Larry’s Last Day
by Brian Rowe
Larry Trapper had tears in his eyes as he made the twelve-minute drive from his apartment on La Cienega to the large yellow building next to I-10. He opened his center console and fished his fingers past the empty gum wrappers to grab a folded napkin. He dabbed it under his swollen eyes and tossed it on the passenger seat.
When his cell phone rang, Larry let the call go to voicemail. He wasn’t in the mood to talk to anybody. If his own mother had been calling from beyond the grave to tell him the meaning of life, he still wouldn’t have answered.
Larry pulled off the freeway and parked in his reserved spot, behind the building. He glanced to his left, and as the cold April wind wafted against his tired face, he let out a loud sigh. He was more than an hour early — but there were already three cars in the parking lot.
“This is bullshit,” he said, and struck his fist against the steering wheel.
He walked to the back entrance and shoved the key into its lock. At first the door didn’t open, and for a moment, he wondered if he had already been locked outside forever. But then he jiggled on the handle and jammed the door open.
Music blasted from the ancient speakers overhead. Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning.” His least favorite song of the last five years.
“Hello?” he shouted, like he was trying to wake up a room full of senior citizens. He took his first step inside and reared his head around the corner. “Is someone in here — ”
A young man brushed past his shoulder. He was bopping his head up and down to the music as he carried a gargantuan brown box. Two VHS tapes spilled over the top and landed on the lime green carpet.
“Give me that!” Larry stomped toward the young man, the kid, the thief. “You guys weren’t supposed to be here until nine!”
He stepped on the kid’s foot and heard an exaggerated scream. Larry ignored it. He grabbed the box and pulled open the top. Horror movie tapes. Seventy, maybe eighty. Everything from the Universal monsters to the Wes Craven shockers.
He set the box down and looked toward the front of the store. Two signs were already on the windows, both boasting the same thing, what had finally been forced on him: NEW DVDS FOR SALE! NEW DVDS FOR SALE!
“No,” he whispered. “Too soon. It’s too soon.”
“Aww, is someone sad?” a voice said from behind.
Larry didn’t turn around right away. He thought if he stayed focused on the desecration of the store, the person behind him would go away, or, even better, disintegrate.
But the voice continued. “You need to get with the times, my friend. We’re already a year too late. Six more months of this and we would have — ”
“Stop talking!” Larry couldn’t take the inane rant any longer. He spun around and looked down — way down. His boss Bill was five-foot-four, but his bulky hat bumped him up another inch or two. Larry pointed at the young men carrying the boxes and said, “I want these people out of here! I want them gone!”
Bill took a step forward. Despite his diminutive size, he had the confidence of a billionaire CEO. “It’s not up to you, Larry. Face the times we’re living in.”
Larry leaned down and grabbed his boss by the collar. “You have exactly one minute or I’m throwing them out myself.”
An awkward silence ensued. Larry and Bill stared each other down as if either one glancing in a different direction would bring on a fiery apocalypse.
Finally, Bill grinned, and pulled up his black briefcase. “You know what? I was gonna do this later, but what the hell.” He opened it up. Shuffled through a mountain of pages and handed a document to Larry.
“What’s this?” Larry asked, looking over the page like it was written in Cantonese.
“I’m sorry, but I’m letting you go.” He stood up straight, and shut his briefcase with a loud click. “It’s not working out. You’ll get your last check on Friday.”
Larry crumpled up the page and glanced toward the new rack of DVDs. Forty copies, at least, of the same movie: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. He grabbed one. Studied the front and back of the case.
Then he took out the shiny DVD and threw it at Bill, like a Frisbee. It smacked his boss on the forehead and dropped to the ground.
“Forget the damn money,” Larry said. “I just want the tapes.”
“You want the — what?”
Larry pushed past Bill and grabbed the brown box. As he carried it out of the building and to his car, he thought a heart attack was imminent; the box weighed so much that big globs of sweat trickled down his cheeks and chin. He opened his trunk, shoved in the box, and quickly sped down the one-lane road, back to his apartment, the only place he could still call his home.
He turned the radio on, but the station was playing “Every Morning.” He slammed his fist against the dial and rode the rest of the way in silence.
He pulled into his parking spot and walked up four flights of stairs with the heavy box. The elevator had been broken for an entire week, and the landlord kept promising she would get it fixed. He considered pounding on her door and yelling at her, too, but he didn’t want to talk to anybody. Not today. Not for a long, long time.
Larry walked the ten steps into his living room, faced the sixty-inch-screen TV that took up the entire wall, and opened the box. It was April twelfth, 1999.
“Let the horror marathon begin,” he said.