KING RALPHIE AND THE TURK
Ralphie rode in the back of Pete’s Chevy Impala, while Pete steered, and Quentin sat in the front seat next to him. They drove up and down the streets of South Philly, slow, keeping an eye on things.
The sun sat on the horizon, below the row homes, casting deep shadows in the neighborhood.
“I need a refill,” said Ralphie, handing his empty glass to Quentin.
Quentin grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the footwell and poured a double into Ralphie’s glass, and handed it back to him.
“I’m hungry,” said Pete. “You want to get a cheesesteak, Ralphie?”
“Not now,” said Ralphie.
“What kind of cheese do you like on your steak?” said Pete, looking at Ralphie in the rearview mirror. “Whiz, or provolone, or something else?”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Ralphie.
“Me, I love Whiz,” said Pete. “I won’t eat a steak any other way.”
“You know why they call it Whiz, don’t you?” said Ralphie.
Pete shook his head. “No, why?”
“’Cause it’s got piss in it.”
Quentin looked back at Ralphie over his shoulder, and Ralphie winked at him.
“What?” said Pete.
“Yeah,” said Ralphie. “You know when you want to take a piss, sometimes you say, I got to take a whiz? Well, that’s where they get the name from.”
“No, shit?” said Pete.
“Yeah, why do you think it’s so yellow?” said Quentin.
“Oh, man,” said Pete. “Well, I ain’t going to eat that no more!”
Ralphie and Quentin broke out laughing.
Pete started laughing with them.
“Goddamn,” said Quentin. “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard.”
“Yeah!” said Pete. “I ain’t going to eat it no more!”
Ralphie frowned. He reached forward and slapped Pete on the back of the head.
“You dimwit,” he said. “That’s not why we’re laughing.”
“It ain’t?” said Pete.
“No, you idiot,” said Ralphie. “We’re laughing ‘cause there ain’t no piss in Cheez Whiz.”
“I don’t get it,” said Pete.
Ralphie let out a sigh. “Just drive, will you?”
The car hit a bump, and whiskey splashed out of Ralphie’s glass and onto his pants.
“Jesus, Pete,” he said. “Watch where the fuck you’re going.”
“Sorry, Ralphie. I was just trying to avoid hitting a kid on a bike.”
“Well, fuck him,” said Ralphie. “You made me spill good whiskey.”
“Right,” said Pete. “Good whiskey.”
At the next corner on South Fourth Street, a young guy in jeans and a black t-shirt flagged down the car. Pete pulled over.
“See what he wants,” said Ralphie.
Quentin rolled down his window.
“What do you want?” he said to the guy.
“I want to talk to Ralphie about a problem I got,” he said.
“Who is he?” said Ralphie.
“Tom from the neighborhood,” said Quentin. “I know him.”
Ralphie took a sip of Jack Daniel’s and rolled down his window. He waved to Tom, and Tom approached the rear door.
“What’s the problem?” said Ralphie.
“I got robbed,” said Tom. “Somebody broke into my house and stole all my money.”
“Why don’t you call the cops?”
“’Cause I stole it from somebody else,” said Tom.
Ralphie nodded. “So what do you want me to do about it?”
“Well, I know who done it,” said Tom. “Can you get the money back for me, and maybe, you know, beat the guy up some?”
Ralphie let out a sigh, thinking about it.
“You’d have to pay me in advance,” he said.
The guy, Tom, screwed up his face. “Well, I don’t have no money, ‘cause this asshole stole all of it.”
“I guess you’re out of luck,” said Ralphie.
He pushed the button and rolled the window back up.
Quentin looked back at Ralphie over his shoulder.
“Hey, Ralphie,” he said. “He’s got a really hot sister.”
“Tom does?” said Ralphie.
“Yeah,” said Quentin. “Great tits, really nice face. And she has a stud in her tongue. Those are for giving blowjobs. You ever have a tongue-stud blowjob, Ralphie?”’
“No. No, I haven’t,” said Ralphie.
“Me, I’d sure like to try one,” said Quentin.
“Me, too!” said Pete.
Ralphie nodded and rolled the window back down. The guy, Tom, had retreated from the car, and Ralphie waved him back over.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” said Ralphie. “But I want your sister to blow me.”
Tom frowned. “My sister?”
“Yeah, tomorrow night at the bar,” said Ralphie.”
“Well, she won’t like that,” said Tom.
“That’s okay,” said Ralphie. “Just make sure she’s there tomorrow night.”
