“Take Two” by Paul Renault
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, Paul Renault lends a helping hand in Charlottesville, Virginia. Next week, Valda Moore lives a hard life in Fairbanks, Alaska.
I sat on a railroad tie along the driveway, with my bad leg stretched out in front of me and the bike wheel across my lap. After deflating the tube, I worked the tool around and peeled the tire out of the rim. I kept having to stop to wipe the sweat from my eyes.
When I looked up again that black girl was still standing there. “Can you ride a bike?” she said.
“Don’t have to ride a bike to fix it,” I said.
“No, I suppose not.” She had a crisp, clean accent.
I’d seen around. The motel on the corner was turned into Section Eight housing and filled with refugees. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it had something to do with National Ground Intelligence. That’s where my landlord worked. I asked him about it once, but he just answered the phones for them. Nobody told him anything.
The girl was beaming. But I wasn’t on her radar.
I looked behind me and saw that my tiger cat Nimitz had found something under the blackberry bush. He jabbed; the snake head darted. Nimitz jumped back, then crept up again. I took up a handful of gravel from the driveway and threw it at him. Nimitz ran for cover.
The girl turned to glare at me.
“Even the babies can kill,” I said.
“Oh.” Her white T-shirt was soaked with sweat, but she had nothing to hide. She looked like a long-distance runner.
“Do you have air-conditioning?” I said.
“Want to go upstairs and cool off?”
“What about the bike?”
“It can wait. I want a cold beer. How about you?”
She didn’t say. But when I got up and limped back to the house she padded along, barefoot. I opened the door. She went in. Red clay stained the back of her shorts. She wasn’t much to look at. Pumping stick legs took her to the landing at the top of the stairs.
“Door’s open,” I said.
She turned around and gave me a look.
“It’s unlocked, I mean.”
Still, she waited for me. “What’s wrong with your leg?”
“I was shot.” I opened the door and followed her into the chill of my studio apartment. I shut the door behind me.
She flinched at the sound.
I went over, kicked open the minifridge, reached in, and stopped myself. “You are over twenty-one, right?”
She laughed. “Don’t I look it?”
“You flatter me. I’ll be thirty-eight next month. Already I feel like an old woman.”
“I wouldn’t think so.”
I got two long silvery cans from the fridge and held one out to her. She took it. Pfft went the tab. She took a sip and made a face.
“You don’t like it?”
“It’s all right,” she said.
I asked her some questions, and after a while she opened up. In bold, colorful strokes she painted what it was like back home—while skirting the conflict and her place in it.
Then she wedged the can between her legs and started to peel off her shirt. “Do you mind?” she said.
I didn’t believe her.
She forced a grin, peeled off the T-shirt, and threw it on the floor. A long, jagged scar ran down from her belly and under the lip of her shorts.
“I got pregnant in the camps,” she said. “Some butcher from the MSF hacked me open. He saved my life, I guess. But not the baby’s.”
“Why should you be sorry?”
“I don’t know.”
“You feel sorry for me?”
“You look away, though,” she said. “Do I disgust you?”
“Is that what you want, to disgust me?”
She flopped back on the bed and brought the can up from between her legs to rest on the scar, just below her navel, and she held it there.
Tears of condensation ran down the sides of her Steel Reserve. The girl closed her eyes and I looked her over, thinking about everything she’d told me. How much had she left out? What had she tried to leave behind?
But I had scars too. They didn’t seem to matter anymore. Not to me, not to her. Not here. So I picked her shirt up off the floor and spread it out on the TV to dry. She let out a sigh, and I laughed.
“Are you laughing at me?” she said.
“You already made a mess of this place.”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
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: Jan 5, 2015
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