First off, many thanks to Keith Rawson for suggesting I befriend Jason Duke on Facebook. I remembered his name from Keith’s blog, so I searched him out online and found a bunch of stories that knocked me on my ass in a big way. Especially “Running to Zero,” which I am featuring for this week’s edition of Stories for Sunday.
Originally published in Thuglit #30 and reprinted as A Twist of Noir #97, “Running to Zero” does for today’s world what Falling Down did for the early 1990s. It’s the ugliest, truest aspects of our anxiety, anger, and failure, writ uncomfortably large. “There are last place trophies for everything,” Duke reminds us, and his protagonist – Gerald Tyler – is none to happy to have come in last place in life. Deep in debt from online gambling, out of work for punching his boss and co-workers (honestly, they deserved it), and sick with the West Nile virus, Tyler is at once resentful and envious of the wealth, success, and health around him. A true and uncompromisingly noir protagonist, Duke is alienated from society in the most extreme fashion, which only fuels his sociopathic tendencies even more. He dreams of sitting in a mansion, order delivery, sitting online, and never seeing another awful human being in his life.
He wants to escape from that world.
And that, of course, is impossible.
“You run to make decisions.
You run to make choices.
You run to blame people for the consequences when things don’t work out right.
Gerald believes he is free to choose."
And so Gerald has made a choice. He’s grabbed an assault rifle and a handful of dynamite, and he’s making his way to Albertson’s supermarket…
Gripping and jaw droppingly-bleak, “Running to Zero” is exactly what I want to wake up to on a Sunday morning – a strong, bitter dose of reality to kick me back into gear. Hell, this is way better than black coffee any way you look at it.
Read “Running to Zero” by Jason Duke here at A Twist of Noir or here at Thuglit.