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News & Features » September 2015 » “Free Paint” by Aaron Fox-Lerner

“Free Paint” by Aaron Fox-Lerner

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, Aaron Fox-Lerner demonstrates the surprising perils of stealing paint from graffiti artists.

Free Paint
by Aaron Fox-LernerAaron Fox-Lerner
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

When we weren’t shoplifting, me and Sach 72 would go to the Bay Ridge yard and jump kids for their paint. This was back in the late ’80s, when the MTA had started to put the squeeze on graffiti. A good train yard had to be defended from other writers. Bay Ridge was perfect: way further south than most graff writers in New York went. If we let some inexperienced little toys fuck around in our yard, word would get around and the whole spot would be ruined.

Best day, my crew jumped five toys and painted this whole-car burner with the paint we got off them. Sach loved that shit. “Time to get some free paint,” he’d say, and I’d chuckle and go along with him.

It was nothing out of the ordinary when we went to the yard one day and heard the rattle and hiss of spraycans from one row over. We peeked over and saw it was this lone black kid, out of place in our mostly white neighborhood. He was three or four years younger than us, probably in his first year of high school.

Sach looked at me and I knew what to do. I slunk around the other side of the car and crossed over. I could hear Sach as I snuck behind the kid.

“What the fuck you doin’ in our yard?” he asked, standing in front of him. Sach was a big dude, real big. When he stood in between the subway cars he took up the whole space.

The kid had balls, he tried to bum-rush Sach anyway. I got out this length of pipe I always had on me. The kid turned around in time for me to split open his cheek, then he was down.

We busted up his face and gave him some kicks to the ribs, ripped him off for his paint and sprayed our crew’s name on his jacket before letting him run off. He wouldn’t be coming back to our yard alone like he owned the place anymore.

Then I looked at his piece. It was amazing, nothing like the other graff we had back then. It looked like a ripped comics page, with his tag name as a sound effect and a bunch of panels whose drawings were as good as what you’d see in a real comic, telling the story of a boy who wanted to paint. This kid was only around fourteen when he did this, using just hardware store Krylon.

I couldn’t stop looking at that piece until Sach dissed it. Fresh piece or not, it’s our yard, he said as he started a straight-letter over it. Nothing I painted ever looked as good as that piece.

I stopped writing when the last painted trains stopped running in ’88. Sach got sent away that year for racking high-end electronics. Maybe five years later I was at a party and this skinny black dude came up to me and called me by my old tag name. I looked at him, not registering the face.

“I’d never forget you,” he said with a smile, before turning to address the room. “This dude right here beat the shit out of me when I was a kid!”

Now everyone there was looking at me, hostile. Whoever he was, he commanded respect.

“You don’t know what I write nowadays?’ he asked me. “I switched my name to Ahi.”

I knew the name Ahi. Everyone did. You saw those three letters done real simple and quick everywhere. I mean everywhere. He was up more than Smith Sane, more than JA, more than anybody. All five boroughs, the craziest spots. He was a king.

“You made me, you know that?” he said, smiling. I realized he was coked up. “I used to think graff was just, like, painting pretty fucking pictures. That day in the yard, you showed me how real it was. How hard. You made me toughen up, man! You made me realize it was bombing simple and fast, nothing else. I’d still be doing some gay shit instead of going all city if it weren’t for you!”

“Wow,” I said.

I tried to sound happy about it, but I could still perfectly picture the piece he’d painted that day, gone forever. Getting my free paint had robbed me of the chance to see anything like it ever again.


AARON FOX-LERNER was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Beijing. His fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Grimdark Magazine, The Puritan, Bound Off, and other publications.


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: Sep 28, 2015

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