“The Food Truck Owner” by Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino
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, Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino receives some unwanted attention in Eugene, Oregon.
You sit with your back against the bronze statue of Ken Kesey in the square bearing his name, a box of Voodoo Doughnuts between your feet and an aluminum baseball bat leaning against the inside of your right leg. You are wearing an Oregon Ducks hat tucked low, but you needn’t worry. It’s so dark that even with the soft warm glow of the street lamps, someone could be a few feet away and not even notice you are there.
As you reach into the box and pull out a Bacon Maple Bar doughnut, a soft mist starts to fall. You chuckle, thinking back to when you first moved to Eugene, when you popped open your umbrella whenever it misted. Most took you for a PhD student at the University of Oregon or a tourist, though most tourists were there to visit the university for one reason or another. Now, a year later, the umbrella stayed home unless real rain was in the forecast, which was rare, if ever.
Minutes pass and you wonder whether your waiting will be in vain, that you are no different than Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot. At least those two had each other. All you have is a bronze statue. Then again, as you bite into a second doughnut—this a raspberry-filled concoction—you are better off than those two. They didn’t have doughnuts.
As a budding restaurateur yourself, you wished you had brought these doughnuts to Eugene. Instead, you brought Komic-Kati, a food truck—more food cart given that it had no wheels—that combined kati rolls and comic books. The combination had been a hit in the city where people liked their bars stocked full of arcade games. It probably also helped being located a few feet from Voodoo Doughnuts, such that people could grab one of your snacks before grabbing a doughnut and chocolate milk.
Your success, unfortunately, came with some unwanted attention. At night, the large crowds that lined up for your food during the day were replaced by the many homeless that called Eugene home. At first, you gave away leftover food after closing up. But that generosity was soon rewarded by two who wanted more than leftovers. When you refused their offer of protection in exchange for a small fee—which two other food cart owners agreed to pay—you showed up the next day to the windows of your food cart shattered. When they returned that evening, they once again offered their protection from the vagabonds that would do such a thing. You refused.
“I’m trying to run a business. Come on.”
“Well, we’re running a business too.”
The next few mornings, you’re greeted with more damage to your cart. The police were of little help, saying there was no evidence and that they lacked the resources to monitor the cart all evening. It didn’t matter—this wasn’t the first time you had had this problem. In New York, some local toughs had sought money from you in exchange for “protecting” your bar. Like everyone in the neighborhood, you acquiesced, until their demands grew so great that you could either pay or close up. You dealt with them the same way you planned to deal with these two: with the large end of a baseball bat.
There was a reason why you had left New York shortly thereafter.
When you hear their voices, it’s confirmation that you won’t, in fact, be waiting endlessly like Vladimir and Estragon. They pass by you and stop in front of Komic-Kati, unaware of your presence until you stand and clear your throat. Doughnut crumbs fall to the ground.
“What do we have here?”
“Looks like a man with a bat.”
“And a box of doughnuts. Any left for us? Wouldn’t mind a roll either.”
“Sorry, I’m closed for the night,” you say.
“Are you sure?” one says, taking two steps towards you.
You smile before hitting the closer of the two in the head with the bat. He crumples to the ground. Before the second can escape, you take his knees out from under him.
“Are you crazy? We’re going to kill you. I’m going to kill you.”
“I highly doubt that,” you say as you bring the bat above your head. “I highly doubt that.”
CEDRICK MENDOZA-TOLENTINO was a 2014 Emerging Writer’s Fellow at the Center for Fiction in New York City. He graduated with honors in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. He has had work published in, among other places, Liars’ League New York, Gargoyle, Joyland, and Slow Trains. His chapbook Alphabetica: The Other Side of Love was published by Corgi Snorkel Press. He is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.
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: Jan 11, 2016
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