See diekirch and die by Max Thrax

Flash Fiction, Max Thrax

1

The flight to Luxembourg took thirteen hours. From the airport, Jed Lomax rode a cab; the driver a flaxen-haired man who chain-smoked as soon as they hit the road. The highway snaked north from the city past Walterdye, Steinsel, Lorentzweiler, Lintgen, Mersch Berschbuch, Colmar-Berg Ettelbruck, and Ingeldorf before reaching Diekirch. Jed paid the cabbie, who lit another cigarette and sped off.

            The Hotel Felix was a drab two-story building at the bottom of a hill. The beer garden was empty. In the hotel cafe, a couple of Italian tourists sat by the windows. Jed ordered a double espresso. If he ate less during the day, he would get drunk earlier in the evening; the drunker he got, the easier to leap the bank of the River Sauer.

                                                                        2

A homeless man sat next to the donkey statue in the square, ranting to himself in German. Jed flipped through his phrasebook.

            “Are you hungry?”

            The man stared at his knees.

            “Haben Sie Hunger?”

“Why?” said the man.

            “Excuse me?”

            “Why are you here? You fly to Diekirch and ask if I’m hungry? Back to England. Before you flop in the Maison Soeur.”

            Jed stepped away and the bystanders went down the Grand Rue. A police officer escorted the man to his car.

            At the Hotel Felix, he asked for a Kronenbourg and water.

            “What’s the Maison Soeur?” Jed said.

            The bartender leaned forward. “A brothel.”

            “Is it dangerous?”

            “Only if you don’t pay,” he said. “For an American—no problem.”

                                                                        3

Jed rang the bell and a young woman in overalls answered the door. The woman looked at his collar, muttered in Russian, and led him to a well-furnished parlor that served as a waiting room. A man with a short black beard sat on one of the couches.

            “First time at the Maison?” he said.

            “Yes.”

            The woman walked over. “She is ready.”

            “Who?” Jed said.

            The bearded man nodded: “Your girl.”

            “No one told me who she was.”

            “We have two girls,” the woman said. “Right now, one is busy.”

            She brought Jed down the hall to a small bedroom facing an alley. On the bed sat a woman the same age as the madam. She wore black leggings and a black leather jacket over a pink blouse.

            “Thirty minutes,” said the madam.

            Jed stood nervously by a dresser near the door.

            “You’re English?” the woman said.

            “American.”

            “She told me English,” she said.

            “Look,” Jed said, “if you don’t feel well, or you don’t—”

            “Thirty minutes.”

            “I mean—if you’re uncomfortable.”

            “It is cold here.”

            “It is cold,” Jed said.

            Feeling his stomach tighten, Jed sat down on the bed. “Is this—is this really what you want from life? I wasted my life. You see, that’s why I came to Luxembourg . . .”

            “Do English men talk so much?”

            A knock on the door. The madam came in and looked at the woman, then at Jed: “Something wrong?” she said. “Tell me if she is not satisfying.”

            “I’ll be right back,” he said. He shuffled down the hallway, out to the Rue Gravitaine.

                                                                        4

The first bar on the Grand Rue was the Bar Hospitaller. Most of them had red awnings, and looking down the street Jed saw five others.

            The Hospitaller was dark and had no radio or television. Jed ordered a Diekirch lager and thought that if a stray dog could drown itself, it would. Since he was a man, endowed with reason, suicide was the right course.

He drank two pints of Diekirch until the silence of the Hospitaller unnerved him. The next bar was the Cafe Ardennes. Unlike the Hospitaller, the Ardennes was bright and had two large windows open to the street. Jed took a seat at the bar, bought a pilsner, and watched the pedestrians.

            He drank another two pints and saw it was six o’clock. Jed called to the bartender and, instead of beer, ordered a neat scotch.

            On the far side of the Grand Rue, Jed spotted the man from the brothel.

He turned his head so that he faced the bar. The bearded man ordered a drink in German and sat next to Jed on the corner.

            “The Maison,” the man said.

            Jed finished his whisky.

            “My name is Nicholas,” the bearded man said. “I’m from Belgium.”

            “Jed.”

