A brief, in-character piece about a possible protagonist's experiences growing up.
|"Okay, good," he told me. His tone held a note of approval. Coming from my ol' man, that was rare. The vagrants living on the corner of our block in Hell's Kitchen would sooner hear the crisp exchange of c-notes before I'd be likely to hear praise again.
It made me feel good. I would have done damn near anything you could think of to keep it going.
My father, impeccably groomed from the stylish cut of his dark hair to the soles of his Rockport wing-tips, gave me a smile. It tightened the corners of his mouth and nothing more. He told me, "Now put the clip back in. Just push it up into the grip." When I did he gave me another of those miniscule smiles and said, "That's it."
A loaded nine-millimeter Beretta sat in my grasp. The streetlight filtering through the pale yellow curtains of our kitchen windows gleamed along the barrel and shone in a stamp embedded in the grip. It was a forbidden thing and exciting to see up close, let alone be entrusted to hold. But hold it I did. I was on the inside of my father's trusted circle.
"Alright now, boy." He never called me son. Maybe 'boy' was just his way of saying it. "You have to grip the edges on the barrel and pull it back. That will chamber a round. Go ahead and do that now."
I tried, but it was tougher than expected.
A line marred the smooth planes of my father's forehead. "Come on, pull it."
I grunted and strained, but it was hard.
Dad leaned in close enough that I could smell the expensive cologne he favored. It made my nose itch with the warnings of an impending sneeze. "Did my only child come out with a dick between his legs?" he asked me. "Or does he have a pussy? Are you sporting a peach-fuzzed pussy?"
I must have started to get tears of frustration in my eyes because he gave this gentle little laugh. The man always had a soft-spoken way about him. He never raised his voice. He didn't have to. More than anything it was the thought of disappointing him that gave me the strength to pull the barrel back. It surprised me, but before I let go a round was chambered.
Father's dark eyebrows rose on his forehead and he sat back in his chair at the kitchen table with a creak. "Well, well," he cooed, "not bad, boy."
Sure enough, I sneezed.
In 1987 there were over two thousand accidental deaths by firearms. When the gun bucked in my hand and shot away the top of my father's head we must've ranked around fifteen hundred. That was in the middle of a hot summer night, July 5th, my seventh birthday.
I have no memory of a mother, but I have a vivid recollection of the moment I came to understand why she wasn't around. It was the first, and only, occasion my father and I visited her grave. I was five. The winter morning was bitterly cold and the skies were gray. We stood there for an hour, me with a white lily and my dad with a dozen white roses. Eventually my old man crouched down and looked me dead in the eye. His gaze was as mine; gray as the brooding storm above us, but his bore something unique. I couldn't tell you what, but it scared me. Slowly, in a deadly calm, he said, "Boy, you came into this world on a river of blood. Your momma's blood. Mark my words, one day you'll leave on another such torrent."
I have to admit it chilled me. It does to this very day.
With no guardian to claim me after Dad died, I became a ward of St. Catherine's orphanage. Couples want babies and I was a fucked-up seven-year-old. Adoption was never a good prognosis. My origins didn't help matters any. Being the only son of a notorious mob lawyer doesn't win you any points even if you're the one who blew his brains out.
I didn't mean to, but no one ever asked me that during the media frenzy following the accidental shooting back in the summer of 1987. Anton Distephano slain by son! Dirty lawyer's son takes out the garbage. Shit. They even had me wondering whether I'd done it on purpose or not. The trauma of the ordeal was blacked out of my mind. I knew what had happened because of what I'd been told, but I couldn't remember squat.
Father John Kirkland deserves a lot of credit for giving me back some sense of normalcy. He was in his forties, with round, warm features, sincere brown eyes, and a crown of wispy chestnut hair. You hear a lot of shit about priests these days, but John was one of the good guys. He tried his best to steer me straight.
It simply wasn't meant to be.
Maybe in the back of my mind I believed what my father had told me. Looking back, I can see how parts of my life reflect the psychology of someone preparing themselves for survival. Whatever the reasons, I started getting into fights. At first I lost. A lot. But the more it happened the better I got at it. I was in top form the night I fought Donald Role. I couldn't say now what beef we had with one another. I can only tell you that it took us both farther than either of us wanted to go. During our dance I got in the unluckiest punch I've ever thrown, right on his nose. He lurched backwards, way back, right over the guardrail of the overpass.
Don's an L-2 now, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. We became unlikely friends in the aftermath, but I'll never forget what I took from him.
Women are perhaps my greatest weakness. I don't know what to say. I love the way they smell and feel; the sounds of their laughter and the way their bodies curve into my lines. Most of all I love the way I can get a glimpse of the little girls within them after doing something sweet that's unexpected. If I could make myself stay faithful to one woman, I would. But ever since Rikki died unfaithfulness has become the most prominent downfall of my character. I'd tell you more about Rikki, but...I don't want to. That's one story I save just for me.
Shortly after my eighteenth birthday I got the first and only gift my father had ever given me; an inheritance worth over two-hundred grand. Almost two decades of interest had fattened into a nice, ripe plum. I dumped a quarter of that into my education at a University in Arizona that teaches gunsmithing. Laugh if you want, but those guys know their trade. It's probably no surprise that I became obsessed with firearms. What can you do, right? It is what it is. The degree program also focuses on business courses. I could probably run my own shop somewhere, but I'm not interested.
My curiosity wasn't satisfied after graduation. I sought out major players in the trade. Some of them took my education beyond the classroom. Others were understandably less forthcoming. I came to realize that you can't stand on the shoulders of great men in order to further your understanding. You really have to immerse yourself and travel the same routes of those who have gone before.
Like street fighting, my interest in firearms was tempered by an all too real experience. No theories discussed in school or diagrams drawn up in the waning hours of my evenings could have prepared me for witnessing a weapon in action again. I celebrated the dawn of the new millennia in Vegas with a couple of old roommates from college. Before the ball dropped that night, William Tate, twenty-two and drunk as hell, shot our friend Adam in the face with a .357 magnum. It was loaded with magnums. That's about as close as you can get in this modern age to being hit by a fucking cannon.
Remember how I said I'd forgotten shooting my old man? Yeah, well, it didn't stay buried after that. The real tragedy mixed with that past horror sent me for a real loop. I took some time and stayed with Father Kirkland in New York. We fed some bums soup, shot some hoops with his youth group.
I was twenty-three, with no idea of what to do next. My obsession with all things firearms lingered, but had dimmed to persistent interest and healthy respect.
With no further plans to design custom weapons, I opted for a trip to Bedfordshire, England. The University there took my practical knowledge of weaponry into the realms of science and forensics. After speaking with the representative, I felt an inner fire come back to life. They didn't just take me through the nuts and bolts of ballistics technology. Forensic engineering is a package deal. By the time you leave that campus you know the ins and outs of courtroom procedure as an expert witness, the procedures and duties of evidence collection, and lot of other shit I won't bore you by going into.
I'm a real geek about this stuff. A keg-head, as they say.
This year marks my twenty-seventh birthday. Maybe I'm older than my father thought I'd ever get. Maybe I'm ripe for his prediction of an early, violent end. It's out of my hands. I live the same way I always have: as if there's no tomorrow. My education is brimming over, and my potential unrealized. It's time to get to work. Heaven knows there's plenty available for someone in my field.
Word Count: 1,638