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News & Features » May 2017 » “Soul Mates” by Steven Jay Flam

“Soul Mates” by Steven Jay Flam

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. IMG_9577

This week, Steven Jay Flam shows racial tensions collide on a cross-country hitchhike.

Soul Mates
by Steven Jay Flam
Town of Georgia, Washington State

Teammates on the Watertown High hockey team called them The James Brothers. James Rogers was a blue-eyed white teenager while James Brook was the only African American on the team. The two friends were inseparable and after high school graduation, they decided to hitchhike together across the USA.

The plan was to go west, through America into Canada and finish in Valdez, Alaska. It was 1975 and all able-bodied men willing to work hard could find jobs on the pipeline.

They were hitching on the back roads in Washington State, having camped two days in Olympic National Forest, when a ‘62 Super 88 came to a stop one hundred feet from where they stood.

For an instant James Brook, the African American, recalled seeing the faded green car with the unseasonal snow tires pass an hour earlier. He didn’t mention it to Rogers. They humped up their backpacks and jogged towards the vehicle. Both noticed it was a white driver and a silent communication passed between them. A white driver meant James Rogers, the Caucasian, would sit in front.

The driver, with moldy skin and broken veins crisscrossing through his nose, stared straight ahead. James Rogers sidled into the front.

“Thanks so much for stopping, sir.”

There was no reply.

The driver stared straight ahead, lips compressed, his face without expression. The car began to move. In the back seat, the black man noticed the coarse blankets covering the seat. He didn’t take off his backpack, left it hanging on his shoulder, as if he knew something wasn’t right. He sighed: A ride was a ride. Movement was good. The plan was to ferry over to Vancouver by tomorrow.

James Rogers asked, “How far are you going, sir?” No reply.

Attempting to cut through the palpable tension, Rogers said, “Me and my partner are both named James. We’re from Massachusetts. Been hitching cross-country since June. Seen some beautiful country.”

The driver said, “Why don’t you shut your nigger lovin’ mouth.” The Colt .45 Army issued-gun came out; he fired point blank into Rogers’ head. The blast was deafening.

Blood and skull fragments spattered to the car ceiling.

The black man shoved open the back door and leaped from the moving car, backpack clinging on his shoulder. He was in survival mode, zig-zagging into the woods. The backpack slid off his arm. He heard another shot, knew his soul mate was dead.

The nineteen-year-old was sprinting, over saplings and twisted vines, past sprawling pines. He ran till he was sure no one was following and stopped, gasping for air. Only after he was breathing evenly did a howl of pain escape from his lips. “Oh, my God, why? James, James, James. What am I gonna do?” With tears in his eyes, he fell to the ground and prayed. He trudged back and found his backpack, then he walked down the highway. A thousand stars shone in the sky. The full moon cast shadows on the snow-capped mountains. He walked like he was doing penance. Thinking the Super 88 would return and take his life. It never did.

In two days, he hiked forty-seven miles till he came to the town of George. He bought a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, and peanut butter and jelly. He thought about calling the authorities. Nixed it. More than likely they’d accuse him of murdering his best friend.

“Tell us where the body is and you won’t get the chair.” He had a runaway slave mentality.

He had one hundred and eighty-five dollars set aside for Alaska. There could be no pipeline without his friend. He didn’t call home. How could he tell Rogers’ parents what happened?

James Brook would never hitchhike again. He took a bus through Oregon into Northern California, got off in the city of Berkeley where he rented a room. During the day, he walked on Telegraph Avenue, passed the craftsman selling jewelry and belts, passed the Hari Krishnas bobbing up and down the street. He thought how nice it would be to part of the flock.

The country was changing; the Vietnam War was over; the draft was abolished. The army was offering great benefits to entice American boys to enlist. The day James Brook’s money ran out, he walked into a recruiting office and signed up.

***

After graduating from the New York Theatrical Academy, STEVEN JAY FLAM decided acting was not his bag. His destiny was to become a writer. Along his forty-year journey he worked as a waiter, NYC cabbie, truck driver, painter, scab, chauffeur, bartender, Santa Claus, door-to-door salesman, gold and silver importer, flea market dealer, day trader, water filter installer, and a vending machine operator. His last occupation was a twenty-year stint as a professional backgammon player. He was the Florida State Backgammon Champion. Now when he needs a good story, he opens up his book of life experiences and sorts one out. His first book, The Id and the Ecstasy for dreamers only, is a memoir of on the road adventures.

***

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: May 8, 2017

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



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