            “Jed is not an English name.”

            “It’s American.”

            “Ah,” Nicholas said. “I would never have guessed. You are too quiet. And drinking too fast.”

            “Places to go.”

            “Where?”

            “The next three bars.”

            “I doubt you make it across the road.”

            “Well,” Jed said, “It’s part of my plan, to get drunk.”

            “Why? The Maison?”

            “Since it doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you—to kill myself.”

            Nicholas burst out laughing, then dabbed his lips with his wrist. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t—”

            “You laughed.”

            “I wasn’t expecting it. Fuck, man. Why kill yourself?”

            “Why not?”

            “It is unnatural,” Nicholas said. “It’s against God.”

            “I don’t believe in God,” Jed said. “And if you do, why were you at the Maison?”

            Nicholas smiled. “God is everywhere. He never leaves me when I visit the Maison: He walks me up those steps, glides me through the door. When I saw you walk in, He was with me.”

            Jed sat dumbfounded on his stool. “Two more scotches,” he told the bartender. Confidentially he said to Nicholas: “I don’t believe in God. You have something, you lose it, and then you lose everything.”

            “That’s what happened?”

            “What?”

            “Loss.”

            “Things went wrong too many times.”

            “Wife left you?”

            “Girlfriend.”

            “Good one?”

            “She was going to have my kid. At least, she said it was mine.”

            “A blink in the cosmos.”

            “Easy to say.”

            “You think I’ve always sat in brothels? Talked to strangers in bars? This is Luxembourg. There’s not a thing out of place on the Grand Rue. But sometimes you find a crack. It spreads and shoots you down to freezing water . . .

            “I’ll tell you a story, since Americans are so fond of them. Once, in a former life, I had a beautiful wife and a young daughter. When I got a promotion, we all started preparing our move to Luxembourg City. That day my daughter and I drove a truckload of furniture to the apartment. Usually I would have left her with her mother, but she was eager to see our new home. I couldn’t refuse.

            “The traffic was slow, and as we got closer to downtown her cold grew worse. It would’ve been no trouble to book a hotel. Back then, though, I always had to rush, to be efficient, to get somewhere. It began snowing near Strasbourg. She was asleep when the car slipped off the road. I never had time to react, I just sat there and watched it crash.

            “All of the windows were shattered, the horn blaring. I had no more than a scratched cheek. Then I looked over and Anya was gone. The windscreen, you see, was broken. I won’t describe what I saw when I found her body.    

“A year later my wife and I divorced: too many memories. I went from a man with everything—wife, daughter, new career, new home—to a man with nothing.”

            “I’m sorry,” Jed said. “I’m so sorry it happened.”

            “Don’t be sorry,” Nicholas said. “If something terrible happens, don’t ask, Why me? Instead, Why me at all? Why do I exist? The value is not in things but in loss. How do you know yourself until you lose something?”

 “Maybe you’re right.”

            “Of course,” Nicholas said, “I’m right.” He rose from his stool and patted Jed on the back. “Get me a scotch, will you?”

            “Sure.”

            Nicholas walked to the end of the bar, stepped on an uneven board and hobbled to the restroom.

            There goes a man, Jed thought. He was overcome by a desire to bring Nicholas back to the States. They could start their lives over, help each other. Jed’s friends in Liberty were drunk or dead or had skipped town years ago.

He ordered two glasses of Oban. On television was a soccer match; the bartender said Marseilles and Bordeaux. Both teams wore blue uniforms. For a moment Jed was mesmerized, then felt dizzy and a little sick. He asked for a glass of water.

            “Do you care who wins?”

            “Twenty euros on Bordeaux.”

            “Oh . . . Do you have a favorite team?”

            “No, I am from Luxembourg.”

            Jed nodded and looked at his watch: seven-thirty. “When did my friend leave?”

            “Half-time. Maybe twenty minutes ago?”

            Jed sat back on his stool and hoped Nicholas would return soon. By the time he finished the two scotches, it was eight o’clock and the bar got crowded.

            “Is your friend coming?” the bartender said. “If not, several would like his seat.”

