Exclusive Look Inside: Gorilla Killer

It was a rather pleasant afternoon in the receiving room of a charming boarding house. Sunshine shone in through the lace and traced delicately over the chintz.

The visitor was a black block amongst the florals. Stern and dark from the top of his slicked-back hair to the tips of his well-shined shoes. He kept his hat clasped between his hands as he spoke, taking his time to carefully enunciate each and every word – as if he was pondering over everything he said before he’d allow it to slip loose of his protruding lips. He was not a handsome man by any stretch of the imagination, brutish looking with his sloped brow, but it was his hands that the eye was drawn back to over and over. Hair had crept up the back of them, leaving bare-knuckles before sprouting on his fingers. Even that, though, was not the mortifying detail that kept the poor landlady fixedly staring at her coffee cup. The hands were as big as her head. Each one of them could have encompassed her entire face with ease. Freakshow prurience kept drawing her eyes back down the soberly dressed man, back to his hat and the fingers there – thick as a paper-packet of sausages from the good butcher.

Just to look at him, there was not a chance that an available room would be in the offing. Most of the clientele in this boarding house were widows, older ladies who needed a certain level of peace and quiet, or the complaints would start flowing. A man that size would surely have footsteps like thunder. A young man thundering up and down the stairs through the night would trouble everyone’s sleep, and that was the type of man who sought out a boarding house rather than more permanent accommodations, was it not? A salesman passing through town had no good reason to be well-mannered when he’d never cross the paths of any he met again. This man had the look of an animal about him. What was to stop him behaving like an animal while he stayed under her roof?

Yet the softness of his voice began to beguile her. She would have expected a man so large to rumble in his chest with every word, but instead, the words came out pure and smooth. The first time that he quoted scripture in the conversation, it all came to an abrupt halt. She knew he was a salesman of sorts, but it was then that she began to suspect what he sold.

 He was not a prideful man by any stretch, and he seemed so bashful to talk about himself that she almost felt bad for prying, but it would not do to invite a strange man in amongst the ladies without some proper vigilance applied. For now, his softness was balancing the sight of those hands quite readily, but it still wasn’t enough to tip things in his favour.

He handled the coffee cup awkwardly, the tiny china pieces moving beyond delicate and into cartoonish in his grasp. When he sipped from it, he did not slurp, but neither did he seem to take much pleasure in it, either.

Eventually, her suspicions about him were proven correct. Though he had the looks of an ape, there was a missionary’s fire in his eyes and a sureness to him that was belied by his soft speech. He drew out a Bible from his jacket pocket and set it on his knee. This was his stock-in-trade. Not fripperies and gadgets, but the gospel truth. The good word in printed form, sold door to door among those places in even the Lord’s own America where the ungodly had found footing. He expressed his admiration for those who travelled further afield, into the dangerous depths of the dark continent to bring the good word to the savage, but as he quite rightly said, there was nobody speaking to the savage on the doorstep in their own tongue.

She wondered if he might not have a little of the savage in him himself with that broad face and swarthy tan. There might have been some mulatto in that mix. Some ape-man having his way with a godly woman to create offspring like this, one that would turn heads as it lumbered down the street. The sins of the father were laid on the child, visiting iniquity upon the sons of the third and fourth generation. He might well have been a few generations down the tree from his jungle roots.

Still, as he mumbled to himself when she asked if that meant he had to enter dens of iniquity to spread the good word, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ She herself was not without sin, and in denying him some safe place to retreat to after a hard day’s work trying to sell his Bibles to the godless, wouldn’t she be casting the first stone?

He was not working hard to convince her. That would have raised alarms in her mind all on its own. For a young man to be pushing at her to make a decision would have raised her hackles. Rather it was like he was a man of the law, standing in the court where she presided and presenting his case. Leaving it to her to decide whether his case was just or folly. She liked that. It flattered her ego for a man to so fully supplicate himself before her.

All the salesmen before came in with an attitude that rubbed her wrong. They assumed that the place was theirs. They assumed that this little old lady would just roll over the minute they raised their voices and pushed their luck.

A man the size of this Bible salesman could have blustered and pushed from the get-go and probably gotten his way by intimidation alone in most of the boarding houses about town, yet not once had he been so coarse. He had shown the utmost respect to her from the moment he answered her posted advertisement. Even as he’d come up the stairs to greet her and she’d taken in his bulk for the first time, he had done his very best to put her at ease, sloping his shoulders and leaning down so that he wouldn’t loom over her. He was clearly a man aware of his affliction in the area of appearance and doing his very best to make the least of it that he could.

