SINGERS AND SINNERS
that’s right. Tony Z. Outside my
house, by the Padre Pio shrine.
don’t act like you don’t know.
town knows. Like they all
knew Tony Z. At least, people who liked cheap drinks down the Lodge and who lived
for Saturday Night Karaoke.
Z., that smug-faced fuck who came prancing in, at midnight, once the place was
jumping. Off-key regulars up my ass, with song requests. Like Bananas, who
tortured us with Journey. “Susie,” old Nelly begged, “Can I do ‘Crazy’ next?” It’d
be the sixth time she sang.
. . . no,” I said.
Tony Z. announced, from the door, “am in the house!” And assholes cheered, like
Elvis himself had up and walked in, from the grave.
already had. Donny Dugan was there. Our town’s official Elvis impersonator,
who did shows down the Senior Center. Sometimes he showed up in gold lame and
greasy wig, but not tonight.
wasn’t cheering. Clutching his Scotch, he glared as Tony Z. grabbed the mic out
of Nelly’s hand. “It’s my turn,” Tony
Z. told me, “Put on ‘Suspicious Minds.’ ”
Donny’s signature tune. What he was singing next.
wait,” I said. “Donny’s ahead of you.”
loomed over my booth. Tony Z. smirking, Donny stone-faced, as they both clutched
the mic from opposite sides.
oversized brats, they acted, though both were pushing sixty. And neither was
what they seemed to be.
big gambler, Tony Z. owed people big-time. But he loved his Italian mother more
than life, itself.
was more than an Elvis wannabe; he was a ruthless bookie . . .
could make you disappear.
how does St. Padre Pio fit in, with all this? In our town, he’s our favorite
Italian saint. He worked lots of miracles. Since he took his first steps, Tony
Z. was devoted to him. So when his old mom got sick . . .
did he beg, for a miracle?
why outside my house?
back, when she’d beat melanoma, my mom put up the shrine in the front yard,
behind the pansies. St. Padre Pio had the kindest eyes. At least, the statue’s
all over, people came to pray. All types: Weepy Mrs. Fratellis, with their
black veils and rosaries. Junkies, politicians. One drunken night, I’d staggered
home to find ex-Mayor Piccolo kneeling, before the shrine. Hey, it saved his
my mom passed, I got the house, the bills, and the shrine.
Padre,” I prayed, “Send me a job.”
was broke as shit. What he sent, was the worst job, ever: tending bar and
running karaoke at the Lodge. My boss, Googie, had three chins and watched me
like a hawk. “No freebies,” he said, in his gravelly voice.
Still, I was blessed.
I lost it. One minute, I was between Tony Z. and Donny. Fists were flying, and
I got splashed with blood.
I was outside, pleading with cops. “They’re like brothers,” I lied. “They’ll
Z.’s lip curled. He had some shiner. But he could still sing. Glaring at him,
Donny spat out bloody teeth.
I begged one cop, “don’t tell my boss.”
to you,” Googie said, next day. “Tony Zaino’ll never come in here again. Why
didn’t you just let him sing?”
was Donny’s turn.”
know how much money Tony drops?”
drinks two-dollar Nips,” I said.
it’s you, or him. Let’s see, lemme choose . . .” He fingered his third chin. “Moneybags,
or Grumpy Cat?”
Bananas told me, at 7-11. “He didn’t really disappear. I don’t think.”
We both peered around, like Donny
was hiding behind the Slurpee machine. “His mom’s real sick. Shit, she’s over
Bananas waited for me. “He’s hiding,” he whispered. “From Donny.” Again, he
peered around. “Didn’t think he owed him that
case Tony Z. was gone for good, Googie took me back, bartending. But not for
karaoke. That, he did himself, next Saturday night. “Hey!” he yelled, to Nelly.
“Sing that shit, bitch!”
showed up, just to drink. “No songs tonight?” I said.
open mouth showed missing teeth. How could I forget?
I’m still pissed,” he said, in a muffled voice. “That song-stealing mother-. .
hid my smile.
ratted you out, Susie,” Donny said. ‘Cos you sided with me.”
hundred-dollar bill appeared on the bar, next to his empty. “I like that you
sided with me.”
It was your song,” I said.
But this was about
more than karaoke.
could lead to something big.
of Tony Z., I’d lost my job. And if he came back . . .
watched Donny, carefully, as I slid the hundred across the bar. “His mom’s real
sick,” I said. “Almost dead.”
called the priest. But Tony . . .” I poured Donny a double Scotch. “He wants .
. . a miracle.”
he’ll find one.” Donny closed his hand over mine, which still clutched the
bill. He squeezed, tightly.
the killer knew when Tony Z. would be
there, nobody knew.
when the bullets shattered the back of his head, he was on his knees, before
the shrine. Bloody chunks of skull, and brain flying all over, onto the grass, and
mean, that’s what the M.E. must’ve told the cops, later.
watching from my window, they could’ve got me, too . . .
Sinners” originally appeared in Rock and a Hard Place Magazine, Issue 2: Winter
/ Spring 2020.
Cindy is a Jersey girl who
looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her
noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun
Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash;
and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow
Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of
short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate
Publishing), is out, now! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights
If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka sired a
bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped
by dear friends and a freak by passing strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when
he was ten, and his skill has improved with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He
is for the most part self-taught, only ever crediting the help of one great high school
art teacher. His art has been shown at his local library for multiple years only
during October due to its macabre nature. If you want to see more of Michael’s
strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him on Instagram at