            “Pair of scotches,” Jed said. All evening he’d spent only a hundred and fifty euros. He laughed as he thought of his suicide plan and the fat wallet in his shorts.

            When Jed reached in his front pocket, it was gone.

            “Fifteen euros,” the bartender said.

            “Can I start a tab?”

            “Sure.”

            “I’ll be back in a minute,” Jed said. “My friend is just around the corner.”

The noise and chatter of the bar belied the quiet of the Grand Rue. After three lagers, eleven whiskies, and a Tom Collins, he was loose and unsteady and he stumbled over the cobblestones to the town square.

            Now Jed was penniless. He deserved to be penniless, he knew, because he was so naive. And things went wrong too many times.

            By the donkey statue, he stopped a woman with a red canvas bag and asked how to find the river.

                                                                        5

Soaked from head to foot, Jed sat in the police station with a blanket over his shoulders. The captain was a curt man wearing a peaked cap and epaulettes. “You jumped into the Sauer?” he said. “Because your wallet fell out?”

            “No—I mean, not the only reason…”

            “American?”

            “Yes.”

            “You don’t look American,” the captain said. “Whether you speak like an American, I am no expert. You flew from Kansas—”

            “Kansas City.”

            “—from Kansas to Luxembourg. You took a cab north passing X, Y, Z . . . and checked in at the Hotel Felix. You visited the Family of Man exhibit. Then a pickpocket stole your money, and you decided to end your life. That’s your story?”

            “That’s what happened.”

            “Another tourist on the Rue Superior reported her wallet stolen this evening. You will contact the embassy in Luxembourg City, but first you must go to the Cafe Ardennes and pay your tab.”

            An officer came through the door. He spoke excitedly to the captain in Luxembourgish and rushed back to the booking room.

            The captain turned to Jed. “We found a pickpocket in the Rue de Jardins. He stole a purse in the Bar Hospitaller. Chased down by an old sailor . . . Tonight you’ve been saved twice. If there’s a third, I hope you save yourself, Mr. Lomax.”

In the booking room, the man who called himself Nicholas sat in handcuffs next to the excited officer. “That’s him?” the captain asked Jed.

            “Yes,” Jed said. “What’s his name?”

            “Jacques Martin,”

            “He told me,” Jed said, “his name was Nicholas.” He walked across the room and stood in front of Martin. He stared at his face, at the greasy black hair and pocked cheeks which were remarkably ugly in the station light.

            As hard as he could, Jed swung at Martin’s jaw and knocked him off the bench. He screamed and spit on him until the officer pulled the men apart.

            “Not much of a fight,” the captain said. He and the officer chuckled.

            “No,” said Jed. He knelt down, tried to catch his breath. The floor was freezing. “Not much of one at all.”


Max Thrax lives in Boston. His novella God Is A Killer (Close To The Bone) will be published in May 2022.

FML Movie Soundtrack by Max Thrax

FML Movie Soundtrack, Max Thrax, Punk Noir Magazine

What songs are playing during these key scenes in the movie of your life and why?

CHILDHOOD: ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ – Guns n’ Roses
My dad went through a billiards phase. Sometimes I’d tag along with him to the pool hall, sitting outside with a book. For me it was a chance to hear music forbidden at home, especially Guns n’ Roses. I still love Appetite. Some of my friends prefer Jane’s Addiction; I tell them Perry Farrell tried very hard to convince everyone he was crazy, Axl Rose didn’t need to try at all.


FIRST LOVE: ‘Inner Flight’ – Primal Scream

Beautiful Pet Sounds-style instrumental. Pretty sure this or ‘High and Dry’ by Radiohead was playing when I first got the shift.


TEENS – ‘Up in the Sky’ – Oasis
The sound of the band was big, Liam Gallagher’s voice was even bigger. Their appeal was similar to GnR’s and early Oasis had more in common with them than with Blur or Pulp. ‘Up in the Sky’ reminds me of riding my bike around town, headphones on, going nowhere in particular.


YOUNG ADULT – ‘Lohengrin Overture’ – Richard Wagner
Unlike Liszt, Wagner was never a virtuoso musician but he was a virtuoso with harmony and orchestration. Above all he had drama. This piece keeps building and building until the end, when the cymbals crash and it’s like an overpass falling on you. 


