“Little Men of the NCAA” by Sean Murphy
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, Sean Murphy is caught in the middle in Tucson, Arizona.
Little Men of the NCAA
by Sean Murphy
Rillito River, Tucson, Arizona
This is what I do. I take Mickey over to Nemo’s. It’s right across the river from the track. Still a pain in the ass though. Rillito was flooded, monsoons and all. Whatever.
I tuck him into a booth and get him a beer. He’s looped, keeps babbling crazy shit about little men of the NCAA. Says he used to play for the Wildcats. I’m like, Whatever, dude. He won’t shut up, which diminishes my sympathy. I tell him to cool it, he doesn’t want to give the impression he thinks it’s all a joke. He belches and nods at Big Boy watching the tube. Says he’s the joke. Scatters some quarters on the table. Asks me to play a tune. I head for the jukebox, but first I ask Big Boy if it’s cool to make a call. He turns on his stool and gives me this look. He’s chewing a toothpick.
“Whatever,” he says. The Pogues come on and Mickey howls. Sounds like a coyote.
“Trying to watch the game,” Big Boy says.
“Fucking watch it then, mate,” Mickey snaps back. He throws his empty. I’m thinking, Not cool, dude. Big Boy doesn’t move. I make the call. Hear what I hear. I’m in no rush to get back. I stop at one of those games with a claw dangling over a bunch of cheap-ass shit and give it a shot, but all I catch is air.
I get back and Mickey’s doing a jig with his eyes closed. I tap him on the shoulder.
“Yeah?” he says. I tell him to sit down. He asks why. I say for his health. He gets back in the booth.
“What’ll happen?” he says. His legs are pumping under the table. “I need to know.” I tell him to calm down, it won’t be that bad. Johnny’s a reasonable guy.
Mickey giggles like a maniac. “Here he is now.” My hearts races until I realize he’s talking about the TV. One of Honest Johnny’s ads is playing. Mickey says he can’t tell if it’s the Appliance King of Tucson or a turd in a ten-gallon hat. Says anyone that believes Johnny got rich selling microwaves is a stupid son of a bitch.
Big Boy stares into his suds. I can’t take it anymore. I grab Mickey’s arm and tell him he better straighten up quick so he can explain things nice and clear to Honest Johnny.
“Clear?” he says, grinning like it’s the funniest thing in the world. “You mean like, Hey mate, I got high and rode your pony into the rail and broke her leg and now she’s dead and I’m sorry and isn’t that a terrible shame? Like that?” Then he calls me a pusher. A pusher? I provide. I don’t twist arms.
I tell him he’s complicating things, but he just goes, “Piss off.”
He breaks my grip and makes for Big Boy, who snaps his fingers and says, “Sit down, little man.” Just like that. But Mickey keeps coming. Next thing I know he’s on his back, nose bleeding. I didn’t even see Big Boy move. Then Mickey’s gotta pull a knife like a dipshit and Big Boy somehow makes himself bigger. I’m thinking I let things get out of hand, then I hear the door open and the place gets real bright. Gets real quiet too. Honest Johnny walks in.
“You little Irish doper,” he says to Mickey, using that television drawl. “You ran good money into the grave.” Mickey drops the knife, falls to his knees, starts praying, says it was an accident. Honest Johnny says different. “You never could control your appetites, you pin-eyed motherfucker. I brought your sorry little ass out to the desert and now I’ve paid the price. I will be compensated.” He snaps his fingers and Big Boy—you know how Nemo’s has all that nautical shit up on the walls?—Big Boy goes over and grabs this fishhook. It’s fucking huge, like for a marlin or something. And then . . . oh, man, it was terrible. The sound more than anything. Still gives me nightmares.
Look, I’m sorry, I can’t really talk about it anymore, all right? It’s just too much. Hey, you want a beer? Yeah? It’s a beauty, isn’t it? It’s got one of those subzero freezers. Here you go. Keeps things colder than shit. Normally costs a fortune, but I got a screamin’ deal on this one.
SEAN MURPHY is editorial assistant at Schaffner Press. His writing has appeared in Barrelhouse, the Onion, Bartleby Snopes, Nerve, Stymie, Yankee Pot Roast, and elsewhere. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
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—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 23, 2016