Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » December 2018 » “Blue is the Color of Night” by Steve Paul

“Blue is the Color of Night” by Steve Paul

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, a man is allured by a new female face at the bar.

Blue is the Color of Night
by Steve Paul
Midtown, Kansas City, MO

Joe hesitated, then strode into the darkness of the bar. In the seconds it took for his eyes to adjust, he could tell he would have the place virtually to himself for a while. Miles Davis blew softly on the stereo. Al, behind the bar, had one customer. She was young. Joe hovered nearby then stood two stools down from her.

“What’s a girl like you . . .” he said, thinking tramp but adding just kidding.

“Who’s asking?”

He thought she had a tough east coast face, but softened around the edges, and she projected ample curves.

“Just a guy with time on his hands. Like another?”

Al mixed her a refill—vodka tonic, lime—and poured Joe a beer. He moved closer. In a minute he sat down next to her.

Daytime at Milton’s was often like this. Long stretches of nothing but blazing Kansas City sunshine around the window edges. Sometimes Milton himself would show up, sit at a high table up front, and smoke a Macanudo. Sometimes a “girl” would stop in for a snort, before heading to her night-shift show at the Jewel Box. Sometimes it was just Al and the endless library of jazz LPs filling all the time and space.

Joe and the young woman talked for an hour before anyone else showed up. They talked for an hour more. Football. Travel. Where you from? Where you been? She talked fast and had a gleam. Some of it sounded far-fetched.

“Say your name again?”

“Okay, Lynda, with a ‘y.'”

He didn’t know what to believe about her. But he was game.

She’d landed in town only a week or two ago. For now, she said, she was shacking up in someone’s house. It wasn’t clear to Joe whose house or how she got hooked up there. But after his fourth beer, it didn’t seem to matter. He liked the glow of Lynda’s hair against the shaded window at dusk. He touched her back. She’d make a point and pat his arm.

As the bar filled up, the noise got in the way. “So, Lynda, what do you say?”

Lynda needed a ride. Joe had a car.

Midtown traffic was light, and Joe rolled down Main Street feeling pretty good. He punched a radio button and caught a rolling tide of Basie’s band.

Lynda’s place was a house in Hyde Park, as it turned out, not very far from Milton’s. She probably could’ve walked. There was an outdoor staircase to her third-floor apartment. Joe caught her when she tripped on the way to the first step. She took her shoes off and giggled. He squeezed her around the waist. Her rooms were sparse but neat and clean. He didn’t spend a long time looking around. She didn’t spend a long time slipping out of her dress.

The soft cushions of the sofa were good enough for a tumble. He reveled in it. She didn’t have such a bad time either. Her skin was sumptuous; her cologne intoxicating. Afterwards, they nuzzled quietly for a while. You could bottle the bliss, Joe thought. “Kind of Blue” would be perfect right now. Lynda said she had some wine in the fridge. She didn’t bother to cover up on the way to the kitchen and back. When she put the wine and glasses down, he reached for her hips and pulled her close. His tongue seemed as anxious as his penis, which was bouncing toward life again. Lynda’s moistened delta seemed stimulus-neutral, and she torqued in pleasure as Joe tongued.

A siren sounded nearby, and Joe could hear the nighttime traffic filtered through the trees along Gillham Road. Then he heard something else.

“What was that?”

Someone was stirring in the next room. A door opened.

Lynda sat up, retrieved her dress as she moved to the far corner of the room.

“Sorry, Joe.”

The man with the gun stepped out of the darkness. Lynda, tiptoeing into her dress, turned to the man and said, “He was kind of sweet—and I’ve got his wallet. And keys.” She paused and took a long, sad look at Joe, who sat paralyzed and naked on the sofa. “Let’s get this over with and go.”


After retiring from a 40-year career as a newspaper writer and editor, STEVE PAUL has hitched his wagon to literary biography and other writing projects. He’s the author of Hemingway at Eighteen (Chicago Review Press) and currently at work on a biography of the writer Evan S. Connell. Previously he edited Kansas City Noir for Akashic. A former board member of the National Book Critics Circle, Steve is a native New Englander and longtime resident of Kansas City, Missouri. Here he is making his fiction debut.


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: Dec 10, 2018

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