It was late. Even the dog had given up trying to scrounge for titbits. Her snoring accompanied the sound of my keyboard as I tapped away erratically. Hey, I never said I was a secretary. The clocks had been moved forward, and the sun was staying up later, but right now, the sky was dark and cloudless. The moon was showing a crescent. I guess there were stars too, but the street lights blinded my eyes to them.
A sigh from the dog as she rolled over. I smiled. She seemed happy enough. Wish I could say the same. Money's tight. Tight enough that I had to lower my sights for work. Hell, if they were any lower, I'd be getting complaints from Old Scratch about 'invasion of privacy'.
Times are tough all round, sure enough. I'd tap some of my buddies for a loan, but they'd already tried to tap me. I laughed to myself and raised my mug in a toast to my buddies. Pity it was only tea, but the doc says I can't drink booze or coffee. Damn him - I did try some liquor once, a few years back. Just a couple of glasses, nothing much.
Big mistake. Most folks get a hangover the next day. Mine began soon as I downed the second shot. The wife was about as sympathetic as I deserved, I guess. At least she didn't shout.
I drained the mug and grimaced. Hot tea's good enough, but you don't wanna let it chill.
A door downstairs opened. The dog flicked an ear, but carried right on snoring. I wasn't fooled. If it wasn't my wife down there, the dog would have been down there like a furry, snarling bullet, and twice as dangerous. The ear twitched again, hearing a stair step creak. She didn't budge. Like me, she knew what kind of noises people make when they move. You don't survive long 'round here if you don't keep a clever ear to the ground.
Like the dog, I stayed cool. We both knew it was Julie. I glanced at the clock. Her show must have finished.
Julie was slow in climbing the stairs - she'd had a heavy day, and her head was pounding like a dozen jack-hammers. I carried on with mashing up the keyboard as I heard the wife going to the bathroom.
The dog's back legs twitched and shivered suddenly and she whimpered. It must have been a bad dream - she'd had a hard life before me and Julie got her out of it, but that's a story for another day. I pushed the chair away from my desk and rolled over to the dog, "easy girl," I said, and laid a comforting hand on her quivering flank. At the touch, Roxy half-woke and she stretched before going back to sleep. She's a good dog.
As I straightened up, Julie came out of the bathroom and dashed back downstairs, grumbling. I paused to listen. Bad as it's been for me the last year or so, in some ways, it's been worse for my girl. She's been the only one bringing in the dough, and we don't know how long that's gonna last either.
Every time Bill turns up on our doorstep, things get tense. That bastard has a way of turning up right at the wrong time. "Yeah, we're gonna need you guys to cough up some more folding for the rent." or, "The boss don' like it when you's bein' smart. You think savin' water's gonna save yous money? Yeah. right. The boss still needs that bonus, so you guys need to keep him happy. Unnerstand?"
Yeah. Bill's got lots of different faces, but they all sing the same tune.
My train of thought got derailed as Julie clambered back up the stairs. I was puzzled. She'd only been down there a moment, and she was still grumbling when she reached the top. I called out and asked if everything was A-OK...
Dames... who can figure them...
I hope you enjoyed this little noir pastiche. I hadn't planned to come up with that, but it just seemed to flow out of my fingers that way.
I had actually prepared a different illustrative image, one that fans of the new Doctor Who series will understand. I'm going to post it here because I actually like it so much and don't see the point in letting it go to waste.