The hanging road sign for Denton Real Estate offered a constant chirping against an intermittent wind. It was a small and familiar voice to Burk as he approached Seeley’s Surfside Diner. The murmur of tires on passing cars was dampened by the new snow. With the hood of his parka pulled tight against the cold, most other sounds were obliterated by the rub of fabric against his ears and he had to keep an eye out for the car lights through breath-fogged glasses as he made his way from his apartment.
The blaze of neon from Seeley’s was not comforting against the black and white of snow and night ahead. It never was. Even on a hot evening in the summer it was joyless. Tonight, it cut through the falling snow more pink than red. Burk had thought before that it was an odd thing, how the color in the sign seemed to change depending on the weather. He had mentioned it once to Pat, but the observation was shrugged at. Ignored.
You want me to tell you about Zim? I don’t know you. And I never forget a pretty face. . . . Sure, I worked over at the Mirror years ago. Probably before you were born. There wasn’t a single dame in the entire newsroom back then. I guess times have changed. For the better, heh? But if Barry George sent you over, then you must be okay. . . . Cass, is it? Just call me Jim. Is that shorthand you’re doing? Geez! Chicken scratch. Nobody’s gonna be reading over your shoulder. But let me tell you about the old days. I had a stubby pencil and a notebook and the best I could do was to spell the names correctly. . . . Yeah. I got canned. That was because of Mayor John F. Hylan. Sonofa—I’d tell you what the ‘F’ stood for—But that’s why I gave it up.
Right. So this is what I know. At least what I’ve heard. The part that I think is true.
No. Just cream. I can get you some milk out of the icebox if you want it?
So. Despite what you read in your own paper, it wasn’t Joan who caused any of it. She might not be innocent, but she was a bystander right up to the end, almost. . . . Joan? Yeah. I did my time waiting in the outer office at Daring. Smart cookie. But I never got to first base.
It was Florrie that was the first guy to get a hook on Zim. This was something of a surprise to me, you see, because Florrie was the last guy you’da thought needed the help. read more…
She brought me down with a two by four across the back of the knees. My head hit the doorjamb as I fell. Hard headed or not, I think I was a little dazed.
I was lying then on a black and white tile floor in the half dark of that vestibule and looking up at the mouth of a model 17, 9mm Glock semi-automatic, when I first heard that voice.
This is a single word, in common use, but has problematic spelling. When I write stories now I often just resort to familiar forms, like ‘What do you want?’ Rather than be accused of stereotyping or pandering. I was actually thinking about this while I was lying there only half conscious. I had spent the morning at my one room apartment over in Cambridge, writing and dealing with the grammatics—that’s my word for dramatic speech patterns–when Connie McGuire showed up and asked me to do him a favor. That meant he was going to screw with my regular schedule and put me on a job right away. He’s been doing that less lately so I didn’t complain. Just part of the job description. Besides, he’s short on cash because of the economy and I’m on salary anyway, so it doesn’t cost him extra to dump on me. I ran through a few more ‘grammatics’ in my head on the way over to the South End. I had to decide the way to go with the piece I was working on. It made a difference.