Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » February 2019 » “Southside Valentine” by Richie Narvaez

“Southside Valentine” by Richie Narvaez

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 detective meets with an old crush — and a potential collar — in the park.

Southside Valentine
by Richie Narvaez
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

Detective Almodovar, half Polish, half Puerto Rican, sits in the playground at the corner of Borinquen Plaza and Rodney Street. Snow dandruffs the monkey bars, but except for Almodovar the park is empty on a February morning. He sits on a metal seat, his ass as cold as his coffee.

This will be an easy collar, the kind they turn into schlocky 20/20 episodes.

The park is located at a traffic-busy corner, long chains of vans, cars, semis heading onto or avoiding the BQE. Diagonally across is a glass-and-concrete castle for the rich, one of those lifeless new buildings that scrape against all the good old stuff in the neighborhood, all the good stuff he remembers from when he lived here, just blocks away. 

And right across the street is the artsy-fartsy P.S. 414 — “Arbor School” — which used to be the great P.S. 19, where he used to daydream about a sweet-faced girl named Brunhilda Rodriguez, who sat in front of him and made his chest swell and his tighty whities tighten.

Almodovar figures Señora X, as she called herself online, has chickened out, until he sees her trotting across Rodney, from the direction of the tenements that still line South 3rd Street, in flip-flops and straight for him. She sits across from him at a concrete checkerboard table, breathless.

She says, “You him? I gotta get back upstairs in 15 minutes. I got food on the stove. This is crazy.” She smells of cilantro and milk and ajo and menthol but right away he sees it’s Brunhilda, twenty years older but what other Latina in Los Sures has such freckles starred across a flat button nose, such golden eyes, such red-brown waves. No one that he ever cared to look at. Things were mixed in her, which he loved because that made her just like him.

He wonders at the curves under the oversized hoodie, as she lights a cigarette and looks around. But he’s moved on, of course, what does the heart know at twelve? He’s all married now and has three boys all practicing to be MMA fighters on the furniture and each other’s heads.

“Shit, it’s cold,” she says, then she goes through the expected litany. Husband cheats. Beats the kids. Disrespects her family. Doesn’t work. Drinks too much. Kicks the dog.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” she says, “and I know where he’s going to be from six o’clock to nine p.m. I know where his girlfriend lives, so all you have to do is wait for him there.”

And do what? She has to say it, then he can pull out the cuffs and call in the officers laced all around the park. 

He looks at her eyes, and he thinks maybe there is recognition there. But why would she remember him, the stuttering little geeky crusher who sat behind her for three grades? He’d filled out, a lot, and was free of the mop of hair he insisted in hiding behind. 

She reaches into her hoodie and he sees a fat envelope and he knows this is it — when they hear “Bitch! Who is this motherfucker now? I knew it!” 

A man in a parka stands across the street, pointing at Almodovar and yelling at her. The man steps off the curb at a run, looking only at them.

Almodovar remembers later, in the report he writes up, that the truck was a meal kit delivery truck. 

The woman’s husband bounces off the front of the truck, and twenty feet away his body gets wrapped around a fire hydrant. 

There is a pause.

Almodovar stands up to do something. He turns to the woman, who is zipping up her hoodie, attempting to erase the existence of the envelope. He could still bring her in, could still make trouble for her. 

For a moment she looks at him and smiles a quick smile, or is it a plea? He can’t quite read it. Then the moment is gone.

“Thank you, mister,” she mumbles, already turning. Then she runs, screaming her husband’s name. “You’re not going to visit that bitch tonight now. Shit, and I still got rice on the stove.”

He hears chatter on his earpiece, and he knows someone has already called for an ambulance.

Before he throws out his empty coffee cup, he makes a mental note to remember to pick up flowers for Magda and to get a new game for the boys to keep them busy.


RICHIE NARVAEZ’s work has been published in Long Island Noir, Indian Country Noir, The Black Car Business Vol. 2, Pilgrimage, and Tiny Crimes. His first book of short stories, Roachkiller and Other Stories, received the Spinetingler Award for Best Anthology. His debut novel, Hipster Death Rattle, will be published in March 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 11, 2019

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