“What It Takes to Live” by Alexios Moore
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.
What It Takes to Live
by Alexios Moore
9th Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana
There had, at one time before Katrina, been a park, perhaps beneath his feet, right where a surveyor had discovered the young woman’s body. Ike couldn’t tell anymore. There was just this no-man’s-land of tall weeds between the levee and the Brad Pitt houses, their solar panels absorbing the mid-morning sun. For a moment Ike felt like he had traveled to some miraculous, but tragic, future.
He turned back toward the crime scene and pulled an electronic cigarette from the pocket of his wrinkled slacks.
“What you got there, detective?” Jerome, his partner, baited him.
“’Lectronic cigarette?” Ike blew some smoke in Jerome’s direction.
“Smokin’—what you think?”
“Thought you was a Kool man. In fact, I thought you was the last of the Kool men.”
“For sure. That was me, but now it ain’t.” Ike pulled his belt back up over his belly.
“How they work, anyways?” Jerome feigned interest.
“How they work? I suck on this end and the smoke come out that end. C’mon cousin! Let’s put this scene in the bag before it’s too hot to spit.”
“You gonna tell me what we looking for?”
“Something sharp? Man! That’s all you got?” Jerome let the comment fade, and turned back to beating the tall grass leading from the road to the body.
Ike took off his sunglasses to get a better look at the scene: White girl in her early twenties, hair matted into dreadlocks, T-shirt knotted up over a patchwork denim skirt. She looked to Ike a bit like a Raggedy Ann doll.
He had helped recover the bodies of dead Crusties before, or maybe they preferred the term Gutter Punks, or nomads—Ike didn’t really give a fuck. Not because he didn’t care, but because he wasn’t there to judge. They were just kids, after all.
“She got any ID?” Jerome was walking back toward him.
“Nope—nothing but the clothes she wearing.” Ike slapped on a latex glove and moved in for a closer look.
“What’s that tucked into her skirt?” Jerome stepped in behind him.
Ike reached down gingerly and pulled what looked to be a tiny flute wound into the belt hoops of her skirt.
“I think it’s a pennywhistle.” Ike held it up for a moment before dropping it into a Ziploc bag. It seemed to him like a child’s instrument, like something someone would learn on.
“Well, it sure ain’t a trombone, bruh.” Jerome cracked a smile.
“No sir. It sure ain’t!”
The moment was interrupted by the Claiborne Bridge’s alarm bell—a tugboat was about to pass through the canal.
Ike and Jerome stopped to watch the bridge’s deck raise itself to the top of the two towers.
“I don’t know why that shit bothers me, but it does.” Jerome shook his head, then returned to the work at hand. “Do we have any idea where she might stay at?”
“We’re gonna have to check the squats. White girl with dreads who plays the pennywhistle—might be enough.” Ike shrugged hopefully. “Remember them kids got burned up in the warehouse?”
“That’s how they all be living?” Jerome was skeptical.
“Ten to a room and five of them dogs. All that stuff they gathering piled high—smoking what they smoke. Ain’t no surprise when it all goes up.”
“What do you think that’s about?” Jerome took a swig from his water bottle.
“What’s what about?” Ike hadn’t considered the question.
“You know. Running away from home. Hopping trains like they Hobo Joe. Living like bums.”
“I have no idea bruh. All I know is—wherever they come—it can’t be worse than this.” He extended his arms to include the lots and the levees and the bridge and the dead body, sprawled out before them.
Jerome took a moment to consider the statement. Birds chattered in the tall grass. A tugboat passed beneath, through the bridge’s shadow.
“Say Ike—What you got to do to live in one of those Brad Pitt houses?” Jerome asked, suddenly upbeat.
Ike looked at him, the anger rising. “What you got to do? You can’t do nothing to get there. You just got to lose everything. You got to lose everything.”
ALEXIOS MOORE is a short story writer and essayist whose work is primarily concerned with the relationship between identity, culture and the environment. His work has been published in various print and online journals including Post Road and H.O.W. Journal, where he is a contributing editor. His essay “Field Studies: Roxbury, 1983” was named a notable essay by Best American Essays 2011. He is at work on a memoir that chronicles the various communities he has called home, from an Alaskan fishing village to a Marxist-Leninist collective in Oakland. He lives and writes in a shotgun house behind a cemetery in New Orleans.
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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 7, 2013
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