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Authors: Ryan Field

Tags: #Erotica, #Romance, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Christmas Carl
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chest. He wasn’t smiling because Able had done such a fine job with the restoration. He

 

was smiling because he knew he’d get the full price for it. He’d only paid a hundred

 

dollars for it at an estate sale. It had belonged to an old woman in Brooklyn. The

 

woman’s idiot daughter had been selling off her mother’s possessions. The stupid

 

daughter had no idea what the chair was worth, and Carl didn’t bother to tell her. The day

 

he’d gone to the estate sale and seen that chair in the middle of a huge pile of old-lady

 

junk, he’d pulled a one-hundred-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the woman’s

 

daughter. Then the daughter carried the chair all the way down to his van in the street,

 

thanking him down three flights of steps for taking it off her hands. If she’d had even the

 

slightest clue as to what that chair had been worth, she would have made him pay at least

 

a thousand dollars. When the chair was in the van, he’d smiled all the way back to his

 

store.

 

Carl double-checked the front door to make sure it was locked. Then he looked up

 

at the brand-new sign over the door. It was long and thin, with a shiny black background

 

and gilded letters. It read, “Carl Smite, LTD.” Carl had just had it hung a day earlier. The

 

previous sign had read, “Keller & Smite Antiques.” Marty Keller had been Carl’s

 

business partner. Carl met Marty right after college at an antiques show. At the time, Marty was seventy and he was looking for someone to take over the business. When

 

Marty saw that Carl was hungry to make money, he hired him as a full-time employee

 

and taught him everything he knew. He showed him how to take advantage of

 

unsuspecting widows, how to make a reproduction table look like a real antique, and how

 

to fix chipped porcelain so it looked as if it had never been damaged. He taught Carl

 

every sneaky, underhanded trick of the antiques business. And Carl was only too willing

 

to learn.

 

Eventually, Marty made Carl a partner and put his name over the door. Marty was

 

almost completely blind by then and he needed Carl to keep things running. Carl knew

 

Marty needed him; Marty didn’t have any family or friends. The only person who would

 

put up with him was Carl. When Marty died, Carl inherited Marty’s entire estate,

 

including the business. Marty only asked Carl for one thing on his death bed: he pointed

 

his crooked finger and ordered Carl to always leave his name over the front door. Carl

 

smiled and promised him he would.

 

Carl stared at the new sign and pressed his lips together. It looked good; it had

 

been worth all the money he’d paid the artist. He would have done it sooner, but he hated

 

spending money on unnecessary things. He knew Marty Keller would have ripped the

 

sign down and kicked it into the middle of the street, but Marty was dead now in a cold

 

grave out on Long Island, and it didn’t matter what Marty thought. Besides, Carl had

 

earned everything he’d inherited from Marty. He’d spent years catering to Marty’s needs;

 

he’d overlooked every pejorative Marty had ever tossed in his direction. Marty Keller had

 

been one of the nastiest men Carl had ever known. And now Marty was dead and Carl

 

had it all. Carl smiled at the sign, then crossed to a door only a few feet from the store’s

 

entrance. Carl opened it and stepped into a cold, dark hallway that had a long, narrow

 

flight of steps. The floors were black and white tile, with cracks and chips. The white

 

walls had yellowed with age. It smelled of damp towels and wet socks. Carl had inherited

 

the entire building from Marty Keller. He lived above the shop in Marty’s old living

 

space, with a separate entrance to his living quarters.

 

His soles tapped against the hollow wooden steps. When he reached the top, he

 

flipped on a light switch. A small pewter lamp on a round table gave a soft glow to Carl’s

 

sparsely furnished living room. After Marty died, Carl hadn’t bothered to change a thing.

 

There was a gray velvet Chippendale sofa beneath the front window, a threadbare oriental

 

carpet with frayed edges, and a brown leather wing chair with arms so worn the white

 

stuffing was showing. The cabbage rose wallpaper with a sage green background was

 

peeling in the corners. The hardwood floors had grown dull and warped with time. In

 

one corner of the room there was an old console television with knobs and dials.

 

He removed his coat and crossed to the back of the house toward the kitchen. He

 

switched on a fluorescent light and opened the refrigerator door slowly. It dated back to

 

the 1950s; the art deco chrome handle on the door had snapped off years ago. If he hadn’t

 

opened it slowly, he could have sliced his finger open on a jagged edge of the broken

 

handle.

 

When the refrigerator door was open, a light didn’t go on. The interior bulb had

 

burned out five years earlier and he hadn’t bothered to replace it. Carl knew what was in

 

the refrigerator anyway; he didn’t need a light to prove it. He pulled out a cardboard

 

container of leftover Chinese takeout from the day before and poured the contents into a chipped and dented white enamel pot. Then he placed the pot on the front right burner

 

and pressed the on button. It was one of those old electric stoves, which was unusual

 

because most people had gas in New York. There were four other burners, but only one

 

worked. The oven still worked, but it made strange sizzling noises so he didn’t use it very

 

often.

 

After he heated the food, he pulled a bent fork out of the sink and placed the

 

warm pot on top of a Formica table. The table wobbled a few times; he made a mental

 

note to find some new cardboard to shove under the broken leg. He sat down on a red

 

vinyl chair that had a long rip down the middle of the seat and ate right from the pot. He

 

didn’t see the point to wasting water on a dish
and
a pot. When he was finished, he stood

 

from the table, rinsed the pot out in the sink, and placed it on a towel to dry.

