RALPHIE KILLS HIS FATHER
On Friday night at Johnny’s Place, the usual drunks stood at the bar, both the after work part-timers, and the career boozehounds—the used up whores begging for somebody to buy them a shot, and the old guys with the yellowed skin and the rotten livers who’d sell their kids’ toys for a pint of whiskey. Sister Rachel Armageddon, a young nun from the local parish, made the rounds and gave them sermons about Jesus and God and why it’s a sin to masturbate and use contraception.
Ralphie and Marcie walked into the bar and looked around, surprised at the crowd. Ralphie spotted Quentin and Pete in a corner booth and nodded to them. He didn’t want to sit with them because he noticed that they acted stupid around Marcie. Pete always acted stupid, that’s the way he was. Ralphie figured his parents must have dropped him on his head when he was a kid, or maybe his mother had smoked a lot of crack when she was pregnant. But for some reason Quentin also acted funny whenever Marcie was around.
Ralphie directed Marcie to the end of the bar, as far away from Sister Rachel as he could manage, so that he wouldn’t have to listen to her Catholic bullshit. He called to Charlie the bartender to bring them some drinks.
Marcie wore a black skirt, black stockings, and a white shirt that was open a few buttons, so that it showed off her tits. She’d just had her hair dyed a deep red color like cooked cherries, and that pissed off Ralphie when he first saw it. She had naturally pretty chestnut brown hair, so he didn’t understand why she’d want to go and ruin it like that.
Charlie the bartender sat the drinks in front of them, and they clinked glasses like they wanted to toast something.
“Why’s she do that?” said Marcie, raising her voice, so she could be heard over the crowd.
“Who?” said Ralphie.
“The nun,” she said, nodding at Sister Rachel.
“Fuck if I know.”
“Doesn’t she know those people? Pat and Al, and Dickie—they’ll never change.”
“Wouldn’t if they could,” Ralphie said.
“That’s what I mean,” she said, almost yelling. “I’m not sure anybody can change what they really are, you know, deep inside. Those three sure can’t, so she’s wasting her time.”
“Just makes the situation worse,” said Ralphie.
“You’re right! If they can’t help being who they are, then she’s just making them feel bad by harping at them.”
Ralphie felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see Quentin grinning like an idiot. Ralphie and Quentin had been friends since grade school, when Ralphie beat the hell out of him in a schoolyard fight and knocked out three of his teeth.
“I was hoping you guys would show up,” Quentin said.
Ralphie rolled his eyes. Quentin would never say stupid shit like that when Marcie wasn’t around.
“Hi Quentin,” said Marcie, turning to him.
“Hi Marcie. Where’d you guys eat?”
“We ate at the Oregon Diner. Ralphie got mustard on his shirt.”
She reached over and scratched at the yellow stain.
“Have anything good?” Quentin asked.
“Vichyssoise and pâté,” Ralphie said, feeling himself getting angry. “What the fuck does it matter?”
“Don’t be so grumpy,” said Marcie. “I had chicken pot pie, and it wasn’t bad. Ralphie had the chopped steak.”
Ralphie glanced at his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar and straightened his tie. The mirror was cracked and cloudy, and it distorted his reflection. He felt vaguely sick looking at himself.
“You guys want to come over and sit with us?” said Quentin, motioning towards the table.
“Maybe later,” Ralphie said.
Quentin shrugged, and turned like he was going back to the booth, but stopped. “I forgot—your father was in here earlier.”
“What?” said Ralphie.
He hadn’t seen his father in three years. He couldn’t believe that the old man would just show up like that, just appear in the neighborhood, without warning.
“Yeah,” said Quentin. “He was in here with some woman, and he asked about you.”
“What woman?” Marcie said.
“I don’t know. Some broad. She was a lot younger. I mean, older than us, but a lot younger than him. She looked kind of cheap, if you ask me.”
“What the fuck did he want?” said Ralphie.
Quentin shrugged. “Beats me. They had a drink at the bar, and when he saw me and Pete, he came over and asked where you were and if you was going to be in tonight.”
“What’d you say?”