Tom nodded, and Ralphie hit the button to raise the window again.
“Let’s go get that cop,” Ralphie said.
Pete drove them to Bigler Street in the southern most part of South Philly. They parked across the street from the address they had for Officer Steve Dickson.
“This is it,” said Quentin.
Pete turned in the seat to look back at Ralphie.
“Oh, Ralphie,” he said. “Can I do it? Can I kill the cop? After all, I’m the one he busted.”
Ralphie took a sip of whiskey.
“I don’t know,” he said. “What do you think, Quentin. Should I let Pete do it?”
“That’s a lot of responsibility,” said Quentin. “Think you can handle it, Pete?”
Pete nodded. “I know I can, guys. I promise. I’ll do it good.”
“I’m afraid you might fuck it up,” said Ralphie.
“I swear I won’t,” said Pete. “I ain’t done it before, but I’ll do it right.”
“Ain’t done what?”said Ralphie. “Killed a cop?”
“Yeah,” said Quentin. “You ain’t killed a cop before?”
“No,” said Pete, shaking his head. “I ain’t killed nobody before.”
Ralphie sat forward in the seat.
“You’re fucking shitting me,” he said. “All this time I’ve known you, and you ain’t killed nobody?”
“No, never,” said Pete.
“I’ll be damned,” said Quentin.
“I beat a dog to death with a shovel once,” said Pete. “But I never killed a person.”
“Far as I can tell,” said Ralphie, downing the rest of his whiskey. “There ain’t much of a difference.”
He climbed out of the car, and Pete and Quentin followed him.
The three of them walked to the house, climbed up onto the stoop, and Ralphie motioned for Pete to stand to the side. Ralphie banged on the front door. Quentin stood next to him. They saw a light come on in the living room¸ and the door opened. Dickson appeared in the doorway wearing a red cotton track suit with stains on it.
“Yeah?” said the cop.
“Officer Dick-son?” said Ralphie.
Pete snickered, standing next to him in the shadows.
“That’s right,” said Dickson, looking back and forth between Ralphie and Quentin. “And I know who you are, Ralphie McNear. What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you,” said Ralphie. “About my buddy, Pete.”
“Who the hell is Pete?”
“I am!” said Pete, stepping into the doorway. He had a gun in his hand.
Dickson’s eyes grew wide, as he backed into the house. Pete followed him in, pointing the gun at the cop.
Ralphie and Quentin stepped into the living room, and Quentin shut the door behind them.
“What the hell’s this about?” said the cop.
Pete shot him twice in the chest. The cop stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. He quivered and gasped for a moment, and fell still.
“Jesus, Pete,” said Quentin.
“What the hell are you doing?” said Ralphie.
“You said I could kill him,” said Pete.
Ralphie put his hands on his hips.
“Goddamn it, Pete,” he said. “We were going to torture him first. Didn’t you know that?”
Pete shook his head. “No, sorry, Ralphie. I didn’t.”
“Man, you’re really dumb,” said Quentin.
“You should at least tell the guy why you’re killing him,” said Ralphie.
“That’s really the way to do it,” said Quentin.
Ralphie pointed to the cop, laying unconscious on the floor.
“Look at this asshole,” he said. “He can’t hear us now. He probably won’t come to. You can’t tell him shit.”
Pete hung his head. “I’m really sorry, you guys,” he said.
“Well, you might as well go ahead and finish him off,” said Ralphie.
Quentin nodded. “Yeah, might as well,” he said.
“Okay,” said Pete. “I’ll finish him off. Might as well.”
They all looked at the cop laying on the floor, a blood stain covering the front of his track suit.
“You want me to get you a shovel?” said Ralphie.
The three of them broke out laughing.
“Yeah, I’ll use a shovel!” said Pete. “Like with the dog!”
The three of them laughed even harder, thinking about Pete killing the guy with a shovel.
A week later, on a Saturday evening, Ralphie sat at his booth in the back of Johnny’s Place, drinking whiskey out of a straight glass. The regulars had started to fill the bar, many of them occasionally looking over at Ralphie to see what he was doing or who he was talking to.
The past few nights people from the neighborhood had started bringing gifts to Ralphie’s table, some of them asking for help, and some not. They brought cakes and cookies, bottles of booze, flowers, stuffed animals. Women brought naked pictures of themselves. An auto mechanic left a fan belt and a 30% off coupon for brake alignment. One man brought his fifteen-year-old stepdaughter. Ralphie sent the two of them away, but he did write down the girl’s phone number.
