“Dinner at Omar’s” by Robert Arellano
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.
Dinner at Omar’s
by Robert Arellano
Highway 66, Ashland, Oregon
Ashland, deep summer. It’s the one month the sun sets over steep Lithia Park only one hour earlier than everywhere else in Oregon, but at the jagged edge of town the hulking green shadows still pile up like a forest clear-cut. It’s the lull after Big Al’s Tennis Tournament, and it’s still a long haul ‘til Labor Day. Everyone says the County Fair was no good this year. Where was the two-headed chicken? Even the spontaneous knife fights spilled blood without lust. But it’s still a great day for a cold Steelhead. On Highway 66, where the city’s sham prettiness is torn off like a squalid layout from a seedy magazine, neon spells that four-letter word that makes drunks drool and wives wait: OPEN. I pull the heavy, leather-upholstered door, and step off scorching Siskiyou Boulevard into the subterranean cave that is Omar’s.
“Hullo, Robby.” Bear pours me my regular. “Wanna see a menu?” It’s a day for two-for-one tuna sliders and Serrano-chorizo pizza, and the happy hour menu, just like the barstools at Omar’s, is soft on your wallet.
“Nah. Just the drink.” There’s only one other customer, falling asleep at the bar over the melted ice of his fourth or fifth highball.
Bear is on the wall at Omar’s. If you can pick the right photograph out of a half-dozen decades of black-and-white teams long peeled away, and find the right row from six deep, all four strings — a hundred square-jawed guys with identical buzz cuts — then Bear will buy you a drink. But you only get one guess.
“What’s goin’ down, Robby?”
“I don’t know, Bear. Ever since going up for promotion, I get the feeling someone at the Force has it in for me.” When I told the Chief I didn’t want to make any enemies on the Force, she didn’t bat an eyelash before saying, “Too late.” Odds are someone up the food chain is going to try and blackball me. I’ll make a lot of enemies just for trying, not to mention if I do get it. Then I’ll really have to watch my back. Nothing attracts a troll like success, especially someone else’s. I bring all this upon myself for a shot at maybe 20 extra bucks a day, less after the union takes their cut. But what can I do? I have to get my kid out of that rotten school. The wife needs her medicine. And the baby keeps crying, crying, crying for food and diapers. Don’t get me started on the mother-in-law. If I don’t get detective, I might as well get used to coming to Omar’s every night to drink my dinner.
Bear benignly wipes down the bar while I give him the latest. “Today I caught Morrison using me for target practice in the hall. Here he is walking past me giving me the gleaming ivories just like we were pals in kindergarten. ‘Morning, Robert.’ Not so sure myself, I say, ‘Is it?’ Morrison: ‘Sure! Every morning’s great to be a cop.’ We brush shoulders and I keep my eyes locked on the end of the hall, where Kim sometimes pushes the dispatch window open for a little air, and there in the double-plated glass I see Morrison stop and pivot. He turns with his service revolver to draw a bead on my shoulders, and I make out his expression in the reflection: undiluted hate. If Morrison ever finds me in the Railroad District pinned to the tracks and dying of thirst, I won’t get even a drop of vinegar. He’ll just stand there savoring it, calmly watching me die.”
Mr. Highball, half-roused from his snooze, spouts something rude. Bear puts down his rag. “‘Scuse me, Robby.”
Bear comes out from behind the bar and grabs the guy off the barstool by the belt and the back of his shirt collar, goose-stepping him all the way across the floor. I am kind of curious how Bear is going to negotiate the whole show-you-the-door part of the operation when he already has his hands full with the guy’s ass and neck. Turns out that, in a cinch, you can open that heavy, leather-upholstered door with a guy’s face.
Back at the bar, Bear pours me another drink. “I think maybe you worry too much, Robby.”
ROBERT ARELLANO is the author of six novels including the web’s first interactive novel Sunshine ’69 and the Edgar Award finalist Havana Lunar: A Cuban Noir. His short stories appear in dozens of publications including Akashic’s New Jersey Noir, Details magazine, and the forthcoming Brown Reader. He is professor of creative writing and director of the Center for Emerging Media & Digital Arts at Southern Oregon University. Want more Dinner at Omar’s? Visit: http://dinneratomars.tumblr.com/
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: Nov 4, 2013
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