along with a few other homes. But the ground was marshland and most of the places collapsed. This is the only one left.”

“Wow..” Maddie looked around at the room. The swamp land must’ve caused the black stains everywhere, she thought to herself .

“What about you? Your grandparents get up to anything crazy?” Fall asked.

Maddie gave it some thought “Not really. Granddad Bobby always grumbles on about this business deal he got ripped off on, but mostly it’s never been an issue. Actually..” She moved over to the old desk, where the faded photograph still stood. She picked it up, careful not to cause a large dust disturbance, “I was looking at this before you arrived. The man in this photograph looks like my granddad. Maybe whoever lived here knew him.”

Fall pulled herself out of the chair and walked over, her feet making small clapping sounds as her soaking shoes met the thick dust. She stood behind Maddie, making a little puddle that the wood absorbed like a sponge.

“That’s my grandfather,” She said, stunned.

“Luther, the plan is falling apart,” Kendall growled, giving the scaffolding of the new house tap with his foot.

“Not falling apart,” Luther berated at him, “Just unfinished. Listen, as long as no one ever notices the housing framework is sinking we’re fine. Operation Autumn is go.”

“How is this in any way going to last?” Luther gave it another tap, and the scaffolding shifted “Your dry-autumn plans will fall through at the first sign of rain.”

“Look, the life on the houses is longer than my own life time. But temporary enough to be pretty much thrown together like a pillow fort. By the time anyone notices anything, I’m dust in the ground.”

“You’re going to hell, Luther, and taking all your descendants with you.”

“Better make sure I don’t have any, eh Ken?”

“So.. your grandfather was a doctor?” Fall asked, carefully perched on the desk with the photograph in her hands.

“Yeah. He complained a lot because he didn’t make the money he’d wanted to but… He was fine really. What about your granddad?”

Fall shrugged “I’ve only ever seen pictures of him. As soon as he realised my grandmother was pregnant he ran – according to her anyway. Her unmarried and pregnant- kinda threw my family into a bit of a rut.”

“That’s awful,” Maddie squeaked “Couldn’t you get help from those family tree people who find relatives?”

Fall shook her head miserably “No. Like I said, I don’t have that kind of money and they can charge something mean. Besides, if it turns out I don’t find anything at least I’ll have left like I tried.”

“Luther!” Dr. Kendall pounded on the door of Luther’s office door, teeth grit furiously, “Luther! Open up!”

The door creaked open and a dark eye looked out at him, “Ohhh Ken, hi. No, I can’t let you in right now I’m-”

Kendall cut him off by kicking the door open with a mud-coated foot, “Luther, everything’s fallen through,” He towered over the other, who looked dishevelled and pale ,“This plan of yours isn’t going to last long so you had better give me my percentage now.”

Luther wrung his hands, sweat beading on his forehead “Ken, I- I don’t have the money-”

“That’s Doctor Kendall to you,” Kendall growled “And if you don’t get this payment to me then I hope to God every man, woman and child in your family suffer until I’m paid what I’m owed.”

“L-look, fine, I’ll go and get it. Just, just let me run to the bank. Stay here. Please?” Luther gave Kendall a hopeful, yet terrified look.

“Fine. I trust you enough for this one thing. But I’ll never trust you again.”

Luther nodded, and sprinted out. He was never heard from again.

The water from Fall’s clothes had soaked deep into the old wood that when she hopped down off the desk her feet went right through the floorboards and she fell into a chamber below. She landed heavily on top of a large box that fell over and spilled out piles of papers. Her sudden cry and groan of pain echoed around the small chamber she’d collapsed into.

“Are you all right?” Maddie called down.

“I’m fine” Fall called back, voice strained “I… I think I found what I was looking for! There’s some documents down here about ‘Operation Autumn’ – I think that’s to do with me?”

Maddie stared down quizzically, “Oh, well, has it explained why our granddads are in a photo together?”

“Depends,” Fall called back, “Your grandfather called Dr. Robert Kendall?”

“Yes!” Maddie called back “Granddad Bobby, and I’m Maddie Kendall.”

“In that case I owe you some cash- and as it turns out I have a lot of that.”

And so when the weather dried up and an accessible bank was found, Fall fulfilled her grandfather’s promise of paying the Kendall family their owed percentage. Over a warm cup of coffee, Maddie went over Fall’s possible choices of cars.

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