Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Commitment by Kara Burke

Two doomed crooks muse on their relationship as the cops descend; by Kara Burke.

The carpet of the hotel room was cheap. The stiffness of it rubbed against June's toes, and she put her foot back in her shoe. The mustard yellow wallpaper looked stained, and the room smelled like cigarettes and mold. Lincoln slammed the door behind her, sliding the chain closed. An open bottle of vodka dangled from his fingertips. He crossed the room and stared out the sliding door. It had been a nice day.

"What's the point of us being here, Linny?" June said. Her voice was quiet, and the words seemed to stick in the humidity of the room.

Lincoln laughed, combing a hand through his graying hair. He needed a haircut.

"I don't want to die on the street. Here, nobody can see it." He raised the bottle to his lips, then lowered it, glancing at June standing in the hallway. She still had blood on her cheek. "Drink?"

June nodded, moving into the room. She took one of the glasses that Lincoln offered and then pushed open the sliding door, sitting down on one of the old patio chairs. Drops of liquid hit her skirt - her hand was shaking. She set the glass down on the table.

"They won't just kill us," she said. Lincoln dropped into the seat across from her, downing his glass in one swallow.

"Of course they will. You killed a cop, June. What the hell did you think would happen?" June cringed, scrubbing at the dried blood.

"I... I didn't mean to. I didn't want to," she said. She rubbed her eye, feeling the sting of mascara. "You told me to. You can't blame this on me, you told me to."

Lincoln leaned forward, his ring glinting in the sunlight. His face contorted, his mouth hissing, spitting at her. "I told you to take care of him, not shoot him. You just had to slow him down while I got the money, and you shot him instead. You ruined us. This is your fault. We're going to die because of you."

"He jumped at me, he had a gun, I was scared, Linny," June said. She reached for the glass of vodka and took a drink. "It's because of you that we're in this mess in the first place. You and your damn gambling, never backing down, always telling me that we're going to be rich, we're going to be able to take that vacation to Paris, June, we're going to be able to have a kid. Well look what you got us, a cheap hotel and a death sentence."

Lincoln's face reddened, and he threw the empty bottle at the ground. The pieces scattered, and June jumped, clutching the arms of the chair. A shard cut her ankle, the blood welling up and staining the skin.

"Don't you ever talk to me that way again, June," Lincoln said. His voice was steady, but his eyebrow twitched. "I swear I will blow your goddamn brains out."

From over the patio wall, sirens approached. Their voices quieted. June clenched the fabric of her skirt. She raised her head and looked Lincoln in the eye. Here, on this patio with the weeds and the lawn chairs and the filter of red and blue lights, he looked small.

"I'll talk to you whatever way I want," she said. "You can't make death threats when I'm already about to die."

Lincoln ran his hand over his face. His hair was messy and his clothes were wrinkled and untucked, stained with sweat. His tie hung loose around his neck. June twisted her ring, then took it off and placed it on the table. It was too tight these days.

"They'll be here any minute," Lincoln said. He didn't sound angry anymore, just tired.

June shook her head, looking at the wall, the crumbling brick and dead ivy. She tried to find something beautiful, something to look at in the last moments, but there was nothing. Just muted sunlight and brown grass.

"June, when did we start to hate each other?" He was looking at her ring, sitting on the table next to her empty glass. It sat there between them, but neither of them reached for it. June looked at the door to the hotel room, waiting for it to crash open, for the police to burst in.

"I think we always did."

13 comments:

  1. this is an excellent story, hard boiled, totally credible characters, atmospheric and tense. `a cheap hotel and a death sentence`, film noirish!

    Mike McC

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  2. Great story, full of tension, desperation and seediness.

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  3. Their grit and candor make you want to know more. Good story.

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  4. A cautionary tale. Think and then think again before you where you can't come back. Well done.

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  5. Great, tight writing with abraded nerves running right through it. Fabulous profiling of petty criminals finally getting in over their heads in a world characterised by mutual loathing and hopelessness. Well done,
    Ceinwen
    Ceinwen

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  6. I could totally picture this scene in my mind. It would look amazing visually on film! Great job! Keep up the great work!

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  7. Great story and beautifully concise.

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  8. The writing is well done, with a sad ending. Why do they do they hate each other, I wonder...

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  9. Left wanting to know what got them here: "She tried to find something beautiful, something to look at in the last moments, but there was nothing." Excellent!

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  10. Left wanting to know what got them here: "She tried to find something beautiful, something to look at in the last moments, but there was nothing." Excellent!

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  11. Excellent imagery and dialogue. I love the creative mix of a relationship story within a crime story framework.

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  12. Nice, tight story. Nothing extra but everything that is here says something.

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