“Plowed” by Stephen D. Rogers
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.
by Stephen D. Rogers
The wipers groaned as the snow fell wet and heavy, slushballs exploding on the windshield like multiple exit wounds.
The day couldn’t be more perfect.
Hunched over the wheel, Michael squinted through the chaos to see the road ahead, adjusting his course to follow the trenches dug by larger vehicles.
He would finally see his father. His father would finally see him.
The wind coming over the cranberry bogs rocked his car. Plants growing under water under ice under sand under snow under wind.
As a child, Michael had found magic in the annual cycle of flood, float, and harvest, but he hadn’t been a child for a long time. The old man had seen to that. No kid under his roof was going to play with toys when there was work to be done. No boy under his roof was going to play with dolls, even if they were armed men dressed in fatigues.
A particularly nasty gust slammed into the car, and Michael’s arms strained to maintain control.
Wareham, a typical small New England town, was made up of villages. Villages were made up of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were made up of people who viewed everybody who lived outside their neighborhoods as threats.
The wind howled and shrieked and laughed.
Michael had moved all the way to Plymouth to be with Alyssa. Perhaps if Michael had stayed in touch with his father, had visited the neighborhood weekly—or daily—the two might have maintained diplomatic relations. But Michael hadn’t. His father, never the most pleasant of company, only got worse after Michael’s mother died.
The snow intensified, the flakes growing bigger, falling faster.
After Alyssa threw Michael out for being emotionally absent, he’d found himself wanting to reconnect with his father, only to find that the old man had up and disappeared. Someone else lived in his apartment. Phone numbers were dead. Nobody in the neighborhood knew anything.
But Michael recognized the pose, knew the neighbors knew where the old man was living and how to reach him (probably by banging on a shared wall). But Michael was an outsider now.
And then they forecast this storm. Six to fourteen inches. Sustained winds of 30 miles an hour with gusts up to 60. Certainly a nor’easter. Perhaps a blizzard.
The old man plowed.
Visibility had deteriorated as Michael crossed 495. Conditions worsened passing the trailer park. Wind sharpened near the bogs.
The old man plowed, and all the drivers who plowed congregated at the Gateway Diner. Didn’t matter who they were. Town employees and contractors. Old and young. White, black, Cape Verdean.
Didn’t matter what town you came from, what village, what neighborhood. If you plowed the streets of southeastern Mass., this side of the bridges, you stopped at the Gateway.
Fathers and sons.
Michael slid through the intersection, his heart pounding even after he saw there was no one coming, even after he pulled into the Gateway’s parking lot and killed the engine, clenching the steering wheel with shaking hands.
He waited until his pulse returned to normal, the plows in the lot disappearing as falling snow covered his windows.
He’d been wrong to ignore the old man all this time.
Pissed at his mother’s death, Michael had withheld from the King of Withholding instead of allowing tragedy to bring them closer. No more. Michael needed his father.
Climbing out of his car and into the storm, he understood his car’s warning chime too late to stop the door from closing.
No matter. Someone inside would know how to handle a key locked inside a car.
Bent against the wind, Michael trudged through the snow to the diner, to his salvation. He climbed the concrete steps, the cracked surfaces salted so thickly they crunched.
Inside the steamy room that smelled of eggs and coffee, the old man held court, releasing a punch line that made the six drivers nearest him laugh. The waitress gave him the finger, which only made them laugh all the harder.
Michael moved within his father’s line of sight and waited for the old man to recognize him, to claim him as his own.
Instead: “And she still expects a tip!” The crowd now convulsed.
His father looked at him as if a stranger.
STEPHEN D. ROGERS is the author of Shot to Death and more than 800 shorter works. His website, www.StephenDRogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.
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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: May 20, 2013