Quentin walked into the room, glanced at the pile of stuff beside the table, and sat down across from Ralphie.
“Pete’s upset,” said Quentin.
“I really don’t give a shit,” said Ralphie.
“He’s upset because everybody thinks you killed that cop, Dickson, and not him.”
“Well, what the fuck does he want me to do about it?” said Ralphie. “Announce it in the fucking Daily News?”
Quentin shrugged. “I’m just telling you he’s upset, that’s all.”
Ralphie reached down and grabbed a bottle of expensive bourbon someone had brought him.
“Here,” he said, handing it to Quentin. “Give this to him. He’ll feel better.”
Quentin pointed. “I bet he’d also like that teddy bear.”
“Take all that shit,” said Ralphie. “I don’t fucking care.”
A commotion started at one of the other booths. A woman stood over the table, while a man sitting there tried to push her away.
“Leave me alone!” said the man.
“Hey, fuck you!” said the woman.
She left the table and walked towards Ralphie and Quentin.
“It’s Sister Rachel,” said Quentin.
“I see her,” said Ralphie.
“Hey Ralphie, hey Quentin,” said the nun, stepping up to the table. “Buy me a drink, and I’ll suck your cock.”
“Jesus, what’s wrong with you,” said Ralphie. “You’re a fucking nun.”
“Not anymore,” she said, slurring her words. “I renounced my vows.”
“Why’d you do that?” said Quentin.
“Because of Ralphie,” she said, leaning over the table. “He convinced me I didn’t know what I was talking about before. I didn’t know anything about vice or Jesus, or being thy neighbor’s keeper, any of that shit.”
“You didn’t have to turn into a drunken whore,” said Ralphie.
“Plus, I haven’t been fucked in so long I can’t stand it!” said the nun. “Not since Father Doherty in the rectory, and that was so long ago!”
Ralphie laughed. “Father Doherty, that old child molester!”
“He doesn’t just like little boys,” said Sister Rachel. “He gets a lot of pussy, too.”
“Good for him,” said Ralphie.
“So, what do you think?” said the nun, winking at them. “Either of you boys want to do me?”
“Fuck no,” said Ralphie, with a wave of his hand. “Get lost.”
Sister Rachel shrugged and walked to another table.
Ralphie held up his empty glass.
“I need another drink,” he said.
Quentin seemed distracted, looking around.
“Hey,” said Ralphie, shoving his glass at Quentin. “I need a refill.”
“Yeah, sure, Ralphie,” he said. “Only…”
“Well…I’d kind of like, you know…”
“No, what?” said Ralphie.
Quentin shrugged. “Sister Rachel?”
Ralphie scowled at him. “You got to be kidding me? You want to fuck the nun?”
“It’s like we said before,” said Quentin. “She’s got a pussy, same as any other woman. Only it’s special, ‘cause it’s nun-pussy.”
“Not anymore,” said Ralphie. “You heard her, she renounced her vows.”
Quentin shrugged. “That doesn’t really matter to me. I can still picture her as a nun.”
“I don’t care what you do,” said Ralphie. “Just get me another drink first.”
Quentin scooted out from the booth and walked to the front bar.
The blond prostitute who once asked Ralphie to be her pimp appeared at his table.
“Hi, King Ralphie,” she said. “Can I talk to you a second?”
“King?” he said.
“Sure, that’s what everybody calls you now.”
He grinned and leaned back in the seat.
“What do you want?” he said.
“You remember me?” she said.
She smiled. “That’s right! Sheri-Lynn Hudley.”
“What do you want?” he said again.
“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate it that you killed that cop for me.”
She nodded. “Yeah, after the awful way he treated me.”
“First, I ain’t admitting I killed anybody,” he said. “And second, why do you think I did it for you?”
“Just on account of how you said you’d handle it if somebody was bothering me.”
“I didn’t know he was bothering you.”
“Oh, okay,” she said. “Anyways, I’d still like to show you my appreciation. Can I give you a header?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t want a header from you.”
She nodded and turned away from the table.
“Wait a minute,” he said, and she looked back at him. “Since you’d like to show your appreciation, I want you to be nice to my friend Pete, give him whatever he wants. You know him? Really dumb guy hangs around with me? He’ll be in later tonight.”
She smiled again. “Okay, sure, Ralphie. I’m happy to do it!”
He waved his hand to get rid of her, and she left.
Quentin came hurrying back to the table.
“You better come to the front, Ralphie,” he said.
“What’s going on?” said Ralphie.
“It’s Marcie and Annie. They’re fighting.”