 

Then he turned off the lights in the kitchen and the living room and walked back

 

to his bedroom. He flipped on the bedroom switch and one small lamp with a forty-watt

 

bulb went on beside his bed. The bedroom wallpaper was beige and brown stripes and

 

probably as old as his living room paper. The water stain on the faded ceiling looked like

 

the state of Texas. There was a four-poster bed, two square nightstands, and a thick down

 

comforter. On the opposite side of the bed, there was a tall dresser with a small portable

 

TV resting on the scratched surface. Though everything was old and chipped and ruined,

 

it was also neat and orderly and clean.

 

Carl switched on the TV and adjusted the rabbit ear antennas to PBS. He didn’t

 

have cable television: why should he pay for something when he could get it for free?

 

This was the regular night for his favorite show,
Antiques Roadshow
. He’d been looking

 

forward to crawling into bed all day, pulling the covers up to his chin, and watching his favorite antique dealers. He liked the shows where idiots thought they’d found something

 

majestic in grandma’s attic and it turned out to be worthless. And he loved the shows

 

where someone found something that some idiot thought was worthless and it turned out

 

to be priceless.

 

But while he was removing his sport jacket, he noticed his show didn’t come on.

 

Instead, there was some kind of Christmas show, with annoying little children dressed in

 

choir robes singing an awful religious Christmas song. Carl checked to make sure he’d

 

turned to the right channel. When he saw he hadn’t made a mistake and that they’d

 

preempted his show that night for a Christmas special, he banged his fist hard on the

 

dresser and switched off the TV. He shouted, “Fucking Christmas. I’m so fucking
over

 

it.”

 

He removed his shirt, then his shoes and socks. He hung the shirt on a hook

 

behind the door so he could wear it again and rolled his socks up and stuffed them into

 

his shoes. He had an old washing machine but only used it once a month. He couldn’t

 

understand why people thought it was such a criminal offense to wear the same socks, or

 

the same shirt, two or three days in a row. He didn’t sweat in his clothes, he didn’t do any

 

hard physical work, and he showered every day. It made no sense to over-wash clothes.

 

The less he washed them, the longer they lasted.

 

When he pulled off his pants, Able’s dollar bill fell out of his back pocket. Carl

 

picked it up, turned it around a few times, and smiled. This was the fastest buck he’d

 

made in a long time. He put the dollar on top of the dresser and hung the pants on a hook next to the shirt. He was completely naked now; he didn’t believe in wasting money on

 

underwear.

 

He closed the bedroom door and rubbed his hands together. The heat was only set

 

to go on when the temperature reached sixty degrees, and it felt warmer in his room with

 

the door closed. Normally, on a cold snowy night like this, Carl would have gone to bed

 

naked and slipped beneath the covers. But since his TV show wasn’t on that night, he

 

decided to do a light workout in his room. Carl thought gyms were a waste of time and

 

money. Jogging and push-ups were free. And his lean, hard body was proof that people

 

didn’t have to go to gyms to have good bodies. So he did ten sets of twenty push-ups

 

between his bed and the windowsill. Then he did an intense cardio workout with an old

 

clothes line by jumping rope for twenty-five minutes. By the time he was finished, his

 

bulging chest muscles and his tight stomach muscles were glistening with perspiration.

 

His dark pubic hairs were damp and matted. The bedroom even seemed warmer.

 

So he jumped into a hot shower and started counting. He didn’t believe in wasting

 

water or soap. You could get just as clean in two minutes as you could in twenty. He

 

lathered his body to the count of sixty with basic white soap, then he rinsed it off for

 

another count of sixty. Thirty counts after that, he was standing on the cold black and

 

white tiles drying his body off with a black towel. He hadn’t even created enough steam

 

to fog the mirror. He looked at his body and smiled. Though he was in his mid-thirties, he

 

still had the body of a man in his twenties. It was a shame he couldn’t legally take off his

 

clothes in the shop to sell a piece of furniture or an antique.

 

The thought of selling an expensive chair while naked caused his penis to grow.

 

He took a deep breath and rubbed it a few times with the black towel. This erection wasn’t about getting naked or exhibitionism. It was about making money and selling

 

antiques. He thought about large piles of cash and his scrotum tightened. He became

 

totally erect when he imagined an older gay man handing over a platinum credit card for

 

a five-thousand-dollar rock crystal wall sconce. When he thought about strong, handsome

 

Able Anderson rubbing one-hundred-dollar bills all over his naked ass, he leaned back

 

and spread his legs.

 

Then he dropped the black towel on the floor and reached for his erection. He

 

backed into the white tiled wall and spread his legs even wider. He stood on his tiptoes

 

and arched his back, imagining Able tossing crisp one-hundred-dollar bills at his naked

 

body. Each time he imagined a bill hitting his naked ass, his dick jumped. When he

 

pictured Able rubbing wads of cash into his naked flesh, his chest heaved and his heart

 

beat increased. A few minutes later, he rubbed a load out that was so intense it flew over

 

the sink and splashed against the bathroom mirror.

 

When the bathroom was clean and the mirror had been wiped dry, he crawled into

 

bed with a book he’d borrowed from the public library. The book was about a famous

 

modern furniture designer, George Nakashima. Carl had been watching the trend toward

 

contemporary pieces from the twentieth century. They were growing in popularity and he

 

wanted to start working a few of these mid-century antiques into his shop.

 

He read until his eyelids grew heavy, then he yawned and switched off the light.

 

The room darkened and the street lights illuminated his windows; the only sound he

 

heard was wind blowing icy snow against the glass. He rested his head on his pillow and

 

smiled. Normally, there would have been traffic and movement outside. The one good

 

thing about a snowstorm on Christmas Eve was that it kept annoying, happy people off the streets. When he closed his eyes, he knew he wouldn’t have any trouble sleeping that

 

night.

 

Chapter Three

 

Carl drifted into a deep, sound sleep for a few hours. But when the clock on the
BOOK: A Christmas Carl
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