A Story by Mark Slade
On a lonely street corner, off Main and 3rd, a bag lay on the opposite side of the trash cans scattered in a dark alleyway. Once in a while a street light would shine its florescent blue light on the pavement to reveal movement inside that bag. Just tiny inklings that something was definitely inside it. The sound of scratching, and a low growl. But the bag never moved from its spot.
On other street corners in the city, the hustle and bustle of people and cars making their way to their destinations. On one of those particular streets, Dave Lomax was fighting his way through a crowd outside an Adult theater to find a seat to spend his third night of restless sleep while men in trench coats explored themselves watching people have sex on the screen.
Just as he was sneaking through a side door, a hand grabbed him. The hand belonged to extremely large black man in a leather coat.
“You don’t think you were goin’ in there without payin’, were you, Chief?” He said pushing Lomax into a brick wall outside the theater.
Lomax felt the pain in his back surge. He shook his head no. “I actually got confused what door to go through.” Lomax smiled.
The black man’s nostrils curled up. He sniffed the air. “Shit, man. Go get cleaned up. Look, I don’t want to be a hard on, but you can’t keep sneakin’ in my house smellin’ up the place. You need a place to sleep, I know the Boys club has some beds open for the holidays. If I give you a twenty, you promise not to drink it all up?”
“You’d do that?” Lomax was stunned. The couple months he’d been kicked out of his house by Lisa, he’d witnessed the dregs of humanity. He’d gotten a place at hotel with a roommate, Charlie Day…a real scumbag-drunk—stole the last fifty from him, then kicked him out when Lomax couldn’t procure the rest of the rent.
The black man smiled. “Dude, I know what it’s like on the streets. I might run a movie house that shows tits and ass, but I still follow the laws of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here you go. Don’t–” He placed the twenty in Lomax’s hand, pulled it away, Lomax still had a piece of it. “Don’t drink it up. Understand?”
Lomax nodded quickly. “Yeah, yeah. I don’t usually drink, just lately–“
The black man shoved Lomax into the gutters. He fell into the icy snow caked on the vents.
“Merry Christmas. Get cleaned up,” The black man wagged a finger.
Dave Lomax just sat there. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered, his spirit crushed.
Lomax picked himself up and headed down the street the opposite way. He stopped a minute to stare at the many HD TV’s that were in a store window. On the screens was the Charlie Brown Christmas.
Christmas is not what it used to be, he thought.
He shuffled along, kicking snow with his boots, letting some of it ride on the top for a few feet. Before he realized it, Lomax was down an alley that had no outlet. He looked up and he was on Main and 3rd. He heard a noise behind the trash cans. He saw a stray dog sniffing at a yellow bag that resembled potato bags at grocery stores. The bag moved to the left and the dog jumped at it, wagged its tail.
“I’m not drunk,” Lomax said to himself. “I haven’t even started. But that bag… oh… its cat in it.” He rubbed his tangled, greasy hair. He laughed, walked toward it. “Hey, you dumb dog. That’s just a cat in that bag–“
A thin green arm reached out. Its three fingered claw took hold of the stray dog by the back of its neck and pulled it inside the bag. The dog gave out a yelp and disappeared into the dark opening of the bag.
Lomax stopped dead in his tracks. Stunned, he staggered back a few steps. “What the hell?” He cried out, his voice bounced off the cold dark night.
Lomax looked behind him. No one there. No one saw it. He rubbed his three day old stubble, put a hand in his pocket. His eyes grew wild. He felt in a once empty pocket and found paper there. He pulled his hand out. Lomax was holding several hundred dollar bills. A few minutes before the event with the dog and the bag, he was thinking about having money–lots of money—so much, in fact, his pockets would never be empty. The twenty was still in the other pocket.
Lomax knew this to be strange. I’m not dreaming, he thought. Because he’d just pinched himself. He looked behind him, no one standing there. He trotted to the bag, which was still moving on the pavement. He heard rustling, a low growl. He hesitated at first. Then decided to scoop up the bag.
“Funny,” He said. “On Christmas eve I find Santa’s bag.” He slung over his shoulder and heard the thing growl louder. The stray dog yelped. “Hey,” Lomax yelled at the bag. “I don’t know what you are, but you be nice to that dog.”
He walked to the other side of Main and hailed a taxi.
The hotel room was dingy and smelled of garlic salt. That was because Lomax’s roommate, Cedric, cooked everything with garlic salt. Even toast. Lomax didn’t need a key to get in, the lock never worked. All he had to do was jiggle the door knob and the door was open.
Cedric was sprawled out in the middle of the floor, a bottle of Jack Daniel in his hand.
