Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » May 2014 » “Coot Song: A Tragic Love Story” by Madeleine Angevine

“Coot Song: A Tragic Love Story” by Madeleine Angevine

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, Madeleine Angevine goes to Seattle to show why you should never exercise alone. Next week, Antonio Hopson will take us to observe a murder of crows.

Coot Song:  A Tragic Love Story
by Madeleine Angevine
Green Lake neighborhood, Seattle, Washington

Green Lake in the hour before dawn: Seattle’s beautiful, teeming dark heart, its still surface broken only by the skittering of hundreds of phosphorescent coot feet, its quiet violated only by the self-conscious chatter of female walkers seeking fitness in cautious herds, or the indigestive squawk of a disturbed heron. A headlamped solitary jogger, disappearing into pools of darkness along the intermittently lit trail, then reappearing triumphant, steeled herself for the prolonged period of darkness that awaited her at the lake’s poorly illuminated southern end. Fingering the pepper spray in her pocket as she passed the Toxic Algae Present. Lake Unsafe for People and Pets sign, she plunged determinedly into shadow.

A few bounding strides more, and she began to breathe more easily, her persistently sunny, California-transplant’s optimism spurring her on, until—someone was kneeling at the water’s edge! The jogger stopped short, then backpedaled, but not before she saw that the someone was supporting—no, cradling—a second person lying half-in, half-out of the cold, dark water. There was obviously something wrong; against her best judgment (there had been an attempted rape just a few weeks back!), she moved closer. The kneeling man was dressed in the unmistakable uniform of Seattle’s homeless: a dirty ski jacket; old, garishly colored athletic shoes; a knit cap pulled low over his eyes. He was staring down at the person in the water, an expression of horror on his face. The jogger followed his fixed gaze, her headlamp glaring down on a lone woman’s worst nightmare: a woman, dressed in the black tights and Lycra jacket that was the equally unmistakable uniform favored by the city’s body-image-obsessed women, but this woman was strangely shoeless. And dead—soddenly, drippingly dead, face obscured by her own seaweed-like hair. As the jogger felt frantically for the phone in her pocket, her fear-crazed eyes then skidded onto the coup de grâce: at the man’s feet was a hammer, framed by an artful duo of concussed fish.

“She was floating, and I pulled her out,” the man whispered. But the jogger didn’t hear him. She had already turned tail and run, sprinting like hell toward the next clump of people, speed-dialing 911 as she beat her own personal record to the swimming pool.

An hour later, the silvery sun just rising wetly over the trees that rim the lake, the pool parking lot is clogged by emergency vehicles. The suspicious homeless man is safely handcuffed and stashed away in the back of a squad car, and the waterlogged body of the woman is bagged and waiting in an ambulance. Waterfowl squawk and dive, gorging on the lake’s toxic algae and diseased fish. The trail around the lake is already choked by legions of sprightly young matrons pushing their Lexus baby joggers. A day like any other.

The headline in the Northwest section: “Tragedy of Homelessness Claims Two: Vagrant Charged in Murder of Food Bank Volunteer.” They had been acquaintances, thrown together every week courtesy of Seattle’s over-developed safety net for the financially challenged; she, a vapidly smiling pourer of coffee, and he, a tipsy fixture at libraries and free church dinners—and a sometime-fisherman at the scene of the crime. Cause of death: head trauma by blunt instrument, then drowning. DNA tests are positive. Aggravated first-degree murder, with a lifetime of three hots and a cot for this gentle woodland creature.

No one mentions the shoes. Below the surface, the truth only settles deeper into the muck: the damaged racing shell with the hopeful gleam of its bowlight almost out, shoes stuffed into a storage compartment, bow smashed and one oar jaggedly broken. The white buoy bobs in its place off the old bathhouse, the red smudge halfway down its side almost gone. A successful suicide not averted by a friend’s best efforts at consolation, or traumatic brain injury exacerbated by the paralytic effects of a deadly alga ingested during the final involuntary gulps of a drowning victim?

Never exercise alone.


MADELEINE ANGEVINE is a Piscean who has intimate connections with many neighborhoods in Seattle and environs, especially those connected with bodies of  water. This is her first published piece of writing, and she hopes very much that readers will enjoy it.


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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: May 12, 2014

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