Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Family Ties - A Noir Flash Story

A very cool noir magazine just started up, releasing their first issue last month with contributors like Dave Zeltserman, Hilary Davidson, Keith Rawson and many others. It's called Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and they're running a flash fiction contest with just two rules: The story can be no longer than one thousand words, and it must include a needle in it somewhere.

This sounds like fun to a writing geek like me, so here's my entry:

Family Ties
by Allan Leverone

I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately. He took the needle back in '87, put to death for killing a cop during a botched bank heist. Gramps was a wheelman, one of the best they say, back in a time when banks were still legitimate targets for enterprising young men with a criminal bent.
The disastrous job took place in 1967 and went sideways almost from the beginning. It was an inside job and as you know, or maybe you don't, that type of operation is only as good as the information provided. In Gramps's case, that information was so bad it was one small step above a set-up.
The thing I can't get out of my mind, and the reason I keep thinking about a guy who's been dead nearly a quarter-century, is what he said when I asked him why he didn't just take off, drive away, save his own ass when he saw everything going to shit inside the bank. "Because, kiddo," he told me, "sometimes you just have to do what needs to be done."
I was only a kid when he told me that, and I didn't really get where he was coming from. To be honest, I didn't understand it at all. To me, he was just a stupid old man who had fucked up his life for no good goddamned reason. He told me he had meant to fire in the air just to give his crew a fighting chance to make it to the car, but instead had tagged a blueshirt right in the chest.
Bang. Dead. Capital murder. Game over.
My family disowned the old man, one final kick in the teeth for a guy who had lived a hardscrabble life because he knew no other way. He managed to put my dad through Penn Law, though, before he got sent up, and the ungrateful fuck demonstrated his gratitude by turning his back on the old guy.
I didn't turn my back, although the rest of the family had no idea of that. I was fascinated by the old bastard, and went to see him on death row every couple of months, whenever I could get time off work to travel. Once, during a visit, he told me where I could get my hands on one of his old guns, a Colt .38 revolver. "It's in mint condition," he said with a wink and a smile, "hardly ever used."
I stared at him. "What the hell am I going to do with a pistol?"
"You never know," he said. "There might come a day when you have to do what needs to be done, too. Your father, bless his soul, never had it in him to do what needs to be done, but I have a feeling maybe that particular trait skips a generation, like male pattern baldness or something." He ran his hand over his head and winked again.
Now I thought he was crazy as well as stupid, but damned if I didn't find myself picking up the Colt anyway. A buddy from the old days had been holding it for him and the old man was right on target about the gun; it was oiled and lovingly maintained and impressively deadly to hold. I had no reason to own it, certainly no intention of ever using it. That was twenty-five years ago.
I stashed it in a safe-deposit box and told no one. Every couple of months I took it out, cleaned and oiled it, and replaced it, still telling no one, still with no clear idea why the hell I was bothering.
Then I found about my wife and my best friend.
Marilyn and Bobby. The two people I was closest to in the whole world.
A four year affair, the entire thing laid out in sordid detail on the computer, courtesy of a password she didn't know I knew. Illicit weekends in cheap motels when I thought she was working, X-rated electronic love notes passed back and forth right under my nose, romps in our bed while I was away, the whole nine cliched fucking yards.
And they don't know that I know.
And I've been thinking a lot about Gramps, and I think he might have been right; maybe he wasn't quite the stupid old bastard I thought he was. I think maybe I will be able to do what needs to be done. I'm going to the bank this afternoon, gonna make a little trip to the safe-deposit box I rented so many years ago.
Then I guess we'll find out.


Anonymous said...

The very best writers can convey, without ever saying so,the slow realization that fate is,indeed,not to be denied. That the answer to the question at the end of the story is: "Oh yeah. He's gonna waste 'em -- no matter what he thinks." You do that in this piece. Makes you a pretty damn good writer, huh? Yeah, I'd say so. Thanks

Joyce said...

Yes, this is very, very good. You let us get to know your character so well in such a short time. The ups, the downs, and all the in-betweens in his life, and most of all, the direction he's about to take. It's as if it's his destiny and there's no other choice. Great piece.

Al Leverone said...

Hi AJ and Joyce, and thank you both so much for the incredibly kind words. You're both right about destiny - he made his decision subconsciously twenty years ago when he took the gun from his grandfather's friend...