Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » February 2019 » “The Day of Gay Parade” by James Brydon

“The Day of Gay Parade” by James Brydon

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, a gay pride parade triggers a man’s past trauma.

The Day of Gay Parade
by James Brydon
Downtown Belgrade, Serbia, 2001

Today, Ultras threw rocks and policemen fled. Tonight, Ivana is still standing, the breeze tickling her skin. Rada says they should go to the police station and make a report but Ivana doesn’t care. Tonight, she has her red panties on and other ideas.

Today, she walked past faces contorted with rage. Skinheads with black prayer beads on their wrists. A policeman’s gashed face floats in her memory. She rubs her arm where a flung coin ripped the skin. Just don’t scar, please don’t scar, please . . .

Now, she kills two tequilas in the back room of Asylum and changes into a gown that’s all violet-blue glitter. Music pumps in the bar and throbs in her gut. Crowds flood in, some in shock, others sky-high on the thrill of survival. Ivana goes table to table, hips swaying. She hands out whiskies, cocktails, soda bottles that bulge and taper like her body.

Darko holds her arm and kisses the lips of her split skin. She pulls away smiling.

“Let me touch you,” he begs.

She shakes her head. “I have to work. Earn money.”

Darko squints at her. “To get rid of that thing?” He points between her legs.

She shrugs, shivers. “Dunno . . . But one day I’m going to Germany. Visa or not.”

Darko smiles. His teeth glitter in the pulse of the lights. “I know you will. I bet you could walk all the way there and not fall.”

On Trg Republike, Marko watches Gypsy and Petrović throwing stones at the parading crowds in braces, wigs, mascara, and flowers. Gypsy’s eyes are empty as he hurls beer bottles at the rainbow flags and drums. Petrović’s wire-thin lips twist into a playful grin as he launches another missile.

“I don’t even mind the gays,” he says, shrugging.

They drink beer at sun-down. “Reminds me of the good old days,” Petrović says, slapping Marko’s shoulder, “when you did your military service with scum like us. Remember those Albanian girls. The mustaches on them!” Marko sees it again: a barn, Petrović coming out, buttoning up his pants, whistling. Inside, the faint noise of whimpering, voices trying to disappear in the dark.

His hand trembles on the beer bottle. He gulps at the neck and prays for amnesia. More memories come.

His father’s final words: “It’ll make you a man. There’ll be no more of your nervous crises, your bloody poetry, or that disgusting boy I found in . . . in your bed, for God’s sake.”

Outsize boots chafing his feet on dirt roads.

Soldiers in the disused gym, coming as a pack: Hey, look at the fag run! Bring him back, boys . . .

Sleeping curled up like a baby on the Kosovan earth, his head buried in the small of Gypsy’s back, drinking his sweat, lulled by the sound of wailing strewn and scattered on the wind.

Later, he finds himself in Asylum drinking alone. Then Ivana is beside him, a blue blur. She touches his head softly. “You look like you need a friend.”

The dress molds her body. Her breath is sweet. “You seem quieter than most. Sadder. Were you hurt today?”

Marko can’t hear the words but he knows they’re talking. He sees it in Ivana’s eyes, which look only at him. Their blue glitter becomes his whole world. Two tear drops, tiny but oceanic, frozen in her beautiful face, just inches from his own.

He downs tequilas and the room swoons. Lights dart like fireflies. Ivana puts her arm around him, leads him outside.

“Breathe,” she says. Marko’s belly is liquid. Air scorches his lungs. He presses his lips against Ivana’s. Her soft hands push him away. “No. Not that. Just breathe. Shhhh . . .”

He retches and doubles up. On the ground, his fingers clasp something hard. Hands holding him down. His face pressed on the gym floor. Choking. His arm moves. His hands are gummy, the fingers stuck together. A rush of oxygen floods his body. Dizzy, he sits down against the wall, the faint blaze of a street lamp drilling his eyes.

In the police station, a voice says: “Look.”

A photo. A blue dress spattered rust-red. No face, just matted hair. A brick dropped on the pavement.

Marko shakes his head. “I don’t know . . .” His eyes are imploring.

“You probably overreacted a bit,” the inspector says, pushing a coffee across the table. He points to Ivana’s body lying by the roadside. “Still, against a creature like that, you’d need to defend yourself.”

 

***

JAMES BRYDON grew up in North Shropshire, England, and studied English at Oxford. For over a decade, he has worked as a cryptic crossword setter. Under the name Picaroon, he sets two puzzles a month in the Guardian, and he compiles for the Spectator, the Times of London, and the fiendish Listener puzzle, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as the films of Akira Kurosawa and the six-fold symmetry of snowflakes. He is fluent in French and Serbian, is currently polishing his German, and can hold a conversation in passable Chinese. He lives in St. Albans, England, with his wife and daughter. The Moment Before Drowning is his debut novel.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 4, 2019

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



Featured: Black Interest