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News & Features » October 2017 » “Wise” by Ron Riekki

“Wise” by Ron Riekki

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, Ron Riekki’s hazmat facility security guard makes a gruesome discovery . . .

by: Ron Riekki
Livermore, CA

“Your first body?”

“Dead one, yeah.”

We stared down at the slurring flies. Whatever they were. I’m not good with words. I’m not good with anything. That’s why I became security; they’ll take anybody. Especially anybody who’d work in a hazmat facility. It’s beautiful here. Nothing but woods and wildlife, deer with three legs, raccoons that are brain-dead with radiation, and trees that get classified as hazmat when they fall over from the wind. Everything’s hazmat here. I’m hazmat. My partner’s hazmat. Our spleens and lungs and eyes are hazmat. But we’re alive.

But this guy isn’t. This guy’s dead. Ghost dead. Drunk dead. Plastic dead. Whatever. He’s dead. Fucking dead. Except there’s no fucking when you’re dead. There’s just being fucked.

I say something like this and my partner doesn’t understand. He says, “What?” and I just stare at the body.

“Must be fifteen years,” I say.

“You think?”

“That’s decay. That’s—he doesn’t even have an arm anymore. Bugs ate it. The moths ate it.” Whatever eats people. Dead people. Whatever is hungry for stiff upper arm.

My partner’s fat. We’re security, so we’re supposed to be in shape, but we’re hazmat security, so we aren’t. We cough too much to be in shape. Our only shape is round. Circular. We’re like that Willy Wonka blueberry girl. All cyanotic like her. I learned that word in EMT school. I quit being an EMT because I got sick of touching people. I ain’t treating anybody who isn’t a relative. I’m not doing mouth-to-mouth on anyone who doesn’t share my DNA. And this guy below us. Or girl, whoever. Isn’t a great-grand-person in my family. There’s nothing grand about rotting.

We stare.

This is good stuff.

I mean, bad for them. Bad for the world. I don’t like it, don’t get me wrong, but security’s about what you’ve seen. We have a coworker who got shot at once. Eight years ago. Ever since then he’s become The Guy Who Got Shot At. He’s a hero. A Goddamn hero. But he deserves it. He got shot at and lived and didn’t cry about it. Good job. He deserves that title. He hasn’t done anything else since then, but he did do something big at least once in his life.

For us, this is it. And we know it. We found a corpse. How did we find a corpse? We had a 10-66. Suspicious person. We get homeless who think this’d be a good place to sleep. There are so many signs around here that scream this is not a good place to sleep, but they ignore the USED OIL and NON-POTABLE and NO OPEN FLAMES as if they mean nothing. As if INHALATION HAZARD isn’t something to worry about. We chase them back over the fence. 

We were chasing what we thought was a 10-66 but it could have been a ghost or a mutated deer or a kid or nothing, the wind. We just headed this way with our flashlights like you’re not supposed to. We don’t have guns. We don’t have college degrees. We don’t have brains or discretion or good looks or peacefulness. We just have flashlights and childlike badges and steel-toe boots that are really steel-feet boots because they make you walk like a clown. And we wobbled this way and now we have a 10-55. Coroner’s case. A body that looks like someone’s off-and-on been trying to erase it for years.

Part of me wants to erase this night.

“Hellva lotta paperwork,” I say.

“Yeah,” my partner breathes. Christ, he’s thinking. Christ, I’m thinking.

This murder has nothing to do with me. This suicide’s pulseless, old, and about as useful as a shattered jar. And I’m alive and it means my wrist hurting with a future of all-night typing. It means I can’t go back and play Zelda. It means corpse-size piles of forms.

“What if we don’t see this,” I say.

“See what?” he says.


“I don’t understand,” he says.

“Come on,” I say and start to walk away.

“But what about—”

“He’s dead. There’s nothing you can do for the dead. Except relax, make sure you’re living your life right. And good living isn’t paperwork.”

“Paperwork,” he says, “Hate it.”

We walk through the drought-fed grass, the moon hammered up there in the sky above us.

“You shouldn’t hate,” I say. And I can hear him thinking about how wise I am for saying this.


RON RIEKKI’s fiction has been published in Threepenny ReviewBellevue Literary ReviewWigleafPrairie Schooner, Akashic Books, JukedPuerto del SolNew Ohio Review, and many other literary journals.  Riekki’s story “Accidents” received the 2016 Shenandoah Fiction Prize.


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: Oct 26, 2017

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