The room was a mess. Take-out boxes from various places littered floor along with dirty laundry. The TV was on, the weather man showing a map where Santa Clause was last spotted, Turkey it seemed.
Lomax sat on the torn sofa, bag beside him. He kicked Cedric a few times. Cedric looked like a gulley dwarf from the latest Peter Jackson movie. His brownish-red beard hung past neck, inching toward his chest. He must have grown it to make up for the lack of hair on his head. His round, plump body heaved and he coughed every time Lomax kicked him.
Cedric shot up, ready to run. He yelled out something inaudible, waved his hands around wildly.
“Cedric,” Lomax said. “It’s just me. Cedric, its Dave.”
Cedric looked confused, staggered where he stood. Clarity came to him. He looked at Lomax, snarled.
“I kicked you out, you bum,” Cedric tried to pick up the bottle twice without falling. The third go was success. But he soon tossed the bottle when he found out it was empty.
“Yes, you did, my so-called friend. I’m here to pay my share of the rent,” Lomax threw down a hundred dollar bill on the floor. Cedric’s eyes grew big, he leaped for the money, fell on his face.
“Oh, yeah, and tell you to fuck off.” Lomax stood grabbed his bag. Cedric held on to his legs. “Get off!” Lomax shook Cedric off.
“Don’t go, my friend! Please take care of your Cedric! He will do anything–well almost anything–for you! For you!” Cedric was on his knees, pleading, praying to Lomax. “I don’t care how you get financial aid, even if you sell yourself on the street–“
“I don’t do that, you idiot.”
Cedric’s eyes moved back and forth, he was thinking. “No?”
“No. I think it’s this bag.”
Cedric stood. He only came up to Lomax’s chest. He scratched his bald head. “A Santa bag?”
“I thought the same thing when I saw it,” Lomax said happily. “I found this bag—I was thinking of money—oh, you wouldn’t understand.”
“Stay. Explain it to me. I know I could relate–we’ll order a pizza. Yes?”
Lomax thought about it. He was hungry. Oh, Cedric was alright.
Lomax turned his back to call from Cedric’s cell phone when he heard a scuffle and Cedric screamed.
Lomax turned back around. On the phone a voice kept repeating “Hello, hello?” His Santa bag dropped to the floor.
Lomax sighed. “Shit,” He said, pressed a button on the cell phone and the voice disappeared. He threw the phone on the sofa and picked up the bag. He heard a low growl from the bag and more scuffling. Then he heard Cedric call out for help.
“Hi,” he heard a female voice.
Lomax nearly jumped out of his skin. A short brunette was standing in front of him. She was wearing a blue halter top and a short mini skirt. Lomax dropped the bag. His mouth hung open. He couldn’t believe it. Just as he was calling for pizza his mind roamed. He began thinking about sex, then his thoughts became a lot more specific.
“You called for a date,” The brunette kissed Lomax.
Later on, Lomax just sat in the hotel room, bored out of his skull. It was eleven pm now. The brunette had long disappeared. He was sick of hearing the dog whine, Cedric cry and beg for help, and whatever that thing was in the bag growl and terrorize the dog and Cedric.
“This is shit,” He said. He should be with Lisa and her kids, getting smashed, opening presents. He should be with Lisa. Yes. She should not had kicked him out, settled in with Jack. All because he lost his job at the plant and he couldn’t handle her taking his spot as the breadwinner.
Well, all that has changed now, Lomax thought. I’ve got money. Endless money. Now I can take Lisa back, buy her anything she wanted. Jack can be out on the street, like Lomax was.
“Yeah… I’m going over there and bring loads of presents… food… booze…”
Lomax stood in the driveway of his ex’s trailer, the only trailer in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Her father had left it to her, never thought of building a house because he thought it was too much work and a waste of money, he already had a home. The trailer was old, at least twenty years, and the aluminum siding was not silver anymore but a depressing rust color.
Good, Lomax thought. Lisa is home. He could see her Toyota in the driveway, but he also saw Jack’s Prius.
“Shit,” He said to the thin layer of Christmas lights on the telephone pole. The lights blinked on and off, telling Lomax not to worry about Jack. It told him he was in charge of the situation. Plus, he had two plastic bags of groceries and his Santa bag.
The trailer was lit up with way too many lights, at least ten strands crossing each other. And in the front yard was a snowman missing an eye and his plastic carrot meant for his nose, was now comfortably in his crotch.
Lomax knocked on the screen door.
Lisa opened the front door. She stepped outside on the step, shut the door. Her short brown, wavy hair was stirring slightly in the cold breeze. She was cold, the Christmas sweater exemplified her best assets, but those green eyes always melted Lomax’s heart.
