Thursday, April 18, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
“Our treats equal happiness.”
That's the motto of the Rainbow Ice Cream Company, a New York City-based business that makes and sells frozen sweets. During the seasons of spring and summer of every year, the company sends out ice cream vendor vans on the city streets, giving treats and drinks—at cheap prices—to sufferers of the sun's heat and humidity. The veteran vendors get some satisfaction from bringing a smile on a child's face; Mike Rollins only saw dollar signs and some job experience.
His mother wanted him to work at a hospital as a volunteer, after finishing his sophomore year in college. Mike didn't want to be around the infirm and elderly, let alone not getting paid for it. That got him a bump on his head, courtesy of Mom and her frying pan. Fortunately, Mike found Rainbow's ad, in one of the local newspapers. It called for high school and college students to apply as assistant vendors. A driver's license was required, and no experience was necessary. He got the job on the spot, and Mike looked for van #832 in the company's garage Wednesday morning.
The funny thing was the human resources manager, who interviewed Mike, wished him “a whole shitload of good luck,” and never explained why.
After going through rows of identical vans—they were all painted white with the company's logo and mascot, “Bowie”, a rainbow with a cartoon face and limbs, on both sides—Mike found his assigned vehicle. He looked into the passenger's seat window. Inside, a man was sleeping in the driver's seat. He had jet-black hair. A pair of thick-rimmed glasses, a black golf shirt, fading blue jeans and a pair of black sneakers were the articles he wore. Mike knocked on the glass, and the man woke up from his slumber.
He wasn't happy when he faced Mike, “Who the fuck--Who the fuck are you? Don't you know not to interrupt a man's sleep?!”
“I--I--I'm sorry. You're Frank Cooper, right?”
Frank opened the passenger door, “I'm actually the Pope. This is just a day job.”
Mike got in the van, sat in the passenger seat and extended his right hand, “Mike Rollins. I'm your new partner.”
“This isn't a fancy-pansy tea party, kid. You know the schedule?”
“Yeah. I have the paper in my right pocket.”
Frank sighed. He looked at his watch. It was 9:35 a.m. He put on his seat belt and turned the van's ignition key counter-clockwise. The motor first purred and roared as Mike put on his seat belt. His partner then moved the stick shift from position to drive, looked both ways for traffic. Frank pressed his right foot on the accelerator. Holding the steering wheel with both hands, Frank turned the van to the left and drove it outside the warehouse and onto
Queens Boulevard. Mike felt pretty nervous around the man behind the wheel. He wanted to start some conversation, but grouchy was a good adjective to describe Frank. Maybe he should listen to his mother and--
“Are you goin' mute on me, kid?” Frank broke the silence as he stopped at an intersection in Woodside when the light turned red.
“Good. I thought I was stuck with a mute or a dead man.”
“Sure. This is a summer job for you?”
“Yeah. I need some cash for textbooks, clothes and stuff.”
“A college boy. Which college do you go to?”
“You wanna be like Jerry Seinfeld or Paul Simon?”
“I haven't decided which major I want to take.”
The traffic light turned green. Frank drove on, “What the fuck? You're tellin' me you're in college, and you don't know what major you're gonna take as a major? Why the hell are you in--”
“Hey, I'm still young.”
“Yeah. So was I, and I got what I wanted out of my life. Life's too short. One friend I knew had no sex with women in his life. A fifty-two-year-old virgin. Can you fuckin' believe that? His mother fucked up his brain with sex being a sin and all that shit when he was growin' up. His father skipped on the both of them. So guess what?”
“Guy buys a porno tape. Betty Gets Banged In
. He gets a heart attack. Died in his underwear,” Frank shook his head, “Life's too short for some fools in this world.” Washington
Mike's eyes widen. Silence came again when they went through the towns of
Elmhurst and . When they came into Rego Park Forest Hills, Frank steered the van to the left, going on Jewel Avenue. Then, the van crossed over the Van Wyck Expressway, entering lower Flushing and made a left on Main Street.
Mike popped, “Hey, I thought that we're going to--”
“--the co-ops near your college,” Frank said, “We are. I just have to drop out some books and get some more at the library.”
“Don't be such a Nancy Neat, okay?! We're not doin' any fuckin' rocket science.”
The Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens Borough Public Library. Mike tapped his fingers on the reading table where he sat. He hated being sidetracked. He saw his partner going through some bookshelves; Frank had three books in a plastic bag. There weren't a lot of people in the library.
“Are you finished?” Mike whispered, impatient.
