My short story “A Distance Away” is published in The Bookends Review, a literary journal. It has three main characters with first POVs. Genre: Thriller.
Please read if you have time. Thanks.
Mahesh Nair – A Distance Away
A Distance Away
I’ve rented a motor boat for two hours. I’m in a maroon tee and bermuda shorts, waiting for Jane. The twilight is a tint of orange with threads of red rising from the horizon, which may not last long, unlike her presence that placates my soul.
I have known her for sometime, only know that she works for a store, but it’s enough data. Love, they say, is blind.
But I have a point to prove, and have long waited for this moment, like a poor Alaskan waiting for years to get to Florida, away from the sucker cold. Worse, I was treated like a pole a dog would lift its legs to pee on, and using the smell as a mark for other dogs to shame me and my competence. I laughed it off, never protested, but I was dying within. They pushed me into desk jobs, I wanted the field.
Listen, it’s been my persistence, and Jane’s promising presence. May this cruise be a good omen, a start.
I look soft with a pale tone of brown. Add subtleties of expression to it, and my friends say, I have an aura. Yes I ignored Randy initially, as I thought he’s an unemployed wanderer at best. I also loathed him, for he’d never looked at my face when he spoke to me, which I figured was a sign that he was not trustworthy. But my joy found a source, like a tulip that stretches its head to face the light, when he began to lock his eyes with mine. And guess what, he told me that he owned a boat. I have a thing for boat owners. But I’m not stupid. I cross checked with a close friend who verified, and confirmed that the boat was his. I have friends who care.
My father, who wanted to own a boat for my sake, could only clean somebody’s all his life. But that somebody died, and he lost his job. We were poor but never failed to conform to social norms, never leaving a hint to suggest otherwise. When Randy asked me out on a boat date yesterday, how could I say no?
Steve’s my name, one of my names. I’m the boat owner, and I own everything in Jersey City, in a way. I steal. Great track record: 5 years of stealing, never arrested. Decimated my dad’s record; he was handcuffed on his first attempt. “You’ll smash records like my ol’ man,” he’d said. Now both father and son must be discussing their stats in some far corner of hell. I’ll go there, too. Also because I’m responsible for two homicides. Shush, the murdered ones are believed to be missing.
Randy has rented my boat for two hours. 30 minutes to go. Told him to wait for me on the boat itself. I’ll collect the keys from him, and leave, and hide in an abandoned fort in Staten Island, before I set out on my conquests again. Because tomorrow, my sources told me, cops will raid my uncle’s house, where I stayed for a while, in Newark Avenue.
Jane, with Randy
Aboard the boat, 90 minutes into the ride, as we are cruising on the Hudson River, the breeze of the late spring caresses my lips as much it appears to tempt his, and our eyes lock under the moonlight, the smoke of passion leaving our breaths. But wait.
“Whose boat is this?” I said, as wind breezes up.
“Of course.” He scratches his head. It’s 8 pm, and the dock is quiet.
Randy, with Jane
“We’ll do this again,” I said.
“Mind if I take you to a disco now?” I’ll drop Jane at Perry’s disco, a good distance from the boat, then come back, meet Steve, and go back to her.
“We still have 15 minutes. Champagne on the boat, instead?” Her eyes glittered.
But my heart’s pumping hard. We should be out by now, the omen I was talking about. But listening to her might be a prophetic sign, too. What if my emotional weights mar my strategic steps, would soulfulness be bravery, given luck goes the brave’s way. And only I know where Steve will come to. I’ve been following him for months, but couldn’t have arrested him in public. My seniors, the dogs who ridiculed me all these years, will find nothing in Newark Avenue tomorrow.
I check my .357 magnum tucked into the back of my shorts. I’d slid a packet under the driver’s seat, just in case.
Steve meets Randy, Jane and …
I see a steady Randy on the boat that sways from side to side. A woman is looking out into the black water, while faint dock lights to her right reflect uneven ripples in the river.
“Hey Randy. You plus the lady enjoyed? Keys, please.” She turned to face me, and said, “Roger.”
I winked at her. “Kathy.”
“Hands up,” Randy said, pointing his revolver at me, but also glancing at Jane, who’s also Kathy. His feet jived, and eyes rolled left and right, as though he were at Perry’s.
I respect cops, so I raise my hands, but show both middle fingers; right on cue, the old man shoots a bullet that crushes Randy’s left eye, knocking him into the river. Cries of gulls reverberated off the docks.
“He must be dead,” I said.
“He sure is,” Kathy’s father said, as he steps out of the dark from behind me, and on to the boat.
“But dad, I think the bullet only scraped him.” The daughter gazed at the father.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said, and as I turn the engine on, my right ankle feels something under the seat. I take a peek. “It’s a packet, gift wrapped, maybe for Kathy, sorry Jane.” We speed away.
The boat whirs away, and the sound recedes. I splash about in the water, my head’s above it, but I feel thick warm leaks around my left eye. I fish my hand in my shorts pocket, and take out my phone that I’d wrapped in a ziplock.
I place the call, airwaves will capture the signal, which must energize a relay I connected to the blasting cap on the packet.
A distance away, a flaming white bleaches the black waters, stacked on top of it are colors of orange and red, not particularly in that order. The smoke that went up is barely visible under the moonlight.
Mahesh Nair studied creative fiction writing at New York University, learned acting at Lee Strasberg, and is working on his first novel, an autobiographical fiction.