“Orange Crush” by Siobhan Lyons
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, Siobhan Lyons takes us back to a dark New Year’s in Sydney, Australia. Next week, George Masters swims with the sharks in Tiburon, California.
It was New Year’s Day, and all I wanted was a bottle of OJ. Not Coke. Not grog. Just the acidic, vitamin C–laden drink of orange juice—with extra pulp. But I was in Chatswood on Sydney’s North Shore and nothing was open. I’d have to go down to the 7-Eleven. Thank God for 7-Elevens. I didn’t care how commercialized they were—sometimes you just needed somewhere to buy a pack of condoms and some OJ.
I was on Sydney’s North Shore—an upper-middle-class area—since the girl I had met the night before was living there. We were in the city the night before, only I couldn’t remember how we ended up in Chatswood. We must have decided to catch the train together. When I woke up we were both nude, and I had the worst hangover.
On my way up to the train station I walked past the newly-built student accommodation building, which housed otherwise rich but tasteless snobs. The building was designed without balconies, so you’d find all the smokers outside even at six o’clock in the morning in the middle of winter. I didn’t touch the stuff.
When I got there I noticed Max and his group—with bloodshot eyes and jaundiced complexions. They were flicking a bottle cap around, and some of the guys had streamers in their hair, probably from the New Year’s celebrations. Sydney Harbour had been filled with drunks and lunatics vomiting and looking for a screw. When I walked over Max’s eyes gleamed.
“Yeah,” I said, not looking at any of them.
Max cleared his throat and started belting out U2’s “New Year’s Day.” He jumped off the ledge he was sitting on and walked over.
“So Don, are you aware that the girl you went home with last night is my girl?” he asked, trying to sound as though he didn’t care. I thought she had looked familiar.
“Uh, no. No, Max, I didn’t know . . .”
“Ah well, how could you have known?” he said, smirking and shrugging his shoulders dramatically. “Tell you what. Hand me over some cash and we’ll call it even.”
“Sorry, Max. I don’t really have any on me at the moment,” I said, thinking about the OJ.
Max looked over to his friends, and my stomach lurched.
“Alright. How ’bout we fight for her then?”
After Max had read Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, he had become obsessed with random fistfights. Just as I was about to say I didn’t want his girl, I felt a fierce blow straight to my face that knocked me down. The others clamored on top of me, laughing and throwing punches into my gut and crotch, and soon I felt something warm dripping on my face.
When I came around, my mouth felt wet and my head throbbed as though split open. My pockets were also empty of cash. And Max and his crew had gone. I was too hungover to defend myself properly, my reflexes damaged.
I now had no money to get home. But I heard the rushing sound of an approaching train and decided to hop the turnstiles—it was New Year’s, after all. As I ran to catch the train I felt a fierce tickle on the right side of my cheek, and after rubbing it with my hands saw a red smear on my fingers. Bloody jerks.
The train was bound for Central and passed through the thick greenery of the northern suburbs before making it to the bridge. From the window I could see sickly yellow clouds hovering over the harbor, as though they were taking a piss on the yachts.
As always, once we got over the bridge the train’s announcements changed: “Please take your rubbish with you, and dispose of it thoughtfully.” The other side of the bridge may have been unclean or unkempt, but we were a hell of a lot more interesting than the North Shore.
Just as the announcement ended I bent over to pickup something that had been rolling around on the floor of the compartment. It was a half-drunk bottle of orange juice. Ordinarily I would have left it, or better yet thrown it out as the announcement said. But as my ear continued to leak fresh blood and my eyes began glazing over, I thought I might as well have a swig before I passed out.
SIOBHAN LYONS is currently completing her PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, where she teaches media and cultural studies. Along with her academic work, Siobhan has written on various subjects from James Ellroy to Jean-Luc Godard, and has published essays in PopMatters, Continuum, Philosophy Now, and various other publications.
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: Sep 8, 2014