Friday, March 26, 2010

Magic Number

Julio the doorman knew how to keep secrets, and after many years of employment at the same upscale residential building in the city, there were many to keep.

“I'm like a bartender or a therapist,” he once told his wife. “Without the booze or couch.”

For example, the people in 3-G were married for five years, no children. Recently, whenever the wife went out of town on business for several days, Mr. 3-G returned home in the dawning hours with a young lady. Julio would unlock the building's front door, smile, and wish them a good morning as they stumbled to the elevator.

Then there was the fifteen year old girl in 7-H who always waved in a see you later salute as she left with a few friends on Wednesday afternoons. The private school the girl attended let out early on those days every week so that the students could perform the required community service of their choice. Julio overheard her telling her parents at the beginning of the semester that she planned on spending several hours fulfilling her assignment at a downtown soup kitchen.

“Where do you think they go?” the super of the building asked Julio once while sharing smokes outside and watching the girls walking across the avenue to hail a cab going uptown.

“Anywhere they want,” Julio said.

Of course, Julio's favorite was the judge in Penthouse A who every Halloween hosted a party while wearing form-fitted women's clothes, a red wig of cascading curls, and four inch heels. In the early part of the evening, when the kids in the building knocked on his door, the judge would sway to the table to get the candy to hand out to them. Once, the little boy in 5-K told Julio he did not like to go to that door for trick or treat because, “a scary, ugly woman” lived there.

The judge's courthouse friends attending the parties laughed at the very idea that the usually somber and humorless state official―nicknamed Hang 'em High Harold―enjoyed the holiday so much he allowed himself this one night of ridicule in such a costume.

But Julio understood that what the judge enjoyed more was the attention from the handsome young men who would come by after all the party goers went home. From the look of their costumes, the theme of the evening could be summed up as 'Bad Boys Who Need to Get Spanked While Handcuffed.'

In all the years he worked there, Julio never once felt any compunction to betray any confidences. However, there was a set price to pay for silence, and it escalated with the cost of living.

“You're a good man,” many of the residents told him time and time again, as they handed him an envelope with cash at the end of the year.

Yes, Julio knew how to keep secrets, especially from the taxman.


  1. Secrets, secrets, there are always secrets, hey?

    I really enjoyed this, I like how it doesn't matter about the affluence of the building, human nature is human nature.

    I like how the tenants presume that, because they hand over an envelope one a year, their doorman doesn't see a thing.

    The last line made me laugh.

    Great story.

  2. There's a lot to be said for being a confidential person:-)

    As a massage therapist, I am privy to lots of 411. I don't get, or take, money, but, I get to know the best scoops because I keep it too myself. Great story.

  3. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Who doesn't like to keep secrets from the taxman?

    Great work Marisa! Loved the "scary, ugly woman”.

  4. Blazingly good stuff here. Secrets, indeed.

  5. Love the last line :) Great story!

  6. It's a really tight, taut story about human frailties and an observer of them who holds his peace to in crease his own power. That last line makes the whole story, takes him from a passive observer, to an arch manipulator.

    The picture heading the story is truly unsettling, a zipper that also looks like stitches. Perfect I'd say.

    marc nash

  7. Anonymous9:02 PM

    ahhhh secrets!
    so many good parts to this one.
    well done :)

  8. Anonymous9:16 PM

    I love that in such a little space you've conveyed the lives and livelihoods of some most interesting characters - in an almost cinematic fashion. I want to know more about what goes on behind these doors.

    And how much is in the envelope. :-)



  9. HA! Secrets! I love it. Well done here. Well done.


  10. Read this twice, I enjoyed it so much. Really tight writing, and your ending nails the story. And the picture -- wow. Excellent complement to your story. All around perfetto.

  11. I kinda felt bad for the judge if he only gets spanked once a year. Or did I read that part wrong? I may have been distracted by .....something....

