Four strangers and nigel 

Written by Morgan Satterlee

 

Nigel was returning home from the night shift early one morning. His usual route was flooded so he took an unusual route this time. On his way, he was stopped by a sweaty, shirtless man. 

 

The man was breathing heavily and he could not stand up straight. He asked Nigel for a light but Nigel only had time. For the better part of an hour the stranger ranted passionately about his circumstances; his falling out with a woman and his friend, his neighborhood (old and new), how he was the only person in his life. They stood in the middle of the street. The stranger told Nigel his name so that he would no longer be a stranger to him, but he was still very much a stranger to Nigel. He gave a Nigel a different name every time. There was glitter on his skin.

 

The stranger got distracted by a passing car and started following it. Nigel had to help his friend move in five hours so he continued onward knowing that for a brief point in time, he was the only person in this stranger’s life. He heard distant obscenities as he departed.

 

Nigel came across another stranger, a woman pacing up and down the block ahead. The woman wore an expensive business suit and glasses. She stopped him and asked for directions. Nigel asked her what she was looking for and she responded that she was looking for a good time. Nigel informed her that he was not a prostitute. She replied that he should consider looking into it as a career option. The stranger then thrusted a card into Nigel’s hand. Her name was on the card and she described herself as a ‘potential sponsor’. Nigel smiled politely and placed the card into his pocket. A new name for the collection.

 

Nigel began to inch slowly away before he spotted an approaching cab. He flagged it down and the cab stopped and he got into it. The stranger followed suit but Nigel closed the door on her. She asked through the glass if Nigel was serious.

 

Yes, he was, he said.

 

He signaled to the cab driver and they drove off.

 

The driver asked Nigel where he was headed and Nigel gave him the address to his apartment building. The driver immediately turned around and went the other way. Nigel was confused but the driver assured him it was the quickest route. Nigel informed the man of the flooding but the driver insisted. Nigel stared at the stranger’s cab license displayed up front. Yet another name, a sequence of letters. Nigel mentioned a detour and the stranger grew annoyed and responded in kind. 

 

Driver and passenger went back and forth for awhile, exchanging shouts and insults. Nigel demanded that the stranger pull over and the driver again responded in kind. The stranger stopped the cab and Nigel stormed out into the night.

 

Nigel walked two blocks down an unlit street and then he encountered another stranger. This one held a knife at him. Nigel could not see the stranger’s face but he could make out the glint of a blade. A raspy voice demanded his wallet and watch and Nigel hesitantly complied. A gloved hand removed Nigel’s possessions from his own. A car slowly passed behind the trees. 

 

The stranger warned Nigel not to ‘even think about it’. Nigel did think about it, though he dared not try anything. The voice claimed to be quick, dangerous too. The car passed down the block and turned away. 

 

They heard another car approaching but the stranger darted out in front of this one. The car stopped just short of hitting the stranger. The stranger attempted to force open the driver side door when a shining shirtless stranger and a well-dressed stanger, as well as the stranger who was driving all piled out and began to fight. Nigel watched the commotion for a while before joining in himself. A flurry of punching, yelling, chaos. Nigel fought everyone until he retrieved his belongings. Then he watched the fighting some more. 

 

Then he headed home.

 

Nigel walked into his apartment and got into his pajamas. He brushed his teeth. He took out a tablet of melatonin as well as a lemon and three gel capsules. Nigel crushed up the melatonin and cut it into lines. He cut a slice out of the lemon. He cut into the gel caps and drained the contents into a shot glass. Then Nigel snorted the lines, then he bit into the lemon wedge. Then he took the shot.

 

Nigel stumbled to his bed and crawled in. A few moments later, the hallway smoke detector began to blare. Nigel stayed in bed and, after a few moments more, he drifted off into slumber.

 

Contact Morgan at satterleemorgan@gmail.com, or follow him on Instagram.