Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » June 2018 » “The Fair Land” by Séamus Scanlon

“The Fair Land” by Séamus Scanlon

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 lyrical encounter between a troubled Irishman and a Native American woman.

The Fair Land
by Séamus Scanlon
Spur Hotel, Archer City, Texas

Near dawn I wake.
The pale blue light cascades over me.
It drills and spills down through me.
I am suffused in half dreams.
In fugue states.
In a winter wonderland of blue steel mind traps. 

In the melancholy pale light
I see the end,
The black Open Vectra idling on lonesome lay-bys.
Bullet dynamics
Cripple shenanigans
Born-again death trajectories
Hot metal casings arcing through the misty Irish air.

The gun is in my hand.
It comforts me.
Metal washed in death dreams.
A Colt 45.
Officer Issue.
From the Western front.
German machine gun nests scything through officers and serfs.
Die and let die.
Over the top—watch them drop.

I took it off somebody a while back.
A body now
In a culvert
Under a pristine Texas blacktop.
Picked clean.
White bones embossed on barren tunnel floor dust.

The woman stirs.
Her neck is a beacon.
Neck to neck.
Lashes to lashes.
I try not to look.

On the pillow her Indian hair is a sleek blue-black shawl.
Under the pillow is a hatchet.
I slide it out.
I like them.
And tomahawks—hatchets’ first cousins.
Handheld works of art.
I throw them.
Stress reduction.
It sometimes works.
Indians used tomahawks to lay out Texas homesteaders
buried now under the blue-tipped prairie grass.

I feel blue mostly.
My eyes are blue.
My mother’s too—the Blue Velvet type.
She is buried in Rahoon Cemetery
In my faraway Ireland.
The fair land
The cruel land
The Viking slaughter land
The Cromwell poisoned-well land
The Black 47 land
The fetal blood-saturated Virgin Mary grotto land.
The beautiful harsh Irish land calls me back.

Ma burned herself way back.
Roasted skin filled my nostrils.
She died but came back.
A scarred black angel.
She came back to the Indian war brave ululating screams from her own mother.
I kicked out.
She was carrying me—pelvic swaddling wise.

In my head she screams still.
In my head there is no rest.

The woman stirs.
I forget her name.
I think she told me.
It’s not clear.

Women want more.
Like the high maintenance
Remember their names chore.
Not much to ask for I know.

I know so much and so little.
I am wanton.
I am longing.
But I hold the line.
I am a machine gun emplacement
Concealed in tall meadow grass.
Cutting off female warrior desires in their prime.

I do a hundred press-ups.
The Colt and hatchet I place on my back
Move as I dip and rise.
They slide against each other.
The metallic harmony calms me.

I do the pogo.
Leaping off the floor.
The Colt in one hand, the hatchet in the other.
Beads of sweat fly off my naked torso
Into the far black shrouded high ceiling.

The woman wakes up.
Her eyes startled-wise follow the Masai flow.
I go beyond 100 trying to recall her name. 

—I am late for work so I am!

I nod.

—What are you at?

 I throw the hatchet. I like how it spins through the air. Vector dynamics. I like the feel of the wood handle peeling away from my hand.
The blue-tinged blade strikes the wall above her head.
It stays there.
Like her.

—That’s a great throw there, Mister.

I nod. 

She gets up. Gets dressed. She pulls the hatchet from the wall.

—Here, you will need this. You want tea?

 I nod.

 She is not what I was expecting. I shake my head from side to side in rapid tight arcs.

 The ache in my medulla eases off.

—This place is spotless. Except for that wall.

I nod.

—My name is F . . .

It comes flooding back.

I nod.

—You have Barry’s tea—thank God. Americans drink that Lipton’s piss.

I nod.

—You’re semi-autistic.

I nod.

—You are Mensa material though.

I nod.

—That’s a big plus. In my carnal book.

I nod.

—That rhymes.

I nod.

—Sometimes I talk too much.

I nod.

—Okay you are not a morning person! I get it. You don’t have to tell me twice!

I nod.

I bow my head.

I pray for my day ahead.

“Hell Mary
Full of Grace . . .”

 She drinks her tea.

She took two spoons of sugar I noticed.
I heard the spoon scrape twice against
the lip of the ceramic bowl.

That could be a big problem down the line, I think
dental caries wise.


SÉAMUS SCANLON is a writer from Galway, an award-winning librarian, and an Associate Professor at City College’s Centre for Worker Education. His prize-winning flash fiction piece The Long Wet Grass (Fish Publishing, 2011) was made into a play (2014) and a film (2017). The play, as part of The McGowan Trilogy (Arlen House 2014), was produced in New York, Ireland, and the UK and is heading for Tokyo in 2018. This is his seventh outing in the Mondays Are Murder slot. The film version of one of these previous pieces, The Resurrection Love Song, is due out in 2018.


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: Jun 29, 2018

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