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News & Features » August 2020 » “El Cerrito” by Ron Riekki

“El Cerrito” by Ron Riekki

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 bloody scene during a pandemic.

El Cerrito
by Ron Riekki
El Cerrito, California

“He shot her.”

“I see.”


“Who shot him?”

“Shot himself. We think.”

“They both dead?”


“You sure?”

He pointed at the bodies, like ‘go ahead, see for yourself.’ I saw for myself. I jogged to the ambulance, grabbed some gloves, jogged back. I put on the gloves. They were two sizes too small. The cop looked at me like I’m an idiot. I am an idiot; I’m an EMT. I make minimum wage. This cop makes six figures. Probably the same amount of training. He’s basically rich and I’m basically not.

I tiptoed over. Tiptoed ‘cause it’s a crime scene. I didn’t want my footprints all over the place, or my fingerprints. They’d end up thinking I did it.

I felt for a pulse. Nothing. I went to the other body. Nothing.

“Anything you can do for ‘em?” the cop said.

I said, “How’d this happen?”

“He shot her. Then he shot himself.”

“I know. But why?”

The cop shrugged.

The other cop said, “A customer heard it, said the guy with the gun shouted something about how he hates gun stores. That it shouldn’t be open. Not during a pandemic.”

We all have masks on. The bodies don’t; I can see their dead faces, expressions like painful sleep.

I can’t see the cops’ faces though. It’s weird seeing cops in nurse masks. It’s just not what I’m used to. And I’m not used to seeing dead bodies either. We don’t transport dead bodies, just live ones.

“How’d he get the gun?” I said.

“How would I know?”

“He must have bought it at a gun shop,” I said, “Supporting gun shops by buying the gun.”

“Irony,” the other cop said.

I wanted to tell the other cop that his mask was upside-down. When I walk around, I see about half the people out on the streets have their masks on improperly. They’re a bit useless if they’re not on right. A bit like putting a condom on improperly. You want to have the condom on properly. I should know. I’ve got two kids.

“Isn’t the store supposed to be closed?” I said.

“How would I know?”

It’s a good question. Epistemology: The Theory of Knowledge. I took a class with that name in undergrad and got an F, dropped out, so, I guess I never really took it. But I tell people I did. Because I took it for eight weeks, which is how long I lasted in college. And which is as long as our EMT school was. A half of a college semester. And they gave me my EMT license. When I graduated, the instructor told us to get ready to take part in the Great American Gun Epidemic. And then, instead, a pandemic broke out. Last Christmas, my dad bought me a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel, a Pulitzer Prize–winner. I never read a page. Keep it out on the coffee table where we never drink coffee, all the books laid out there that we never read.

We stared down at the bodies.

What else could we do?

A cop pulled out his cell phone, googled something. Maybe he googled, ‘What else can we do?’

If it was normal times, I’d try to stop the bleeding, do some CPR, but their blood is everywhere, the hospitals brutalized with patients. I can imagine how pissed they’d be if I came in with two corpses.

Blood, they taught us in school, is oxygen. If you wanna know what it’s like to bleed to death, hold your breath for ten minutes. That’s a bit what it’s like. I looked down at the oxygen on the floor. All this red oxygen. I wondered how many viruses were in it. They say the average toilet seat has fifty germs per square inch. The average phone has twenty-five-thousand germs per square inch.

The cop put his phone away.

We all stared down at the bodies.

“The store’s supposed to be closed,” the cop said.

“Irony,” I said.

The sunlight coming through the windows felt cold.

The bodies made a letter T on the ground. It made me think of a crucifix. All this blood everywhere. Something biblical about it. On the counter, I’d noticed a Bible by the cash register. I never knew how Christians and guns and money all got so mixed up with each together. But there they were. Here they were.


RON RIEKKI‘s books include U.P. (Ghost Road Press), Posttraumatic (Small Press Distribution), and My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press), The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).


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: Aug 10, 2020

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