My father always told me a life of crime wouldn’t pay.
Until I was 13, I watched him toil in the dirt. From one grimey construction job to the next, barely scraping by.
I watched him work up to foreman, watched him puff out his chest when we moved out of our run-down one-bedroom apartment in Southie, into an even more run-down house in the slums of Eastwood Heights.
“Son, I told you honesty and hard work would pay off.”, he told me. Standing on the stoop of that house. Trash lining the gutter of the street. Trash staring at us from the dark windows of the other tenements.
I shivered, and clenched my fists in rage.
A year later, I came home from school to my mother coughing up blood into a kitchen towel. Cancer.
My father prayed. Holding her hand at her bed-side. His job long-gone from missing hours. Bills piling up on the kitchen table. Piling up and piling up. Looming over us.
A month later, December, we were living out of my father’s car. Driving through the city at night to keep warm. Christmas lights on houses burning into my eyes.
I boiled. The bile in my stomach seethed at all the lies of this wretched city. The fat laughing people taking from my father...from my mother...from me. Warm in buildings my father wrecked himself to build for...nothing.
I found him in an alley. Between two dumpsters. Piss and liquor soaking his clothing.
I’d been living at the Salvation Army, alone because they would only take in children. I brought him food every night, snuck into my pocket from dinner or stolen from the kitchen.
I don’t know where he’d gotten a gun. Maybe he’d always had one? The blood seeped slowly into the filth of the street. His face was passive, in stark contrast to the violent gore to the side of his skull.
I picked up the pistol. It was so heavy in my hand. It smelled of hell, a bitter oily smoke that filled my nostrils, drowning out the wet iron smell of blood.
I turned my back on him, from the path he’d tried to walk. Towards the dark.
With a gun.