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News & Features » February 2018 » “Helpless” by Séamus Scanlon

“Helpless” by Séamus Scanlon

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, Neil Young sets the tune for a dark, rainy night in Galway . . .

by Séamus Scanlon
Galway City, Ireland. Between Eyre Square and Eglington Canal, 1971, 2:00 to 3:00 am (approximately).

In Eyre Square the boy Victor waited, watching the front entrance of the Great Southern Hotel. The bells of the Abbey church struck 2:00 am in the rain-solaced silence. Waiting was a Victor forte. Also vector dynamics, quadratic equations, quantum mechanics, and killing using a priori principles. Sixteen years he was. A prodigy step-patricide wise e.g. Greg Daddy RIP, QED.


The black railings surrounding the hotel were slick with moisture. Fog and mist covered all of Galway—the grey stone houses; the narrow broken streets; the deep canals that carved up the body of Galway; the placid jetty at Woodquay where hidden undertows lured pale skinned flailing Irish boys under the surface; the Corrib in spate carrying all before it; the century old elm trees on Taylor’s Hill; the weathered grave stone of Michael Furey in Rahoon Cemetery high above the City.


The man appeared at the front door of the Great Southern. Victor pushed off from the wall of the Bank of Ireland. He removed his shoes and tied them around his neck. He was one with nature (or at least wet concrete). The man stumbled drunkenly as he crossed Eyre Square. He passed Moon’s Corner. The moon was hidden behind heavy, low hanging clouds. He turned left after the Abbey church and started across the Salmon Weir bridge. Victor swung up onto the parapet in a graceful fluid motion and walked across the narrow slippery ledge, looking down at the man on the opposite footpath. The man stopped now and again, looking around, sensing something. Victor waited and watched until the man moved on. At the end of the bridge Victor did a perfect silent dismount.

On University Road the man turned left onto Canal Road, stumbling now and again. For balance he used one hand to hold the metal guardrail of the Eglington canal. As the man passed Ward’s shop Victor ran up behind him—his bare feet against the wet tarmacadam making the faintest sursurration—pulled a lock knife from his pocket, and bending down, cut both of the man’s Achille’s tendons. The man screamed and grabbed the railings to stay upright.

Victor crossed the road and kicked in Ward’s front door, emerging shortly afterwards, carrying a blue nylon rope and rolling a yellow Calor Kosan-Gas cylinder along the ground with his feet. On the last shove the cylinder crashed into the man’s shins causing him to yelp pain.

“Sorry about that.”

Victor tied the cylinder to the man’s bruised shins.

“Isn’t this weather great? All Galway complains but I like it. They are always surprised. ‘I can’t believe this rain.’ They are repeat offenders with that line.”


“Please nothing. This pleases me.”

The man started dragging the yellow cylinder behind him. It moved along in a jerking motion along the wet road. His useless legs were trying for home. Too far off now.

Victor followed humming the verse from Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

“Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless. Stop! Here is perfect.” Victor lifted the heavy cylinder onto the top of the railing and let it fall into the canal. “This is the deepest section! I am deep.”


The weight pulled the man hard against the railings.

“You remember me yet?”

Victor lifted his t-shirt to show the blood-red birthmark under his left breast. And saw recognition flood the man’s eyes.



Victor grabbed him by the calves and jerked him over the railing. The heavy cylinder sank into the thick mud twenty feet below. The man screamed for a second but it was drowned out almost immediately in more ways than one. Victor watched the air bubbles until they stopped.


The next day’s Galway Advertiser headlines screamed ‘LOCK UP OUR TRAVELERS.’ The Gardaí blamed Travelers who liked Kosan-Gas cylinders for heating their caravans and nylon rope to tether their wild ponies. Brilliant detective work as usual.


After a few days the bloated corpse began rising to the surface but the gas cylinder held it secure. Victor passed the canal every day and watched the ex-man floating upright amongst the thin fronds that grew from the canal bottom. He was helpless to resist. He was amazed that no one noticed. A few weeks later the tibia and fibia separated from the man’s ankles and he floated to the surface.


‘LOCK UP YOUR CYLINDERS: Tragic Suicide of School Principal. Tough Regulations on Securing Gas Cylinders to be Introduced. Fifty Travelers Ordered Released.’


SÉAMUS SCANLON is a writer from Galway, an award winning librarian, and an Associate Professor at City College’s Centre for Worker Education. His prize winning flash fiction piece The Long Wet Grass (Fish Publishing, 2011) was made into a play (2014) and a film (2017). The play, as part of The McGowan Trilogy (Arlen House 2014), was produced in New York, Ireland, and the UK and is heading for Tokyo in 2018. This is his sixth outing in The Mondays Are Murder slot. The film version of one of these previous pieces The Resurrection Love Song is due out in 2018.


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: Feb 5, 2018

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