Frank showed Mike his left hand's middle finger and resumed his search for more literature. Mike sighed and shook his head. Then, he began to hear someone grumbling. Mike turned around to the library's foyer doors. A plump man, dressed in a gray shirt, denim shorts and leather sandals, walked in. For some past weeks, this man visited the library, going through newspapers and books while murmuring incoherent words to himself. He hasn’t posed any threat to neither the staff nor the patrons, yet he's annoyed those who wanted quiet. The man also annoyed Frank. He followed the man when he came into the rows of library shelves. The ice cream vendor got closer to the man, who was reading a book. Without saying a word, Frank threw a roundhouse right punch to the man's jaw. The blow knocked him to the floor. Frank looked behind him; no one saw him hit the guy. The library's restrooms were nearby. Frank dragged the unconscious man there and left him in the ladies' room. He did his best not to laugh as he reunited with Mike.
“Why don't you get some books, kid?” Frank said.
“I don't want to put my job in jeopardy,” Mike said.
“Fine. Be a boy scout.”
The two men went to the library's checkout desk. Frank got his books processed. At that moment, a woman's scream pierced the silence. Some of the library's employees went to the restroom area.
“What the--?!” Mike said.
“Let's go,” Frank said, “Don't look back.”
Frank didn't let Mike finished his sentence. He ran out of the library. Mike hurried after him, and the two went into the van and sped off.
“What the hell did you do back there?!”
Frank explained the whole story.
“Are you insane?!”
“Shut the fuck up! That guy was a fuckin' loony tune! I did those people back there a favor. You should be appreciative.”
“Appreciative?! You punched a guy, and you want me to be--”
“I don't need your fuckin' criticism. You kids today think you're all bigshots.”
“I don't believe this.”
“Just go in the back of the van, okay?”
Mike did so. Frank stopped the van at a red light on the intersection of
Main Street and Jewel Avenue. The items in the van's back were two freezers units, an air conditioning unit, an ice cream fountain machine, a small table with some candy boxes on it and a small stool. Mike sat on the stool. There was also a dark green duffel bag leaning on the floor, against the van's back doors. The light turned green, and Frank made a right on Jewel Avenue. He turned on the vehicle's sound speakers and tape player. A bright jingle escaped from the speakers and went through the air. Frank clicked on a microphone, connected to the speakers' system and spoke into it. Frank drove through the intersection of Kissena Boulevard and Jewel Avenue, “ICE CREAM! GET YOUR MOTHER FUCKIN' ICE CREAM! IF YOU DON'T WANNA SWEAT LIKE A FUCKIN' RETARD OR A FUCKIN' PIG, YOU BETTER COME OUT AND GET SOME ICE CREAM! ICE CREAM! GET YOUR MOTHER FUCKIN' ICE CREAM!”
Mike's lower jaw dropped.
Despite some complaints from some customers (whom Frank told to fuck themselves), Frank and Mike worked hard and good. It was a very humid day, and they decided to linger for a while for some more customers, near the corner of the aforementioned streets. Mike liked being in the back of the van. The air conditioner was on medium. Frank was sitting in the driver's seat, drinking a can of beer. Mike thought it wasn't a good idea. To risk Frank's wrath also wasn't a good idea. He stuck his head out the van's customer window. The warmth of the summer’s air brushed against his face.
Then Mike saw a pretty young lady, walking towards
Kissena Boulevard. She was a pretty brunette; her hair was laid upon her shoulders. A white tank-top shirt, blue denim shorts and a pair of sneakers were the clothes she wore. The young woman also carried a bookbag on her back; she must be a summer student at the nearby , Mike thought, seeing her coming towards the van. The lady's bosom bounced while she walked, and she gave off a friendly smile to Mike, who waved back. She then stopped. A penny was in her path on the sidewalk. It was probably discarded by one of the customers earlier. The co-ed then bent over to pick up it. Mike got a good look at her cute ass. He felt his genitals throbbing. Queens College
“Mike,” Frank said.
Mike didn't respond. His mind was on the young woman, who stood up straight, placed the penny in one of her pants' pockets and resumed her journey.
Still no response.
Frank turned to the back of the van, and threw his empty can at the back of Mike's head. Mike yelped, putting his head back into the van and nursing it. He faced Frank, “Why the hell did you do that for?!”
“You were off on cloud 456,” returned Frank, “What the hell are you looking out--” From the corner of his left eye, Frank noticed the young lady walking by, looking through the van's windshield. He turned to get a better look and whistled, “Man, you got some good taste. If you wanna meet her--”
“I don't know if--”
Frank shook his head, “Don't go all chicken shit on me, kid. I bet you haven't got any good pussy in your--”
“Drop it, Frank.”
Frank slowly turned to Mike, “You're a virgin, aren't you?”
“That's none of your business.”
Frank didn't let go, “Of all the guys I’ve been setup with, I got stuck with a virgin,” He then laughed.
“There's nothing wrong with being a virgin.”
“Is there anything wrong with not finding a major in college? I think so.”
“Why don't you--”
The two vendors turned to the customer window. They saw outside a young man. He was in his teens, wearing a New York Yankees cap, a green T-shirt marked with the drawing of a naked girl holding a hotdog, blue jeans and sneakers.
“Hey, Tim,” Frank and Tim exchanged a slapping five, “How the hell are you, man?”