“I said you and Marcie were out somewhere eating, and you’d probably show, like you always do.”
Quentin shrugged again, and headed back to where Pete sat.
“Who the hell do you think that woman was?” said Marcie.
“Fuck if I know.”
“What do you think he wanted?”
“Like I said, I don’t know.”
Marcie picked her glass up off the bar and looked at it, like she’d forgotten about it. She up-ended it, and drank the booze, then smacked the glass back down against the bar.
“Oohh, that burns,” she said. “Come on, let’s get out of here, want to?”
Her lips had started to narrow, and her cheeks glowed.
“Let’s have another drink first,” said Ralphie. “You’ll feel better!”
“I wish…” she said.
Ralphie looked at her and nodded.
It took Ralphie a moment, but he got Charlie’s attention and ordered another round. By the time the drinks came, the room had quieted down. Ralphie and Marcie touched their glasses together in another fake toast. Ralphie took a drink.
“I forgot to tell you,” said Marcie. “I’m pregnant again.”
Ralphie nodded. “I’ll put the money on the bookcase in the morning, before I go to work.”
He took another drink, and over the rim of the glass he noticed the nun walking over towards them, and he felt himself tense up.
Her name was Sister Rachel Almaghetti, but everyone called her Sister Rachel Armageddon. She was in her late twenties, the same age as Marcie. She’d been an ugly kid in high school, kind of fat, with a face like a bowl of mashed potatoes. None of the guys would have anything to do with her. Her cousin had to take her to the prom. But after high school, and after she decided to become a nun, she lost all that baby fat, fixed her hair, and got some color in her cheeks. Ralphie thought that she wasn’t half bad looking now, and that she could probably find a man if she wanted to.
“I didn’t see you in church today,” she said, stepping up to them.
She wore street clothes—a pair of jeans and a dark blue sweater. She never wore the habit outside St. Mark’s.
Ralphie laughed. “When was the last time you saw us in church?”
Ralphie was Irish Catholic. At least, he had been raised Catholic, and he had very bad memories of his parochial schooling.
“Well, maybe it’s time you went then,” she said. “Sunday’s Easter. It would be a good opportunity for you to recommit yourself to the faith. It’s a time of rebirth and second chances.”
“Shut up,” said Ralphie. “You sound like an idiot.”
“Ralphie!” said Marcie.
“Well, she does!”
“I know that,” said Marcie, “but you don’t have to say it!”
“Today’s Good Friday,” said the nun, as if she hadn’t heard a thing. “The day on which our Lord and Savior died for our sins. He died, so that we may all have eternal life.”
“Right,” said Ralphie. “He died and three days later was resurrected.”
“That’s right,” said Sister Rachel.
Ralphie noticed that she’d arched her back and pushed out her chest, and he wondered if her thing for Jesus, her whole religious conviction, didn’t have something to do with sex. He thought maybe she became a nun in the first place because she couldn’t get laid.
“Say,” he said, thinking about it. “What was Jesus doing during that time?”
“What?” she said, like she hadn’t heard.
“Yeah, what was Jesus doing during those three days between his death and his resurrection? What was he doing?”
“Yeah, what was he doing? Where was he? I mean, was he playing pinochle, was he in a whorehouse, getting drunk, what?”
“He was…he was dead,” she said, and she sounded shaken.
“Sure, but he’s Jesus, for fuck’s sake. He’s like Superman, only there’s no kryptonite—know what I mean? Nothing can really stop him. Sure his body died, right, but he couldn’t die die. And he didn’t ascend into heaven until forty days later, right? So that means he wasn’t hanging around with the old man during that time. So where was he during those three days? What was he doing?”
Her face turned a deep shade of red, almost the color of Marcie’s hair.
“I hate you Ralphie McNear!” she said, and turned and walked away.
Ralphie watched her little butt moving in her jeans, and he said, “You know what she needs?”
“I can only imagine,” said Marcie.
“She needs to get fucked. She needs her pussy sucked, she needs to have her clock cleaned.”
“Right,” said Marcie, shaking her head. She took a drink of whiskey. “That’s your answer to everything.”
