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News & Features » November 2017 » “The First Blow” by Tom Andes

“The First Blow” by Tom Andes

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, adultery meets revenge in the woodshed…

The First Blow
by Tom Andes
Milton, New Hampshire

I pass Elaine the banana bread. Oh, I’m sure she’s had a trying week, I tell her, clucking in sympathy, listening like the good friend I am. No doubt she’s had a lot on her plate, what with her new job waitressing at the Poor People’s Pub up to Wakefield, and still making time to screw my husband Jeff on the side. Yeah, I know: have since I found a pair of her pink crotchless boyshorts—size four—in the pocket of his Levis the other day. Not going to say my husband isn’t smart, but he’s not cut out for sneaking around, and he should learn to do his own laundry if he’s going to boink my best friend and keep her underwear as a trophy.

“You’re a good friend, Roz,” Elaine says, like she used to tell me when she got all the boys back at Nute High, and I was left crying in the corner at the end of the dance while “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Stairway to Heaven” played. “Such a good listener,” she says. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

She doesn’t want the banana bread—“I just couldn’t,” she says—trying to stay thin for Jeff, no doubt. I don’t blame her: never was much in the brains department, so she best watch her looks.

“I do my best,” I tell her because that’s what Roz Barrett always says—what I’ve said ever since I started working for the Sheriff’s Department in Milton, New Hampshire the year Elaine and I graduated from Nute: might not’ve been blessed with much, but I do my level best. I’ve always believed in loyalty, and that virtue is its own reward.

Hogwash. Might’ve believed that once, and look where it’s gotten me.

Elaine doesn’t bat an eye, the hussy. “It’s good to be loyal.” She stares at that piece of banana bread like she wants to gobble it up. It’s Betty Crocker: moist, and heavy as a brick, with walnuts. Elaine doesn’t know what she’s missing.

Sure is, I agree.

“Where’s Jeff?” she asks, all innocent. She looks around the trailer, like he might be hiding in a cabinet. With a guilty face, she touches her fingertip to the plate and eats a crumb.

“School.” I munch a piece of bread. It isn’t poisoned or anything—not my style. Jeff teaches seventh grade geography at Kingswood Regional, up to Wolfeboro, where the quality live. I called him in sick this morning.

“Oh.” She looks disappointed. She’s wearing her waitress uniform, apron and wallet next to her on the couch we bought at Kmart in the Lilac Mall when we got married. Is that where they do it while I’m out at all hours, keeping the peace, making our town safe from hoodlums and delinquents up from Boston? She fidgets like she wants one of her Marlboro Lights—slut butts.

“Thanks for making time.” I stand, like I’m kicking her out.

Her brow furrows in confusion—after all, I asked her over. Puts on her leather jacket. “What’d you want to show me, anyway?” she asks.

*

If this was a story, and not real life, maybe Elaine would pull a .22 on the climb up to the woodshed—a twist to keep things interesting. The boot prints in the snow are still fresh from that morning, two pairs going up, and one pair—mine—coming back, like that poster in Jeff’s classroom with the footprints on the beach. But like I said, Elaine was never much in the brains department.

My one regret? I don’t take a picture of her face when she sees him handcuffed to the workbench bolted to the floor at the back of the shed, his mouth covered with duct tape, skin turning blue in the cold. Almost as skinny as she is, so those panties don’t look bad on him, even if he is stretching them out. But I know not to put that on my phone. These days, everything ends up on the cloud. Besides, I’ll remember both their faces.

“Couldn’t stand me having something you didn’t,” I say, “could you?”

I pick up the shovel.

“Roz,” she says, still not believing it. “I thought we were friends.”

A good friend, a good listener—what I’ve always been.

“So did I,” I say.

I swing the shovel.

The first blow is hardest.

Gets easier after that.

***

TOM ANDES’ fiction and essays have appeared in Witness, Great Jones Street, Natural Bridge, Blue Earth Review, Guernica, Best American Mystery Stories 2012, and elsewhere. His book reviews and interviews with writers and musicians have appeared in publications including the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Collagist, and the Rumpus. He lives in New Orleans, where he works a freelance writer and editor, plays folk, country, and blues music, and teaches at the New Orleans Writers Workshop, which he cofounded. Two of his stories have previously appeared on Mondays Are Murder. You can find more at tomandes.com.

***

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: Nov 1, 2017

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



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