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News & Features » July 2013 » “Living Fossil” by Ben Nadler

“Living Fossil” by Ben Nadler

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, Ben Nadler tells the tale of a horseshoe crab–fishing expedition gone awry. Next week, Sofia Quintero takes us to the Treasure Chest in Hunts Point, Bronx, New York.

Living Fossilnadler author photo
by Ben Nadler
Jamaica Bay, New York City

Shy and his cousin Adam stood thigh-deep in Jamaica Bay, grabbing horseshoe crabs by their long tails and throwing them into the boat. Shy tossed them gently; Adam swung them down hard. The moon was round and bright like a police searchlight, which scared Shy, but Adam had explained that horseshoe crabs came up on the shore to spawn during summer full moons, and this was the time to make their score.

Adam had explained the whole thing:

“Horseshoe crabs. Those giant cockroaches that leave their round, ninja turtle–shells out on the beach? They got this blue blood, bright blue, like toilet bowl–cleaner. Processed, it’s worth $15,000 a quart. Pharmaceutical companies use it to test for pathogens.”

“Pathogens?” Shy asked.

“Yeah, pathogens. Disease carriers.”

“OK. So where do we come in?”

“They’re supposed to go through a whole harvesting process, right? But there’s a shortage. My buddy, Dima—from Midwood, you remember him?—he does HVAC, and he’s been doing work at this lab in Huntington. He says these people will give us twenty bucks a pop for the ugly bugs.”

Shy read up on the creatures after Adam came to him with the scheme. He read that they were living fossils, unchanged for millions of years, and that migrating shorebirds relied on their eggs for sustenance. Shy hated to take food from the mouths of shorebirds, but the fact of the matter was that he had developed a little dope habit. It was nothing he couldn’t handle; he’d been strung out before, and he’d kicked before. But he was hurting now, and he needed to get some money. So he met up with Adam in Sheepshead Bay, and they set out in Adam’s motorboat.

Shy started to feel it in his stomach as soon as they got out on the water. He tried to tell himself it was just the movement of the boat, but he knew they were going too fast to be rocking, which is what causes seasickness. And Shy didn’t get seasick. He got dope sick. But if he stuck it out, Adam would front him forty dollars when they got back to land.

They anchored the boat inside the cluster of islands in the bay’s center, which Adam said had the highest concentration of horseshoe crabs in the tristate area. The moonlight illuminated hundreds of the brown domes scuttling up onto the land. The cousins hopped out into the shallow water. Horseshoe crabs could be felt moving underfoot, even banging into their legs. It was like money was swimming right up to them.


Shy was happy when they passed under the Marine Parkway Bridge; it meant they were almost back to Brooklyn. But after a few more minutes passed, it seemed like the lights were getting farther away.

“What’s going on, Adam?”

“We have to loop around. Currents.”

Soon, though, it started to seem like they had cleared the land altogether and were headed out into the ocean. Shy wanted to say something, but when he opened his mouth his stomach surged, and he vomited off the side of the boat. He laid his head down on his lap. When he looked up, Adam’s Makarov was pointed in his face.

“Adam?” Shy hoped this was a joke, but Adam looked serious. Shy had seen that look before, the night Adam stabbed Brozi. “Is this because of the motorcycle? I shouldn’t have told you it got stolen. I sold it. But I promise . . .”

“That was you?”

“Yeah, but . . . you didn’t know?”

“No. I’m surprised, actually. I thought you were too busy fucking my wife when I was locked upstate to steal my bike.” Adam went crazy when another man even looked at Tania, but Shy had never known when to stop.

The crabs milled around in the boat. One crawled up on Shy’s leg. He wanted to kick it off, but he was too scared to move.

“Well,” Shy said. “I should have known better than to believe that crap about selling crab blood.”

“No, I’m really doing that. I just figured you might want to find out what work felt like before you died.”

Shy knew there was no stopping Adam when he put his mind to something. He sat on his seat and waited to die. It occurred to him that crabs were scavengers. Maybe some crabs would eat his flesh, and then some shorebirds would eat those crabs’ eggs, and something good would come of his life after all.


BEN NADLER is the author of the novel Harvitz, As To War (Iron Diesel Press, 2011) and the poetry chapbook The Men Who Work Under The Ground (Keep This Bag Away From Children Press, 2012). He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches writing in Harlem and the South Bronx. He can be found online at bennadler.com.


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: Jul 22, 2013

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