“Hi, Lisa,” Lomax grinned at her.
“What do you want, Dave?” She said coldly, folded her arms.
“I wanted to see you and the kids,” Oops. I didn’t get the kids anything. He thought. Trish, 9, Cory, 6, what would I get them anyway? I never took time to get to know them—
“You know Jack is here. And after the last shenanigan you are not welcomed here.” She turned to open the door, Lomax touched her shoulder. She shot a cool look his way that was like a knife through his heart. Lomax withdrew his hand.
She was referring to a drunken incident when Lomax climbed through their bedroom window and passed out in their bed. Jack beat Lomax with a baseball bat, thinking he was burglar. After the ER room, Jack was apologetic.
“Who is it, Lisa–Oh, it’s Dave. Let him in, Lisa.” Jack was the best looking guy Lomax had ever seen and the nicest. That’s one of many reasons he hated him.
“He was just leaving–” Lisa’s nostrils flared up, and that cold stare–all Lomax could do was avert his eyes.
“Nonsense, Lisa. Come inside, Dave. God, the kids really miss you. They will be glad to see you. “OH yes, they were glad to see me, Lomax thought. He’d been there thirty minutes and the kids said hi, rushed off to bed. Lisa went to her bedroom. Jack was the only one happy to see him. Loads of endless fucking questions. It was a slow death. Being with a man who stole your life and he was happy to eat his cake too. The fucker.
“So, what’s with the bag? Are you playing Santa this year?” He was smirking. Thinks he can tell a joke. The fucker. “Is my present in there?”
Suddenly an evil grin overthrew a depressing scowl on Lomax’s face. “Actually…it is. Would you like it now?” Lomax stood from the couch and walked toward the corner where the Christmas tree was. Jack followed closely on his heels.
“You didn’t have to–yes. Yes. I’m honored… look I really want to be friends, Dave… could that…?”
The bag was gone.
They heard a noise in the hallway to the bedrooms. Something loud hitting the tin floors of the trailer. Lomax and Jack rushed to see, they found the bag there. It was inching across the floor. They heard Lisa’s voice, the kid’s, of course the dog and Cedric. All of them simultaneously making a horrible mash of noise. Then there was the growling, the sound of something scraping the inside of the bag, followed by them screaming.
Jack backed away from the bag. “What’s in there, Dave? You’ve got the devil there haven’t you?”
Lomax didn’t know what to say. He shook his head half-heatedly. “I don’t know what’s in there. I don’t… maybe it is… but I don’t think it hurts anyone… all I know is it takes things, then whatever you wish for… magically appears…”
There was a knock at the screen door, very loud pounding.
Someone has called the police on us, Lomax thought. Jack ran to answer it. Lomax pushed him out of the way. They found a short, over-sized man in a monk’s frock. The Monk bowed, removed his hood.
“I’m sorry to bother you so late. I think you have something that belongs my temple.” The Monk said.
Lomax was pushed aside as the monk made his way through the front door. The monk smiled. He nodded. “Yes, you surely do have it.”
“Is that the devil in that bag? Your here to do an exorcism, right?” Jack came to the monk, wild-eyed.
The Monk laughed. “No, far from it. Gumar is not a devil… but a poor unfortunate creature that seemingly tricked one of my brothers to take him into the city.”
“Will he–does he hurt anyone in the bag with him?” Lomax interrupted the monk’s jolliness.
“No, by all means. Gumar loves to have fun—well his fun is scaring people, holding them in the darkness. He harms no one. He is a bit aggressive. It was terrible for Brother Sella. He apparently was robbed at gunpoint, beaten and left in an alley. He came back to Temple with that story.”
“How did you know where the bag was?” Lomax said. “Can you get them out of the bag?”
The Monk shrugged smiled. “I followed the smell. Do you not smell the terrible stench?”
“I thought it was Dave, since he is homeless.” Jack said.
Lomax cut his eyes at Jack.
“As far as releasing everyone,” The Monk sighed. “That depends on you,” He turned to Lomax. “Would like to keep receiving presents from Gumar? Or…give the bag back to the Temple. It’s up to you.”
Lomax thought a minute. “Yeah… I’d like to give the bag back to the Temple.”
The Monk smiled. Lisa appeared, as did the children. They immediately clung to, she hugged them nervously.
Then Cedric appeared, the dog ran from one person to another, happy it was out of the bag.
The Monk threw the bag over his shoulder. Lomax saw him to the door.
“Look,” Lomax placed a hand on the Monk’s arm. “I don’t get it. Where was my last present when Lisa and the kids were in the bag?”
“Remember,” The Monk walked outside. He turned to Lomax, laughed. “You wished this would be over. And it is.”