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News & Features » October 2015 » “Overheated” by John Jeremiah

“Overheated” by John Jeremiah

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, John Jeremiah wires Newark, NJ.


Overheatedjohnjeremiah
by John Jeremiah
Newark, NJ

I was seventeen in 1965. The “Sally Bumps” gang hung out at Vinny’s Bar. Their main racket was stealing copper from the telephone company. They chopped cable from wooden spools the company left on the street when they wired a neighborhood. Peeling the rubber coating off the copper was a big job. They did this in the marshes of East Rutherford where the stadium is today. They melted the copper into amorphous blobs over open fires. Jersey scrap dealers never asked where it came from. This drove the telephone company crazy. They knew who the gang was. I remember being with Sally one night. He put his arm on my shoulder and pointed to a huge spool of cable parked in front of his apartment building.

“The dumb bastards, they’re not even working around here. They just left it to get me. They think I’m stupid.”

I looked at his twinkling eyes. He looked like a cartoon mouse, tempted by cheese. Sally really liked me. He knew I was in Prep School. I would eventually go to college. He joked I would be the gang’s lawyer someday. As it turned out, most of them were dead or put away before I could have graduated. Once I borrowed his car to take a girl out. It was a crappy white Plymouth Valiant, perfect if you didn’t want to be noticed. A row of garages stood behind his building. After I took the girl home, I left his car there with the keys under the floor mat. The next time I went into Vinny’s, I got urgent messages that Sally was “looking” for me. The emphasis on “looking” made it clear that he wasn’t going to buy me lunch. The owner of the bar, Nicky Drops, made it clear that I should absent myself. I did.

Sally reminded me of a Jaguar. He was short, but his back bulged up around his shoulders. His neck was wide and wiry. I remember sparring with him.

“I love to fight. You know when you got ‘em? I watch their nose. You can see, when it flares open. That’s fear, you can smell it. That’s when you pour it on. They already lost.”

Anyway, it was not a good thing to have Sally “looking” for you. I finally found out what the problem was. The radiator in the Valiant had split. Sally felt it was my fault. Nobody knew why this made him so ballistic, but it was generally agreed that I needed to do something about it.

Summer was over and I was back in school then. I commuted on a bus that ran down Tunnely Avenue in Jersey City. It was a miserable stretch of soot-covered hovels, used hub cap sales, and junk yards. I got off the bus at a junk yard. By some miracle of chance, they had the radiator I needed. I flagged down the next bus and hauled the filthy car part in with me. It was with no little trepidation that I walked down Sally’s driveway. I planned to leave the radiator. But there he was, working on the car. He looked up at me. He betrayed no emotion.

“Hi Sally, I heard about your radiator. I got you a new one,” I said as I proffered the greasy rig.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the leak?” He asked, with no inflection.

“I swear to you, I didn’t do anything to your car. It was fine when I left it here. There was no sign of trouble at all.”

He walked around the car and stood uncomfortably close to me. I felt like he was smelling me, or watching my nose.

“I was robbing a drug store in Newark,” he said in a flat monotone,” I left it running outside. I had a gun. When I got out, it was overheating. I came real close to getting popped.”

I didn’t say a thing. I couldn’t move. This could be real bad, even fatal. He leaned over and picked up the used part. He turned his back to me and resumed his repair project. I walked away. Like I said, Sally Bumps really liked me.

***

JOHN JEREMIAH is an alum of the 2014 and 2015 Yale Writers’ Conference. He is a retired gallery owner and former magazine editor. His work has appeared in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder (“Bowling”), Akashic Books’ Thursdaze (“The Surrender”), Gravel, Transcendence, and others. He is looking for a publisher for his crime novel, The Fall of Declan Curtis.

***

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: Oct 5, 2015

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



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