“Swans Mate for Life” by Patrick Cooper
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, Patrick Cooper makes a bold move in Orlando, Florida.
Swans Mate for Life
by Patrick Cooper
Downtown Orlando, Florida
“Man gon’ fry out there,” Kinfolk said. He sipped from the tall boy of Hurricane and passed it to Sam. “Ain’t no shade out there by the fountain. Been out there three hours now.”
Under the shadow of the oak tree, Sam held the can to the side of his face and let the condensation run down his neck. “Helluva thing,” he said.
The two men looked out over the water of Lake Eola, toward the fountain that rested in the lake’s center like a giant cement nipple. The sidewalk around the lake was choked with people who ran downtown to see the spectacle, peeping and pointing side by side with homeless clans loitering in the summer haze. Police and paramedics assembled at the dock, where Martin Dawson, thirty-six, had stolen the swan-shaped paddleboat five hours before.
“The heat,” Kinfolk said. “It’s biblical almost. This heat.”
The sound of two gunshots made both men jump.
His alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., same as a million yesterdays. He rolled onto his side and stared at the back of Jean’s blonde curls. They’d fought again last night about having a baby. Jean couldn’t understand Martin’s sudden vigor to spawn. When they first got serious, before Martin proposed, they’d both agreed the nuclear family gig wasn’t their bag. So why was he up her ass now?
Martin tried to explain it to her, but it seemed like she was denying the very fact that he had an opinion. She was right about one thing: he didn’t want a kid when they first started going together. They got married in the fall. By winter the next year, their mutual bliss was starting to feel more like erosion to Martin, like just being in Jean’s presence was depleting him in some way.
He got to thinking that this was all there would be from now on—unless a major event occurred that shot adrenaline back into their souls. Like having a kid. Now that would be a big event. Without it, they’d jump straight from marriage to death. That was really the last biggie, death. Martin decided he’d like another event in between. That’s what he wanted, and that’s what Jean was denying him. He was sick of fighting about it. The weeks of squabbling had made her revolting to him. She had taken away his next big event. There was nothing left but the big crawl toward the curtains. Unless Martin could take the reins.
Martin continued past the downtown office where he worked. The bolt cutters bounced against his knee as he crossed over toward Lake Eola Park. A group was doing yoga on the grass next to the amphitheater. Nearby, bums and drifters did morning stretches of their own. Martin walked onto the wooden planks of the dock, down the row of swan-shaped paddleboats. He took his time, staring into the black eyes of each fiberglass vessel. This was an important decision. Swans mate for life.
Martin’s shirt was already soaked with sweat as he paddled out to the lake’s center. Minutes later, he heard a man yelling obscenities from the shore. Martin ignored him and kept his legs pumping. He reached the center and wasn’t sure where to go. He shielded his eyes from the sun and looked back to shore. The yelling man was on his phone now, and small pockets of people were forming around the lake’s circumference. Martin smiled and paddled a lap around the fountain. Then another. The pain in his legs felt good.
It didn’t feel so good after three hours. Martin’s face peeled and sweat stung his eyes. From the shore he heard chants of “Pad-dle! Pad-dle!” Through the baking pain hellfire from above, Martin felt a swell of accomplishment. Jean wouldn’t win. The heat wouldn’t win. He’d taken back authority.
Martin heard the motor before he saw the police boat approaching. They steered close to Martin and ordered him to stand with his hands to heaven. Martin stroked the swan’s neck, silently thanking her. He stood up straight and wiped his brow. With his other hand he made the shape of a gun and pointed it at the police boat.
The first bullet went through Martin’s chest, the second through his neck, showering the swan’s white figure with blood. As he sank to the bottom of Lake Eola, Martin felt that from this moment on, things were going to be different.
PATRICK COOPER is a writer whose crime fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, Shotgun Honey, Dark Corners, and other seedy outlets. He’ll have a ginger ale, thanks.
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 15, 2016
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