“Fuckin' hot, man,” replied Tim, “Could you give me two Chipwichs, two orange sodas, a bag of M-80s and a bag of reefers.”
“Right. Mike, give him the goodies.”
Mike was shocked, “You're a drug--”
Frank went over to the duffel bag on the floor. He unzipped it, pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and pointed it at Mike's head, “Do what I say, or you’ll lose what's left of your brains.”
Mike quickly took out two wrapped Chipwichs (a treat made up of two chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips between them) from one of the freezers and two orange sodas from the freezer. As for Frank, he took out a bag of M-80 firecrackers and a bag of reefers from the duffel bag. The two men then put all of the items in a big, paper grocery bag, which Frank gave to Tim. Tim paid $25.
“You want change?” asked Frank.
“Nah, seeing your buddy get scared is enough for me.”
“Mike's his name, and he's a virgin.”
“A virgin?!” Tim exploded with laughter, “Oh, man!” Then he left, still laughing.
Mike gave Frank an angry look.
Frank grinned, “Check your pants.”
Mike looked down. He felt wet. A wet puddle was present on his crotch.
Mike bought a pair of blue jeans and a bag of three briefs at a discount clothing store on
Jamaica Avenue, and he and Frank drove to 87th Ave and 150th Street. When they stopped at the corner, the two men heard the rapid tapping of footsteps against concrete. Mike stuck his head out the customer window. He was met by the requests of a small group of young, screaming children.
“Gimme some Buffalo Jim!”
“Do you Rock Pop!”
“I want a cola!”
“I want strawberry ice cream!”
“Juicy gum. I want Juicy--”
Frank couldn't stand it any longer. He got out of his seat, went to the customer's window, “QUIET!”
The children did so.
“All right, you little bastards! I want a straight line up to this window here, and I want each and every one of you to ask for your candy or ice cream or soda politely and with a please. If not, I'll leave, and you'll get squat!”
An obese woman walked nearby. She heard this ultimatum and didn't approve, “You should be ashamed of yourself! How could you be so cruel to these children? All they want is their ice--”
“Shut up, you! I don't need any criticism!”
“You employer wouldn't like it if I told him about--”
“Tell him shit, since that's what you are! Big shit! If you give a damn, you should drop dead and make an alligator's dream come true, you cow!”
Tears started to roll down her cheeks, and the woman ran from the van crying. The children and Frank laughed. Mike sighed. This was going to be more trouble for him. The kids then followed Frank's instructions and received their goods. When the last kid left the van, Frank asked Mike, “You wanna drive?”
“Really?” Mike was surprised by this sudden change in Frank.
“Sure. Just be easy on her.”
Mike went to the driver's seat, and started the ignition. An angry, subhuman roar then cut the air. It didn't come from the vehicle. Frank stuck his head out again. He saw the same fat lady behind the van. She ran towards him with an aluminum baseball bat. Frank got his head in the van before the woman got a chance to strike him down. She was mad. Frank could have got out his shotgun, yet more trouble was not needed.
“Drive, damnit!” he yelled.
Mike pressed the accelerator. He heard the woman’s yelling and her bat’s bashing of the van’s metal. The van went off towards
Hillside Avenue, but the woman was right behind, swinging the bat.
Poking his head out from the van, Frank saw her, “You’re doin’ a good job, Babe Ruth!”
That comment made the woman angrier. She tried to keep up with the van; her heart couldn't take the strain. She then blacked out, letting go of the bat. Head first, the woman fell to the street. People nearby came to her aid. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late.
“...have to admit, Mike. That was funny,” noted Frank.
Mike said nothing, driving the van down
Springfield Boulevard in . Queens Village
“That fatso got what she deserved. Don't blame me for her being a fuckin' loon.”
More silence. Mike bit his lower lip.
“What do you want from me, huh? Man, I should be drivin’ instead of you 'cause you're bein’ such an ass.”
Still more silence.
“Please tell me you're alive.”
“You're a menace, Frank,” Mike said, “You're a real fucking menace.”
“I'm not Hitler, man. That dumb fatso shouldn't have mess with--”
“All I wanted was a nice, good-paying summer job without any trouble. A good worker is what to be, and you have to be rude and fucking crazy!”
“Big deal! Instead of cryin’ to your mommy and suckin’ on a lollipop, why don't you just grow up?”
“Why don't you?”
“I'm forty-eight, you dipstick. So screw off and respect your elders.”
“Respect?! You damn--”
A young boy jumped in front of the van, running. Mike hit the break. The boy wasn't hurt, but he still ran. He wasn't wearing a shirt. His pursuer: a man dressed in a clown suit. A clown suit stained with fresh blood.
“What the fuck--?!” Frank exclaimed. He then went to the back of the van, opened up the duffel bag and took out a wooden baseball bat. Frank then got out of the van and chased the clown.
“Hey, you!” Frank yelled.
