Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sipping Lemonade

Sitting on the back porch, leaning back in my chair, watching the children scream as they run around the yard. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Summer days, drinking lemonade, playing hide and seek. Good interpretation. One might even say average. Fairly common. Frozen to my chair, my world shredding as my child was set aflame, trying desperately to extinguish the flames. That’s the version I went through last night.

You can piss off the wrong people. I know that seems pretty obvious. We see it all the time in the movies. Bad men who occupy a certain criminal element of an organized nature. You know, the mob. Anyway, you see the movies and TV shows, and you know what those guys will do. Ok, true, those guys are real. They are out there. But its hard to imagine that your life will ever meaningfully impact with individuals on that level. They seem semi-mythical, like celebrities or politicians. It was equally as difficult for me to imagine that my life would ever become entwined with the Mafia’s as it was for me to believe that I might one day meet Tom Cruise in a nightclub.

Sometimes, your life does cross over that line. You step away from the average, normal and expected, and into a world where car bombs destroyed lives, where angry lone sharks broke real legs. The problem was, and I guess still is, this: when your life crosses the line between the mundane and the cinematic, how the hell are you supposed to know? How can you possibly guess that today is the day your life becomes a made-for-TV movie?

I first met Otello Giovanni at my kid’s soccer game. That’s his real name. I should probably use a fake name instead of his real name, but fuck him. That’s his real fucking name. He’s in the yellow pages, call him up, tell him I said hi. What the fuck is he gonna do, kill me twice?

But I didn’t know any of that then. To me he was just another Italian guy I saw at our kids’ soccer games. Sure, ok, some of the parents do get out of hand, yes. We like to scream and yell, let our kids know we support them. Better than this pussy “no-yelling, no-score-keeping, everybody-gets-a-trophy” bullshit they got nowadays. Anyway, Otello was a bit too much, even for us. He slapped a ref once, knocked the guy down.

Next I saw Otello was years later at a fundraiser. My employer, a politician whose name I do wish to protect (fuck you Otello Giovanni of 1484 Windwillow Crescent), was speaking to Otello when I arrived. I didn’t know what the conversation was about, but there was obviously some kind of agreement reached, as they shook hands and then hugged. Otello left immediately afterwards.

Next we met, things were more private. I was at work, late at night. Burning the midnight oil, as well as any chance I could have of things like a normal family life. Anyway, I was leaving, and in the elevator going down. Doors open on 12, and this guy gets on. It takes me a few seconds, but then it dawns on me. Otello, I remember. I wonder if he is connected.

Then Otello starts talking. He tells me about how his uncle, who owns a construction company, is desperately in need of a good job. An honest labourer, he says, lain low by bad luck and circumstance. He then offhandedly mentioned that he had heard that I happened to head the committee that was in charge of bids for construction on a retirement center.

He then said that he would hate to see me miss an opportunity to give an honest man a new start on life. He mentioned that he thought I had a beautiful family, without saying how he knew about them. He said they deserved a chance at life too. Everybody does. He said he hoped that I made sure that everybody did. It might not sound very threatening now. In fact, as I read it back, I feel vaguely silly. But trust me, it was fucking terrifying at the time.

But I stood my ground. I don’t know why. Maybe I had ethics. Probably because I hadn’t realized that my life had become a movie. Or maybe I had. Maybe I thought that my life was a movie, but that I was the star. As the star, I could make mistakes or lose things I loved, but I would always survive, and would succeed in the end. If so, I would be ignoring the fact that for every star, there are a shitload of nobodies that die off early.

And if my life was a movie, it was my first one. The chances of me landing a lead in my first movie were pretty slim. The odds would seem to indicate that I had a bit part, at best. A minor walk-on, designed to illustrate just how evil Otello Giovanni was. Or for comic relief. Otello was most likely the villain, and the hero was some other guy. Someone like me, only better looking with a great agent.

The long and the short of it is, I refused to play ball. I awarded the contract to the lowest qualified bidder, as society expected me to do. As was my job. Otello wasn’t happy. He indicated his unhappiness to me in the form of a bomb. Placed in my gas barbecue. It was pretty well known that I loved to barbecue. All summer long, almost every night, as a matter of fact.

As luck, fate, or the director would have it, I was feeling particularly tired and lazy on the night after the bomb was planted. I carried the steaks out and put them on the cold barbecue (one of my secrets, by the way – start cold) before returning to the kitchen for a beer. On my way back, I sat down on the porch; daddy was too tired to cook.

Justin had turned seven just three days earlier. He asked me if he could start the steaks. He said he was almost a man, and men barbecued.

I said ok. It was a short, sweet, proud moment.

I wish I had awarded the contract differently.


Auntie Bernie said...

I'm at work.

Asher Hunter said...

Sorry Kim!

ArleneWKW said...

I like the humorous edge to this, the star of the movie analysis and such, but . . . please forgive me if I'm being picky . . . I felt jettisoned from the reality of this when,in the elevator, Otello glances at the photos on your desk. Maybe I'm misreading this, but I've reread it a number of times. I hope you don't mind the critique. I also like the way the first paragraph has the sense of a metaphor after the first sentence of the second paragraph, only to turn out to be painful reality.

Asher Hunter said...

Thanks for the input arlene, no apologies necessary! I appreciate the critique, and you are right, I messed up. I've corrected the error. :)

One of the reasons I like to post some of my stuff here, I get good feedback! :)

Daxohol said...

Dammit dude...that was great. Horrible. But great!

Asher Hunter said...

Thank you daxohol ... writing can be a weird process. I sat down to do some editing on "Dragon Moon". As I sat down, the opening 2 lines from this story popped into my head, and I said to myself "Ok, I guess I'm writing this instead". :)

ArleneWKW said...

Much much better. I especially like that he didn't say how he knew that you had a beautiful family.

Asher Hunter said...

Thank you Arelene, I definitely appreciate the help. I need to hire an editor! :)