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News & Features » July 2017 » “Off Brattle” by Roland Sharrillo

“Off Brattle” by Roland Sharrillo

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 landscape worker tempers the rage he feels against elites.
Off Brattle
by Roland Sharrillo
Brattle St. area, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

The orange line. Change to the red line. They’re there. Sitting, standing, giving me the quick, disdain-laced glances reserved for work-booted laborers with tormented hands. The ambitious nine-to-fivers en route to a coup. Even the kids. Twenty-two, twenty-four, dressed in the skinny dark clothes of the new business chic. I feel their eyes on me through my t-shirt. I hate them.

I get out at Harvard Square. The sun is bright on the buildings and the air has the earthy warmth of a mid-May morning. I go to the site late on Mondays because it’s my day to take the truck to the landfill after work. I walk out Brattle Street and wonder what it’s like to have the kind of money to own these Hollywood houses. I think of them. The Harvard elite. The literary wonders. The Waspie families whose wealth has been growing faster than a Ponzi scheme for two centuries. Those Mayflowerites, society’s best, who turn away as I scuttle down the red brick sidewalks making their imperial streets temporarily unfit for viewing. I can feel the repugnance ooze under their doors, tracking me. Hate gathers in my heart; in my gut; in my soul.

I like Mondays: they obliterate the relaxation of the weekend. Relaxation leaves me on edge, it’s fleeting and unpredictable, not dependable like anger and fury. They are companions. Sidekicks. Like Tonto and Gabby Hayes. Anger and fury feel comfortable, like flannel shirts on fall nights.

I think of my destination. A stone and shingle mansion on a side street with oak trees, a blazing flower garden and manicured grounds. I work for a landscaper. I mow. I rake. I prune. I plant. I fertilize.

I turn the corner and the house stands before me. The grounds are lovely. I smile. I think of the woman who works there. My smile broadens. She’s nice to me. Her English is broken and we communicate with nouns and gestures. I know from her eyes, her smile, her mannerisms that she’s kindhearted. She brings me cold drinks. There’s something happening between us. I can feel it. An occasional touch or smile. I want to be with her, to watch her lithe walk, to look into her soft eyes for the smile I see there when we hold our gaze. Anger melts to air in her presence.

I work alone in the garden. It’s after ten o’clock, when she usually comes with a drink. I work my way closer to the porch where she will step from the house with a glass.

It’s not loud, but I hear it. Something between a squeal and a scream. I go on the porch and peer through the window and my heart stops, then hammers. I know why she hasn’t brought me a drink. She’s struggling to move, but something behind the wall is holding her arm. She jerks and falls backward, her arm suddenly free. Then he comes into view as he leaps on her. The wealthy, entitled owner of the house with the impeccable pedigree and the arrogant sense of being above the law and common decency; the steroidal version of the subway achievers. She pushes him off. I pound the window open handed, my adrenaline at nightmare level. The outer pane fractures with a crash. My callused fist flies. The inner pane shatters. He snaps around and glares at me and then, as if I were interrupting his reading, he walks casually out of the room.

I take her hand and lead her to the porch and tell her to go home. The look on her face tells me she knows what I’m going to do. She hugs me and then goes down the steps and walks toward Harvard Square. I go back into the house intent and on edge.

When I get to the land fill it’s dusk and the stench of wet and rotting vegetation fills my nose. I drive to a far corner and unhitch the chipper and rinse it thoroughly with the hose. I rake the wood chips and grass out of the truck and smile at the chip sized clods of flesh, hair and bone mixed in and watch them fall into the pit on top of the decaying plants. I hose out the truck. Then I hose down the pile until all the traces of pink are washed away and have soaked into the compost below. I laugh. It’s the first time in years I feel no rage.


ROLAND SHARRILLO lives in New England. He has just completed his fourth novel.


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: Jul 24, 2017

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