Looking through the crowd, I scraped my big toe across the cement step. I winced as my skin peeled and small fragments of blood formed around the nail. Without thinking, I did it again, harder. Pain radiated from my toe to my eyes like a lightening bolt. The cement was cold and inviting on this hot humid day. I could barely breath the humidity was so high, but the city kept churning. People pushing past one another trying to get to their next life event like they might miss it. The stoop was more than just a place to cool off. It was where I watched. Sometimes it would take weeks for me to pick the right one, but they had to be exactly right. Sighing, I flicked a small bug off the step.
“Toderick, it’s time for lunch sir.”
I looked up to see our house maid Sandy towering above me. I nodded. Pausing, I scanned the crowds once more before standing up and wiping the butt of my trousers. My family was rather daft when it came to affection. As I entered the dining hall my mother barely glanced at me. My younger brother and sister were fidgeting with their plates of food, and my father was, of course, nowhere to be found. Probably off doing whatever it is he does. Pulling out the old ridiculously heavy wooden dining room chair, I glared at Sandy. The staff knows better than to force me to pull out my own chair. She lowered her head and quickly disappeared towards the kitchen.
“Mother,” I said sternly.
“Yes, dear,” she said still not meeting my eyes.
“I take it we are to handle our own seating arrangements now?”
“Toderick, please,” she said annoyed I had begun a conversation with her.
She rolled her eyes and continued to pretend to eat. My mother was close to six foot weighing just over a hundred pounds.
“Toderick your such a snob, that’s why you have no friends,” shouted Lily.
“Children that is enough! Eat your lunch respectfully or I will tell your father.”
My brother ignored her, flicking peas across the table towards Lily causing her to snicker. My mother unamused, began gnawing on the same cucumber slice she’d been eating since I’ve arrived. I sighed again yanking the wooden chair closer to the table. I chose to sit at the opposite end away from those miscreants. This family was a joke. I could feel the stress and tension building in my lower back searing towards my shoulders.
“Sir,” Sandy said delicately reaching a plate of food over me. Startled by her presence, I swung the back of my hand up to the plate knocking it to the floor. It shattered spewing perfectly pink cooked salmon across the Persian rug.
“Christ, Sandy!” I said aggressively.
Standing up, palms heavy on the table, I pushed the wooden chair back into her side. The impact caused her to let out a small shutter of pain. I kept my face down to hide the smirk that had begun to form.
“Oh, shut up mother!” I said storming off, “the food is subpar these days anyway!”
Marching down the hall to the front door I knew I needed to decide. The longer I waited between picks the more violent I would become towards everyone, including the family. This is the longest I’ve gone to date. Three weeks, one day and eight and a half hours. My body longed for it. Just like that, I was back on the stoop staring out ahead. My stomach rumbled, but not for food.
Looking up to the left of my shoulder was short, chubby middle-aged woman, not much to look at. I inadvertently scrunched my nose in disgust of her face.
Noticing, she said, “sorry to have bothered you sir, but could you help me?”
Rolling my eyes, along with a large sigh I said, “sure, what could I do for you?” My brains felt as though they were melting through my ears thinking about how she has interrupted my hunt.
“I’m looking for an old giftshop.”
“A giftshop?” I said rolling my eyes again. At this point I didn’t care any longer about feelings. This was New York City and there is, I’m sure over a million “giftshops.”
“Yes, I don't think it's far from here, but I can't seem to find it,” she said handing me a brochure.
Looking down at the paper, a small tinge of pleasure pinged my fingertips.
“Ah, yes. I know this gift shop,” I said using my right hand to pull on my left ear lobe, “let me take you there.”
"Oh, no I don't want to trouble you more. Just point me in the right direction."
I stood up brushing off my trousers again as she smiled, “it’s not too far,” I said, "no trouble."
The woman is far from my type, but maybe I'm turning a new leaf. A big web may be all I need these days. Plus, a long hunt can be taxing.
“This way,” I said pointing her down the alleyway up ahead.