Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 623 - Chris Rhatigan


My shoulder twitches as I open the freezer and curl my fingers around the half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream.

I imagine bringing the ice cream back. Jo would stop by my place and her spring green eyes would brighten—she loves everyday surprises. We’d eat the strawberry and chocolate from the box and mock the first round of American Idol rejects.

I turn to find the clerk staring at me. He kneels next to a box, pops open a box cutter, rips through packaging tape. Judging from his scaly skin and the slump in his spine, he’s been working the night shift at the Pump N Munch for many years. He knows better than to chase me. Protocol is to hit the button, wait for the cops.

Yet he’s challenging me. I’m sure of it. He props his elbows on the glass counter, steeples his fingers.

I try to control my twitching shoulder. No dice.

My heart bumps against my rib cage. Deep down, I hope he’s like the Loss Prevention guy from Sears. That dude chased me through an entire mall for swiping a parka. He didn’t catch me, but I give him points for playing the game.

Back then, I thought I was clever, scraping off security tags with a pocket-knife or sliding a baseball card up my sleeve.

Not anymore. Now my methods are direct.

My first move is quick. Outside in two steps. Bells on the door clanging.

I run past the empty gas pumps, cradling the ice cream in my arm. The bells ring again.

I accelerate down the sidewalk, bounding in and out of the beams of streetlights. Suck down gulps of humid air.

Sirens wail in the distance. Too soon for the cops. Unless there was another clerk or a manager I didn’t see who made the call.

A reflection of a shadow trailing me bounces off the abandoned storefront windows across the street.

Sweat trickles into my eyes. A cramp stabs under my ribs like an ice pick.

The sirens fade, the sound replaced by another set of feet striking the sidewalk, persistently echoing my steps.

What kind of clerk chases a guy who stole ice cream? What would he do when he caught me? That box cutter. He could’ve taken that.

Maybe he’s not just a convenience store clerk. Maybe he’s a serial killer.

Maybe I crossed the wrong guy. Why couldn’t I’ve paid for the ice cream like anyone else would have?

Turning around will slow me down. But I want to see him gaining on me.

I look behind.

And see the Sears LP guy.

What the fuck?

I’m still looking in the rearview when my toe snags a lip between two sidewalk panels. The carton catapults. I fall hard, face-first to the concrete.

My head throbs when I come to. Bruises everywhere. A gash on my elbow. Blood trickling from my temple to my jaw.

The LP guy stands above me, sucking down a cigarette. He resembles a smaller, more wiry version of Mr. Clean down to the white tee shirt tucked into jeans.

I sit up, joints screaming, lean against a slimy brick wall. Realize that he must have dragged me into an alleyway.

“As soon as I saw you on the closed circuit, I remembered you,” he says. “Punk that stole that jacket.”

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Own that store now.”

“You call the cops?”

“Hell, no. Worse they’ll do is throw you in jail for a night. That won’t teach fuckers like you. You don’t respect a man’s property.”

He slides on a pair of brass knuckles. I scramble, but he grabs me by the scalp with his left.

And pummels me with his right.

BIO: Chris Rhatigan is a student and freelance journalist living in Iowa City, Iowa. He has worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. He always appreciates feedback, and you can reach him at


Paul D Brazill said...

Very well done.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Excellent story, Chris ~ nicely done!

Alan Griffiths said...

Now that’s rough justice with a Noir twist!

Great story, Chris and really well done.

David Cranmer said...

Well done, Chris.

AJ Hayes said...

That's the way to finish, Chris. This story was good when we first saw it on crimewriters. Now it's terrific. You're a demon editor, my man. dark and ironic, everything it's supposed to be.

R.S. Bohn said...

Hi, Chris!

Loved this. Breathless bit of writing, especially the "escape" that turned out to be not so quick and easy. Part of me wonders if part of him didn't just want to get chased down, but also wants the pummeling...

sandra seamans said...

Excellent story, Chris!!

Chad Eagleton said...


Good word choice. Tense with great pacing.

Looking forward to more.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Thanks everybody! Couldn't have done it without the help of many awesome writers who gave me some great feedback.

Michael Solender said...

Ha, what one won't do for the Jonesing ice cream fix. Whoa!

Nigel Bird said...

It's superb, right down to the choice of ice-cream. I'm hoping you've got another one in the series - I'll have to go and check.

Kevin Michaels said...

Well done Chris - nice pace and great finish.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So many nice lines here, Chris. And you finished with a knockout--literally.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

The wrting did a great job of creating the visuals in my mind. Great twist at the end

Joyce said...

The world is WAY too small. 'Maybe he's a serial killer'? Whoa. Love this one. Shouldn't laugh, but there's a bizarre humor in there somewhere. Got to feel for the guy though...

Anonymous said...

I'll never think of Neopolitan or Sears the same way again.
Nice twist at the end.

Des Nnochiri said...

Crime doesn't pay. Sometimes.
Great staccato prose, pacey tale.
Very nicely done.

Naomi Johnson said...

Ow, brutal!

M. C. Funk said...

I really sympathized with this piece. It helped that it was as tight as an instruction manual in karma and as vibrant as an adult bookstore sign. Very nice.

David Barber said...

Just catching up, Chris. A great story with a cracker of an ending. Top work!