David M. Tambolli
My body is cold. I’m blindfolded and I’m on my knees. My mouth is taped and my hands are tied behind my back. "What's that sound!?" Please God, let it be my dad, please have him come rescue me
"Click! Bang,” my father said playfully; the cowboys and Indians were fighting. "Bang, Bang," I would yell, pretending to shoot him. He was the Indian in the Wild West who chose peace, but had to fight if he were to save his people and I'd be the cowboy who always wins. He'd lift me up, toss and turn me. "Storm the enemy lines," he would say, while throwing the blanket over my face. He'd say, "We've gott'em now, right where we want them. They can fight all they want, but they'll never defeat us!" Then I’d toss-up my blanket and "Bang Bang!". He would scimper off by my door like a wounded soldier and turn off the light. Then I would close my eyes and –plop- fall into a deep, peaceful sleep.
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When I was young, I dreamt of becoming just like my father. He showed me how to make my first business deal and taught me not to take shit from anyone. I remember this one time, when my mother was out grocery shopping, a large man in a suit came knocking on my front door. He was looking for Mike, my father's good friend. Supposedly, Mike made a mistake, he "whacked" the wrong guy, but my father would never rat him out, especially not to the "fucking men in suits" he would say. When money was tight, my father would take business deals down in Nebraska where old politicians live. "That's the best place to make a hit," he said, "It’s windy, very secluded." But I could tell that my father never enjoyed that type of business. He’d come home drunk at would sit at the dinner table in silence, staring into the distance. My mother would get the worst of it. She wasn’t as strong as my father, but tried to be. She would hum quietly while she knitted in the other room. It was as if she were pretending like nothing happened, like my father just came back from a grocery store or the barber shop, but I could tell it only bottled up her emotions. It wouldn’t be long before she broke down and cried and would cuddle with me.
I remember one time when a girl in my school broke down and cried. It was in between classes, and everyone was out in the hallway. Instinctively, I went over to her and hugged her. People watched, but I didn’t care. Neither did she. I actually wanted her make it to my birthday party later that week. I tried to lighten the mood by making a joke to her, “Oh, common!” She looked up at me. “My birthday party’s not going to be that bad,” I said. She didn’t laugh, but I could see a slight smile.
It was my fourteenth birthday. "Happy Birthday!" Uncle Pete said, pulling me close. He gave me a strong nuggy on the top of my head. His knuckles felt like the crackling of a shotgun bullet against my young skull. He handed me a gold watch as a gift and told me not to mention it to anyone. It was shiny, quite heavy for my wrist, and had a red horse emblem on it. My uncle was a horse jockey trainer at the time, which would explain the horse emblem on the watch, but there was no way my uncle could have paid for that. I asked him to take it back, but he refused. "It's yours kid. Enjoy!" My Uncle said. It was probably stolen.
I remember the last time I saw Uncle Pete. It was at the horse track. It was surprising to me that my father asked me if I wanted to go. Usually, he goes alone, but he said Uncle Pete was going out of town for a while, so I might not see him for a long time. When we got to the track, my father introduced me to a bunch of older men with wrinkly looking chins and bloated stomachs. My father shook everyone’s hand and then took me into the stable. Uncle Pete was waiting there for us in his work outfit and then shook my father’s hand.Uncle Pete grabbed a hold of my neck like it was an armchair before patting me on the shoulder with his shit-shoveling arm. He insisted that I ride one of the horses in the stable. I looked over at my father for his approval and then I hopped on a horse. “Look at him go. Ay Frank, We got another horse jockey for today,” Uncle Pete said chuckling. He then took my father and I to our seats and told everyone, including strangers at the track, to scream at the top of their lungs if we wanted our horse to win. "Louder. Louder, com’on guys you can do better than that. Louder" he would say playfully. We ended up winning a couple of races, but lost most of them. When the races finished for the day, my father ripped up his losing tickets and dropped them into the wind and said, "Well, sometimes you win some kid, sometimes you wind up in a puddle." I never understood his joke.
It was raining. I was seventeen years old and it was the first time my father had me come along with him on one of his real business meetings. He made me stay in the car. I peeked my head out to to see what was going on and the man was masked, blindfolded, with his hands taped behind his back. He was sitting like that for God knows how long. My father said it was better that way it makes everything "less personal," he said.
I heard two gunshots and then my father came back to the car. "It’s important to me that you see what it’s like, so you're ready when the time comes.”
“I-m going to kill someone?'
"You don’t really have a choice." He paused and then continued, "It's not pretty, but, It’s either them or us. If someone's going to end up at the bottom of the lake wouldn't you rather it be someone else... besides yourself?"
“I guess," I said.
My first hit came one year later. I was eighteen. My father took me out to a lake. We pulled up to the spot, and the guy was shaking, unlike the last. I stood over him and held the gun to the guy’s back. My father watched me, so i couldn't miss. I squinted my eyes and raised the gun to back of the guy’s head. I slowly pulled the trigger. Bang! I puked.
I remember the guy drooping and hanging. You know how in the movies, when the guy gets shot, he plops to the ground instantly? Well, that’s not what its like. His arms dangle, his body leans to one side. He slouches like one of those old geezers and you can't tell if he is gone or not. It's like he is in this state of limbo, where he doesn’t want to die, but his body can't help itself from giving in. I imagine that’s the moment when his life flashes before his eyes, the same moment when he questions whether or not he is going to heaven or hell. My father stood over the body and said, " you gotta shoot one more time just to be sure." “Bang!”
Two weeks later, I went on my own business call. A friend of mine said Big Bones, a little, skinny guy with a gray gote, was in charge and specifically asked for me. He wasn't against my father's business, but he wasn't with him either, so i thought it would be a perfect opporunity to get a new client for my family. I had to pick up a package and deliver it directly to the point, Ettle street."
I was waiting for him on the sidewalk, near the middle of the street.
BAM! I was out cold. I regained consciousness in the trunk of a car. Fuck! I screamed. Quickly, I realized my mouth was taped and my hands were tied behind my back. I kicked, but it didn't do anything. I usually never cry, but I started to tear up. I accidentally soiled myself. Then we stopped.
I felt like I already knew the routine. Someone would pull out of the trunk and I would struggle. Someone would walk me a few steps off the road and place me down on my knees. That person would get back into his car and leave. Then I would wait thirty minutes in agony, a kind of mental punishment where you know your life is over, but as my father would say, “the cookie jar still feels in reach.”
"What's that sound?" I can faintly hear a car pull up in the distance. Someone is walking towards me. There's a gun against the back of my head.
"It's funny, my kid said the oddest thing the other day." It was my father's voice. "He said he wondered what's going through some guys head when he knows he's about to get shot."
I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, but the tape is in the way. My throat feels like its burning through my lungs as if they are going to burst. My level of adrenaline skyrocketed. All the while, I’m trying to force my hands free. I can feel the tape sliding around my sweaty wrists. I’m using my feet to kick backwards and I’m spinning my head trying to bite my way through the tape.
“When I was growing up, I never thought of such things. What an intellegent young man my boy is. I never wanted him to do this business. My boy, my sweet boy."