A Bit of Nostalgia


-I’m looking for someone named Liam.
-Don’t know any Liam.
He begins scratching his ass. Casually. The way some people play with their hair or draw pyramids when they talk on the phone.
-He used to live at this address. Maybe you know where they might have moved.
-Lady and a kid.  
-Right.  
-Back in ’02.  Kid was maybe thirteen.  William or something.  
-Or something. Remember a last name?  
-Monaghan.  You a bill collector?
-Nah.  My grandparents live next door.
-Yeah? How’s his hip treatin’ him?
-Not like an old friend. Listen. They didn’t leave anything when they moved, did they?
-Just the keys and a busted toilet.  
-No boxes, huh?
-Didn’t seem like the kind of people had anything to toss in boxes, way I remember it.  
-Yeah.
-She was moving in with her boyfriend.  Guy worked at Jack & Jill.  
-Like the ice cream?  
-Yeah. Said she was finally getting’ her just desserts.  Hand to God, that’s what she said.  
-Remember the guy’s name?  
-Sorry.  
-It was a long time ago.    
-So. What was in it?  
-In the box?
-In the box, sure.
-Just some old comics.  
-They still make those?
-They do.  But these were old.  From the 80s mostly.
He stops scratching his ass for a moment.   
-Worth anything?   
-Only to me.  
-Haven’t seen ‘em.
He resumes his scratching.
-And if they had been worth something? Would you maybe have seen them then?  
-Don’t even know your name, pal.  You accusing me of extortion?  
-Guess not.  
-Guess not.  
-Mow your lawn.  Place looks like shit.  
-Fuck off.  
-Good advice.  Stand here any longer and I’m bound to get Lyme disease.
He moves to slam the door and I catch it. The guy had never given the old coots any problems. He was alright.    
-Keep an eye on ‘em for me, yeah?    
I withdraw my hand and the screen door slaps shit.  He disappears into the dim apartment.  I cross over the driveway, checking my arm for ticks.

*****


-Teddy?
She doesn’t remember my name. Thinks I’m one of my cousins.  Close enough.  She opens the door and retrieves her soup from the piano.  She turns her back as if she’s just let one of the dogs in from the yard. 
-You remember the Monaghans, Gram?
My grandfather looks up from the obituaries.  Cocoa, their wire-haired something-or-other, perches behind his head on the top of the recliner.  Gram’s drifted up the stairs, so he answers.    
-They live out in Blue Bell now.
-Talk to them at all?  
-She called a few times for about a month or two.  
-Do we know if they’re still there?
-Why wouldn’t they be?
-People move.  
-Hasn’t been that long.  
My grandfather was born upstairs in 1923.   
-I guess not.  
-Trying to get in touch with Liam.  Dad gave him some of my old comics at the yard sale we had over here.  
-Are they worth anything?
-Only to me.  Maybe to Liam too.  I don’t know.  
-Maybe he threw them out.  
-Probably.  But I just want to find out.  If I could.  
-Probably still in Blue Bell.  
Unless he’s in college.  
-You guys need anything?
-Open up the blinds, would ya, Fred?
He hasn’t forgotten me.  Fred’s a nickname.  I open the blinds and head to the door.  She’s still sipping her bowl of Italian Wedding soup on the staircase.  
-Why don’t you sit down here, Gram?  
-It’s cold down there.  
-Put on a sweater.
-I don’t think I have any.
I pick one up from the piano bench where my aunt folds the laundry and carry it up to her.
-Now you do.  
She stares at it.  She’s worn it a million times.  But this is a discovery.  Not Christmas morning.  Just a dusty, archaeological dig.  I hold her soup while she wrestles her arms into the sleeves.  
-How much do you think your books are worth, Fred?  
-Not much.
She gives me a look.  
-They mean a lot to you.  
-Kind of.  I guess.  
-So they’re worth a lot.  
-Maybe.
-Do an old woman a favor.
-Sure.
-Enjoy it before you forget it.  
-Okay.
-And shave.
-Yes, ma’am. 

*****

I make some calls.  The boyfriend’s name was Cook.  He’s not with Liam’s mom anymore. Still at the ice cream place though.  Shelley Monaghan didn’t get her just desserts after all.  Cook says I’m better off forgetting about it. Not sure where Liam ended up, but it’s probably nowhere good.  Why’d I give up the books in the first place?  Didn’t need them. The kid kept coming over to the yard sale with coins from the couch.  An issue here, an issue there.  Finally my dad just gave him the whole crate. Nice of ’em, says Cook. But you want them back?  I don’t.  Not exactly. Just curious as to what happened to them.  Liam could be in jail for all Cook knows. That’s the way things were going.  I never spoke a word to the kid, personally, so I take him at his word.  Just forget about it, says Cook.  I thank him and hang up the phone. 

