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News & Features » November 2013 » “Mathers Bridge” by John J. White

“Mathers Bridge” by John J. White

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, we travel to Florida with John J. White, who shares with us a deadly tale from Mathers Bridge. Next week, Tom Leins takes us to Devon, England, for a story of “Paignton Rust.”John J. White

Mathers Bridge
by John J. White
Mathers Bridge, Merritt Island, Florida

With the full moon there’d be a strong tide to pull the shrimp from the warm lagoons to their spawning ground in the Atlantic. It seemed like all of God’s creatures needed love and were willing to risk everything for it.

Jace lifted the revolver off the car seat and sniffed the chambers, like he had when he was a kid shooting targets with Catfish. Catfish’s real name was Dale, but he got his nickname from hours of fishing in the murky Indian River. The son of a bitch would be setting up the loop net on Mathers Bridge early, as he always had when the two of them did some late-night crabbing and shrimping.

Jace had left his small orchard around midnight and driven the forty miles south to the tiny bridge that tied a thin strip of South Merritt Island to Indian Harbour Beach. Mathers was a steel swing bridge that pivoted around a large peg to let the rich maneuver their boats to the docks of the nearby yacht clubs. His dad had done some electrical work on it twenty-five years ago, when it was moved from Nassau County in 1952. Jace loved the bridge. He goddamn loved it.

Catfish gave him a half-wave, busy lowering a lantern near the surface of the black water. Jace dragged his cooler out of the truck bed and slipped the gun into his jacket pocket. It was a little cool out for late August. He walked out onto the bridge and set his cooler next to Catfish’s. Catfish was a good-looking man. He had been a good-looking boy when Jace first met him right there on the bridge, on opening day. They were both six and they both loved to night shrimp and crab.

Catfish took two beers out of his cooler and handed one to Jace. They leaned over the railing to gaze at the suspended lantern. Brown shrimp and blue crabs surrounded the bright light like it was a golden idol.

“What’s your bait?” Jace asked.

“Chicken necks.” Catfish took a long swig. “Full moon. We’ll fill a five-gallon bucket in an hour, I bet ya. Fuckin’ shrimp are going nuts, man.”

They sat on the coolers to finish their beers. In the cloudy moonlight, Jace could see only the silhouettes of the other souls along the railings, lifting loop nets of blue crabs and long dip nets of white and brown shrimp. He placed the revolver on his lap. Catfish stared at it, then lifted his gaze to meet Jace’s.

“What you gonna do? Shoot the crabs? What’s it for, man?”

Jace kept his hand on the gun and swigged the last of his beer. “You know what it’s for, Catfish.”

“I sure as hell don’t. Put it back in the truck ’fore you shoot somebody.”

Jace flipped open the cylinder and spun it a few times before slamming it home. “She said it wasn’t you, that it was her fault. Said at first you tried to talk her out of it, said you had Anna’s feelings to think about and how’d you been best friends with me about forever.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you and Marion.”

Catfish held his hands up, more in protest than surrender. “You’re crazy.” The muzzle was aimed at his gut. “Okay. Once, and only once, and I was sorry the minute it happened. I swear to God, Jace. It was stupid as hell and we both regretted it. How long you know me? It won’t happen again, you know that. So don’t do something stupid.”

Jace said nothing. A few of the late-nighters turned to see what the commotion was.

“Goddamn it, Jace. I got a boy. What about Marion? What’s she gonna think when you go to jail?”

Jace shook his head and fondled the gun. “She stopped thinking about anything six hours ago.” He raised the barrel up some. “Don’t bother calling out, brother, ’cause you’re dead already. Just accept it like a man.”

Jace jerked his head to the railing. “Got some crab, Catfish.”

“What?”

“Crab, man. Your string’s dancing over there.”

Catfish stood hesitantly and walked to the railing, shoulders slumped. His hands trembled as he lifted the net. Four crabs fought each other for what was left of the bait.

“You took a vow, Catfish. I was there, buddy. I was your best man.”

The crabs scattered when Catfish dropped the net to the bridge. Jace goddamn loved that bridge.

***

JOHN J. WHITE is the author of the short story collection, Death’s Twisted Tales (EBGB Press, 2013). He has had articles and stories published in several anthologies and magazines including Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, Bacopa Review, and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Nine Hole League, is scheduled to be published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Volume 14. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece Tour Bus. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida. He can be found online at www.jjwhite.webs.com and www.jjdwhite.blogspot.com

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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 25, 2013

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , ,



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