“Shit,” said Ralphie, sliding out from the booth.
He walked to the front of the bar, where the crowd had formed a circle around the two women, as they clawed and smacked one another, each of them shouting insults. People cheered them on.
“You fucking bitch!” said Marcie, pulling on Annie’s hair.
“You stupid cunt!” said Annie, digging her fingernails into Marcie’s cheek.
The crowd parted to allow Ralphie through. He stepped up to the two women and pulled them apart. Silence fell over the room.
“What the fuck is going on?” he said.
“Nothing,” said Marcie, wiping blood off her cheek.
“Yeah, nothing,” said Annie.
“They was fighting over you, Ralphie!” said Pat the Boozehound.
“Is that right?” said Ralphie, looking back and forth between the two of them.
“She started it!” said Annie.
“Bullshit,” said Marcie.
They started leaping at one another, and the crowd began murmuring again. Ralphie struggled to keep them apart.
“Stop it!” said Ralphie.
He wrapped his left arm around Annie, pulling her to his side, then wrapped his right arm around Marcie, pulling her to his other side. He looked at the people surrounding the three of them.
“Shut up, all of you! Shut up!”
People began shushing one another.
“Quiet everybody!” said Pat the Boozehound. “Ralphie wants to speak.”
“King Ralphie is speaking!” said Charlie the Bartender.
“That’s right!” said Ralphie. “I’m the king around here, and I’m making a ruling.”
“A royal decree!” said Pat the Boozehound.
“Right,” said Ralphie with a nod. “I command by the power vested in me by South Philly, and all you assholes, that from now on these two hot girls will put aside their differences and be friends.”
Everyone cheered. Al, Pat, and Dickie started chanting “Ralphie! Ralphie!”
“Come on, you two,” said Ralphie, loosening his grip on them. “I want you to kiss and make up.”
Marcie shrugged and started grinning. Annie seemed reluctant.
“What do you say?” said Marcie.
“Yeah, I guess,” said Annie.
Marcie stepped forward, leaned in, and gave Annie a peck.
“Come on,” said Ralphie, pushing the two of them together. “You can do better than that.”
The crowd continued to cheer. Marcie looked around, then grabbed Annie in her arms and kissed her full on the mouth.
“That’s more like it!” said Ralphie. “Now, to put the seal on my ruling, make it official and all that shit, we’re going back to my place to have a three-way!”
The crowd cheered harder. People clapped and stepped aside to let Ralphie and his girls pass by. Some patted him on the back as the three of them crossed the room and went out the door.
People from the neighborhood packed Johnny’s Place. Ralphie sat in his back booth alone, drinking whiskey. Music played loud on the jukebox.
A fat man, along with his fat wife and fat kid, all of them wearing shorts and Birkenstocks, stepped up to Ralphie’s table.
“Can we take a picture with you?” said the fat man.
“What?” said Ralphie, looking over at them.
“You’re King Ralphie, aren’t you?” said the fat wife.
“We’d love to get a picture of you,” said the fat man. “We’re visiting from Michigan, and we heard all about you from someone at the Starbucks near our hotel.”
“Fuck off,” said Ralphie.
“Oh, my gosh,” said the fat wife, her hand covering her mouth. “Did you hear that?”
“Yeah!” said the fat man. “It’s just like in the movies.”
“Just like the movies,” said the fat kid. “Fuck off!”
The three of them laughed as they walked away.
Ralphie let his head sink into his hands, as Quentin slid into the booth across from him.
“You okay, Ralphie?” said Quentin.
“Yeah, I’m just beat,” said Ralphie, looking up. “It’s fucking Marcie and Annie. For three days straight now, all they want to do is fuck. I fuck them ‘til I’m empty, go out for a cigarette, and come back to find the two of them going at it again.”
Quentin frowned. “Is that a problem?”
“It’s not a problem like skin cancer’s a problem,” said Ralphie. “But it’s an issue, believe me. I’m fucking worn out.”
“Me, I got this ex-nun who keeps calling me,” said Quentin. “She won’t leave me alone. I got to change my number.”
“I told you not to get involved with her,” said Ralphie.
“I didn’t get involved,” said Quentin. “I just fucked her twice, three times if you count when I didn’t come, and she blew me three or four times. But that’s it. I guess she took it serious or something.”
“I fucking hate it when they get serious,” said Ralphie.
“Don’t I know it,” said Quentin. He let out a sigh. “At least Pete’s happy, I guess.”
