Frankie shook his
head, “I can’t believe this.”
“Why not? Situation
normal for you, kid.”
And there it was.
Nothing shredded Frankie’s brain like the
voice of his step-father in his head. The old man had taken the dirt nap three
years earlier, but Frankie’s screw-ups were the topic for the evening, and he
wouldn’t let it go.
“Nice of your punk-ass
friend to get himself killed when you need him most.”
was on the bridge, fifteen feet to Frankie's
left, on the traffic side of the railing. The shiny grill of a candy apple red
‘73 Cadillac had sent Mike skittering for a good fifty feet, tucking him into
the guard railing like a puck into the net.
“Everyone always said
you’d die young and strung up.”
“It was a play on
words, but whatever. You shouldn’t
have tried dealing your drugs in someone else’s territory.”
hell do you care? You never did before, you old
“You’d be the expert
on B and E kid. Not me. Tell me, who did I ever steal from?”
sell used cars your whole life without ripping somebody off.”
“Prove it, mouth.”
Frankie closed his
eyes, trying to force the old man out of
his head, but he could still see the stupid porkpie hat, pulled too low, the pencil
mustache, flecked with gray over lips stretched out into his irritating, cocky
After running Mike
down, the guys in the Caddy had knocked
Frankie around and joked while tossing a length of nylon rope over a girder.
They laughed even harder when they strung him up by his wrists.
Dazed by the beating,
the faint sound of a pin being pulled
startled him into wakefulness in time to see a grenade shoved into his right
palm. The men had bragged about stealing them, and how lucky it was for Frankie
“Who carries grenades
around? Such nice people you know.”
these guys, you idiot.”
The two men had
stood looking at each other, wondering who Frankie
was talking to. The larger one said, “You shouldn’t sample your own product,
Letting up on the
spoon and letting their own grenade blast
their grinning faces off was tempting, but not enough to die for. The squealing
tires of the Caddy sounded like laughter when the two men had left him there,
doing the tiptoe dance with death.
An attempt to jerk
his hand hard enough to throw the
grenade over the railing behind him filled him with doubt. He was afraid he
might not be able to throw it with enough force and end up dropping it at his
own feet, instead. He would only have four to five seconds before it exploded.
If that happened, he knew he couldn’t extricate himself from the rope quickly
enough to avoid blowing himself up.
He stalled the inevitable
as long as he could, but with his
arms sticking straight up in the air, he felt the burning pinprick sensation
from the strain on his blood circulation. In a little while his hands would be
completely numb, and he would lose his grip on the grenade and everything he
had worked for would be gone.
He and Mike had
expanded their operation, making their own
stuff instead of cooking it for other dealers. He had used a loan from his
mother to pay for their startup. He could always count on Mom.
“Hey asshat. You need
to do something.”
“I know that, old
man. Don't you think I know that?”
the sound of his anger merged with the sound of rushing water, and the hush of
cool spring air through the trees.
Sweat beaded on
his forehead and ran down into his eyes.
The salt stung as he gripped the grenade, and he pulled his toes up from the
walkway. Hanging there, he expected the pain in his wrists to be overwhelming,
but he didn’t feel a thing.
He stuck his legs
out and back, attempting to swing his
body. He built a bit of momentum when the rope snapped under his weight, and he
As if in slow motion,
the grenade slipped from Frankie’s
sweaty hand, and he could see snippets of his life passing before him. His beautiful
mother patiently teaching him how to tie his shoes, baking him birthday cakes,
helping him with his homework and combing his unruly hair. As his body neared
the pavement, the remorse over what he would never be able to tell her
Slamming hard against
the wet concrete, he heard the old
man’s voice counting down, “two…one.”
Lying there, Frankie
heard a loud boom, followed by the
sound of metal fragments, tick-tacking against the structure of the bridge. He
relaxed. The grenade must have bounced over the safety railing after all.
He finally stood
and leaned over the rail to look downward
into the black abyss. After shaking the feeling back into his arms, he pulled
Mike’s corpse from the roadside. He hoisted it over the guardrail, across the
walkway, and over the side of the pedestrian safety railing, letting the body
drop into the frigid rush of water below. Better for the cops to find Mike
downstream. Let them think he’d jumped or fallen into the water.
“Smart, kid. Best
place for bowl-floater like him, anyway. Time to go now. Time to leave all this
crap behind. Time to go home and talk to your mother.”
Frankie untied the
rope from his wrists, limping away from
the bridge, “You talk to her, old man. I’ve got a deal to do.”