Ralphie shrugged. “Most things, anyway.”
Across the room, the door opened and Ralphie’s father walked in. He was tall, though he stooped, and he had silvery-gray hair and a moustache. He wore a gray pin-striped suit with a white shirt and a thin black tie. A woman accompanied him. In her late forties, she had straight pasta-colored hair, and she wore a short, sparkly blue dress. She clung to his arm.
Ralphie felt Marcie go rigid next to him.
“Jesus Christ,” said Marcie. “Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Why the fuck would he come here like that?” said Ralphie.
“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” said Marcie.
Ralphie’s father’s name was Howard. He owned a barbershop and worked as a barber. He caught sight of them standing at the bar, and he walked over to them. The blond woman held onto his arm the whole time. Ralphie’s father smiled.
“Ralphie! Marcie!” said Howard the Barber. “I was hoping we’d find you here!”
Ralphie scowled. Marcie turned her head.
“I want to introduce you to…” said Howard, looking at the woman with the yellow hair. He cleared his throat. “I mean, this is Sandy…Mrs. Simes, I mean. She’s a librarian.”
“What the fuck are you doing here?” said Ralphie.
“Mrs. Simes and me—we’re going to be married!”
“I can’t believe you’d come here,” said Ralphie.
His father frowned. “Son, I thought you’d be happy. I wanted to tell you.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Marcie.
“Can I get a drink?” said Mrs. Simes the Librarian, looking around.
“I have to take a shit,” said Ralphie.
He stepped away from the bar and walked through the crowd, towards the men’s room.
The toilet was disgusting, but Ralphie had to go, and the tension from seeing his father only made it worse. He dropped his trousers and sat down on the commode, releasing his bowels at the same time. He sighed.
The door to the stall slammed open. Marcie stood with her feet spread, looking down at him.
“You shouldn’t have left me alone with them,” she said.
“Can’t a man have a little privacy, for God’s sake?” he said.
“I want you to do it,” she said in a thick whisper.
Ralphie raised an eyebrow.
“You heard me—I want you to do it.”
He pointed to the graffiti on the wall. “I was just reading here about this guy named Simon. Seems he likes it up the ass, and he hangs around here on Tuesdays.”
“Stop kidding around,” she said. Her hand was still pressed against door to the stall, where she’d pushed it open. “You know you want it done, as much as I do.”
“Yeah, well it’s going to cost you.”
The idea of making Marcie pay for it excited him.
“I don’t care,” she said.
Ralphie clinched his bowels and let out a loud fart. The whole bathroom stank.
Marcie bent down, grabbed his chin, and kissed him hard on the mouth. Her tongue darted between his lips and caressed his tongue. Ralphie’s dick started to get hard. It pressed against the inside of the toilet bowl.
A shadow fell across them, and Marcie pulled back, her lips moist and swollen, and they both looked up to see his father standing there. Howard the Barber had a disgusted, horrified look on his face.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” he said.
“What do you want?” said Marcie.
“My God, Marcie!” said Howard. “Your own brother!”
“Sorry, Pop,” said Ralphie.
His father ran out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
Marcie leaned in and started kissing Ralphie once more.
Ralphie let out a sigh between the kisses. He was pleased now that he’d made the decision to kill his old man.
Three days after he saw his father at the bar, Ralphie stepped inside the family barbershop on Washington Avenue, and the little bell rang when he opened and closed the door. His father stood behind the barber’s chair, cutting a man’s hair. The man, bald on top of his head, had a shiny crown, and his hair ran around the sides and back in a dark horseshoe. He had a pale green cloth tied around his neck and spread down across his knees, and he read the newspaper. Ralphie’s father wore a white smock that had strands of black hair stuck to it. His father looked up at him with a weary expression when Ralphie came in.
“Hi Pop!” said Ralphie.
His father didn’t say anything, he just went back to cutting the man’s hair. The scissors made a crisp snipping noise in a regular pattern, like he was keeping time to something in his head as he cut hair.
