This week's prompt for Flash Fiction Friday is based on a photo.
Talk to the Hand
Fired. So much for my Christmas bonus. I'd thought the meeting was to offer me a promotion, but I got a pink slip instead. They'd already hired a new kid in to do my job, someone cheaper and easier to boss around. Leaving me with payments for a new apartment and a new car, and no income.
I spent the next week working all my contacts. Apparently, punching my old boss in the nose, while satisfying, didn't help my reputation. Now, not a single advertising firm would even give me an interview. I finally found an ad by an older gentleman looking for a live-in assistant, at a generous salary, with room and board included. Discretion imperative, as 'Mr. A', valued his privacy above all. Within days I had an invitation to an interview. It was suggested that, since the house was a few hundred miles away, I pack a bag and stay the night.
The directions were clear enough, but the last few miles were full of twists and turns as the road climbed into the hills. Night was falling by the time I drove up the driveway, but I could still see some details of the house. It was Victorian in style, with a wide porch, second floor verandas, and ornate trim around all the eaves. There was a faint light on over the heavy front door, but all the windows were dark.
The butler looked like an extra from a horror movie. He was over six feet tall, with cavernous eyes, dressed in an ill-fitting black suit and spoke in a deep voice that seemed to come all the way up from his boots.
"Good evening sir. This way please, the master is already dining."
He took my suitcase in one hand, my elbow in the other, and whisked me into the dining room.
"Master, he is here."
The room, while well light by several candelabras, seemed dark still. Heavy curtains covered the windows, and the wallpaper was a dark crimson. Seated at the long dining table was a middle-aged couple, probably in their fifties. She was impossibly thin, dressed in black, with a pale face, crimson lipstick, and long black hair, streaked with white. He was grey haired, with a thin moustache, and wore a maroon smoking jacket. He gestured with his cigar.
"Darren, please, sit. We've just started. Lurch, pour him some wine, then bring the first course.”
"I'm sorry I'm late, Mr A, but the roads ..."
"No problem," he said. "I must admit the last few miles are a test that not all applicants have passed. But don't be formal. Please, call me Gomez. And may I introduce my wife, Morticia.”
I smiled and extended my hand, then paused.
He nodded. “Yes, A as in Addams.”
I sat back. “From that show in the sixties?”
“The same,” he said. “We keep to ourselves now. The house looks after us quite well, keeping away the unwanted. It's been in the family for years. As has Lurch.”
Apparently their roles had gone to their heads a bit. They certainly looked well preserved though, as they must actually be in their eighties. But they did seem harmless. “What would be my duties here?”
“Since we don't get out as much,” said Morticia, “we need someone to do it for us. An emissary from our world to yours, so as to speak.”
Gomez gazed at her and smiled. “Well said, cara mia.”
She pursed her lips and lowered her eyes. “Mon sauvage.”
Gomez laughed. “Not now, ma cherie, not in front of our new employee.”
“Not yet,” I said. But by the end of dinner I had taken the job. Brilliant conversation, expensive wines, and the meal a veritable banquet of exotic dishes, with peculiar but delicious blends of textures and flavours.
“Mama's cooking,” said Morticia. “She lives to cook.”
I settled in quickly as their emissary, as they called it. My main jobs were paying the bills, filling the grocery lists Grandma left, and social events. Next one was to be a Christmas party.
“A small gathering,” said Gomez. “Less than a hundred, family and friends, just the living ones of course.”
I gave a small laugh at yet another peculiar turn of phrase from my employer. They both seemed a little strange, but were obviously committed to their roles. The pretence even extended to their children, whom they referred to as Pugsley and Wednesday. He was off in Toronto in politics, and she was studying a blend of Medieval history, Eastern religions, and Anatomy.
We were a quiet bunch. Lurch's main responsibility, other than serving dinner, was an old limousine, used for a weekly drive through the countryside by Gomez and Morticia. My only contact with Grandma was her weekly grocery list and her delicious meals. Evenings we would walk the grounds, or play cards, or watch TV from the local station, which seemed to carry only black and white sit-coms. There was no cell phone or internet access at the house, but I did get a weekly paper delivered for news. I was enjoying the peace, after the rat race of advertising.
That peace was shattered one morning at breakfast. I was buttering my toast as Gomez discussed some party details, when I felt a tug on my pant leg. I looked down and, to my horror, there was a hand tugging on my pant leg. Just a hand.
Morticia peered under the table. “Oh dear, it's Thing. He's supposed to stay out of your way—sorry—he wants to be lifted up. Don't do it, he's not allowed on the table anymore.”
By then I was standing on my chair. “But it's real!”
“Of course he is,” said Gomez.
I stared back at him as I remembered all those quirks, those phrases I'd dismissed as eccentric.
“And you're real!”
“Yes, we are. Have been for centuries I'm afraid. We just age a lot slower. Well, except Mama. She passed a few years ago, but we can't keep her out of the kitchen. Buried her twice then gave up.”
I shuddered. I'd been buying groceries for a corpse. And eating its excellent cooking. “But the TV show?”
“Think of it as the first reality TV program,” he said. “Except the producers didn't know it. Darren, you look a little pale. Should you really be standing on a chair?”
“No, I should be running screaming out of here,” I said.
“Oh, we can't have that I'm afraid,” he said. “Why don't you go upstairs and lie down?”
I lay in my bed for an hour, trying to come to terms with what I had seen. And what to do about it.
“Gomez, Morticia,” I said. “This is big. You need to do a come-back. I can sell the rights for this for a fortune. We'll all be rich.”
“We are rich,” said Gomez. “Nope, this stays our secret.”
I argued to no avail with them, so decided to go and make some contacts myself. Trouble was, I couldn't leave. I mean, I could drive away, but after a few twists and turns in the road I was always right back at the front door.
Then they chained me up in the basement.
They fed me, but were quite firm about not allowing me out until they decided what to do with me.
I'd been there for what seemed like weeks when I heard a new voice.
“Hello? Have you been a bad boy? Are you being punished? Do you like being punished?”
It was a younger version of Morticia, all in black, with a solemn face, and long black hair.
“Wednesday?” I said.
“Very good,” she said. “Oh, what have mommy and daddy done – over-reacting as usual. They did the same thing to the first boy that showed up here looking to date me. He managed to slither out okay, though.”
“Yes, I changed him into a snake. But don't worry, I think I can talk them out of this.”
“Please, I beg you.”
“Hmm, I like begging,” she said. “And screaming. But first, I need you to help me with some research for my thesis, on historical torture methods.”
I did beg, and scream—at first. But she was a master of her craft, balancing me between pain and pleasure, helping me find facets of mysef I didn't know existed. By the time she'd finished, I had no intention of exposing the family secret. I was in love.
As was Wednesday, apparently. At least that's what she told her parents when she led me upstairs and announced our engagement. We spent a delightful week together before she had to return to university, whispering words of endearment to each other, in various languages. I drove her to the airport, and on the way she insisted we stop in to see my old boss. Wednesday had been upset at how he treated me, so wanted to set things right. He made the mistake of leering at her.
I slipped him into my pocket as we left. I knew just the spot behind the house where a toad would be very comfortable.