  12. I wonder where he lives, and who is watching.

  13. Made me smile, Marisa.
    Your story has a real New York movie style to it, that I always enjoy.
    And your Julio, what a charmer.
    Enjoyed this like a really good cup of coffee.

  14. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

    Good job!

  15. Fantastic. And that doorman has a very interesting job indeed. Pays well too. ;)

  16. I have a zipper today too! How could I help but love it! Great detail and crafting here mb.

  17. Well told, Marisa! You paint an interesting world of people populating a particular building, including the doorman. Nice ending too.

  18. The secret lives...
    That would be an interesting way to study human nature.
    Great story!

  19. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Fantastic story Marisa. The ending is witty and snaps it all together nicely - people keeping secrets, from people keeping secrets.

    And as always, there is a price to secrecy.

    My favourite line was the one about teh school girls - and that they can go anywhere they want. Is there a pang there from the doorman I wonder?

  20. Jodi beat me to it on the favourite line front - so very, very true!

    Very funny last line, too :-)

  21. Nice doorman with his own secret, he doesn't take money.... shush, you heard nothing from me.

  22. One of the reasons I love NYC is because of all those windows, every one of them a story. You've done a great job portraying that here. Well-drawn characters in such a short piece, and despite the light-heartedness, I read some sharpness, too. Really nice job.

  23. This is a great snapshot of the residents as well as the doorman. Nicely put together. I enjoyed it-- particularly Hang 'em high Harold in his dress. :)

  24. This has no many layers, and I love the clincher in the end.

  25. This guy certainly found a way to make some extra dough. Hey, good on him. I'm sure the cash the tenants give him is well worth it for them. Good story!

  26. Doormen and bartenders probably know more secrets than anyone except a priest in a confessional. Actually, they function sometimes like confessors. Good characterization and dialogue -- I like the portrait of the judge the most.

  27. Julio was a wise man.

  28. Cool idea for a story and brilliant idea for a change in employment. Thanks!

  29. OOhhhhh Secrets! I love it!

  30. Great piece, love the sly comment at the end...

  31. Julio is playing a dangerous game. I'd love to read later chapters of this book were the black-mailing begins. Thanks for the fun read.

  32. Very neat. It's always interesting how some people become fixtures like a light or a chair and nobody notices them after a while. Like being a fly on the wall, watching everything unseen.

  33. That was just a delicious tale of secret lives. It reminds me of "Rear Window" with Jimmy Stewart watching his neighbors through his binoculars.

    I worked for many judges, and that description made me laugh out loud, it was hilarious!

    That doorman must make a fortune. You are a master of character development - I feel like I am reading true stories.

  34. Delightful writing, Marisa. I loved Julio as a choice of name.

    The snippets of dialogue work really well to convey Julio's character.

  35. Under-reported tips are the norm, and I like how you got there.

  36. Ah so that's what Julio wants. Cool, he has his own secrets. Nicely rounded :)

  37. LOL at the proclivities of "Hang 'em High Harold." I bet he did! You write human nature so well!


  38. "Anywhere they want," made me laugh too. A friend of mine had a T-shirt that said, "Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere."

    Fun story.

  39. I think this is one of my favorites, Marisa. Great story. Each secret was better than the last and then we learn Julio is keeping the best secret of all. Loved it. Nice work.

  40. A nice, tight, wonderfully woven tale. So much going on in this small space. Excellent closing line.

  41. The closing line made me smile. I like the doorman.

    Straight From Hel

  42. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Ahh, the secrets...
    Loved the doorman, great story!

  43. This kept my attention and that's not an easy thing to do. Great voice!

  44. Anonymous5:16 AM

    Only getting around to reading last week's #fridayflashes now -- I enjoyed this! I think my fave was the judge, that was pretty amusing as a secret, but I also liked the ending and how even the doorman has his secrets to keep (although it is not a secret as scandalous as the others!).

  45. Oh my and what fascinating secrets to read about! I enjoyed this

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