“Lily’s Last Libation” by Curtis L. Todd
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, Curtis L. Todd performs a ritual in an Atlanta garden.
Lily’s Last Libation
by Curtis L. Todd
West End, Atlanta, Georgia
The evening sun appeared to rush toward the horizon much sooner than it had yesterday. Its urgency had no bearing on the steady stream of college students, street vendors peddling incenses and oils, and a multicultural sea of parents with school kids in tow, looking like miniature armies dressed in blue and brown khakis and white shirts, which had long abandoned their pristine morning press. Janitors, street scholars, and men in uniforms walked shoulder to shoulder in the West End district of Atlanta with businessmen and -women in European-cut suits. And then there were the public parks and the Garden, which provided refuge for the homeless, respite seekers, and workers on break. Both hosted meticulously planned family reunion picnics and other gatherings occurring through forced and hurried arrangements. They turned no one away.
“Look, pops, you need to follow the rules.”
The old man would not be distracted until he had completely emptied the small vial of liquid that he’d pulled from the inner pocket of his blue jacket. The sun was descending. He hurried. Turning to the south, he poured a little of the libation onto the earth and spoke her name. Then to the west, a deep breath, her name. South, her name again, and now toward the setting sun due east, always last in the ritual, gently pouring. He placed the vial momentarily to his lips and swallowed.
“Lily, beloved.” A whisper.
The ritual was complete. He delicately wrapped the vial in a white handkerchief and returned it to his jacket.
“Closed. The Garden is close! You heard me?”
“Who you talking to, boy?” the old man asked. “I’ve been coming here for nine months and eleven days and never had a problem. Why you bringing me one?”
“I warned you yesterday of the time. The Garden closes at sunset.”
The old man was getting agitated. He sat down on a thick piece of granite that looked like a simple, but ornate, bench.
“Nope, you told me that it opened at sunrise—nothing about sunset. Besides, the sun is sitting, not yet set.”
The officer walked up to him, looking up and down like he was inspecting an old piece of furniture at a yard sale.
“I told you sunrise,” he said as a matter of fact, “because you were here too early yesterday morning.”
The old man patiently explained like he was talking to a child: “I couldn’t sleep yesterday, stayed up all night. Walked the floor. Watched TV. Nothing helped, so I came here to find some peace, just like this evening. Just let me be. Leave me alone!”
“Look here, goddamn it old man. I’m just doing my job.”
“Who you cussing?” the old man scolded. “I was old when your daddy was still carrying you around between his legs. Show some respect for me and this place,” he proclaimed as he rose.
The sun had set and tempers were rising.
“And I told you not to be out here drinking either. What’s your name?” the officer sternly asked while removing the flashlight strapped to his belt. He turned it on and shined it into the old man’s face.
“Jordan, the name is Jordan.”
“Well, Jordan, ID. Now!”
Mr. Jordan reached slowly into the pocket of his jacket, holding it slightly outward as if it was a show-and-tell demonstration. He reached inside for his wallet. Then, almost simultaneously, the tip of the glass vial caught the light of the flashlight. With lightning speed, the flashlight fell from the officer’s hand only to be replaced with a gun that obeyed his command. The abrupt sound sent birds nesting in one-hundred-year-old oak trees into frenzied flight. Mr. Jordan fell, crashing brilliantly to the ground.
Blood did not gush from the gaping wound in the center of his head—rather, it sprayed small crimson streams in random directions like a water hose that had been pricked by a thousand needles. His body convulsed, yet his hand remained steady as he ran it over the face of the granite that appeared to magically bear his name and date of birth—Abner Lucas Jordan, September 11, 1936—followed by a dash. He was not dead, but dying. The quiet glow from the flashlight illuminated the area where the same hand, as if a protector, had finally come to rest across the other name etched in the granite slab: Lily Hester Jordan. Mother. Friend. Beloved Wife.
CURTIS L. TODD teaches at Atlanta Metropolitan State College in Atlanta, Georgia. His creative nonfiction, as well as fictional writings explore the many aspects of the human condition, experiences and behavior and their interplay as navigational and survival apparatuses in the social environment. He has previously been published by The Caribbean Writer.
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: May 4, 2016
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