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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Cindy Rosmus: Singers and Sinners

ym_91_singerssinners_mdavis.jpg
Art by Michael D. Davis 2022

SINGERS AND SINNERS

  

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

          Yeah, that’s right. Tony Z. Outside my house, by the Padre Pio shrine.

And don’t act like you don’t know.

          The whole 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.

          Tony 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.

          “Umm . . . no,” I said.

          “I,” Tony Z. announced, from the door, “am in the house!” And assholes cheered, like Elvis himself had up and walked in, from the grave.

          But he 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.

Donny 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.

“Gotta wait,” I said. “Donny’s ahead of you.”

They loomed over my booth. Tony Z. smirking, Donny stone-faced, as they both clutched the mic from opposite sides.

Like oversized brats, they acted, though both were pushing sixty. And neither was what they seemed to be.

A big gambler, Tony Z. owed people big-time. But he loved his Italian mother more than life, itself.

 

Donny was more than an Elvis wannabe; he was a ruthless bookie . . . 

Who could make you disappear.

So 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 . . .

Who did he beg, for a miracle?

And why outside my house?

Years 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 did.

From 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 marriage.

When my mom passed, I got the house, the bills, and the shrine.

“Saint Padre,” I prayed, “Send me a job.”

I 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.

Till I lost it. One minute, I was between Tony Z. and Donny. Fists were flying, and I got splashed with blood.

Next, I was outside, pleading with cops. “They’re like brothers,” I lied. “They’ll make up.”

Tony Z.’s lip curled. He had some shiner. But he could still sing. Glaring at him, Donny spat out bloody teeth.

 Please,” I begged one cop, “don’t tell my boss.”

“Thanks to you,” Googie said, next day. “Tony Zaino’ll never come in here again. Why didn’t you just let him sing?”

“It was Donny’s turn.”

“You know how much money Tony drops?”

“He drinks two-dollar Nips,” I said.

“Says it’s you, or him. Let’s see, lemme choose . . .” He fingered his third chin. “Moneybags, or Grumpy Cat?”

Moneybags won.

Till he disappeared.   

“No,” 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 ninety.”

 

Outside, Bananas waited for me. “He’s hiding,” he whispered. “From Donny.” Again, he peered around. “Didn’t think he owed him that much.”

In 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!”

Donny showed up, just to drink. “No songs tonight?” I said.

His open mouth showed missing teeth. How could I forget?

“And I’m still pissed,” he said, in a muffled voice. “That song-stealing mother-. . .”

I hid my smile.

“He ratted you out, Susie,” Donny said. ‘Cos you sided with me.”

A 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.

This could lead to something big.

‘Cos of Tony Z., I’d lost my job. And if he came back . . .

I watched Donny, carefully, as I slid the hundred across the bar. “His mom’s real sick,” I said. “Almost dead.”

No reaction.

“They called the priest. But Tony . . .” I poured Donny a double Scotch. “He wants . . . a miracle.”

Donny’s eyes gleamed.

“Maybe he’ll find one.” Donny closed his hand over mine, which still clutched the bill. He squeezed, tightly.

How the killer knew when Tony Z. would be there, nobody knew.

But 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 pansies.

I mean, that’s what the M.E. must’ve told the cops, later.

Hey, watching from my window, they could’ve got me, too . . .

But they didn’t.

 

 

THE END



“Singers and 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 advocate. 


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 mad_hatters_mania.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022