Ralphie sat down in one of the waiting chairs. The man looked up from the newspaper at him, and Ralphie grinned. The man didn’t smile back, he just nodded, and looked down at the newspaper. The front of the newspaper announced in bold letters that a local construction worker had been murdered. His body had been found inside a crushed-up car at an auto wrecking yard.
Ralphie frowned, feeling his pistol digging into his side where he had it tucked into his pants, and he shifted in the seat so it would be more comfortable.
Ralphie’s father put his scissors and comb in the pocket of his smock, and he rubbed some kind of ointment or lotion into the man’s hair, what there was of it. He spun the chair around, so the man faced the mirror, and held a small mirror in back of him so that he could see his ring of dark hair. The man nodded in approval.
“Looks good, Howard,” he said.
Howard set down the mirror, and pulled the pale green cloth off the man and shook the hair out of it. He folded the cloth over his arm and waited, standing by the chair. The man stood up and straightened the crease his trousers, then pulled out his wallet. He handed Howard the Barber a twenty dollar bill and told him to keep the change. Ralphie’s father charged nineteen dollars and fifty cents for haircuts.
“Thanks, Simon,” said Howard.
The man took his jacket from the coat rack, put it on, and said, “See you,” and walked out the door. The little bell rang twice.
Ralphie’s father laid the green cloth over the back of the chair, then took a broom from the corner and started sweeping the little hairs on the floor into a pile.
“So how are you, Pop?” said Ralphie.
“What do you want?” said his father, without looking at him. His eyes focused on the floor and the little hairs he was sweeping up.
“A haircut, of course!” said Ralphie.
He jumped up out of the waiting chair and sat down in the barber chair. His father kept sweeping, so Ralphie reached behind him and grabbed the green cloth and laid it over himself.
“Cut the horseshit,” said his father.
“What horseshit?” said Ralphie. “I need a trim,” and he ran his hand over his head. He kept his red hair cut very close to his skull.
“You haven’t wanted me to cut your hair since you were eight years old,” his father said. He stopped sweeping and set the broom back in the corner.
“Hell, I didn’t want you to cut it then,” said Ralphie, over his shoulder.
“Then what the hell do you want?”
Ralphie put a foot on the floor and turned the chair so that it was facing his father. “I figured you and me ought to have a little chat, that’s all.”
“What about—you and your sister?” his father said in an ugly voice.
“Hmmm…” said Ralphie. “That’s not a bad idea. Why don’t we talk about me and Marcie!”
“So you’re sleeping with her, huh?” his father said.
“Sleeping?” Ralphie laughed. “No, we’re not sleeping together.”
“You’re having sex!”
“And you would know about that, wouldn’t you?” Ralphie said. “You know all about fucking Marcie.”
His father flushed and seemed to lose his balance. He leaned back against the counter behind him.
“All those trips to that motel when we were kids,” said Ralphie. “You had me waiting out in the car, or you locked me in the bathroom. You really think I didn’t know what was going on? You think I didn’t figure it out?”
Ralphie gathered the pale green cloth in his fist and threw it to the floor. He pulled back his jacket to let his father get a look at the pistol sticking in his belt.
“No surprise, Pop, but Marcie hates you. And, frankly, I’m not too fond of you either.”
“What’re you going to do?” his father said, staring at the butt of the pistol.
“Good,” Ralphie said. “Let’s get right to the point. Marcie hates you so much, Pop, she wants me to kill you.”
“You’re…you’re lying. She don’t hate me that much…”
“Oh, on the contrary,” said Ralphie. “She’s going to pay me to do it—pay me in sex. She’s going to blow me, and I’m going to fuck her!”
“That’s disgusting,” said Howard.
“But you know what, Pop? She don’t really even have to pay me. I’d have done this one for free.”
His father shook his head. “If your mother could hear you, she’d be mortified,” he said.
“She’s dead, Pop. So she don’t hear anything.”
Ralphie stood up out of the chair and pulled his jacket back over the pistol.
“Normally,” he said, “I wouldn’t tell a guy I was going to cap him before I did it. Usually it’s a stupid thing to do, for obvious reasons. But in this case, I’m making an exception. You know why?”