The clown looked behind, seeing Frank holding the bat in a threatening way. He tried to move away from the boy, yet he wasn't quick enough. Frank threw the bat at the clown, knocking him down to the pavement. Then the vendor grabbed the clown by the neck of his jumpsuit and punched him with his right fist.
“I got the clown!” Frank said.
The “clown” was one Dave Stang, 45, single. According to police investigators at the 105th Precinct, Mr. Stang was responsible for the kidnapping, rape and murder of twelve children, ages ranging from four to nine, during the last six months. The bodies of the children were found in the basement of his house where he lived alone. Mr. Stang even admitted to the police that he devoured some of the bodies. For twenty-three years, Stang worked as a post office worker at the Main Office in
. His father, Wilbur, worked as a part-time clown, entertaining children at parties. The irony of it was that the elder Stang didn't show the same care or understanding towards his sole child. Not only did the younger Mr. Stang guilty for his acts, he also felt embarrassed about the way he was captured. Jamaica
Three more ice cream stops were completed, and Frank and Mike returned to Rainbow's headquarters. It was still warm outside; the sun settled westward. When they left their van, a co-worker approached them.
“Frank, Greenbaum wants to speak to you and the kid. He's really pissed off.”
“Oh, great,” Frank muttered.
“What in the name of sanity is wrong with you, Frank?!” demanded Sidney Greenbaum, the fourth-generation owner and manager of Rainbow. He was sitting at his desk, facing Frank and Mike who sat across from him, “I tell you to be nice to the customers. The customer is our friend. No one can get through life without friends. But you. You want to cause hell!”
“Shouldn't the customer be nice to me?” Frank pointed out, “I bust my ass getting out of bed and working. I believe in the two-way street system.”
“I don't believe what you are saying!” yelled Greenbaum, pointing at Frank, “You abused the van's speaker system and you let a woman die! A woman who has a husband and three children.”
“They’re really lucky now,” Mike quipped.
“Watch your step, boy,” Greenbaum warned, “This is your first day here.”
“You’re right. So lay off, Sid. We didn’t know she was going to drop dead.” Frank noted, “Boy, was she nuts, and we were just protecting ourselves.”
“Some people called up saying that you made fun of her being fat. That's not self-protection!” barked Greenbaum, “You two will be looking for work if you don't straighten up your act! In fact, you’re both--”
The phone on the boss's desk rang. He pressed the speaker button.
“Ms. Simmons, I thought I told you that--”
Greenbaum's secretary, Evelyn Simmons, defended herself, “I'm sorry, sir, but there's a police officer from the 105th Precinct on line four.”
“Thank you,” Greenbaum gave his employees a less-than-pleased look as he picked up the phone receiver up to his left ear and pressed the fourth telephone line button on the phone, “Greenbaum here.” Anger disappeared from the man's face, replaced by shock and depression when the police officer on the other side of the telephone line reported Frank's courageous act. After a polite thank you, the manager of the Rainbow Ice Cream Company hung up the phone.
“You're safe for now, Frank,” he admitted, “but when you screw up next time, I'll--”
“Yeah, yeah,” Frank got up from his chair as did Mike, “Just make me the employee of the month, like I should be every month.”
Frank and Mike left the office. Greenbaum slowly caressed his forehead with seething anger and self-pity.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Jerry Diaz scratched his chin. He sat at his kitchen table, working on the tenth basic algebra problem he made up to pass the time. 3b+20=65. He took the 20 from the 65. The amount was 45. Jerry divided it by 3. 15 equaled b. Jerry liked making up basic algebra problems. He looked at his wristwatch on his left arm. Twenty-five minutes before noon. Noon was the time of the meeting Jerry had to make. It was Saturday. Jerry was unsure, yet there was no looking back.
He put his pen in a metal can that was on the table. It was filled with other pens, pencils, paperclips and pennies. He got up, closed his notebook and left his apartment building. It was a two-story one, standing over a bodega on the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and East 110th St, in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It was a warm Saturday this June. Jerry walked westward, crossing under the elevated Metro-North line on Park Avenue via the pedestrian tunnel. Then he went south on that avenue and turned right on 109th St, going into a public basketball court. Six guys were playing basketball, fierce and strong. At the other end of the court, a lanky man sat on the ground with his back against one of the court’s metal wire gates. He drank a bottle of iced tea. Jerry approached him, avoiding the players.
“You’re Dean Bishop?”
Dean looked up. He had a tough, lean and weathered face. He licked his lips and stood up, leaving the bottle on the ground, “You’re here early.”
“So are you.”
“I like to be. Who’s the guy?”
“Enrique Vlasco. You probably heard of--”
“Vlasco. The drug dealer Vlasco. The pimp Vlasco. The headbreaker Vlasco,” Dean caressed his forehead, “How old are you?”
“You heard me the first time.”
“You’re twenty-three years old. You want me to kill Vlasco, and you’re twenty-three years old.”
