“The Last Stud” 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.
The Last Stud
by Paul Renault
Dam Neck, Virginia
On the few days out of the year when the range was closed he’d get out the duct tape and stick the PVC-and-wadding suppressor on his Ruger .22 pistol. He’d load it with subsonics. He’d open the window, take out the screen, and throw some empty beer cans out in the yard. Then he’d stand back in the dark of his room and make them dance.
He loved that gun; it was small and light and easily concealed. But he wasn’t carrying it now. 98 in the shade and he was dressed for it. There was no concealing anything.
Ray was at the bar in Dam Neck when the prick came in. The prick going on about some girl he picked up in Coronado, how he got her to pose for the Polaroid in his pocket. Ray didn’t see it, didn’t want to see it. He kept his eyes on the TV mounted high on the wall and tried to catch up on the world. He salted his beer again to keep the head on.
After a while, he got up to drain his bladder. A bunch of them had once chipped in and bought him a four-pronged cane, but Ray didn’t use it. Said he didn’t need it. He brachiated to the men’s room using the backs of chairs and tried to catch his breath at the urinal.
When he was done he washed his face and hands in warm, soapy water. There was no mirror, only a blur in the stainless steel. He dried his hands under the machine and headed back to the bar, but the prick was still there. Ray stopped, turned himself around, and pushed through the exit door, into heat and light.
He put his back against the building and waited until his eyes adjusted.
Ray shuffled out to his car and leaned against the hot metal door to dig the key out of his pocket. He opened the door and sat down. The vinyl burned the backs of his legs. He bent over and dug around under the seat for his Ruger, pulled it out, and held it with both hands. He put a round in the chamber, took the safety off, and sat there sweating for a minute. He looked around; everyone was inside, behind cinder block walls, in the air-conditioning. Ray turned the gun around to look down the barrel. There was no light at the end of it, but there could be. He’d just have to squeeze the trigger. It would be easy. A lot easier than some of the things he had done.
But he didn’t want it to be easy. So he took the towel off the seat behind him and wrapped up the Ruger. He tucked it under his arm like a football and climbed out of the car. He slammed the door and shuffled back toward the building.
A woman coming out held the door open for him. “What have you got there, Ray?”
“Bottle of tequila,” he said.
“You old cheapskate! They’ll kick you out for sure.”
“Me? No way. I’m the last stud. They kick me out? the whole roof caves in.”
The woman laughed and held the door open for him. He plunged into the dark, conditioned air. He leaned against the wall between the restrooms, trying to catch his breath and waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim. Then he used the chairs again, brachiating to his seat at the bar.
His beer was gone.
“You all right?” said the prick.
Ray nodded, but it was killing him: his lungs like a pair of stretched-out, partially deflated balloons. And that prick “just blown in from Fort Benning, Georgia” had all the air he needed. He went on about HALO jumping into ponds and shit. But you could tell he wasn’t the real thing. He was all mouth.
More than anything, Ray wanted to haul him out into the street and have at. Show him some of the dirty tricks that he picked up during the war, the Big One, from this Shanghai Brit named Fairbairn.
The prick went on, and on.
Ray unwrapped the Ruger and pointed it at the prick. The prick stopped talking. Everyone at the bar stopped talking. Maybe they couldn’t believe it. He was old, old, old. What did he have left to prove?
But—for once—he could hear the TV.
PAUL RENAULT took his first steps in Angola in 1975. He has run out of the cartilage in his knees but he still does his own legwork. His credits include “Bush Meat” in the 4 Nov 2010 issue of the British science magazine Nature.
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: Mar 10, 2014