“So you’re really going to go through with it? You’re going to kill me?”
“Yeah, of course,” said Ralphie. “But do you know why I’m telling you? That’s what I was asking you.”
His father didn’t say anything, just stared at him.
“I’m telling you ‘cause I wanted you to know it was Marcie’s idea. I mean, I don’t really give a shit what happens to you. Marcie’s the only person I really give a shit about, and I want her to have what she wants. And she wants me to kill your ass, so of course I’m going to do it. Like I said, I don’t give a shit one way or the other.”
Howard picked up the green cloth and folded and refolded it. “You can just go screw yourself,” he said. “You’re a punk, and you always will be one.”
Ralphie laughed with his mouth open. He turned and walked towards the door. Thinking about it, he stopped and said, “Hey, do you still have those suckers you give out? I always loved those root beer suckers.”
He looked around the cash register and saw the jar.
“Yeah, awesome,” he said, and he dug around until he found the right one. He unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth. “See you, Pop,” he said, and he walked out the door, and the little bell rang twice.
Mrs. Simes the Librarian fumbled with Howard’s belt and zipper. Already naked, she sat on the side of the bed, one foot on the floor. Her yellow hair hung in her face and her sagging breasts swung with the motions of her arms.
“You took your Viagra, didn’t you?” she said.
“Yes, yes, of course,” he said, trying to help her with his trousers.
The room was dim, lit by a violet-colored lamp that sat tilted on the nightstand, casting deep shadows across the walls.
They got his trousers and undershorts off, and Mrs. Simes climbed up onto the bed and turned around, grabbing the headboard.
Howard the Barber climbed onto the bed behind her. “You sure you want to try this?” he said.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said.
“Well, I have—lots of times.”
He frowned a moment, and then reached down and began to rub his penis along the crack of her ass, overtop her anus.
“Wait!” she said.
He leaned to one side to get a look at her face.
She nodded towards the nightstand and the picture of Jesus sitting there. Jesus had his hands folded together and a dull, almost blank, expression on his face, and he looked straight ahead, like he was watching what the two of them were doing.
“Turn that over, will you?”
“The picture,” she said, nodding. “Goddamn it, turn the picture over!”
“Oh, okay,” he said, and reached over and laid flat the picture of Jesus.
“Okay, good,” she said. “Now do it to me.”
Howard positioned his penis carefully on her anus and began to insert himself, to apply pressure. It was very tight, and he was wondering if he would maintain his erection long enough to complete the act.
Mrs. Simes said nothing, she was motionless and made no noise. He wondered if she liked what he was doing.
With another push, he inserted himself, and it was very tight, and he wondered if he was hurting her, but still she said nothing. He began moving in and out, just a little, and it was exciting—the tightness, and the taboo feeling, that experience of doing something transgressive. He hadn’t felt that in a long time.
A muffled popping noise sounded, and Mrs. Simes splayed out in front of him, and dark streaks ran down the wall in front of the headboard, and Howard felt himself coming, riding the orgasm, thrusting into her, and he looked down, and saw that part of her face was missing, blood filling the pillow.
He yelled and pulled himself out of her, and turned to see his son, Ralphie, with a pistol in his hand. The pistol had a silencer on it.
Ralphie grinned. “You got some shit on your dick there, Pop,” he said.
Howard the Barber looked down at the brown smudges on his penis.
“Oh, that’s gross!” he said, and wiped it off on the white sheets.
Ralphie sat on the wooden chair next to the bed. “Anything you want me to tell Marcie?”
“So this is it, huh?” Howard said, looking up. His voice trembled.
“Yep, this is it.”
Howard sighed. “I don’t know…Tell her…Tell her I’m sorry, I guess.”
Ralphie shook his head and smirked. “Shit, Pop, you’re not sorry at all.”
“I know,” Howard said, nodding. “You’re right…I guess I should be, but I’m really not.”
Ralphie stood up.
“That’s what I’ll tell her, then,” he said.
[An earlier version of this story appeared on PlotsWithGuns.com, #31, Sept./Oct. 2004, and on TheRogueReader.com]