After so many years in this business, thick skin was a requirement. If he had attempted any tomfoolery with her, then he would have been out on his hide before they made it so far as the receiving room, but even now, with his case presented with all due diligence and politeness, the Bible salesman was just chatting away to her politely. He was uncomfortable, clearly ill at ease with small talk and frequently slipping back into his Biblical pronouncements when at a loss for words of his own, but the more time that she spent with him ill at ease, the more at ease the landlady felt. As though his lack of confidence empowered her. This was not a man to come in at odd hours or to make odd demands. This was a good man. A godly man. One devoted to bending no grass blades beneath his steps and nudging nobody aside to reach his destination.

He did so well throughout his interview that the landlady was already set to shake his hand and welcome him in without even asking the final question. It was out of character of her to break from her routines, and even more out of character to make snap decisions. It wasn’t as if the final question even had much bearing on the decision she’d make, but she pressed on to it nonetheless.

‘What made you choose this boarding house?’

The question seemed to surprise him, as though it had never occurred to him that he might be asked. He chewed it over for a long moment before an answer finally crept out. ‘I was raised in an old house, a godly one full of kindness, but an old one all the same. Since then, I’ve had a fondness for older places. The ones which show character instead of skin-deep beauty.’ He looked around the room where they sat, fingers pinching the brim of his hat. ‘Your decorations are modern, but the bones of the place show such promise. Just look up there at the plasterwork on that ceiling.’

The landlady looked up at her roof as if for the first time, taking in the mouldings around the walls and the medallion around the gas lamp chandelier. She couldn’t help but smile. All it took was fresh eyes to see the beauty in all things. When she glanced back to her guest, she expected him to be staring up still at the unfamiliar rose pattern. Instead, his eyes remained fixed on her, and a grin had spread across his face – one that he allowed to fade back to a friendly smile when his eyes drifted back up from her neck to her face.

For an awful moment, she wondered if this might have been flirtation from the salesman. She was entirely out of practice with flirtation since her husband had passed away. In all honesty, he hadn’t been much for flirtation even during their decades of marriage. Regardless, flirtation of any sort would have been instant cause for dismissal of this oddly made gentleman. She was not running a bordello, nor did she ever hope to have a knocking on her chamber doors in the late hours as some gentleman sought out her company. She wouldn’t have any of that sort of behaviour under her roof – she’d made it clear to all the ladies when they first moved in that gentleman callers could be seen in the receiving room, and only within the daylight hours with her there to serve as a chaperone. It had been almost a joke when she was saying it to them, as their only gentleman callers tended to be their sons, but the important thing was that she would not have the standards of her boarding house brought into question by any hint of potential iniquity.

Yet looking into the simple smile of the ape-like man in his pastoral black suit, there was no way that anything about him could be mistaken for frivolous or flirtatious. He was a step away from being a man of the cloth by her judgement, and it was a well-known fact that holy men such as that had no interest in the pleasures of the flesh.

She reached out to him with a smile of her own and marvelled as his grasping handshake completely enveloped not only her whole hand but her wrist, too, crushing the lace at her cuffs inadvertently. ‘You are most welcome to stay with us for as long as you are in town.’

He looked ready to launch into a sermon as he pulled himself up to his full and monstrous height, as if brimstone and fire were about to burst forth from his lips. Instead, that same softness whispered out, ‘Such kindness will not be forgotten when the time of judgement is upon us. It will be my pleasure to rest my weary head here while I do the Lord’s work.’

Though she had nothing but trust for this oddly placid gentleman, she made a point not to be in his room at the same time as him. He looked the place over without comment on the cleanliness or the cramped conditions in which he would be kept. He was well-mannered to a fault. Even the widows often complained that they bumped against the close walls, and this man’s shoulders were broader than the bedframe. The only thing that took her by surprise was when he set aside his case and squatted down at the side of the bed, looking underneath it as though worried that he might find the bogeyman. He looked more like an ape than ever before, hunched down like that, but all it took was a glance and a cock of his head while he assessed the space before he sprang back up to his full height and gave her that same grin that she’d glimpsed before when he’d thought she wasn’t looking. ‘This will do nicely.’

Gorilla Killer will be released on Amazon on 8th December 2020

2 Comments

  • Debbie hill

    Reply Reply November 14, 2020

    looking forward to reading the book. All your books are so good to me. Please keep writing them. They keep me from being lonely.

    • Ryan Green

      Reply Reply November 14, 2020

      Thank you Debbie

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