“A Fine Catch” by Eric Boyd
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Eric Boyd returns to tell us about a fine catch. Next time, we’ll travel to Oregon with Jeff Brewer, who takes us to hell’s door, with disastrous consequences.
Joel was fishing in Duck Hollow, on an old mill pier. A nice spot, secluded, including a three-street neighborhood accessible only by a fifty-foot bridge. Duck Hollow was surrounded by brownfield developments, but none of them ever touched the neighborhood. Joel knew folks there, knew that they enjoyed their isolation.
Joel, in a folding chair, watched his first line tug—he had three rods lined up on a guardrail—but it didn’t last long. He was hoping to catch something worth dinner. Most people didn’t eat anything out of the Monongahela, but Joel had lived in Pittsburgh long enough to see the difference in the water over the years.
The two other rods fell. Joel stood, looked in the river. A log floated along, bumped the first line, then tangled the others. He muttered, “Damn,” and went for the rods, one hand each.
Joel began to feel warm. Still holding one rod in his left hand, he placed the other on that side and pressed his arm against it. With his right hand, Joel reached in his trousers to get a knife. He navigated his pocket: keys, cigarettes, lighter; no knife. Joel freed from the right pocket, twisted and bent his hand into the left one. The high sun spidered on the back of his neck.
Joel finally got the knife. Pulling it out, he watched the first rod fall over.
Trying to finagle everything, Joel saw Danny, who lived in Duck Hollow, driving across the bridge.
Danny’s car stopped. He looked back. Joel nodded him over. It looked like Danny cursed something, then backed up, turned around, and parked next to Joel’s truck. He saw the rod on the ground, set it upright, then grabbed a rock and placed it at the rod’s handle. The line tugged some, but not too much. He walked toward Joel. “Having trouble?”
“Caught a log.”
“It happens,” Danny said. “Alright, I’ll see ya.”
“In a hurry?”
“Just gotta run to Lowe’s, pick up a new saw. They close early on Sunday.”
“It’s barely noon,” Joel said.
“Oh—thought it was later.”
Joel cut the tangled lines. He put the rods on the ground and stayed bent over, hands on his knees. He sighed. Looking down, he saw bleach spatters on Danny’s trousers.
“Fixing up the house?”
“Yeah,” Danny paused. “The bathroom. I tried calling the plumbers, but they can’t get over the bridge.”
“Christ. I don’t understand, you need a saw for the bathroom?”
“Yes—I mean, no, but I also need a saw.”
Joel straightened. “Yinz must be going nuts. Ellen bitching up a storm?”
“Ellen ain’t doing nothing with me.”
“How you mean?”
“She left. Twenty-three years wasted.”
“Nope. A few days ago, just gone. You know she was on the committee for that new bridge?”
Joel had heard of the bridge, proposed to connect Duck Hollow directly to Old Browns Hill Road, easier for garbagemen, etc. Some folks, including Danny, didn’t like that. They wanted their neighborhood how it was—away.
“She wanted that damn bridge to come through here,” Danny continued. “Maybe thought there was money in it.”
“That why she left? You got into it?”
“Dunno why she’s gone. I figure thinking that was it might help me sleep.”
“She’ll be back.”
“Probably not,” Danny said.
Joel saw the perched rod bending slightly and looked into the river. The log was gone. “Wonder what’s on that one,” he said.
“Allegheny whitefish,” Danny joked.
“Too heavy,” Joel said.
“Nah—they make them Magnum sizes now.”
Both men laughed. Danny slapped Joel’s back. “Anyway, I do gotta take off.” He walked back to his car. “You catch anything, don’t eat it.”
“Depends what I catch,” Joel said.
Danny drove off quickly. Joel grabbed the rods from the ground and threw them in the back of his truck. He picked up the perched rod and began to reel it in. Once the line was up, Joel admired a fine catfish. Good size, fat.
Later that evening, Joel set up a portable grill and cleaned the fish. He cut the skin around the body, behind the gills, went on to gut the belly. Put his fingers in, scraping and scooping, when he felt something off. He’d heard stories of catfish eating strange things—gum wrappers, cigarette butts, pens—but this had to be up there.
Joel pulled his hand out and looked at the thing. Though covered in blood and slime and whatever else, it was clearly a wedding band.
ERIC BOYD [EricBoydblog.tumblr.com] is a dishwasher living in Pittsburgh. His work has appeared in several magazines; he is also a winner of the 2012 PEN Prison Writing award, a program which he now mentors for. Currently, Boyd assists in editing theNewerYork, an experimental literature publication.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jan 13, 2014
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