Katrina Monroe's The Rack
There’s a leak. It started sometime in the night and when I came into the library this morning there were puddles everywhere. Bunny, seeing the puddles, donned a raincoat and wellingtons and pounced on each one, splashing the tepid water all over me and my toys.
“Sorry, Mistress,” she says. “Can’t help myself.”
I’m too irritated with the leak and what it means for my appointment today to properly berate her. Buckets decorate the floor, slowly filling with the drip, drip, drip of various leaks—where is the water even coming from?—when inspiration strikes.
I slide through the puddles toward the rack and, bracing against the only dry bit of floor, I push. “Bunny! Get over here and help!”
After several false starts, we finally manage to shove the rack beneath a stuttering drip. Normally, I don’t approve of water torture, but these are special circumstances.
My appointment, Robert “Call me Bob” Bevan shows up on schedule, looking like he’d just come off a Dad’s Only safari—cargo shorts and a Charlie Sheen button up, topped off by a hat with a brim bordering this side of feminine.
Without so much as a hello, Bunny shuffles our guest to the rack. He point to the ceiling, confused.
“Just lay down,” I say.
He obeys and Bunny straps his arms and legs while I adjust the rack, lining up his forehead with the drip, drip, drip. Satisfied, I give the wheel a solid turn, just far enough to keep him from wiggling.
“Do you set out to offend readers, or is that just a happy coincidence?” I ask.
He tries to laugh, but water shoots up his nose, making him choke. After a while, he finally answers. “Quite the contrary. I set out to offend those who are going to be offended to put them off the idea of reading my books in the first place. My blurbs, book covers, titles, blog posts, Twitter account, and Facebook page are designed to woo a certain audience while driving away another. I find I get less negative reviews that way.”
Sounds like a cop out to me, but what do I know? I’m just the interrogator. “You get off on those kinds of reviews, don’t you?”
He turns his head away from the dripping. Cheater. Snatching a soaked scarf from the floor, I tie it around the top of his head, securing it to the table.
His eyelids flutter between drips. “Of course I prefer positive reviews, but some of the negative reviews are a lot of fun, especially when they're written by stupid people. One of my most successful blog posts was a celebration of my bad reviews.”
Bunny splashes in a puddle next to the rack. Bob jumps.
“Relax, dear,” I say. “She’s harmless.” Bunny frowns. “Mostly,” I amend.
The drip from the ceiling increases and his forehead turns pink. He struggled against the scarf, but thanks to the dampness, he only manages to tighten the knot.
“Which is your favorite of your Caverns and Creatures series?” I ask.
His bloodshot eyes follow me as I round the table to the wheel. “In the novel series, I think the third one might be my favorite. I really got to let my (non-existent) hair down for that one. Of the short stories, I think my favorite is Cooper's Christmas Carol. The scene with Bob Marley still cracks me up.”
I rock the wheel, making his limbs wobble. “Least favorite?”
“Orcs, Bears, and Assholes. I was just kind of going through the motions with that one. That also wins the prize for my least favorite cover design. But it has its moments.”
Sounds like the story of Dorothy’s ugly step-sisters. Oh my.
I yank the wheel and the chains splash rust-orange water across the table. A few drops land in Bob’s mouth as he groans against the pull.
“Do you have any other marketable skills other than making shit up for the amusement of others?”
“Ew.” Bunny slaps his mouth with the sleeve of her raincoat.
I cover my mouth to hide the smirk.
“I can also fluently speak English,” he says and licks his lips. “Admittedly, this is a less marketable skill now that I'm back in the United States.”
Dripdripdripdrip. An angry red spot has developed at the center of his forehead.
I take a moment to appreciate the irony of the situation. An ex-pat with a face full of water torture. Sometimes the Universe lines up so nicely… “I hear you've recently moved back to the States after living in Korea. Why did you move to Korea in the first place?”
At first, he doesn’t answer. My mind wanders to interesting places like espionage and witness protection.
Finally, he says, “Because my only marketable skill at the time was that I could fluently speak English.”
“Lame,” I mutter and throw the wheel purely out of contempt for the lameness.
The table jerks, moving a full inch to the left, so now the water drip, drips into his eyeball. He tries to yank his arms out of the bonds, but only manages to twist his elbows into an awkward angle.
“Oops.” Bunny giggles.
I glance down and see her boot up against the side of the rack. It wasn’t Bob that moved the table, but Bunny.
A groan escaped Bob’s lips.
I pat his head. What a trooper. “You've found decent success as an indie author. Did you ever try the traditional route or dive straight into the bowels of self-pubdom?”
His answer comes out between gasps as the stream thickens, splashing water into his nose and mouth. “I made a half-assed effort, sending letters out to maybe a dozen agents. The only one who didn't send back a form rejection told me I might have better luck trying to self-publish it. I took his advice, and have since then been rocking the shit.”
Twenty bucks says that agent was drawn and quartered by the black-baggers of the Big Six.
The wheel is slippery and with each turn, my hands slide off the handles. The chains pull pitifully at his limbs. I make a mental note to get the maintenance crew on my rack next. Bastards. “What are you writing now, and why should I care?”
It’s impossible to discern whether its tears or water pouring from his eyes. Either way, it’s obvious he won’t last much longer. His body twitches with the slightest pull of the chains. “I'm working on the third short story of what will be the fourth in the d6 short story collections. The working title is "The Unwashed Asses". Of more than twenty short stories, this will only be my second using Cooper as the POV character. Cooper is a fan favorite, but kind of a difficult POV character to write. His low intelligence presents certain challenges when writing from his point of view, but also offers unique opportunities.”
Cooper. The farter.
Water pours from new cracks in the ceiling and soaks me through to my bones. It’s time to end this misery for us both. I throw the wheel—water pinwheels off the knobs—and Bob’s body cracks in a dozen different places. What begins as a scream ends in a sickeningly gurgle.
“Hope you’re thirsty,” I mutter.
Bunny dances in the water.
Robert Bevan has been living and teaching English in South Korea for the past fourteen years. He is the unashamedly self-published author of the bestselling Caverns and Creatures series of comedy/fantasy novels and short stories.