“I have the money,” Jerry dug into his jeans’ right pocket. He took out his wallet, opened it and pulled out two Benjamin Franklins and an Andrew Jackson, “I work at a law firm as an office clerk.”
“It’s not the money. It’s the reason.” Dean said.
Jerry let out a sigh, “He stole my girlfriend, Anna. We were going out for two and a half years. I thought everything was alright, but she always wanted to be in the high seat. Money and shit. She got hooked by that asshole.”
“I wasn’t aware there was a snatch shortage. I should get out more.”
“I love her, man. She’s everything to me.”
“Everything’s everything to different people, youngblood. I bet you want to marry her. Get the house with the white fence and the kids.”
Jerry became quiet. Dean cursed under his breath.
“All right,” Dean took the money, “When?”
“Tomorrow. 10 p.m. He hangs at--”
“I know where he hangs, but you have to help me out.”
“Help you out?”
“Three jobs. I have to do them today. All for different people. You’ll get half the pay.”
“W--What? Wait a second--”
“There’s no wax in your ears, and you’re not walking with three legs. Just do the work with me. You don’t, you’re just an accessory if I get into the icebox. I’ve been there before. Twice. But you. You’re just a cunt who doesn’t know it yet. Stick tight and don’t be a fuck up,” Dean took the bottle from the ground and drank from it.
Jerry bit his upper lip, “Okay.”
He followed Dean, who walked out of the court. They came to a black, parked SUV. Dean went to the driver’s side. He opened it with his key, got in, sat in the driver’s seat and opened the passenger’s door. Jerry got in. Both men strapped themselves in with the vehicle’s seatbelts. Dean turned on the ignition, got the vehicle’s position into DRIVE, got it out of the parking space and drove westward to Central Park. He then made a left on Fifth Avenue.
“What’s the first one?” Jerry asked.
“Muscle job,” said Dean, “Breaking a shithole.”
Britt Marlowe, the favorite head breaker for the O’Bannon clan. They’re a family that owns a small brewery, O’Bannon Beer. It is a front for their illegal activities. Britt is a favorite because he hits hard. Hits and breaks hard. He used to be a boxer, an upper middleweight. “Smooth Boy”, they used to call him. Could have been a giant in the industry, yet Alfonso “Big Al” Teague, a newcomer, brought him down with a haymaker and an uppercut. No manager would take Britt, legal and otherwise, and he did not want to work in construction, like his dad, a steel beam wielder, who died on the job. Eric O’Bannon, patriarch, then came knocking. $2500 per muscle job, tax-free and Britt could not be any more pleased. His last job: breaking the arms of Gordon Lopez, the nephew of Frankie Delgado, a rival of O’Bannon. Delgado was expanding his business; O’Bannon didn’t like that.
Britt took in a quart of beer, sitting on a bar stool near the counter of Harry’s Tower, a local bar in Hell’s Kitchen. The stench of cigarette smoke, urine, sweat, vomit, booze and blood decorated the air. The bartender, a gravel-faced fellow, was wiping a glass mug and whistling. Two barflies, a man and a woman, cuddled at a table; they were hammered and in love.
The ex-boxer felt a tap on his left shoulder. He turned around and got a fist against his jaw. The blow didn’t knock him out. It knocked him off the bar stool, to the floor. Britt blinked. The hitter was some Spanish punk, baby-faced and all. He was a scared punk too. He ran outside.
“Hey!” the bartender didn’t like a usual customer getting sucker-punched.
Britt got up and went outside. A hard object met the back of his head. Britt fell forward and kissed concrete. He then felt the object hit the back of his body, then on his legs. He grunted. Britt turned over. Blood came onto his forehead. The person he saw hitting him was a man, wearing a ski mask. Britt put his arms up, protecting his face and begging for mercy. The man didn’t answer. He kept hitting him with an aluminum baseball bat. The bartender came out to stop it, yet the man in the ski mask hit him in the chest. With the bat. The bartender fell hard. Britt couldn’t help him. He was an aching and bloody mess of a man. The man then kicked Britt in the chest. Twice. Another kick went against his head. Britt spitted some blood and teeth. Some people on the street screamed. Then the man in the ski mask left. Britt didn’t see where he or the Spanish punk went to. The punk was already in the bar, before Britt arrived. He closed his eyes and cried. Britt cried like when he cried after Alfonso “Big Al” Teague brought him down with a haymaker and an uppercut.
Jerry nursed his right hand, “Why didn’t you tell me he used to box before I slug him?!”
“You wouldn’t have hit him if I did,” Dean was still breathing heavily as he drove his SUV northward on 10th Avenue.
“Of course I wouldn’t! Shit! I’m just like the bastard who used to beat me up in school!”
“You too?” Dean stopped the SUV at a red light at West 55th St. He shook his head, “Man, I used to be a target, getting kicked around and shitted on by bullies. Guess what I did about it?”
