I kicked the guy in the balls. The shit that served for made guys these day in Jersery was fucking pitiful. I didn’t kill the dick : just let him slide down the highway. I saw him coming a mile away; knew they’d be after me soon as I left the Florida state lines for my daughter’s wedding.
I slid back into the car parked outside of the Burger King on the Turnpike Island. Guess a state trooper tipped off the crew—what was left of them. Most of them rotted in jail or fed worms. I’d join the buffet in a month. I lit up a cig, took a puff then coughed blood on my palm.
Shit … maybe a week.
All my worthless life I’ve struggled for control over my impulses. I had a family once—wife and daughter—and I blew it to shit when I killed this asshole cause he wouldn’t stop shaking my hand.
I drove another hour into Pennsylvania. I remembered the church from my ignorant childhood—baseball and comic books and shit. Always watching the street corners for action. My dad fought as a boxer for the Irish mob—the damh or Gaelic for ox. When he got fat and his liver had rotted to shit from whiskey, they used him to collect debts from degenerate fuck gamblers. I wanted to say it was good to be home after all these years, but I felt like a snake was eating up my ass.
I bundled my package into a plastic bag of old clothing I’d ripped off from the thrift shop. The moth-eaten crap was all going back there anyway. I carried the bundle towards the used clothing bin behind Saint Joseph’s Church—where I’d served as an altar boy near in another age. I spotted what was probably Vinnie’s car. He always had a thing for Caddys. His driver sat up front wearing ear buds, probably listening to a game. He hadn’t noticed him. Sarah had insisted on a private ceremony, and the new skipper had to leave his guns at home. His crew all waited over at Jimmy’s Bottles to toast the happy couple, then they set sail to Sicily, to stay at a Don’s villa. It’s not the life I wanted for my daughter.
I maneuvered to keep my business from touching my family. I put my daughter in Catholic school, moved Sarah and my wife Debbie out of town to keep the disease from touching them. Now she married that fuck, the last wise guy holding a vendetta over my head. She might have done it out of spite just to hurt me, a lifetime of her psychology trying to clip me from afar.
I popped my Zippo out of the lapel pocket of my black blazer and one of three loose cigs. My fingers ached when I clutched at the metal lighter. After I struggled with my broken fingers, I managed to crack the lid. The cap rang like a bell, locking into place and igniting a fluid flame. Church bells banged in disarray, and four limos lined the drive in front of the small church and school. Ushers hurried family members from my wife’s side. I didn’t see any of my living cousins and only two old aunts from Vinnie’s depleted Italian clan. A lookout guy lingered outside the side door, keeping watch for his boss. Clouds choked the sky, but the shit still wore sunglasses and greased back his hair like some kind of fucking model. I didn’t recognize him, probably not even born when I ran with the crew.
My fingers cramped when I reached for my .22, snug under my cummerbund. I’d never have the time to fire before he pulled his piece. My lungs heaved against the icy air, weighed down by the acrid smoke from my cig. My oncologist would have a seizure if he knew I still smoked, but what the hell did it matter now.
When I found out, I called to make peace with my family, decided to put this shit right. I had one promise to myself to keep—that God would clip me after my enemies died.
“Excuse me, pretty boy?”
I strained my voice, darted my eyes a bit. Spittle dripped down my chin.
“I’m supposed to give away the bride. I’m not wearing panties. Commando!”
“Church is that way, Pops,” he said, palming back his hair.
Grease coated his hand.
“Church? This some kind of funeral?” I said, playing up dementia.
I exposed my false teeth, stuck them out of my mouth over my lip. The young hood sighed and looked away and I walked by, clearly not a threat to him. Soon as I was in his blind spot, I lifted the bundle and clocked the shit out of his skull, knocking him with the handle. He spun around to face me, not sure of what happened at first. I had enough time to strike him again and again, playing his head like a fucking bongo.
It ain’t like on television : takes a lot to knock a man cold. However, I had boxed most of my youth professionally like my old man. I had to be fast. There’d be more of Vinnie’s guys around the church. His eyes rolled back into his head as he hit the church brick wall. I finished my cig, puffing it to a stub then dropped it on his pretty head. His black hair smoldered as he whimpered.
Off I went to the rectory where Sarah would be getting ready and slid the bundle through an open window at the church back.
I told those dumb-fuck doctors to go fuck themselves. I would die old by the will of the Divine, not some amateur hitman. All the old school killers either wasted their remaining months in prison or had long since been buried in the same earth as their victims. God worked slower, using different tools—time, coming at me from within. I sucked down the cig smoke, tasting the sweet tobacco and heavy tar. It raked my lungs, and I savored the rip and pleasure like a woman rubbing her fat sexy thighs down my chest. I searched the parking lot, checked the church grounds then stepped into old cathedral— the place where I’d been baptized and confirmed as a boy—going through the motions for my parents. I’d labored an especially long life for a made guy, tried to violate every meaningful sin, buy every ticket on the train to hell.
