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News & Features » September 2016 » “The Bus” by Jason Ehlen

“The Bus” by Jason Ehlen

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,

Jason Ehlen PhotoThe Bus
by Jason Ehlen
Chapinero, Bogota, Colombia

Bogota is shrouded in gray.

Gray clouds.

Gray streets.

Gray rain.

Michael had expected something more tropical, not a city on top of a mountain, year round early fall. He didn’t know the name of the street that he was walking down. Steep, curved, narrow. The sidewalk slab, unevenly laid, the curb, practically knee high. Luz, the woman walking on his left, guided him, one hand gently touching his elbow, the other pointing out the ridges of mislaid cement. Her black hair coiled around her shoulders. A single strand plastered to her cheek by the rain.

Michael reached down. Brushed it aside.

She had approached him in a pub in Zona T, a university student who wanted to practice her English. For an hour or so, they’d talked and drank. Michael had three maybe four whiskeys. Luz a local beer in a brown bottle. Then she’d checked her watch and suggested they go back to her apartment, a short walk away.

It was quieter there, she said. Easier to practice.

Going home with a beautiful Colombian woman was exactly what Michael had in mind when he booked the trip. What he was thinking about during the conversation with the soon to be ex-wife, Colleen, as she asked him where he was going and why he couldn’t pick up their son, Billy, from basketball practice this weekend. The accusation in her tone: still a deadbeat.

Michael had told her, You don’t get to ask me that anymore, and hung up. Spent an hour pacing around the studio apartment, boxes of clothes still piled in the corner three weeks after the move. Waited for his son to call back, so Michael could tell him that he was going to Colombia.

Home of Pablo Escobar. Cool, huh?

Anything to restore the luster of a loser father who’d been out of work for most of the last three years and finally after thousands of sent resumes had come across a good job, with a good salary, only to be told by the wife that she’d fallen in love with someone else.

She was just waiting for him to find work to tell him.

This trip was his reboot. A chance to feel like a man again, to meet a beautiful woman, maybe one ready to leave behind her developing country and move someplace more stable. Michael looked down at Luz, her long black hair, her cautious steps, her wide smile. He could help her move up in this world and she could help him get his self-respect back.

Luz told him they were almost to her apartment, but the security was strict in her building. She asked if he had his passport with him and a second form of id. Something that the guards can check.

He pulled his passport from his jacket pocket with one hand, his wallet from his back pocket with the other, waved them in the air. Luz’s eyes widened, and she stepped closer to him. Pressed his hands against her chest, leaned against him with her hip.

Don’t show them in public like that. There are many thieves in this city, she said.

Michael felt the softness of her breasts against the back of his hands and the hardness of her hip against his thigh. He barely registered her taking the passport and wallet from his hands and putting them in her purse. He didn’t want her to pull away.

They started down the hill again, her hand still on his elbow, making her way slowly on her heels. Behind them the sigh of brakes from an ancient bus waiting at a traffic light. Luz looked over her shoulder and then up at Michael. Smiled.

The revving of an engine and grinding of gears.

Michael leaned down with his mouth open, wanting to kiss her right here in the rain.

She pulled away. Paciencia, she said.

Michael turned and saw the bus gathering speed as it came around the bend, the side practically scraping the curb. In the front left corner of the window, a green and white placard: Chapinero, Unicentro. K 7, 5, C 68.

The driver nodded his head at them.

How polite, Michael thought.

Michael felt Luz’s hip on his, not gently, but with unexpected force, and he pitched forward off the impossibly high curb, arms askew, face turned to the oncoming bus.

Gray rain falling across the headlights.

***

JASON EHLEN is an author, professor, and poker player who lives in Miami, Florida. He spends a few months of every year in Bogota, Colombia. His fiction has been published in The Battered Suitcase, everywritersresource.com, and Everything is Broken Too, a collection of stories edited by John Dufresne.

***

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: Sep 19, 2016

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



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