One of the discussion groups I participate in has a tradition called #Sample Sunday in which writers offer samplings of their work. so these are my offerings for today:
JUST AN OLD-FASHIONED MURDER
I thought being a murderer would be somewhat more upsetting than it has proven to be. Actually, it’s rather exciting, like having this interesting secret that would shock the b’jesus out of everybody if you let it slip, so you keep it to yourself a little smugly. I must say there have been times when I have wanted to say to someone, ”You know, Larry Anderson didn’t really disappear ― not at all. He’s down in my basement under the new quilting frame.”
But that really wouldn’t be prudent.
Listen, the plain truth is that there are people in this world who just need killing. I’ve had my eye on Larry Anderson since he was in my ninth grade biology class. Any child who enjoyed killing frogs as much as he did bears watching. It's sad really, he came from a nice enough family but there was always something unsettling about the boy. For years there were stories about his mistreatment of Felicity Burroughs, his first wife, who left him to move to Florida where her elderly parents, she said, needed her. No one ever saw her in Pitts Crossing again and there was occasional speculation that Larry had done her in and successfully hidden her body but I never paid those stories any mind.
No, after Felicity left him, Larry went from unsettling to flat-out scary. Of course it wasn't obvious. He was always a clever liar. Good with the schmoozing and the sucking up. It's embarrassing to realize how many women there are in this world who fall for that nonsense. Sad, too.
To give the devil his due, Larry was always good-looking which was part of the problem. Personally I've always been a little mistrustful of men who had those kind of good-looks - fine-features, dark eyes, pouty mouth. He'd have made a pretty girl but I'm an old maid so what the hell do I know? Even in high school he got away with an unnecessary amount of bad behavior just because the silly women who taught him couldn't believe a boy that good-looking could be such a sniveling rat. It was the obsequiousness that they fell for, telling them how nice they looked, how much he enjoyed their class, how he never understood algebra or chemistry or the fall of the Roman Empire until they explained it. He could really lay it on and they sucked it right up.
He tried that malarkey on me but it didn't get him far. He flashed that smile of his but I saw the resentment behind it. Still, as I said before, none of that exactly inspired murderous thoughts.
And...from The Old Mermaid's Tale
We crawled into a booth and from my spot next to the window I could just make out the front door of The Old Mermaid Inn. Gia brought us coffee and slabs of apple pie mounded with whipped cream but I was too interested in watching the customers to eat. It was mostly the same sort of men I had noticed at the Chinese restaurant, some of them with women who looked a little too made-up and a little too jaded to be their wives.
“Hey,” Dante looked up with a grin and waved, “look who’s here.”
We all turned as the man coming through the door waved back.
“That’s Sal Testaverde,” Dante said. “He’s Gia’s boyfriend’s brother.”
“He owns Walks-in-the-Water,” I said.
“That’s right.” Dante stood up as Sal helped himself to a steaming mug of black coffee and came over. He pulled a chair up to the end of our booth and sat down on it backwards, resting his arms on the back. He was a leathery, weathered guy who could have been any age between thirty and fifty. He looked tough and wiry with a couple of deep scars along the left side of his jaw and a cigarette tucked in the corner of his mouth. My impression was that at one time he might have been a handsome man but now he was sun-baked and windswept and as crusty as any of the old salts who populated my imaginary worlds. His grin was lopsided, possibly so as not to disturb his cigarette, and his teeth were chipped and in need of some attention. Buried in nests of wrinkles were two dark eyes that were keen and lively. I absolutely loved him.
“They’re makin these seaport assholes dumber every friggin year,” he growled as he gulped the hot black liquid. “I couldn’t wait to get the hell off a barges cause of the shitheads and now I got my bar fulla them.”
“Tough night?” Dante asked.
“Fuck, yeah. Business sucks once the lake freezes in but at least I don’t got a new batch a shitheads every friggin week. Now we don’t just got the homegrown shitheads, we got the salty shitheads, too. What the hell you doin bringin girls down here?” He eyed Rosie and me.
“Just for fun,” Dante said. “We had dinner at the Green Dragon and then walked up here. It’s their first time here—and their last, too, for that matter.”
“You got a strange idea a fun.” He was looking directly at me and it made me twitchy. “You come to see the wild animals?” There was a twinkle in his eyes.
“Yes,” I said. “Do you know where they keep them?”
He gave a laugh that was more like a cackle. “Just go down the street till you see a bar that looks like it belongs to a disgusted old fart with shit for brains and it’s full of em.”
I smiled at him. He smiled back. “Pio told me you used to work on the barges.”
He took another loud gulp of his coffee. “Pio did, huh? Well, Pio and that damn fool brother of mine should be getting a taste a why I quit right about now—them two smartasses had to give it a try. Can’t tell young pissants anything when they get their blood up.”
“Would you tell what happened?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, the young maid wants a story, does she? Not much to tell cept it was when you was in pig-tails, kiddo, and we was coming down through Lake Superior deep down with ore when a gale hit and loaded us up with fourteen hundred ton of ice in a couple hours. We was headed for the Soo but the old tub was listing so bad from all the ice we was out there with hatchets and blowtorches hanging off the sides like a pack a goddamned monkeys trying to cut through the white shit. The motherless whore started to roll and every damn one of us poor bastards went into the friggin, goddamned water. She righted herself but there was so much ice on the starboard side that they couldn’t launch the lifeboats and all but me and another guy bought it. Don’t know what saved me other than inborn pigheadedness but I left my ear, three fingers and most a my toes out there in Superior.”
He held up his left hand which had only a thumb and forefinger and pushed back his cap to show us what was left of his ear.
“Oh my,” I said, horrified and thrilled at the same time. “That’s terrible. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. Brought me to my senses. Let’s hope those other two wise up in time.” He stood up and began to button up his jacket. “You take these girls someplace decent next time,” he said to Dante.
Just then Giovanna bounced up and hugged Sal around the middle. “Hi, handsome,” she squeaked. “Got your white horse out front? Gonna take me away from all this?”
Sal leaned down and kissed her on top of her head. “Wish I could, honey. Sure do wish I could.”