Last Smoke

By April 20, 2015 91 comments Permalink

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, Andrew Cotto reflects on a changing Brooklyn.

Andrew CottoLast Smoke
by Andrew Cotto
Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY

Chris rattled his cigarette pack and placed it on the bar next to his Droid. He considered the cost of another cold beer and the cost of a fresh pack of smokes. He remembered pulling loosies out of a candy jar for a quarter each. Now it was hard to find loosies anywhere, and a pack of smokes in Brooklyn cost thirteen bucks. Even happy hour drinks at this old-school joint were expensive. His shoulders sagged as sounds from the jukebox bounced some blues:

When the eagle flies it’s Friday, everybody calls it payday.

Other guys from the construction site gathered in small circles, sipping beers and talking shit after a long week of hard work. It was Chris’s first payday on the job—a condominium complex near the new Barclays Center—and Chris didn’t know anyone too well. His uncle had hooked him up, told Chris to work hard and keep quiet.

“What up, C-man?” Big Joe asked, clamping a hand on Chris’s shoulder. “How you feel?”

“Hey, boss,” Chris said.

“Aw,” Joe shucked. “You don’t gotta call me that—not in here, anyway.”

Chris nodded.

“So, how you holding up?”

“Tired as a motherfucker,” Chris huffed.

“Don’t worry, young buck—your back be strong soon enough.”

“My back’s plenty strong!” Chris insisted. “It’s the school work that’s killing me.”

“GED?”

“Associate’s degree.”

“And whatchu gonna do with dat degree?”

“Transfer to John Jay,” Chris said. “Study law enforcement.”

“Damn,” Joe said. “That’s something.”

The two men didn’t speak until Joe brought up the Barclays Center.

“It’s aight,” Chris said.

“It’ll be something,” Joe announced, “once they get that paint up.”

“That’s the finish,” Chris said.

“Naw, naw. That just rust protector or some shit.”

Chris shook his head and caught Joe eyeballing his smokes.

“How you feel, Big Joe?” the bartender asked.

“Like a millionaire, Monty,” Joe answered. “Like a mill-yon-air.”

“What can I get you, then?”

“Chivas, beer back. Same for my man.”

“Just a beer for me, thanks,” Chris said. “Gotta jet soon.”

“You should stick around,” Joe implored. “Honeys from the beauty school be coming by.”

“Nah,” Chris said smiling. “Not for me, man.”

Chris checked his Droid for a message—a photo of a young woman illuminated the screen.

“Oooh,” Joe cooed. “I like them light-skinned sisters. ’Course, I like them dark ones, too!”

The woman on Chris’s screen was Egyptian and Puerto Rican. A girl from Queens he met at a club. She wrote poetry and studied English at Brooklyn College. She gave him her number but said she wasn’t dating no nigga who wasn’t about education.

Six months later he called her up. They’d been together for a year. She was graduating in June, talking about grad school. Chris would be ready for John Jay in the fall.

Monty placed two beers and one shot glass in front of the men. Both took big swigs.

“Ah,” Joe said. “That’s good right there.”

“Damn straight,” Chris agreed.

“Hot one today, wasn’t it?”

“Sure enough.”

A voice called for Joe from the back.

“All right, young buck, you don’t gotta hang with us, but can a brother get a smoke?”

“What?”

Joe nodded towards the pack. “Can I get one?”

“It’s my last one.”

“Come on, man. Go to the market on your way home.”

“Go yourself, millionaire.”

“I don’t give my money to them Koreans!”

“Why not?”

“’Cause they send that money back to wherever it is they come from.”

“Korea?”

Joe swallowed his shot; Chris imagined himself someplace else.

“You gonna give me that smoke or what?” Joe asked.

Chris handed over the box over as he got up to leave, thinking about how his girl was on him to quit anyway.

***

ANDREW COTTO is the author of two novels, Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery (Ig Publishing, 2012) and The Domino Effect (Brownstone Editions, 2011), which received a Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Award. He has written for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Men’s Journal, Salon, Parade, Relish, Babble, Deadspin, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and The Good Men Project. Andrew has an MFA in creative writing from the New School. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—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.
—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.

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