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News & Features » February 2018 » “Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down” by John Vercher

“Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down” by John Vercher

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 fighter finds a surprise in his trunk on a hot day . . .

Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down
by John Vercher
Northeast Philadelphia, PA

This smell was different. This smell was not like before.

The first time his car stunk of this fetid funk had been over a month ago.

Hadn’t it? Maybe six weeks. Whatever.

It was right after he’d gotten the call. After his fourth consecutive win, which came on the heels of two straight losses. After the shouts for him to hang up the gloves. No one would think less of him. The game had passed him by. Young bucks on the come up turned him into a journeyman. The cage had no place old toothless lions fighting for they pride.

And then four in a row. Against real contenders. Championship kickboxers. Jiu-jitsu aces. Each one of them the next big thing.

Ain’t none of them had the grind in them, though. Talented as all hell, but cardio made cowards of them all. None of them could swim when dragged into the deep water. The championship rounds. Lactic acid torched the muscles, Deep breaths provided no oxygen, only the need to breathe deeper. Shoulders ached. Punches lost their snap. Kicks sloppy, thrown with languid legs. Break the spirit and the body follows suit.

But he paid for the grind, too.

Hematomas in his thighs, shaped like the other man’s shin; patchwork remnants of stiches on his forehead; crackling scar tissue above his jagged orbital bones; incessant, intensifying headaches.

Worse than all that, though, was the forgetting.

Patches of time gone, swiped from a chalkboard where only the faintest outline of the image drawn there remained. A feeling that he’d been somewhere, done something, but not sure how. Or when.

After he’d gotten the call, he hit the grocery store for the usual suspects. Packs of skinless chicken breasts. Bags upon bags of brown rice. Broccoli. Gallons of water. Once home, he grabbed his gear and was off to the gym. No rest for the weary.

Aches and sunlight woke him at 7 a.m.


He’d set the alarm for a 5:30 run.

Hadn’t he?

He peeled his legs from his sheets. A cacophony of pops sounded as he rose from his bed, pulling at his sweat-soaked boxers as he padded across the carpet. Pulling the blinds forced a squint, the sun surrounded by the haze of an already hot Philadelphia summer morning. Runs in that heat felt like breathing underwater. He’d double up on the treadmill at the gym.

The smell hit him when he opened the door to his chocolate brown ’93 Volvo. Sweet and sour, like the meat drawer in his refrigerator when the power went out while he was in Vegas last year. He poked his head in the backseat. Some sweaty clothes in a pile behind the passenger seat, but that wasn’t it.

In the trunk there sat the groceries from the morning before. The chicken soured in a clouded pink puddle of its own juices; the wilted broccoli glistened with slime. Cooked in the trunk under the hot summer sun.

When had he gone shopping? How had he forgotten it was in there?

He held his breath and hauled the offal to the trash cans next to his building. He tasted the smell, and dry-heaved.

Still, that smell?

It was nothing like this one.

He stood in front of the trunk and rubbed his sore knuckles. Painful hands were no novelty, yet when he looked down at his hands, fresh cuts crossed the skin. The bumps fat with fluid.

What happened last night?

He popped the trunk.

The reek of hot piss and shit rose from the space, filled with a body folded up in ways it shouldn’t be. The young buck wore soaked baggy jeans and a blood-stained oversized t-shirt; his face more purple than brown, lips battered and swollen.

He slammed the trunk shut, held his hands on the top of his head and paced.

Think, think.

What did you do last night? How did he get here? Is this why your hands is all fucked up? Come on, son!

He stopped short.

Shot. That milky-eyed, mumble-mouthed motherfucker. He said pick up his bag man, make sure there wasn’t no shit going down.

Well, shit went down, didn’t it, Shot? How come every time you wrong about something, piss comes pouring down on my head and your greasy ass stays dry? We fitting to find out tonight, best believe.

But first, this body. Only one person to call, and wasn’t neither of them going to like it.


JOHN VERCHER is a writer living in eastern Pennsylvania with his wife and two sons. He earned his Bachelor’s in English from the University of Pittsburgh and his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University. His debut novel, Three-Fifths, will be published by Agora – Polis Books in 2019.


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 12, 2018

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