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News & Features » February 2016 » “The New Competitor” by Jim Herod

“The New Competitor” by Jim Herod

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, Jim Herod takes us to a college dive bar.

The New CompetitorNewCompetitor-bio
by Jim Herod
Rathskeller Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Jay was sure that he didn’t know a single person in the bar. The Rathskeller had not been his kind of place the previous semester and he was remembering why. Next Saturday, he would return to one of the bars in Carrboro. There, the beer was cheaper and the music had a beat. He leaned toward the bartender. “Another Budweiser, please.”

Fifteen minutes later, he knew he should have eaten something. Two more swallows. Then, he would go back to the cold apartment.

Rather than hearing her, he felt her as she stepped close. Close, but not touching. She didn’t turn away when their eyes met in the reflection in the mirror. Jay stepped away from the bar. He needed to really see her. Her dress was black. Solid black. Up to her neck in the front with a turtleneck kind of collar. Her back was bare from that collar all the way to below her waist. He had a strong impulse to touch the muscles that ran down her back, to put his fingers into the small indention where her backbone lay. His fingers imagined how she would feel. Smooth as velvet. Her hair was so black that it seemed to absorb light. He was sure that no comb could scratch its way through that mane, but his fingers could. He looked again to the mirror. Jay liked the way she looked at him, hoping she liked what she saw, hoping she would say something.

She did. “You’re the freshman runner.” It wasn’t a question. She was telling him. “You’re the runner from Alabama.”

It had been a long time since Jay had felt his heart jump a beat, stop, kick twice, and start thumping again. What could he say so that she would not laugh and walk away?

“Hey!” she said.

“Oh, yeah. Hey.” He was sure that she already knew that he was a tongue-tied, inept, social misfit. He extended his hand. She laughed gently and took it in her left hand.

His face felt hot. “Everybody here know that? That I’m the Alabama runner?”

Her eyes laughed. “I heard that Coach Blackwell had a new runner training for the London Olympics.”

Jay leaned down on the bar, then looked back at her. “Yeah. I’m new here. I am going to London. Coach wanted me to stay during Christmas holidays and start on his training schedule. How’d you find out? Do you know somebody on the track team?”

“Hmm.” She pulled her hair over her right shoulder. “I looked around the room for the man who didn’t have much meat on his bones.”

Jay looked at his reflection in the mirror. His sun-bleached hair was curling over his ears. He ran both hands through the sides, pulling his hair back, then a smile formed on his face. “My legs are big. You want to see?”

“Sometime.” She picked up his beer and took a sip. “Budweiser.”

“Yeah.”

“I hear one of the dancers out at Carrboro got you onto the stage with her. Why wouldn’t you show her your legs?

“Ah, shit!” He turned and looked out over the room. “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Thank God I was sober enough not to give her my pants, too.”

She turned and leaned against the bar. “What’s your name, Runner?”

He snorted. “Jonathan, but I’ve been Jay since grammar school. Yours?”

“They say your pulse rate is only in the low forties per minute. Can I feel?”

“What? Who told you that?”

She reached up and started to unbutton his shirt. There was nothing he could do but watch. She put both hands under his shirt, fingers spread on each side of his chest. “It doesn’t seem so slow. Beats hard.”

“God!” Jay gasped. “You keep that up and . . .”

“You’re perspiring.” She was watching her hands as they slid over his chest.

“Perspiring? No. Sweating. That’s pure, jumping out, man sweat.”

She reached over to his beer, dipped her finger in, and held it to his lips. He took her finger into his mouth. For a moment, she left it there as he caressed it with his tongue. It tasted like more than beer.

“I want to watch you run,” she said as she pulled her finger from his mouth. She turned and walked away.

“Say when,” Jay called.

Kenny! That junior cross country runner! When did he come in? And, why did Kenny laugh when she nodded to him?

 

***

JIM HEROD coauthored a text in mathematical biology while on the faculty at Georgia Tech, wrote three novels while working with the Grove Hill Writers, and is considered to be The Old Competitor when racing with the Tombigbee Runners’ Club

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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 6, 2016

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



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