FIRST HEARTBREAK – Disintegration Tapes – William Basinski

At the time I lived on Hemenway Street in Boston, which had the largest rat problem in the city. My bedroom had no windows and I chainsmoked for hours listening to this record. My other favorite was Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts–a requiem for the entire world–which I used to put on before I went to sleep.


WORKING MONTAGE – ‘Them Bones’ – Alice in Chains
This song rules. If you’re making a montage, may as well use ‘Them Bones.’


WRITING MONTAGE – ‘Improvisations sur les folies d’Espagne’ – Marin Marais

French court music–Marais, Couperin, Charpentier, Lully–is underrated. Perfect soundtrack for writing. I was working at a record shop when I discovered Tous les Matins du Monde and instantly became a fan.


OLD AGE – ‘Ten and Nine’ – Liam Clancy

I think Shane MacGowan recommended this album. ‘Ten and Nine’ is one of the many great melodies on Liam Clancy’s debut. I don’t expect to earn retirement, so this track seems appropriate. It’s a song for the working poor.


DEATH – ‘Tony’s Theme (Scarface)’ – Giorgio Moroder

This is my goal. I need to do a few other things first.

Four Poems from Max Thrax

Max Thrax, Poetry

BIO: Max Thrax lives in Boston. His stories and poetry have appeared in Bristol Noir, Shotgun Honey, and Versification. His novella God is a Killer (Close to the Bone) will be published in May 2022. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com or on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian.

 A SERIOUS HIDING

Remember

Your man Noel?

He lived

In Garryowen

Kept a horse

Fed the animal

In all weathers

Before he’d even

Feed himself

Named it Bronco

Noel’s wee sulky

Won a few races 

Off the N20

One night

Two lads got langered

Snapped the tether

Off poor Bronco

Ran her down to the knees

Left her on the street

Noel found the lads

And gave them

A serious hiding

With a pickaxe handle

Fled to Dublin

Or Manchester

Stories of him

In Rotterdam

Marbella

Didn’t I see him

Up the Back of the Monument

Wearing a blue suit

And golden tie

On his fingers

A year’s wages

Thought to say hello

But if your man had a name

It was beaten from him

Long ago

STAGED APARTMENT AT 20 PENNIMAN

Everywhere

Beige

Fake lemons in bowls

Sequined pillows

San Pellegrino

You sleep here

Because it’s free

You will never

Live here

In the middle

Of a vacant lot

Watching bags and wrappers

Catch the wind

Old men in the park

Slam dominoes

Traffic creeps

Up the hill

As the sun

Plummets

22 PENNIMAN

Nothing so nimble

As a rabbit poised to hop

On a steel girder

GONE BY SIX

His life

Fit inside

A junior hockey bag

Scrubbed the bath

Each morning

In every bathroom

He used

Swept the floor

Made sure

No traces

Were left

Nothing to suggest

He were human

Or at least 

Had once been

END

A Fistful of Poems from Max Thrax

Max Thrax, Poetry

BIO: Max Thrax lives in Boston. His stories and poetry have appeared in Bristol Noir, Shotgun Honey, and Versification. God is a Killer (Close to the Bone) will be published on May 27th, 2022. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com and on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian

NUMISMATICS

Some fall through history

Stillborn

Never grow legs

Or wings

Or even

A layer of skin

Pages of Tacitus

Eminent statesmen

Professional virgins

Bad thieves

Bite and scurry

And hide

Yet find

Their hands nailed

To the Senate door

When the tree dies

It becomes a coin

When the coin blackens

It turns the roots

Earth that is

No earth

Life that is

No life

Fine life

Where all coins

Are counterfeit

Where life

Only breeds 

Below

Above

Only waits

To die

HOLLOW SHELL

Last photos

Of you

Dark

Drawn face

Long

Half-melted

Now in town

I recall

Your blue tracksuit

As you sniggered

At my new girl

From the steps

I recall

We watched The Devils

Wasn’t it funny

To someone

Who flayed herself

A little

Everyday

You called

Roommate boiling crack

I laughed

Revere Beach

Drowsy hot

You handed me

A hollow shell

I threw it back

Wish I never

Threw it back

THE GENERAL

The general spits

And sometimes

Speaks

He says

Wear a mask

With a hood

Hide yourself

You never know

Who’s about

I listen

Grind my teeth

Eventually spit

And say

Nothing

Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer: Max Thrax

Close To The Bone, Max Thrax, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer

