“Hard Knox” by Don LaPlant
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, Don LaPlant takes a look at the darker side of Craigslist in Knoxville, Tennessee.
by Don LaPlant
The guy’s Craigslist ad was exactly what I was hoping to find that night. Usually what we looked for was some version of mature, discreet, can host. If they listed a nice neighborhood like Sequoyah Hills or Farragut, even better. I preferred ads saying disease-free, but Clint usually stormed in with his gun before much happened anyway. I only had to actually put out a few times—when I forgot to make sure the door was unlocked. Clint cut himself once breaking a bedroom window to get in.
This guy was the perfect mark. He gave me his address on Northshore, I signed off the public library’s computer, and we headed out.
Back when we started this, Clint wanted me to hook up in order to steal wallets and watches and stuff, “once the guy falls asleep.” I reminded him these guys weren’t looking for sleepovers. They expected me to come and go.
I suggested it’d be better if he snuck in with a gun and held ’em up. “We’re talking about middle-aged queers,” I told him. “They’re not gonna fight back. And if they do, it’ll be two against one. And they’ll probably feel guilty or embarrassed about me being there, so they won’t call the cops.” It took some convincing, but he finally agreed.
Lots of these guys were married. They went to church and had decent jobs. They didn’t want people knowing they had a thing for boys my age. I never finished high school, but I bought a University of Tennessee T-shirt at Goodwill for two bucks. Wearing that shirt in my pictures guaranteed interest from a certain type of Knoxville guy.
“Too bad you’re not beefier,” Clint said. “If they thought you were on the football team, they’d be fightin’ over you. We could auction you off.”
I met Clint under an overpass down on Magnolia. He was looking to score; I was looking for a dry place to sleep. He lived in a 1979 Buick Estate, and he took me in without expecting anything in trade. At first, anyway. Until winter came and he reckoned I’d rather sleep with him than sleep outside in the cold.
“I’m not queer or nothing,” he’d say. “There’s just something about you.”
Which gave him an idea.
For months now we’d been putting that idea into practice. I did the hard work—finding the guys, arranging the dates, getting fondled and groped and slobbered on. All he did was clomp in, wave a gun around, and threaten guys into handing over wallets and watches.
When I found this particular mark’s listing, I doubted he would threaten easily. “Any twinks looking for a leather daddy? Fit bear, 30s, can host. Discreet, safe, DDF.” When I saw his picture, I knew he wouldn’t take any shit from scrawny-ass Clint. Gun or no gun.
The door on Northshore opened, and I was face-to-face with Mr. Patterson, my tenth-grade history teacher. He left Austin-East High School for a better job the summer before my junior year. I dropped out that fall, after Dad caught me watching gay porn and kicked me out of the house.
Patterson looked me up and down and said, “Hot damn, boy. You’re a fucking angel.”
I hurried in and locked the door behind me.
Then he recognized me. He stammered and called me by my actual name. I hadn’t heard it in so long I almost teared up.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t—I thought you were, uh . . . I’m expecting company tonight.”
“You’re expecting me,” I said. “I’m HardKnox18.”
He didn’t say a word. Just stared at me. Thinking.
A car door slammed outside.
“I need help,” I said. Just a little quaver in my voice.
He used to show us pictures in class from his summer vacations in national parks. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, all those places. Old Faithful. Pictures of him fishing, setting up a tent, roasting marshmallows. Him wearing a tank top with khaki shorts and hiking boots. Muscular forearms, thick hairy legs.
“Please! This crazy homeless guy’s trying to kill me.”
Clint started pounding on the door.
Patterson grabbed my elbow and dragged me down the hall to a bedroom. Huge bed, plaid comforter, lots of pillows. Warm and dry.
He reached in a closet and pulled out a shotgun.
“You better not be trying to fuck me over,” he said before stomping out.
I fell back on the bed to the sound of breaking glass and gunshots.
DON LaPLANT is a Knoxville-based writer, teacher, and librarian originally from upstate New York. An award-winning playwright, Don has had his plays produced in half a dozen states across the country. His play Two Body Problems won the Getchell Award and the Playworks New Play Prize, and was published in Southern Theatre magazine. This is his first story for the Akashic Books Mondays Are Murder series.
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: Aug 24, 2015
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