I don’t forget about it. 

I make some more calls. 

*****

Not sure how Liam normally sounds, but he doesn’t sound well when he returns my call.  
-I don’t know about milk crates
-This was back in ’98. 
-Don’t remember.
-That’s alright. 
-These comics…they worth anything?
-Only to me.
-You wouldn’t tell me though if they was worth anything.
-I’d tell you. They’re yours as much as they were mine. 
-But they’re not worth nothin? 
-Honest, man.  They’re not. 
-Yeah. 

-Okay.
-Mom’s got some of my old stuff. Told her I wasn’t coming back so she might as well toss it. 
-It’s okay.  I won’t bother her. 
-Not my business. 
-What is your business?
-Fuck you.
-I’ve been getting that a lot lately. 
-Sorry. 
-I’ll let you go. 
-Wait. 
-Yeah?
-Listen, man.  You got a gun?
I stare at the receiver. 
-What are you asking me?
-I’m asking you if you have a gun.
-For what purpose?
-I dunno.  Maybe you hunt.
-Not my purpose.  What do you want it for? 
-Forget about it. 
Dial tone. 

I don’t forget about it.

I stop making calls. 

*****

-Mr. Montgomery.
-Uh huh. 
-Temple Hospital. We brought a young man in yesterday.  No I.D.  He gave us your number.
-I don’t understand. 

-I’ll put him on.  Hold please. 
-I don’t–
-Paul?
-Liam?
-I’m alright.
Doesn’t sound it.   
-You’re in the hospital.
-I didn’t wanna. 
-What happened?
-The guy shot at me and he didn’t miss. 
-Who shot you?
-Just a guy with a gun. 
-Okay. 
-I don’t think it was his first time. 
-Why?
-He got my kneecaps on the first and second try.
-No, why did he shoot you?
-I got it back. 
-You got what back?  Is this about money?  Drugs?
-The comics.  I got ’em back.
-What?
-Tired.
-You got shot over a box of comics?
-They were already in the car.
-This is insane. 
-I didn’t bleed on ’em. 
-You stole the comics and got shot?
-They were ours. 
-Is there anything I can do? 
-Forget about it. 

*****

I receive a package in the mail the next week.  Twenty-seven issues of ROM: Spaceknight.  I’ve never seen them before in my life. 


Paul Montgomery is a hero.  He just hasn’t saved anybody yet.  Contact him at paul@ifanboy.com. You can also find him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. BEST ARTICLE EVER.

  2. wow @_@

     

    hahahah 

  3. I love the worlds you inhabit.

  4. and now I’m torrenting Rom Spaceknight…

  5. Love that, Paul.

    ROM:  Spaceknight!  Just seing those words make me happy.  Sal Buscema!  Michael Golden covers!  Dire Wraiths!  The Neutralizer! 

  6. Did Paul just finish a Charlie Huston novel? All signs point to "Yes." 😉

    Nice piece.

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Dave – Yup, this was my Charlie Huston tribute.  Experimenting.  

  8. Very nice tribute. You’ve got a good voice going here. I’ll expect to see more like this. 😉

    And a ROM mention to make Horatio happy.  Actually, I don’t think I ever read the series regularly, but I have some fond memories a few issues. I think I liked all the other spaceknights – some interesting designs, as I recall. Always thought ROM himself was too boxy.

  9. Any article that mentions Rom:Spacekinght is instantly elevated into one of the highest forms of expression available to literature.  Bravo, well done sir!

  10. Riveting. Nice job Pol.

  11. Wow. Just wow.

  12. very noirish i love it!!

  13. All is needs is a Femme Fatale and the sax playing in the background

  14. Nice work Paul!  This was a great read.  Thanks for sharing it!

  15. @CharlieHuston is fantastic to follow on twitter. I swear he’s writing a novel, 140 characters at a time. Because he can.

  16. At first I didn’t know what the hell I was reading (I was especially disoriented since I just put my name in my iFanboy profile mere seconds before reading this and then, according to the vanity of name recogniton, Paul is looking for me! I now know what "John"s and "Mike"s go through on a daily basis.) but I held faith in Montgomery and the art of noirody (noir + parody = hooray!) and ’twas pleasantly delighted.

    Brilliant, good sir, brilliant!