“I had this shit of a guy, Moyo Smith, in my face. Big fat guy. Don’t ask me why his first name is that way. I have no clue to this day. After he slapped me around in gym class, I hit him with a chair in science class. Got him in the back of fuckin’ head. Sure I was suspended for two weeks, and it was worth it. Nobody fucked around with me again. Smith was transferred. I hope he’s dead or something.”
“You’re a big man.”
“I’m not the one who lost his girl to a drug dealer,” the traffic light turned green. Dean hit the accelerator, “She probably left you because you’re all uptight and shit.”
“You don’t know a damn--”
“I’m not that stupid, and you’re not smart. If you were, you wouldn’t be here, and you think you’re smart, you’re more of a shit.”
Jerry said nothing.
“Okay. Be a mime. I could listen to the fact that you have no balls. I could listen to your frustration about not able to get out of this situation. Can’t stand it, can you?”
Jerry fiercely stared at Dean.
He didn’t mind. Jaime Mendoza didn’t mind working on a Saturday afternoon at his grocery store on West 121st and Amsterdam Avenue. He owned it for twenty years, getting from his parents who owned it twenty-two years earlier.
“$2.98,” he said to a young man. He bought a plastic bag of garlic-flavored sesame sticks, a case of sandwich cookies (whose frosting tasted like peanut butter) and a can of lemonade soda. Jaime placed the items, on the counter, in a medium-sized brown paper bag. The customer paid two dollars; Jaime gave back two pennies from the cash register. The young man left; Jaime resumed reading his copy of the New York Daily News on the counter. Jaime noticed that the young man was carrying a small, black plastic bag. There were three DVD cases in it. It’s been a while since he saw a movie. Must have been six months ago. Some B-action film called “Dark Justice” that was direct-to-video. Lots of action, some nudity and a sex scene and a shadow of a plot involving a Los Angeles cop becoming a street vigilante. One of these days, Jaime was going to take a day off. Or two. Let Greg, his son, take over. He’s more than responsible. Greg was moving three stock boxes into one of the store’s three aisles. The boxes had inside garbage bag boxes and bug spray aerosol cans.
The door to the store opened. Jaime looked up and saw the customer, “Get the fuck out of my store.”
Dean smiled, “And good afternoon to you too, Vic. Second time, last time, you know.”
“You tell Manny Sanchez he’s getting’ nothing’ from me, you shit,” Jaime took out a 9mm pistol from his pants, pointing it at Dean. Manny Sanchez was the local drug dealer in the neighborhood.
“That’s not nice,” Dean quickly grabbed Dean’s right hand, the hand that held the gun. The two men struggled over it; they were kids fighting over a lollipop. Greg came towards Dean from behind. Dean turned, driving Jaime’s right arm forward. The 9mm barked twice. Greg fell, bringing some snack bags with him. Horror took over Jaime. He was also open to Dean’s right elbow; the blow broke his nose. He fell back hard to the floor. Dean had the gun. He peered over the counter, lurching over Jaime.
“Dumb,” he said, “Just fuckin’ dumb.”
Dean turned and walked to the aisle where they had the bug spray aerosol cans. He took for. Then he went back to the counter. Next to the lottery machine, there was a microwave oven. Dean put the cans on top of the oven. He then grabbed two, big, brown paper bags and raided the store. Five potato chip bags. Twelve candy bars. Seven gum packets. A six-pack of beer cans. A box of disposable gloves. Three pairs of pantyhose (they were for Dean’s girlfriend. It was her birthday today). The money in the cash register: $789.49. Then he placed the aerosol cans in the oven, set it for two minutes and left the store. The CLOSED sign was visible from outside. Dean crossed to his SUV and entered it. Jerry was behind the wheel. The motor ran.
“Let’s go,” Dean said.
Jerry hit the accelerator, “I hope you didn’t kill the guy.”
Dean shook his head, “Just his kid. With his gun. It’s going to get messy in a few minutes.”
“What did you--”
“Oh...Hmm! Yes, baby! Yes! Fuck me like this! Just fuck me…”
A can of beer and a handful of cheese-flavored popcorn painted Tony Manetti’s throat. What a slob and a plump one at that. His wife and their children, two girls and a boy, were visiting his mother-in-law in Orlando, Florida. That gave this thirty-seven-year-old insurance salesman a three-week lease on single freedom. The first week was almost done and gone. In his house, located in Flushing, Queens, Tony was on the living room’s couch, wearing a white T-shirt and dark blue swim trunks and watching Sylvia Angel’s Foot Fun on his TV. It was one of five porno videos he purchased in an adult store in Midtown Manhattan. Sylvia was a pretty, baby-faced blonde lady with crystal blue eyes. Nice body, too. She laid on a bed, naked; her legs were straight up in the air. Sylvia held her breasts.
“You want me in pantyhose, don’t you?” Sylvia whispered.
He knew it was just a videotape; Tony nodded.
