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News & Features » February 2017 » “Cold Snap” by Mark Josyln

“Cold Snap” by Mark Josyln

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, Mark Joslyn shows us a friend’s kind cruelty on a cold Chicago morning.

Cold Snap
by Mark Joslyn
Hyde Park, Chicago, IL

It hadn’t been half an hour since they settled in when Winston started up.

“I’m sorry, Terry.”

“Don’t, man. Just don’t.”

“But I am. I’m sorry they got you too. Ain’t right they got you too.”

“Just sleep, man.”

Terry didn’t have a watch to check, but he knew they didn’t have time for this

The upswing of Hyde Park had been a mixed bag for them. Sure, more vegan joints and yoga studios along 53rd street meant less of the kind of folks who would give them a kicking in the middle of the night, but it had also brought in plenty of the kind who would get the cops after them for sleeping on the sidewalk.

Under the Metra tracks seemed the last bit of holy ground they had, nobody caring if they wrapped up in their blankets there. The first train came a little after five in the morning, but Terry could deal with that.

Or at least he could on the nights Winston didn’t keep him up.

Winston held it together alright during the days, when they were working the stoplights by the Dan Ryan offramp, armed with sad eyes and a cardboard sign.

HOMELESS VETERAN
ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

They took turns, one shuffling between the stopped cars, the other on the curb, keeping an eye on the cross street, giving a yell when the lights started to change.

The sign was only true when Winston held it. One tour in Afghanistan, two in Iraq. US Marine Corps. Oorah.

Terry had never even been outside of Cook County. But what were they going to do, make two signs?

Winston never missed a beat then. But when the streets got dark and quiet, whatever was in his head got bright and loud.

“Not right, you in hell with me. Came to grab me up, got your scent too. Not right.”

“Ain’t hell. Just Chicago.”

“Naw, that’s them trying to trick you, man. Get you thinking you know this world. Know how it works. But you don’t know . . .”

“Hell supposed to be hot. This Hell, how come it so damn cold?”

And it was only getting colder. They had been lucky so far, into mid-December without a real freeze hitting. But it was on its way. The real cold. When the wind sliced your skin, and your fingers felt like they might just break off. The cold that got right at you, no matter how many layers you had on.

“More lies. More tricks. They want it cold. Want you slowed down. Want you curled up in a little ball, so they can rip you right up.”

Terry shut his eyes tighter. Winston had been getting worse. He barely knew how to talk to him at night now.

“Whatever. They come, we beat their asses.”

Winston gave a laugh that sounded like some of his lungs came with it.

“Ain’t no beating devils. Gotta hide. That’s what you gotta do. Hide…hide…”

Winston kept mumbling the last word to himself, growing more and more quiet. Deciding Winston had crazied himself out for the night, Terry pulled his covers tighter and slept.

In the morning, Terry woke to a biting pain. When he opened his eyes, he saw Winston dragging his knuckles across the pavement.

“The fuck!” Terry popped up, throwing off his layers and ready to break Winston’s face. But someone had beaten him to it.

Both of Winston’s eyes were bruised, the left one almost swollen shut. Blood flowed freely from his nose, streaming over his split lips.

“The hell did that?”

“You did.” Winston said flatly. “You beat me up. That’s how you messed up your hand.”

Terry stared down at his knuckles, scrapped and throbbing. He barely noticed Winston waving down the police cruiser passing by.

As the cops got out, Winston’s knees went and he fell forward. Terry caught him on instinct. Winston snatched his shirt and pulled him close. “Tell your PD you’ll plead to 90 days. Ride out the winter inside, they won’t come for you there.”

Terry didn’t have a chance to say anything. One of the officers grabbed him and threw him up against the cruiser, patting him down and asking him about anything sharp that might be in his pockets. The authoritative barking made it hard for Terry to hear Winston, who had started to tell his story to the other cop, sobbing out details as his teeth chattered in the early morning chill.

***

MARK JOSLYN is a criminal defense attorney living in Chicago.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—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.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 1, 2017

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , ,



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