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News & Features » September 2013 » “Lazy Gangsters” by Jen Kitses

“Lazy Gangsters” by Jen Kitses

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, Jen Kitses tells a tale of one new father’s miserable dinner hour. Next week, Charles Parness brings us a story about the kid and the cat.Jen_Kitses

Lazy Gangsters
by Jen Kitses
Newtown Creek, Brooklyn/Queens border, New York

Officer Leon James slipped out the back door of the Quayside Oil Company, where he worked part-time as a security guard on the overnight shift. In his hand was a paper bag containing the cold meatball sub that he brought from home but had forgotten to eat. Instead, he’d spent his break dozing in an office chair, his chin nodding toward his chest.

He left the Quayside complex and sat on a concrete stump at the edge of English Kills, a channel of Newtown Creek where the water was as still as poured glue. The sky was still dark, but the lights from the depot cast pink and yellow beams on the water. To his left was a bridge, and to his right were the waste management plants. This area, he knew, used to be pasture and marshland. Ratty trees and brush grew along the creek’s banks. One night, staring at that water, he’d seen a snapping turtle.

He couldn’t think of a less hygienic place for a meal, but for six weeks now, this was where he’d had his dinner. Since his daughter was born, he’d been delirious from lack of sleep. Lack of sleep, and of time. With all the jobs he was doing on the side, he sometimes forgot where he was, who he was talking to. It was getting to be a problem. You’re burning the candle at both ends, his partner told him, and he wasn’t kidding. Just tonight, at work, he’d thought he was home, in his own kitchen, warming bottles of formula while the baby shrieked in the bedroom. He could even smell the Similac, a chemical tang he sometimes confused with the fumes from the water.

He settled his weight on the stump. The slight mist was turning to drizzle. He opened his bag and took a bite of his sandwich. He took another as he saw, lodged among the pilings on the opposite bank, what looked like a corpse.

He was grateful that his vision was fuzzy. He thought he could make out an arm. Under the vines that hung low into the water, he saw what was maybe another limb. The face was hidden in suds and muck. He didn’t feel like getting a better look.

A human sound made him look over his shoulder. A fat woman in a pink sweatsuit was pedaling a bicycle over the bridge, somehow holding a broken umbrella over her head. She smiled at him as she passed. He waved back. There was a good chance that both the fat lady and his buddy in the water were hallucinations.

He glanced at the rack of life preservers outside the nearest warehouse, and shivered. This concrete stump was freezing his ass.

He returned to his sub. While he chewed, he felt a little sorry for himself. Why should he have the bad luck of finding a body? Why not one of the Chinese girls from the factory next door, the ones who ate their meals out of plastic containers in the parking lot? He was just so tired. Something like this could eat the rest of his day. He rubbed his eyes, pretended not to see it. But it refused to go away.

It was frustrating, really. Those lazy gangsters.

The rain stirred the water. As he took in a mouthful of cold meatball, the body seemed to shift. This time, he saw the face, and did a double take.

Yeah. That guy. He knew that guy. And they knew he’d find him.

He wondered who they would come for next.

He was staring at the water, his stomach tight, when a frantic flapping descended upon him. He recoiled, falling into the damp weeds. Looking up, he saw a seagull fly off with the last of his sandwich. He was embarrassed to discover that his teeth were chattering.


JEN KITSES is a writer and editor living in Queens. Her work has appeared in the New York Observer, the Brooklyn Rail, Condé Nast Portfolio, and other publications. She recently completed her first novel, a crime story set in Brooklyn.


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 23, 2013

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