Sylvia grabbed a pair of nude pantyhose besides her. Her legs went down, resting on the bed; Sylvia’s toenails were painted blood red. Tony took another sip from his beer, smiling. The porn starlet slowly poured herself into the garment. She cooed, awed. The nylons encased her skin. Tony felt his penis swell and throb. Sex with his wife of ten years, Doris, was a bite from a mosquito. Sylvia smiled, “Don’t I look so cute in my nylons? Don’t you want to fuck me hard and good?” She winked her left eye and giggled.
Then Sylvia lifted herself; she sat upward. Her feet fell to the carpeted floor. There were seven different pairs of high heels. Sylvia looked down. Her right hand supported her chin.
“Let’s see. Hmmm…All of them look so good and lovely…I wonder…Aha!”
Sylvia chose the black patent, platform sandals. She picked the left shoe up, smiling, “I know you want me in these. They look so sexy on me!”
She giggled again. Then she caressed the shoe’s heel, placed it near her mouth and sucked on it. Tony’s penis grew larger, wanting to get out of his pants. Sylvia rose her left foot, placed the shoe on it and restrained and tightened the ankle strap. Her right foot received the same. Sylvia smiled as she touched her leather-covered feet.
“Hmmm…I was right, wasn’t I? They look so good. Yes, baby…aha. You should lick and kiss them all over!”
The temptress left the bed and began to walk around the room. Tony’s doorbell rang.
“Shit!” Tony grabbed the DVD remote, pointed it at his DVD and pressed the pause button. He got up, went to his house’s front door and opened it. A young man was holding a photograph of a rottweiler.
“Hi. I don’t want to be a pain, but have you seen my dog?”
“No, but you are a pain. Bye,” Tony burped. He tried to close the door. The young man held it open.
“You probably saw him around here. Sparks. Man, I don’t know what will happen if--”
“Then you should have kept a good eye on him. I want to watch my porno.”
“Shithole, move away from--”
A hard object struck the back of Tony’s head. He fell backward to the floor hard. Unconscious.
“Moron,” Dean waved his aluminum baseball bat he held in his right hand. The Menotti’s home had a back door. With a small lock picker, Dean opened it.
Jerry entered the house and closed the door behind him, “Now what?”
From his pants, Dean took out two pairs of disposable gloves. He tossed one pair to Jerry, “Put them on. We’re going to put Fatty Arbuckle here in the bathtub upstairs.”
Dean shook his head, “Never mind. Guy was before your time.”
Jerry and Dean put their gloves on. Then the two lifted the Tony’s body; Dean held his arms and Jerry held his legs. Carefully and slowly, they went up the staircase and arrived at the top floor. The bathroom’s door was almost open; Dean’s back was near it. He kicked it open a little more, and the two men entered the bathroom and placed the body in the tub. Tony was still out cold.
“Go into the living room,” Dean said, “Find his wallet and bankbook. I’ll be downstairs.”
“Assault and robbery? You have no sense of knowing how fucking low you are.”
Dean went to Jerry’s face, “Do you want to be the guy that tells Nicky Castella, noted loan shark and head breaker, that he can’t have the $350, plus interest, this…” Dean pointed at Tony, “…dumb shit owes him? If you do, you’re more stupid than you look.”
Dean slapped Jerry in the back of his head, “Not so loud. Just get them, okay?”
The two men left the bathroom. Dean went downstairs. Jerry went into the older Manettis’ bedroom. It was plush and wholesome. Jerry scanned around the top of the room’s dresser that was decorated with many items: five porcelain figurines of young girls. Old metal, political candidate buttons. A few scraps of paper. Pens. Loose change. Jerry then found Tony’s wallet. And his bankbook. There were both underneath an unused ashtray with had the insignia of the New York Yankees on it. As he was going to leave, Jerry noticed a framed portrait of the Manetti family. The wife was also plump yet pretty; the children were cute and wide-eyed. The family was smiling. It was on one of the two small dressers that surrounded the bed at both sides. He also noticed on the other dresser there was a phone. Call the police, Jerry. Maybe he’ll get arrested, yet the right thing’s the right thing.
Then what about Anna? What about him? His whole life’s over if he makes that call. Dean could kill him. He would kill him. If he runs, Dean knows Brent Niles, an old friend of Jerry’s from Central Park East High School. Brent pointed Jerry to Dean. Brent knows where Jerry lives. Jerry couldn’t put an old friend in big shit.
He heard footsteps coming up the stairs; they went into the bathroom. Jerry ran out. He saw the bathroom’s door was closed. He grabbed the doorknob. It was tight. The clerk slammed his fists into the door, “Open it, Dean! Don’t do it! Don’t do it or I’ll call the cop--”
The door opened. Dean came out, aiming the 9mm at Jerry’s head. Jerry became mute.
“Please shut the fuck up,” Dean said, “I’m working…and I don’t like being interrupted,” He paused, “Know what? Come on in.”