BIO: Max Thrax lives in Boston. His stories and poetry have appeared in Bristol Noir, Shotgun Honey, and Versification. God is a Killer (Close to the Bone) will be published on May 27th, 2022. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com and on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian.

TV: Play for Today, Boys from the Blackstuff, Match of the 70s & 80s, Twin Peaks, Cracker, Oz, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Serie A


MOVIES: Andrei Rublev, Scarface, White Heat, Gomorrah, Menace II Society, Ratcatcher, Pusher trilogy, Under the Silver Globe, Fresh, Taxi Driver, Friends of Eddie Coyle, Out of the Past, Blue Velvet, Sweet Smell of Success, The Third Man, I’m Bout It, Akira, Lady from Shanghai, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Get Carter, Jackie Brown, Point Break, Night of the Hunter, Long Good Friday, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Red Road, The Public Enemy


BOOKS: Dashiell Hammett, Paul Cain, Jim Thompson, Ted Lewis, George V. Higgins, Shane Stevens, Donald Goines, Derek Raymond, Patricia Highsmith, Simenon, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, Christopher Marlowe, Tacitus, Sallust, Julius Caesar, Cato the Elder, Strindberg, Witkiewicz, Ghelderode, Jean Follain, Georg Trakl, Ted Hughes, Zbigniew Herbert


MUSIC: Bach, Berlioz, Wagner, Bartok, Pink Floyd, Japan, OMD, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Broadcast, Deftones, Guns N’ Roses, Rammstein, Shortparis, synthwave


ART: Hellenistic art, Novgorod School, Bruegel, Paolo Uccello, El Greco, Velazquez, Bernini, Caravaggio, Poussin, Goya, Hokusai, Caspar David Friedrich, Hiroshige, Gustave Moreau, Ilya Repin, Kuniyoshi, Mikhail Vrubel, Neue Sachlichkeit


BOXERS: Jack Dempsey, Charley Burley, Ezzard Charles, George Benton, Ken Buchanan, Bob Foster, Alexis Arguello, Thomas Hearns, Roger Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson, James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, Kostya Tszyu, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Dmitry Pirog, Guillermo Rigondeaux

FOOD: yogurt, grapes, blackberries, lamb, calamari, full Irish
DRINK: tea, coffee, Red Bull, pomegranate seltzer
PLACES: Boston, Los Angeles, London
QUOTE: ‘Happiness is not being afraid’ – Roy Keane

Three Poems from Max Thrax

Max Thrax, Poetry

Max Thrax lives in Boston, MA. His stories and poetry have appeared in Bristol Noir, Shotgun Honey, and Versification. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com and on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian.

VENDETTA

Francesco said

Dead men don’t fight back

And he bloodied the street

With Della Croce heirs

In the mountains

Rain never dries

Snow never tires 

And the living wait

To reblood the valley

NEAR THE PIAZZA FONTANA

When the bomb exploded

I had just

Finished my coffee

Stood up at the bar

A woman in green

Clutched her daughter

Tried to hide her

Under her hair

I never crossed the road

I assure you

I never saw the bodies

The week before

I saw two young men

Roaming the streets

Around the Duomo

One wore a sneer

The other a jacket

With a patch

Fossa dei Leoni

I did not meet 

Their eyes

For they seemed more lion

Than human

ANDREA PIRLO

You trot forward

And canter back

One ball hits the crossbar

One finds the touchline

Keep moving

Knees give

Stomach heaves

And wants to give

Even more

Your face is ancient

The skull

Of the oldest horse

In the world

More sockets than eyes

More blindness than vision

More vision than the first horse

Who slipped its blinders

And ran

And found there were no markings

No painted lines

In the meadow