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News & Features » June 2017 » “Consequences” by J. Malcolm Garcia

“Consequences” by J. Malcolm Garcia

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, things get heated on the West Coast. 

Consequences
by J. Malcolm Garcia
San Francisco, CA 

Al stops him.

You know Bill’s out.

Bill?

Yeah.

Leonard?

Yeah. I’m heading south.

He laughs. Looks at the red scar on Al’s neck. Fucking Al. Leave me with your problems. This job. How long has it been? Five, no, six years. Six years. Wiping asses, swabbing up puke, writing referrals. Seeing the same people again and again. 

It was a job. Counselor, Salvation Army detox on Howard, south of Market. Counselor, shit. While all the suits parade around the Embarcadero and Market and the Pyramid building, just a few miles away here he is baby sitting homeless drunks. 

What? Nine months ago he pulled Bill Leonard off Al after Bill stuck him in the neck? Yeah, nine. Cops got called, hauled off Bill. Al sirened off in an ambulance. A week later, the DA summoned him to testify against Bill. He did. So’d Al. Didn’t say much. I saw the gentleman stab Mr. Alan Briggs and I pulled him off. Very formal. GentlemanMr. Alan Briggs. He didn’t think about consequences. Didn’t figure Bill’d get one day let alone in nine fucking months. 

This job. People drunk all the time. Getting in fights. Threatening to kill you if you don’t put them in detox. Now, Bill’s out, speaking of threats.

Yeah, Al says. I’m gone. San Jose bound.

Fucking Al. Took something from Bill is how this all got started. A radio. He wonders if it even worked. Bill probably stole it in the first place. 

The other day, was it Wednesday? Who cares. That’s not the point. The point is the other day he stopped his car behind a pickup in the Mission. The guy took forever to cross the 16th Street intersection. By the time he did, the light turned red. Fucker. He blasted his horn. The guy drove off, flipped him the bird. He caught up with him, followed him to his house. On Guerro. Jotted down his address. Wrote him a letter that night. Flip me off, you bastard, I know where you live. I know where your kids go to school. He didn’t, but the guy wouldn’t know that. He liked the idea of scaring him. He liked it a lot. He wrote more letters. I’m coming for you. Bill’s not going to be writing no letters. He’ll want to do more than scare him.

Avoid Sixth Street, Al says. Bill’ll be there.

Sixth Street. Between Howard and Market. Skid row. Suits on Market cross Sixth without looking. Like looking would suck them down the rabbit hole. Have to dodge Sixth now because of Bill? Shit. Not like he uses Sixth much anyway. Wishes he could just write a letter. Leave me alone, Bill I know where your kids go to school. Shit. A homeless drunk pushing him around. Pisses him off. Shouldn’t just take it. No he shouldn’t. Something shifts inside him.

Where you going? Al says.

Sixth Street.

He walks out the door, turns down Howard, passes an empty park at Seventh scattered with broken Thunderbird bottles and keeps walking. Fog already rolling in graying the afternoon, and the boarded storefronts across the street submerge and emerge through the fog as it weaves down the street tossed by a breeze.

Off Sixth Street, in an alley near Fred’s Liquor, he sees Eddie Hayes. One of the regulars, passed out. Gets rolled the first of every month when he receives his disability check. Balding with stringy hair. Torn, brown corduroy coat. No shoes. Long finger nails. Like a witch. He thinks of Eddie’s harsh breath in his face when he demands detox. How he drums those nails against his desk. 

This job. 

Without thinking, like it was the most natural thing to do, he jumps up, folds his feet under his ass, falls, knees crashing into Eddie’s thin chest. He can feel the ribs break against his knees through the cloth of his pants. Eddie’s eyes bulge open like he just thought of something, a bloody fountain gushing out his mouth. He curls into a ball. Groans, coughs more blood, feet twitching. 

He jumps again, knees striking Eddies right temple. Again and again until the top of Eddie’s head gets pointy like the tip of a football and a clear fluid oozes out an ear. He stops, catches his breath.  A voice in his head, What have you done?  A voice no longer his. 

Clutched in Eddie’s dead right hand, a Salvation Army thrift store bag with a pair of jeans.  He holds the pants against his waist. They’ll fit. He changes. He drops his bloody pants over Eddie’s flattened face. Fog thick and heavy now. He sees no one. Well. He feels different, new. Like something has been resolved. 

Let’s find Bill, he tells himself.

***

J. MALCOLM GARCIA is a freelance writer and author of The Khaarijee: A Chronicle of Friendship and War in Kabul and What Wars Leave Behind: The Faceless and Forgotten. He is a recipient of the Studs Terkel Prize for writing about the working classes and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism. His work has been anthologized in Best American Travel WritingBest American Nonrequired Reading, and Best American Essays. His book, Without a Country: The Untold Story of America’s Deported Veterans, will be published in September 2017.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 19, 2017

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



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