“No, you can’t--”
“Come,” Dean unlocked the safety, fell back into the bathroom, and lead Jerry in. On the floor near the bathtub, there was a butcher’s knife. Tony’s body was now naked. The clothes were near the knife.
“Get the knife. Cut his head off. The penis and heart, too. Don’t be stupid to use it on me if you give a shit about seeing tomorrow.”
Dean picked up the knife. He had to cut open a dead frog during the lab session of biology class in high school. His lab partner, a pretty girl named Melissa, fainted when he played around with the frog’s intestines with tweezers. The knife and Jerry’s right hand trembled as he came upon Tony’s throat.
Dean whispered, “Do it, you little shit!”
The knife penetrated the throat. Tony’s eyes popped open. Jerry fell to the floor as the fat man let out a terrible howl, waving his arms madly. Tony drowned in his own blood.
“Finish it!” Dean grew impatient.
Jerry grabbed the knife’s handle again. Tony’s nostrils, mouth and throat erupted with blood. Then the dying man vomited a good speck of blood into Jerry’s face. The law clerk felt his stomach rumble. He ran over to the toilet and vomited into the bowl. Dean tried his best from laughing out loud. He went over to the body; the head was almost off. Dean grabbed the knife, finished the severing, took the blood-drenched head and placed it in the bathroom’s sink.
The hitman looked at Jerry, who was still heaving, “Don’t be a battered housewife,” He then went back to the body.
The Black Rose restaurant was on Northern Boulevard in Queens. Dean carried a beverage cooler into the kitchen in his hands. Jerry followed him. They both entered through the delivery entrance. It was after business hours. Nicky Castella, a skinny yet tough man, and two big men were also in the kitchen. Nicky ate some honey-roasted peanuts from a small bag. He also had a big, manila-colored envelope under his right arm. His uncle on his father’s side of the family, Salvatore, owned the establishment.
“Stop,” he told Dean and Jerry as they walked towards him, “Drop the cooler.”
The two men came away from Nicky and searched both men. Lucas was with Dean; Jason was with Jerry.”
“They’re clean,” Lucas said.
“Who’s the kid?” asked Nicky.
“A client,” Dean said, “He helped me with Tony.”
Nicky let out a quick whistle, “Poor fuckin’ you. Who’s the hit?”
“Vlasco?! What the fuck for?”
“Stole his girl.”
Nicky shook his head, laughing. Then he looked at Jerry, “Kid, don’t mess around with sharks. They bite back.”
“Open the cooler, Luc.” Nicky said.
Lucas did. Tony’s head, heart, penis and scrotum were in the cooler, preserved by ice cubes. Dean gave Jason Tony’s wallet and bankbook. Tony’s porno videos were in the SUV. His corpse was still in the bathtub in his house.
Nicky nodded, “Close it.”
Lucas did and lifted it. Nicky toss the envelope to Dean, who opened it. It was filled with a lot of Ben Franklins.
“Forty-two hundred. Don’t be selfish, and I’ll call you when I need you again,” Nicky said. He and the two men left the kitchen, going into the restaurant. Jerry crossed to Dean and saw the money.
“Fifty-fifty. Like you said.”
Dean scowled, “You did two-and-a-half of the jobs. I get the other.”
“We have another job.”
“Don’t be such a fucking idiot! Do you want the money or not?”
The black SUV was in an empty lot near CitiField Stadium, the home of the New York Mets, near the Van Wick Expressway in Flushing. Traffic was scarce. Dean was eating a peanut-filled chocolate bar. The windows were open. The night had a cool breeze.
“Don’t you want any?” Dean asked.
Jerry shook his head.
“Oh, right. I forgot.”
Jerry looked at his wristwatch: 12:42 p.m. “Shit! These guys better hurry up. I got to go to my niece’s christening.”
“You’re shitting me, right?”
“No. I’m not much of a Christian, am I?”
“I say you’re not. You probably have a reservation in Hell by now.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Just don’t confess your sins. I may have to bump off a priest, if you do.”
“You’re shitting me, right?”
Dean took another bite out of his candy bar.
“I heard you the first time,” Dean then noticed, in the SUV’s inside rearview mirror, a light blue van was entering the lot, “They’re here.”
Jerry noticed too, “You know what they want?”
“You got the gun?”
“Yes. Just be cool.”
The van pulled up to the SUV on Jerry’s side. The driver had a black ski mask on. So did the guy in the passenger’s seat. Both men left the van. The driver whipped out a .45 pistol from his jacket and pointed it at Jerry’s right cheek, “Get out!”
Jerry was shocked. He looked at Dean.
The gunman opened the SUV’s door. He quickly pulled Jerry out, escorted him to the back of the van and hit him with the gun. In the back of his head. As the gunman opened the van’s back doors and placed Jerry inside, the other man gave Dean a big white-colored envelope.
“Mr. Vlasco thanks you,” he said.
Dean opened the envelope. Forty-two hundred dollars were in there, “He’s more than welcome.”
The masked men entered their van and drove off.