Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » June 2020 » “Over Before It Started” by Robert Mangeot

“Over Before It Started” by Robert Mangeot

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, a lost love, revenge, and coyotes in Kentucky.

Over Before It Started
by Robert Mangeot
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

The coyote pups have got bold, come right beside the porch near sundown. Gives me someone to talk to, I suppose. Someone to help watch the road. Nights I sit out here, music on the radio, whiskey for sipping. Their mama has made a den of the corn crib, what’s left of it. More power to her. At least this scrap of land is getting some use.

Iris was supposed to grow old with me. The diamond I’d slipped on her finger said she’d planned it, too. Iris, with her throaty laugh and skin so olive she never burned. And she was mine. Then that August we cooled off a Saturday at Pennyrile Lake, drank beer with Hoptown kids and kicked through ash leaves and hawthorn. At the grill out lakeside, Iris swapped a look with Pres Windyll, and they were latched hip-to-hip before the charcoal got warm. She gave the ring back that Sunday.

I’ve shared this with the pups. I probably should pick them and their mama off, and that big alpha who sneaks around, a clean kill before someone over in the tract houses does it messy. Time was, I could shoot a crow off a corn ear. I didn’t shoot much anymore, not since my eyes went and I lost my Winchester scout way back. Hard to bond to another gun. 

The pups have a fine mom. Smart. I tell them that and how my mother died young and that once this place had been corn farther than I could run. Dad, left to his devices, lost money at farming and blew more from selling plots of our land along Route 91. Slow learner, but eventually he found the sense to run off. I’ve managed holding on to a few acres.

So, coyotes. Who else would listen how I’d fought for Iris? Pres and I exchanged sharp words there on the boat ramp. I shoved him, he shoved me. He stood six-four of country muscle stinking of broadleaf tobacco. The shoving ended with me and my broken nose dumped in oily water. 

Hoptown was smaller then, only so many hardware stores and beer joints. Every week, Pres mock-lunged at me or bumped me aside. If Iris was with him, he bumped harder. Often as not, she sported dark sunglasses and sweaters no matter the heat. Sported bruises, if you knew her skin color. 

I did fight Pres again, at the gas station. I’d pulled in, and he was there filling cans with diesel. He shouted over how Iris was a sweet lay, too bad I missed out. I jumped him when he turned his back. I remember the whoosh in my ears, the sting of fuel in my eyes, concrete scraping my skin. I remember whaling at him, amazed I seemed to be winning. Next I knew, he smashed his sandbag fists down on me. That, I tell the pups, earned me these scars and my bridge.

A while later, a 7mm round left Pres half-dead. Shot weaving down Virginia Street in his truck. He’d gotten kicked out of a bar wild drunk, Sheriff Wills told me that evening, squad car lights flashing. The bullet missed his vitals but took spine with it. Wasn’t me, I told the Sheriff, when he’d asked my whereabouts. I’d been on this porch, like always. The Sheriff wanted lab boys from Madisonville giving my Winchester a once-over. Hell, I swore, I shot truer than to miss, and the rifle must’ve gotten swiped, damn kids. 

Pres is at the nursing home. Infusion lines keep him going. Dialysis. What I hear, his body refuses to die. Well, misery loves company.

Iris moved to Nashville. I haven’t seen her in, what, twenty years. I tell the pups about her, how we could’ve brought this spread back. Some nights I’m drunk enough to wonder if any of those headlights coming down 91 are hers. 

Here’s Mama Coyote gathering her pups for the corn crib. I toast her a salute. Another night with guard dogs. After I pass, some developer would trap those dogs, if they make it that long. A crew will raze that corn crib and dig a tract house foundation. Odds are, they’ll find a Winchester under there busted into pieces and parts. No matter. We’ll all be dead and gone by then.

***

ROBERT MANGEOT‘s more than two dozen published short stories appear here and there, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Forge Literary Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, Mystery Weekly Magazine, MWA’s Ice Cold, The Oddville Press, and the Anthony-winning Murder Under the Oaks. When not writing, he serves as the current Vice President for the Southeast chapter of Mystery Writers of America. When not doing any of that, he can be found wandering the snack food aisles of America or France.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 22, 2020

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



Featured: Black Interest