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News & Features » October 2016 » “Degree of Difficulty” by Seamus Scanlon

“Degree of Difficulty” by Seamus Scanlon

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, Seamus Scanlon views a river from above, with some difficulty.

Seamus11Degree of Difficulty
by Seamus Scanlon
Eyre Square, Galway, Ireland

Galway City, late July—when dawn comes early—5am, only twenty minutes off. All was calm. All was bright. It reminded me of something.

Seagulls clung high in the gusting west wind. Soon rain would roll in from the bay—sharp and heavy.

Light mist shrouded the railway line. I counted off the sleepers as I stepped from one to the next. In my left hand I carried a Luger. I liked the heft of it. It liked me. It helped me relax. I could break it down and assemble it in the dark. I did press-ups in my room with the Luger on my taut hard back. It moved in slow increments with each dip and rise.

The last part of the railway line spanned the inlet to Lough Atalia. A broken reed of a man leaned against the railings looking down into the water. He was in a slow, alcoholic death sway. I pointed the Luger at his head as I passed. He didn’t even see me. He didn’t see anything. He was on a self-imposed hepatic poison drip.

At Ceannt Station I checked all around me. All was calm. All was etc. I set across the intertwining complex of rail tracks, slick with water and diesel oil, to the back entrance of the Great Southern Hotel—named after the Great Southern Railway, long gone. The service door had a lock and chain meshed through the pull handles. I worked there a few summers. Fifteen years I was only. Usually it was open. During Galway Race Week it was full so security was tighter. There would be a vacancy today so the management would be happy. Sort of. I shot the lock off.

I took the freight elevator.  At the ground floor I got out and took the stairwell. No cameras. Old style hotel. I walked assuredly. I felt good. I felt calm. On floor ten, I checked the corridor.

I knew the room from following him the day before. I saw him by pure accident in Eyre Square. With faultless motion I kicked the door of 10-20 just below the lock. I was pure fire-tried calm emotion. It flew open. I walked to the bedroom. And pulled back the covers. It was dark except for a subdued bathroom light.  I shot him in the right kneecap at an acute angle. The kneecap flew across the room. I heard it hit the wall. A black blood mist flew out—micro-drops fell in a lustrous beautiful arc onto the bed and sprayed the curtains and the high ceiling. It was all in slow motion. For me. His scream was not. I hit him with the barrel across the nose. It broke and blood cascaded onto the sheets. I went to the window and pulled opened the curtains. The pale dawn had arrived. Just like me. He cowered when he recognized me—which was something.

—Please please!

I jumped from the wide windowsill onto the bed. I bounced a few times pointing the Luger at him. I did a pirouette and in midair I shot him in the shin. Degree of difficulty—high. I was Olympian material. His shattered shinbone was shining at me.  I dropped on my knees beside him. I dragged him by the hair off the bed to the window. I propped him up, as best I could, facing me, his back against the ceiling-high windowpane. He was a blubbering mess I can tell you.

—Look out there, I pointed.

He turned his head around. The mist was lifting. You could see the Burren across Galway Bay. And the black low lying clouds which would soon cover the streets with rain. Seagulls hovered outside fighting the wind.

—It is so beautiful, I said.

—Do not shoot me please!


I shot the window both sides of him. It splintered in long jagged shards. He fell back. He screamed. He tried to windmill his arms to save himself. Degree of difficulty—very high.

Seagulls shrieked as he fell through them.  He tried to grab one.  I watched from the broken window. I breathed deep the iodine scented air. Very healthy. Abounding in negative ions.

Ten stories below he landed in the Corrib which was in full spate from the swollen lakes above Menlough Castle—it carried all before it went out to the far sea where eels and black coelacanths move in slow deep rhythms.



SEAMUS SCANLON is a Galway (Ireland) born author based in New York. His flash fiction has appeared in Mondays Are Murder (Akashic Books), The Fish Publishing anthologies, and The Americas Poetry Festival of New York anthologies. The film version of The Resurrection Love Song (a previous Mondays Are Murder slot) begins filming in November directed by Ron Kopp and starring Peter Halpin. The Director of Photography is Anice Nee. His award winning play The McGowan Trilogy (Arlen House) was produced by Nancy Manocherian’s Cell Theater Company in New York in September 2014 and was directed by Kira Simring as part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival. The film version of The Long Wet Grass was shot in Ireland in early October 2016. He is a resident artist at the Cell Theater and a Fellow of The MccDowell Colony, La Muse, Dora Maar House, and The Center For Fiction.  He is the librarian at City College’s Center for Worker Education.


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: Oct 17, 2016

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

Featured: Young Adult/Middle Grade