★ ‘Machiavelli Jones’ by Steve Carr

bad apartment

Machiavelli Jones had one ambition, to get out of the shit hole he lived in.

His home was no more than a square room with a bathroom attached. The room reeked of mildew mixed with the odors of sweat, urine and stale beer that wafted up from piles of unwashed clothes that laid about in mounds on an old tattered beige carpet.  Empty beer cans were stacked like pyramids in every corner. The once white refrigerator had turned gray from lack of cleaning and the hotplate that sat on a small rickety table was covered in grease and bits of dried food. A small sink next to the refrigerator was full of unwashed dishes, pot and pans. The bed was pushed against the wall below the only window which was at ground level. The stuffing in the mattress stuck out through several holes. There was also a single white wicker chair that faced an old television set with a DVD player attached to it on a metal stand. In one corner there was a dresser with four drawers and a large cracked mirror affixed to the top of it. On the floor in front of the dresser were two forty pound black dumbbells. On a small stand next to the chair was his phone.

It rang and he picked it up from its cradle and said into it in his usual gruff manner, “This is Mack. Whaddya want?”

He listened, grunted bear-like a few times, then hung up. “I gotta find a way to get out of this shit hole,” he mumbled.

After taking a long swig of beer from the can he grasped in his meaty fist, he placed the can on the floor next to the chair he was sitting in and stood up and scratched his balls. He turned and looked at himself in the mirror and inflated his well formed pectoral muscles and held his arms up and made his melon sized biceps bulge. The crack in the mirror divided his face so he moved his head and smiled at his reflection. Aside from having a missing upper front tooth, he wasn’t at all unhappy with his looks; a square jaw, thick lips, aquiline nose, dark green eyes, heavy well shaped black eyebrows. He ran his hand through his black hair and bent down and picked up his gray sleeveless button down shirt and put it on.  Unable to find clean underwear he put on his gray work pants and sat on the edge of his bed and put on his socks and work boots. Before leaving his room he turned off the porn DVD he had been watching, looked at himself again in the mirror, then walked out into the building’s storage units closing the door to his room behind him.

He picked up his bright red tool box that he kept by the elevator, and pushed the button to bring the elevator down to him. When it arrived he pushed the lattice collapsible gate aside and stepped in and pushed the button for the fourth floor. He closed the gate and the elevator slowly rose. The sound of the mechanisms that lifted the elevator reverberated in the shaft. At the fourth floor he had to yank hard to open the gate. He stepped out into the dimly lit hallway and saw Mrs. Garner standing in her doorway waiting for him.

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