“Progress” by Patrick McEvoy
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, the Upper East Side’s Second Avenue Subway construction grounds become a nightmare for Patrick McEvoy.
by Patrick McEvoy
Second Avenue Subway, Upper East Side, New York, NY
Ronald laughed ruefully at the concept.
Sure, yeah, that’s what he was looking at. Or a physical manifestation of it, anyway.
“Let’s meet at a public place that offers a measure of privacy.”
A fuckin’ riddle? That’s what it sounded like—a sphinx offering up brainteasers to anyone unlucky enough to get trapped in its labyrinth. So both racked their brains a bit, Ronald’s swimming in alcohol, and, uh huh, this was the place picked. A doorway situated behind the construction of the Second Avenue subway on the Upper East Side.
Progress. Ronald needed some in his life.
He pulled out his phone, looked at the time. After three in the morning. Bars would be closing soon. The city would be drifting into its slumbering stage for an hour, the period when there is a pause between nightlife and the oncoming day, a digestion of sorts perhaps. Wouldn’t be long before the arrival. Wouldn’t be long before he found out whether he got to move forward.
Ronald looked up and down the block. Such a narrow walkway—not much space between the buildings on one side, and a large steel fence on the other. Some establishments that had existed prior to this endeavor had been shuttered, boarded up. He began pacing, looking toward the fence, listening. Cars drifted past, a calmer stream than during the prime hours. Every now and again, a person walked on the concrete.
His mind wandered to the subway, where it would be going. When he lived up here, explosions underneath had rattled the buildings. The burrowing proved expensive and time-consuming, forging an easier path for commuters. Forging a pathway for people to get to where they needed to go.
And Ronald? Where did he need to go?
His mind drifted to possible stops on the line, unsure exactly what streets would boast stations. Along the line, well, there would be restaurants. Stores. Places. Places to meet. Places to gather. Places to drink, to eat, to check out films. Art, perhaps. Places that would in all probability scream at him that he really fucked up.
He sighed, looked at the time on his phone. No messages. Late. So late.
Might not be the best news.
Arranging this meeting may not have been the best idea. But, of course, it wasn’t just his call. Thanks to the other—the other being a great source of attraction—he paced up and down the block.
Scaffolding rose from behind the fence. What else lay in that area he couldn’t discern.
Maybe someone was there. Maybe someone was already on this block. His eyes darted to the doorways, to the street corners. He looked up at the buildings’ windows. Not much was lit. Dark. Shadows swallowed the light here. A different terrain, the street cut off much like his own path.
So much pulled him into its grasp, compelled him to take risks. And his self-confidence pushed him ahead, telling him that, yeah, this might be the break. The right poker hand. The right deal. The good mix of chemicals to get him motivated. Even the right people to get involved with.
That word, though, right, it hung above him like a noose. Intentions, uh huh, whatever, way of life, treating people well, meaningless, all so fucking meaningless if your world falls into an area where wrong is embedded in the structure. He did it—well, some of it—because he had a vision, something he doesn’t want to think about now. Something he tries to board away himself.
Closed. That’s how he felt his life had become—shut out from possibilities, from the tantalizing tastes life can offer. Boarded up, emptied, vacant, waiting for someone or something to fill it up again.
Back to the time again, Ronald looked at his phone. Getting later. For a moment or two, images flooded his brain.
Rita’s gorgeous lips.
The boardwalk at sunset.
The stage in O’Dannel’s back room.
The spot in the city.
Wait—that sound. Footsteps. Thoughts vanished as Ronald swiveled his head. Only now did the thought cross his mind—his life was really over. He wanted to get back on the subway, go to any other stop. Another sound, like a crack. Or a shot.
And at that moment, Ronald’s life stopped.
A former writer and editor for several sports publications, PATRICK McEVOY has had stories included in various comic book anthologies such as Uncanny Adventures, Indie Comics Quarterly, GuruKitty’s Once Upon a Time and Gateway to Beyond, and Chainsaw Comics’ Joy and Crazy anthologies. In addition, six short plays he wrote became one of 15 chosen to be performed at the Players Theater in New York as part of their 2013 Sex and Boo festivals, their 2014 Boo festival, their 2015 Sex, NYC and Boo festivals, and their 2016 Sex festival, respectively.
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 [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 1, 2016
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