Sins of the Father by Jack Picurro

The memory Pete had of his father was on a Sunday, the kitchen heavy with the aroma of gravy, frying meatballs and sausages and then the pot flying through the air and a wide hot curtain of red, like the blood in the horror movies that he loved to watch, splattering his mother. He cringed as she flung her arms up and screamed like those women in the movies trying to fend off a werwolf with their puny white arms. He remembered the crying and cursing and the bathroom door hanging by one hinge and the men in white attending his mother. His father, squat, muscular, hanging in the corner like a gargoyle waiting for these strangers to leave his house.

 

Pete stood alone in the cold, quiet hospital room. He saw a clear plastic tube conveying an opaque liquid from a hanging plastic bag into his father’s blue, distended vein. He bent over and the rush of blood was such that he thought for a moment he might faint, but he didn’t and then his father’s rancid odor hit him. He forced himself to put his lips to the old man’s hairy ear and and say, “It’s me pop. You wanna confess your sins?” The old man’s lips moved. He didn’t catch it. He thought his father had said something to him. He had rarely said anything to him even when the old man had just gotten home from prison. The lips moved again, he caught it, a rasping, “Fuck you.” The old man’s eyes fluttered and for a second Pete could see a flash of brown-yellow teeth. He said, “Still a tough guy, huh.”

Memories, fragments of memories blipped through his mind. What had the doctor called them, repressed memories? One thing he did remember was that day, coming home from school to an empty house; no garlic frying, no pots and pans banging in the kitchen, no singing. He didn’t know any better so he searched the house for her. He crept into his parent’s bedroom opened the closet door and saw the row of empty hangers, the old crumpled dress on the closet floor, he was stunned he couldn’t believe she could be gone. How could she leave without him? Then,the front door banged open and heavy feet stomped on the hard wood floors and his father shouted, “Bitch, bitch, bitch” as if it were an incantation that would make her reappear. His father saw the empty closet and uttered one more “bitch” then a powerful hand grabbed his arm and jammed him into the Caddy. He remembered the mad drive to the city, parking in front of a fire hydrant on Mulberry street and being dragged down concrete stairs into a dim room, a place he knew where only a certain few men were allowed. His thick-necked Uncle Vinnie leaned across the green felt card table, “She’s at my place. Go get her I can’t have this.” He didn’t get to go to Uncle Vinnie’s. His father dropped him off at home. He sat in the dark watching Mission:Impossible eating potato chips, rocking in front of the flickering screen waiting for them to come home. Waiting for the cursing and the accusations and the thumps from his parent’s bedroom. It never happened.

 

He said, “I know pop. I know what happened. I found out.” The old man’s eyes flickered, he shrugged his bony shoulders. Pete remembered that night. Pop came home alone and walked right past him into the kitchen, a bottle of whiskey in front of him, a rhythm of pouring and drinking as if he were trying to wash something out of himself. He refused to look at his son who stood by the table staring, shaking, waiting for an explanation believing with all his heart it would all be okay, that he would see his mother again. “Where’s mom?” His father tossed his head back and slammed the glass on the table, “She run off, don’t ever mention her again.”

Looking down he said, “I searched for her. I couldn’t find her. But, I found you. Uncle Vinnie confessed. You confess.”

Silence.

“Confess!”

Silence.

Pete squeezed the plastic tube closed.

Chet by Jack Picurro

Chet was a moron. I gave him very simple instructions for a very simple job and of course he fucked it up. It should have been easy. I said, “See Manny tell him you need two of the usual. Give him the money and bring them back here.”

Simple right? Two guns two hundred a piece. He goes to see Manny and Chet decides he doesn’t like the guns like he’s some kind of fucking expert. Ok, he was in the army, that’s how I know Chet. I was his squad leader. He was a nice kid but he couldn’t tie his own bootlaces without instructions. When we got out he looked me up. He needed a job. I took pity on him and hey I needed a lackey because I was spreading myself too thin.

So, Chet comes back and tells me he didn’t buy the guns from Manny.

Chet was a moron. I gave him very simple instructions for a very simple job and of course he fucked it up. It should have been easy. I said, “See Manny tell him you need two of the usual. Give him the money and bring them back here.”

Simple right? Two guns two hundred a piece. He goes to see Manny and Chet decides he doesn’t like the guns like he’s some kind of fucking expert. Ok, he was in the army, that’s how I know Chet. I was his squad leader. He was a nice kid but he couldn’t tie his own bootlaces without instructions. When we got out he looked me up. He needed a job. I took pity on him and hey I needed a lackey because I was spreading myself too thin.

So, Chet comes back and tells me he didn’t buy the guns from Manny.

“Why the fuck not?”

“Because they were shit. They were Russian or something, like from the fucking cold war and so rusty they’d blow up in your hand.”

Steam is shooting out of my ears. I can feel blood pushing behind my eyeballs and scenes of me wrapping my hands around his scrawny white neck until his pale blue eyes pop run through my head like a movie. I calm myself down. Chet’s got good intentions. At the time I’m thinking, he’s a good kid he gives most his money to his mother. She’s like eighty and on her last legs and Chet’s the only one of five kids that sees her.

I said, “I’ve got to have two pieces for Tony D. by tomorrow or he’ll whack us. What do we do now genius?”

Chet smiled and bared his big square teeth at me like an insult while he brushed back a lock of stringy blond hair.

“I met this guy, see. We’re in the Pine Tavern drinking brews and he told me he can get me prime hardware.”

‘Hardware’, like he’s in a fucking gangster movie. I start to get a bad feeling so I ask him, “What guy?”

“Dave.”

“Dave? You fucking idiot what Dave are you talking about?”

“Dave, I think you know him, his uncle owns the pizza joint on Central.”

Now I know which Dave he’s talking about and my gut starts to tighten.

“I thought Dave was doing ten years for unlawful possession of handguns. He’s been in Rahway for only three years.”

Stupid shrugs and says, “He got out on good behavior?”

Now my wheels are spinning like a fucking merry-go-round. “Where’s my four hundred?”

Chet’s grinning and he says, “I fronted the money to Dave. He gets the pieces from a guy he knows. We’re going to meet him tomorrow on the top parking deck in the mall and then he gives us the guns.”

I said, “Let me get this straight, you gave my four hundred to a guy you don’t know and he promised to give you the guns tomorrow.”

Chet is grinning like an idiot and says, “Dave seems like a good guy. I trust him.”

See, I know something that Chet the rocket scientist doesn’t know. In New Jersey they have something called the Grave’s Act. What it says is that if you’re convicted on a gun charge you have to do eighty-five percent of your sentence before you even become eligible for parole. Dave got ten years. Do the fucking math.

I calmed myself down and smiled like Chet is a smooth operator instead of the dumbest fucking white man in the world.

“Does Dave know you’re working for me?”

“No.”

“Did you mention my name?”

“No.”

“Never? Never said you were getting the guns for me, maybe just let my name slip out? You know, by accident?”

Chet snorted and said, “Of course not. You think I’m stupid?”

I sighed and said, “Then, that’s the smartest thing you’ve ever done.”

Chet was still grinning when I pulled my forty-five and shot him through the head. I thought of the lost four hundred bucks as stay out of jail insurance. I guess Chet wasn’t a bad kid just not too bright.