“Frangipani and Jacaranda” by Anthony May
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, Anthony May will bring us to Queensland, Australia to enjoy the fragrant jacaranda and frangipani. Next week, we’ll go to Boonville, New York for dark memories of the Erie Canal.
The doing didn’t take long to get done. It was a hot night at the end of October, just at the time in Brisbane when the jacaranda have almost all fallen to the ground and the frangipani are blossoming on the trees. Frankie and Johnnie were spread around the deck of the small house that she rented in Annerley. 10 pm on Friday night and they hadn’t made it out. They began earlier with a couple of beers and a smoke, then moved on to a few pills and some overproof rum and before they knew it, 10 pm on Friday and they hadn’t made it out.
Making it out didn’t seem important. They were talking; they liked amusing each other and friends complained when they got into their little back-and-forth riffs. So the talk was good until Johnnie made the crack about when Frankie had slipped over the month before and tore her pants on the way down. Johnnie didn’t mean anything by it but Frankie took exception. She took it to the point of whacking him over the head with the rum bottle.
“Split my fuckin’ pants. Split your fuckin’ head, loser. I am not taking that shit from anyone. I fell, fucker, I could have hurt myself,” she said.
Johnnie was on the deck and groaning.
“Go and sleep at home tonight. That was so unkind,” she said and went inside. She locked the door and went to bed.
Johnnie lay very still, very consciously breathing. He was very close to passing out because the bottle had cracked his skull. He didn’t know that at that time, but he knew something was wrong because not everything seemed to be working properly. He tried to get up but the best he could do was roll over and vomit.
It is not unseasonal for a late October night to get sticky. If the wind drops and the humidity builds up, the atmosphere becomes something that you can feel on your skin, something that you can swallow. There had been a storm in the afternoon and that had cleared the air, but things were still and starting to compress again.
Inside, Frankie was having trouble getting to sleep. The pills and the booze kept her from settling and she thought she could hear rain. She wasn’t sure where she was and wondered why Johnnie wasn’t here, but he was here, she wasn’t sure. She tossed and turned.
Johnnie got to his feet with a little help from the furniture and stumbled down the stairs and through the garden. When he got out to the street, he finally straightened up, and that’s what got him. He spun around and went over without a bend. The crack in his skull hit the concrete edge of the curb and he rolled into the storm drain. The pain was, at the same time, all in his head and right through every limb. He lay on a purple quilt of jacaranda blossoms that had fallen in the afternoon’s storm. He vomited again but it didn’t get that far out of his throat. Just enough to keep him from choking.
On his back in the storm drain, he couldn’t connect with his limbs. He wanted to roll over but he couldn’t feel his arms to pull himself over and his torso wouldn’t seem to bend. As he lay there, he saw the slight breeze begin to blow the jacaranda blossoms off the verge and over his body like a blanket. He could feel them decorate his hair. When the rain began, it was strong enough to bring the frangipani down, and the blossoms fell into his open mouth and closed off the small hole that his vomit had left him to breathe.
In the bedroom, Frankie woke for a while. She could smell the rain and the trees and wondered again about Johnnie. He was probably in the bathroom.
ANTHONY MAY teaches Creative Writing and Literature at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Along with his academic work, he also publishes short fiction in both online and print journals. He recently published a very long interview with the late Elmore Leonard in Contrapasso and is currently co-writing a history of pop music since 1945.
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 7, 2014
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