Story by William Blick
Illustration by Bradley K. McDevitt
Any day…any minute…any second…that front door will be rattled. I’m down in the basement, see. My folks are up in the den. Dad loves watching Gunsmoke. Mom’s crocheting. I’m down here with a fifth. Not even the Scottish spirits can calm my nerves. I’m sweating….every now and then I retch…or puke. Damn, can’t eat nothing.
Sal Gaggagio and his boys know what I’ve been up to. They know I’ve been skimming. Gotta admit that I knew somehow I’d get caught. Guess was a passive suicidal thing. But now here this thing is upon me. I wish I could talk to Dad. Don’t want to worry him. He’s gonna be 86 this year. I don’t know if I will make it till then. He’s still off in the clouds about Korea. Mom, she does her best. My brothers are gone. One became a monk at St. Paul’s. The other is a business man in Dallas. I was the fool. Trying to make an extra buck without the sweat. Wish I was a salesman, a cop, a lawyer. Now I’m nothing.
Gaggagio thinks nothing of hacking you up. Your family too. When I was a kid, my pop shielded me from the bad. Seems like I invited it in. Only hope they go for me only, and not Mom and Pop. They don’t deserve this. God, I wish I could tell him. Don’t think he would understand, Pop. I know that he knew I was up to no good all these years. He instilled values and morals and I spat on them. Does anyone remember redemption? I pray to Christ. I try to be one with another power. This is a foxhole prayer. I hold onto the old .38 with all my might. This is my rosary.
I was shacked up with Terry all these years. Till she had enough of my drunken escapades and kicked me out. That’s how I landed back in the basement. Mom and Dad would never turn me away. I swill from the bottle. Don’t grace the poison with a glass. Maybe I take the rest of these Seconals and drift away. Save mom and dad the pain. God, Dad I could use your gentle hand on my shoulder now. But they are gone away even though they are upstairs. I have to let them go. Not involve them. I could run away. Go on the road. But what would be the point? They would catch up with me in a heartbeat…or go after Mom and Dad to find out where I’ve went.
Any day…any minute… any second. It’s 10:30 pm and Mom and Dad are dozing in the den with some frozen dinners on the television tray. A banging comes at the front door. I can hear it from the basement. Mom and Dad are hard of hearing. The banging gets louder. My heart goes up in my throat. I know if they wanted to kill me, I would be dead. There would be no knock at the front door. I go upstairs and to the peep whole. It’s some cop I have never seen before. Maybe this wasn’t Gaggagio’s crew. They would have caught me on my way to the liquor store or to get cigarettes. I grab the pistol and stick in my pants.
I open the latch on the door and stand there staring at this cop. He has dark black hair and bright blue eyes. His hair is spiked with extra-hold hair gel. His uniform is crisp, crisp like it hadn’t been worn before. I have my hand on the pistol.
“Do you have a Honda Civic?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
“There’s been an accident. It’s parked on the corner. It’s totaled. Do you want to come with me?”
“Gee, officer, can we handle this in morning?”
Then I see the piece. It’s a pistol that is not standard issue for cops. “Let’s go inside,” he says as he pushes the door open. He’s got the gun on me. Next thing we’re sitting on the couch, like we’re ready for tea and cookies. No word from the folks upstairs.
“Get rid of that .38. Put it on the coffee table next that Good Housekeeping.”
I put the piece on the table. I know I’m done now. He wants to know where the 30,000 grand is that I stole. “I wanna do this nice and easy. Just be cool. Tell me where the stash is and we will close the deal. No sweat.”
“Okay. I don’t have it. I put it on Bluebird in the third. Sucker came dead last.”
“Frankie, you are a dumb fuck. What are we gonna do with you. Anyone else here?”
“No, just me.”
“I’m sorry this will not do. You had a chance to turn it in. Return the goods. Now I’m forced to deal with you. Let’s Go.”
Now I know I’m finished. I go with this guy in his car and it’s over. Thumbs. Then fingernails. Then knee caps. Galore. My heart is in my chest again. I hear the stirring upstairs. The man in blue’s ears perk up.
“Now Frankie, I think I’m gonna have go ahead and clear the place out,” he says as he motions to the upstairs with his piece. I feel that sick feeling again. Like the worst is upon us. Maybe Dad and Mom will be too old to know what’s hit them. Please, God! Let there be no pain for them. Let me suffer instead. They didn’t do nothing. They would never hurt no one.
“Please take me. Spare them. They don’t know nothing. They wouldn’t say nothing,” I says.
“Now Frankie, you know how Gaggagio doesn’t like things to be untidy or have many loose ends. This should teach you not to rob those you put food in your mouth. Call them.”
“Call them, I said.”
THEN IT COMES OUT OF NOWHERE! A thunderclap. A puff of smoke. The acrid smell. And I see the boy in blue fly across the room with buck shot. His guts blown apart, clear out the back of his stomach.
And then I see him. Dad is standing there with the old shotgun he had on the shelf for years. He took care of this scum in one motion. I guess dear old pop was a bit sharper than I realized. I look at him and he says, “No ass is going to come in my home after my boy!”
I hear from the upstairs, “Sal, did you let the cats out?”
“Yes, dear. Did you hear from, Rose?” Dad yells upstairs.
“Not yet. Do you want me to put the tea on?”
“Okay, how about those cookies you baked”
“Yes, Sal. I didn’t forget. Everything all right?”
Dad lays the shotgun down. He walks into the kitchen and pours himself some milk. I stare in awe. I look at the guts on the wall. I look at the shotgun. I look at Dad sipping his milk. I think to myself. Some mess. And I can’t help but chuckle. I chuckle a dead man’s chuckle. Dad goes upstairs with the milk. Looks like I have something to clean up. Upstairs I hear the theme song from Gunsmoke.
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