Having delivered the package as planned, I slipped in through the side door to the church and followed the pews. Sparse population occupied the front rows, mostly on the bride’s side. The fat fuck, my future son-in-law and would-be murderer, lingered at the lobby, ready to take my baby girl’s hand and walk down the aisle. Even though she’d just turned fifty, she’d always be my little girl. He’d just as soon as blow off my face with a double-barrel then stick a ring on her chubby finger. I sighed, braced myself and made sure my .22 hung snugly in my pants. I didn’t think I could pull the trigger with my arthritis, but I could threaten for a few minutes, buy enough time for the plan to work.
“Frankie? Shit. Is that you? Same ugly-as-shit face. How long has it been? I mean . . . how the fuck? You just fell off the world. We looked for you for years.”
“The boss sent his boys down to visit me. Those pasty assholes must have loved all that fucking sunshine down there ‘cause they never came home no more.”
“Yeah,” he said, grinning. Squeezing his fat cheeks.
I didn’t extend my hand to shake. I hadn’t offered such a gesture since the last time forty years ago. I kneed that asshole in the balls. Shot him fast then grabbed the handoff cash running to Florida. I existed on the edge of life. Keeping myself out of the sun, just surviving and taking out made assholes who sooner or later came south to take me out.
“Well, how the fuck are you? You silent asshole. You’re like some jerkoff actor an old silent movie. Do I need to yank your cord to make you talk?”
“Your people have been trying to kill me for the last thirty years. What the fuck do you expect?”
“Ahh,” he said. He was hugging me, pushing his gut up against me, treating me like an old friend.
“That was just business. Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun tonight. I didn’t think you were coming to the wedding. Does Sarah know? She talks shit about you, but she misses you. Don’t worry about nothing. I wouldn’t hurt my soon-to-be father-in-law.”
He grinned, exposing his gold caps; I knew he would. He’d kill me right now, as soon as he got the chance. The wedding party watched us. He itched his chest, my proximity getting up his ass. He kept reaching to his shoulder through his tux, angling for the bulge under his vest where he kept his piece. He’d do what no one else could do in decades and then fuck my daughter with my fresh hot blood on his dick.
“I appreciate that,” I said.
“You became a legend in Philly. The young guys all had hard-ons to make their bones with you. We cut a lot of the fat that way. Stupid assholes. You took out the weak stock for us, made us stronger. You served a purpose to us even on the run, and I’ll tell you, the old boss had a soft spot in his heart for you. You never took any shit.”
The organist played Bach. My daughter always liked Bach. She’d be emerging soon, resplendent in white dress.
“You better take care of her,” I said. “I don’t have a shitload of time left.”
“I heard you were sick.”
“Cancer’s eating up my ass.”
The fatass cracked another prick-smile, exposing his golden caps.
“Karma probably, even though all that Hindu shit is a sin against the church.”
“I don’t believe in Karma or divine retribution. How do you explain all the innocent kids who die of this shit every year?”
I took out a cig’ and lit up. The smoke seared my throat. I didn’t care that I lit up in a church. The wedding party fired shotgun-shell-looks at me, and I just puffed away.
What the fuck did God care for a bit of smoke?
“Ain’t that shit bad for you?” asked Vinnie.
“Each cig costs me an hour of life, not seconds anymore.”
“Love is worse,” said the groom. “That takes decades off a man’s life.”
“Fuck love up the ass with a wedding cake,” I said.
“Sounds fattening,” he said.
I knew once I got outside, that he’d have his guys around. I’d be dead. She’d be out soon. I reached for my piece, distracting, buying time from that asshole. I knew I couldn’t pull the trigger. The arthritis gnarled my hand. I hoped she’d forgiven me, really meant what she said about spending my remaining together. I puffed on the cigarette. It hung on from the membrane moisture of my lip. He grabbed a sawed off shotgun from under the altar and aimed. He knew I couldn’t hold the piece and grinned, his chubby cheeks swelling up.
“My terms,” I said. “God’s killing my ass. Not some throwback to a dead era.”
“Then down on your knees,” he said. “Father . . . Son . . .”
A borehole blew through his forehead.
Blood and brain mass exploded onto the aisle and pews behind them. My daughter held the gun in her gloved hands then dropped the .45. Its barrel still smoked. Blood stained her gown, but she still looked resplendent in her full white wedding dress.
“Until death do us . . . asshole,” she said.
“Shit,” I said. “You got blood on your wedding dress.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Sarah said. “The prick fucked around on me last night with a stripper at his stag party. I’m saving the next bullet in the barrel for that skank hooker.”
T. Fox Dunham resides outside of Philadelphia PA—author and historian. He’s a cancer survivor. His friends call him fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is :
Wrecking civilization one story at a time.