“Blomfeldt’s Paperboy” by Jeff Esterholm
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, Jeff Esterholm skips back in time in Superior, Wisconsin.
Blomfeldt, who would die across the bay in a Duluth hospice at the age of eighty-two, first had the dream in 1966, when he was still a detective with the Superior Police Department. The dream skipped back through the years like a needle in the groove at the end of an LP—the tone arm failing to automatically lift, the thup-thup sound—and he was back in the head of Patrick Severson, the fourteen-year-old paperboy. Over time he told himself it was his subconscious, that he was apparently too dense to follow it through to the end. Chet, if you could just be Patrick’s eyes and ears from four a.m. to six a.m. that Sunday morning, you could solve the case. You could give Mr. and Mrs. Severson an end to it.
But the thing was, when he was about to close in, the alarm would go off, or his first or second wife would wake him, or his four children would clamber onto the bed—anything that would fit a poorly scripted crime drama turned it off. The face of the killer would vanish in the smoke from the 55-gallon burn barrel, the ignition a soft explosion.
He leaves the stuccoed two-story house on 16th Street before sunrise. Mom had woken him and made the cocoa and toast before going back to bed. She left the radio on, a church program from Duluth, but he turned it off. There’s just the sound of him dunking the toast, slurping it up, and sipping the hot chocolate. Before heading out to the garage for his wagon and wire cutters, he scoops a handful of his little brother’s Cap’n Crunch from the box on the table and fills his mouth, a few square yellow bits falling to the table and floor. He forgets to turn off the kitchen light. The seconds tick by on the clock above the fridge.
Early Sunday morning is quiet in his neighborhood; there might be someone from a graveyard shift driving down North 21st Street. He hears a bad muffler further off on Tower Avenue. His empty red wagon clanks between the square concrete slabs of the uneven sidewalk.
His plans for this summer afternoon are many: argue the Beach Boys versus the Beatles with his best friend Joey—Patrick likes the Beach Boys and plans on going to California someday—play a little baseball out behind Pattison, catch some of the Twins–Tigers doubleheader on the transistor radio up in his bedroom. Mom mentioned two options for dinner: the Sveden House Smorgasbord on Tower—he loves the pink slabs of baked ham sharing a plate with a yellow mound of macaroni and cheese—or a spicy pepperoni pizza and a Coke at Sammy’s—eat it right at the shop under the mural of Superior’s lakefront painted by a local artist. The artist taught at the high school; he would go there in a couple years.
Pattison Elementary is a block away, and in little time Patrick is there, cutting diagonally across the blacktop behind the school, past the painted hopscotch squares, past the basketball hoops, the doors to the gymnasium, aiming for the burn barrel, the stacks of newsprint there beside the barrel at the corner of North 22nd Street and Weeks Avenue. The tires of his wagon ring like an empty, rolling metal barrel.
It’s Blomfeldt’s nurse charting at the computer, checking the tubes connected to his body. She sings a song that he doesn’t recognize. She likes her job. His second wife, Patti, tired with care, sits at his bedside and strokes his bristly cheek. He needs a shave, and he loves her so much.
“Good morning, honey. Father Anthony is stopping by.” And Blomfeldt’s eyes close, back to Superior, across the bay in 1966, back into Patrick’s head.
He could do it in his sleep, clip the wire from around the thick Sunday editions, stack them in the wagon and start out down North 22nd. Glancing around, he sees the car, red with white panels, the one he’d seen last weekend. It pulls up.
“Father,” Patti says.
The car door opens and there is the darkness.
Patrick Severson was found dead a week before his fifteenth birthday in a field of tall, weedy grass on Hill Avenue. It was 9:08 p.m., Sunday, June 26, 1966, seventeen hours after he left home. His wagon and wire cutters were missing.
“Father is here,” Patti says, but Blomfeldt is already gone.
JEFF ESTERHOLM’s short stories have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, as well as Flash Fiction Italia, Two Hawks Quarterly, The Dirty Napkin, 34thParallel, and Wisconsin Academy Review. In 2013, he won the Larry and Eleanor Sternig Short Fiction Award sponsored by the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Besides writing short stories, he is working on a novel and has two more in the queue.
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: Apr 13, 2015
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