Pushes and Pulls

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story: what more is there to say?

Submitted: November 21, 2017

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Submitted: November 21, 2017



Pushes and Pulls


Tommy never took it from anybody. Even as a kid growing up, ‘past the tracks,’ he had to learn to be tougher than most others his age. He got his first broken bone at the age of four, although it wasn’t from riding his bike or falling over the post. His father, devil of a man, was striking Tommy’s mother so hard, you could hear the screams over the wire of the radio mumble about the weather. A bitter January, that was. Tommy used to say how after the man threw him against the wall to stop him from, “running his pretty little mouth,” the imprint as his body hit the wall was still there.


“Like an angel that fell horizontal to home,” he would say.


They came to collect in the morning. First, the body, then the kid, then the swinging remains that had brought the ceiling fan down.


“The old man couldn’t even end his own life proper, ain’t no way he was taking me out!” Tommy would speak boldly of that day, as if it had been something unavoidable, and he had merely been going through the rounds of childhood.


He was hurt, though. Badly. Upstairs, something must’ve came loose, or the foundation was never there to begin with, especially seeing how Tommy was afraid of heights.


The day he came to Wentworth, many remember vividly. Still, some things get left out. It was just that natural state of consciousness that allowed the blind eye to be turned every time something came up. He put on this little act, puffing up, turning those cheeks a rosy red, a tear crinkling out of the corner whenever he came into trouble. The waterworks never ran though, and that was the eerie part about him. He wouldn’t wash away the tears that were there either: leave ‘em, like drying scars. Should they roll down out of his eye and off his face, he would make himself cry again.


Tommy was always a lady’s man. By the age of eleven, he had come back to the area twice now: both times he had left for some straight-back, fink school where these drill-sarge types would rap the knuckles and bellow at these boys to whip ‘em into shape.


“I’m out here, an honest to god member of society now.”  Tommy would brag, and go on about it. And someone would always listen, whether out of spite, or because they thought he was mentally deficient, or they thought he was handsome. Sometimes all three.


The first anyone heard about it, Carla Giorgios was Tommy’s innocence lost. Or what was left of it. She had been easy, but a little too naive, and much too young to be shaking the tab. When the other girls asked her about it, she would smile and laugh, and say only good things about him and his, “endowed features.” It was like that for a while: them two became tight, although separately, each had other problems. Carla’s was Tommy’s lack of affection towards her; Tommy’s, the opposite. You see, Tommy never took love well, because it wasn’t until much later that anyone ever showed him what it looked like, or was meant to. And after all that, the damage had been done.


Carla showed up one day, weekend after Valentine’s. Her hair was a mess, the dark spots around her eyes had been poorly concealed with foundation, and she limped when she walked, all while massaging her thighs. Tommy wasn’t there, although all the kids knew something hung in the air. It was only a matter of who hung first.


She went missing two Friday’s after that, right towards the end of the month. An investigation was launched. Some of the girls, when questioned, sobbed that she had gone on about Tommy hitting and bruising her, or that she said Tommy would push too hard, and yank her hair and finish inside her. Years later, autopsy says she was two months in.


Tommy wasn’t found guilty of anything, since there was never anything to use against him. Still, he was kept under a watchful eye, and each summer, he would return to that same camp, and still be talking the same stories of bunking, and coming home, nailing women to forget. Or hoping to remember. Some were never the same after they had done their time. Others played down the pain, or denied anything happened: never wanting to admit it had been them. Always someone else to blame. It was easier that way.



I wouldn’t see Tommy again until after high school. Stories of the handsome man from a broken home who feared heights and angels was nothing new: the rumors had circulated for years now. Still, there was always a whisper of it somewhere, and I just happened to be a part of that.


I had always taken an interest in law, and had decided to become a prosecutor. My desire to make something of myself had succeeded, and I was pleased to look back and think that the loose ends of my life had been tied up, or undone. As it turned out, something did come back to haunt me.


Tommy and I had been civil, if not myself being somewhat afraid of him, and the stories he told, and that which I was told of him. I tried not to let that cloud my judgement, and I still don’t, even as it has passed. Back in the day, he was just another kid from, ‘beyond the tracks,’ and so it was standard to assume anyone who came from that way had some cracks in their shell. Whether or not he was the person everyone said he was didn’t matter at the time, because he set the status for everyone else. As in, what it meant to not fucking care.


That was probably the hesitation that stopped me from hardballing Tommy until the very end then. Both his and my past caught up with each other, in a gray brick courthouse under a bloodless sky in November. 13 years after Carla’s disappearance, and charges of rape, sexual harassment, first and second degree murder, public debauchery and arson weighted that trial on for eleven months. A long time, considering that Tommy, from that first day he was strong-armed into the courtroom by three bailiffs, refused to accept a lawyer, and intended to defend himself at the stand.


Tommy looked the same way he had when he ‘graduated’ by joining the National Guard. He was later discharged after circumstances surrounding prostitutes forced a hasty exit East for a couple years. That’s when the manhunt began. Here were 101 agencies trying to track down the, “Lady Killer,” and tales were cropping up four or more times a month, all with significant distances between them. Probably why it took so long then. Tommy knew how to get around, because he traveled light. He never took it from anybody.


It was him sitting there, making his case that I realized that those stories were true, but not without fracture, and some much needed context. He was calling upon old kids from the neighborhood, exes, the foster home employees where he gouged holes in the wall, and his half brother in Reno. None of them helped his case, and all declared him a menace with a handsome, yet gaunt look. That was something nobody got over, was how good-looking he was still, even after that life he had lived. As if something so well to-do couldn’t possibly have done those things that he was so painfully, obviously guilty of. The jury rotated three times before it settled.


By the end all, every witness to the defense ended up being opposition to Tommy. The court grew tired of his antics, the judge had heard enough, and it had been the lengthiest investigation in state history. When I think back now, I start it from the moment Tommy hit that wall and broke his rib. When history looks at it, they’ll start at the disappearance and murder of Carla Giorgio. When Tommy remembers it, he imagines himself as the angel who went horizontal. When I remembered, from the moment Tommy stepped on the Wentworth turf, to the push into the courtroom, the path he had walked to get there. The path I taken to get the same point.


His verdict was quick, the sentence was death, and the execution was sped along. Only four people were present there that day: Tommy, the executioner, Tommy’s will writer, and myself. I thought it was only right, to see off that last piece of mine and his history.


As in accordance with how he wanted to go, Tommy chose to be hung: to conquer his fear of not having his feet touch the ground anymore. Conquer that fear, as he had those of his father, and of dying. Conquer his fear of love, no matter the price of others.


“Tommy never took it from anybody.” His voice came gruff from under the sack as the noose was slipped around his neck. The door swung open, and Tommy went vertical. His shadow, swinging from the rope, cast the shadow of an imprint against the fading sky.


© Copyright 2019 Dan Zuniga. All rights reserved.

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