“Not that I care,” said Ralphie. “But why’s he happy?”
“He’s been hanging out with that blond prostitute, the one from Delaware.”
“She’s not from Delaware. She’s from the South,” said Ralphie. “And she’s only hanging out with him ‘cause I told her to.”
They both looked up to see Pete coming through the crowd towards the table.
“Hey guys,” said Pete, as he slid into the booth next to Quentin.
“You know that girl you’re seeing, the prostitute?” said Quentin. “Ralphie says she ain’t from Delaware.”
“She’s not?” said Pete. “You told me she was.”
“I kept thinking she was, for some reason,” said Quentin. “But I guess she ain’t.”
Pete propped his elbows up on the table.
“So, guess what happened,” he said. “I fucking wrecked the Impala. Can you believe that?”
“How’d that happen?” said Quentin.
“Me and Sheri-Lynn was going to get some cheesesteaks, and she started going down on me, right there in the car!”
“Road header,” said Quentin, nodding.
“Yeah, I always loved a good road header,” said Ralphie.
“Yeah, sure it was great,” said Pete. “Except when she was doing it, I lost control and crashed into some old lady’s car. She’d stopped in the middle of the road to drop off her groceries or some shit like that. They had to take her away on a stretcher.”
“What about the Impala?” said Ralphie. “Is it drivable? We’ve got shit to do, places we got to be, and you have to take us.”
“It’s all fucked up,” said Pete. “But don’t worry. I borrowed my mother’s minivan.”
“Minivan?” said Quentin.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” said Ralphie. “We’re not riding around in some minivan.”
“Tell you what else,” said Quentin. “That old lady shouldn’t have parked in the middle of the street.”
“Just what I thought!” said Pete.
“I’d track her down and make her pay for the damage to the Impala,” said Quentin.
“Forget about the old lady,” said Ralphie. “She ain’t important. What matters is, we got to get a car.”
“Hey, I tell you what,” said Quentin. “We got that money from the other night, the cash we recovered for Tom. We could use that to buy a car. It’s plenty.”
“Good idea,” said Ralphie, nodding. “Now you’re thinking.”
“I forgot to tell you, Ralphie,” said Pete. “There was some guy asking questions about you.”
“What guy?” said Ralphie. “A cop?”
Pete shook his head. “No, he ain’t no cop. He calls himself The Turk.”
“The Turk?” said Ralphie. “What the fuck kind of name is that?”
Pete shrugged. “I don’t know. I was thinking maybe he likes turkey. You know, from the deli.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” said Quentin.
“That’s him now,” said Pete, nodding. “The Turk.”
The three of them looked over to see a young guy coming towards them. He wore black trousers, a black shirt, and a black leather jacket. A few feet away from the table, he pulled out a revolver and aimed it at Ralphie.
Quentin and Pete jumped out of the booth towards him.
The Turk fired off a shot, hitting Ralphie in the shoulder, and then another that hit Ralphie in the side. The reports were loud in the small room.
People scattered and ducked for cover. A girl screamed.
Quentin and Pete tackled the Turk to the ground, knocking the gun out of his hand, and started beating him.
Ralphie felt the searing pain in his arm and gut. He pressed a hand against his side, and blood began to seep through his fingers.
Ralphie scooted to the edge of the booth, leaving droplets of blood on the seat. He grimaced and climbed to his feet with effort.
“Stop, stop,” he said to Pete and Quentin, who were smashing the Turk in the face and kicking him in the ribs.
“Stop,” Ralphie said louder.
The two of them stepped back, both breathing hard from the effort. The Turk lay on the floor, his face bloodied.
People started coming back into the room, and they appeared from under the tables where they’d hid.
“He shot Ralphie!” someone said.
“King Ralphie’s been shot!”
“He tried to assassinate Ralphie.”
“Call for an ambulance!” said Pat the Boozehound.
“Shut up,” said Ralphie, and everyone quieted down.
Blood continued to seep through his fingers. He could feel it dribbling into his trousers and down his leg.
“You, Turk,” said Ralphie, nudging the kid on the floor with the toe of his shoe. “You hear me?”
The Turk nodded. “I hear you.”
“I know you?”
“You got a grudge?”
“No,” said the Turk, still lying on the floor.
Ralphie took a breath. “So you thought you could make a name for yourself if you shot me.”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Thought you could become the new King of South Philly.”
“Yeah,” said the Turk.
“Kill him!” someone said.
“Yeah, Ralphie, kill the bastard!”
Ralphie gritted his teeth from the pain, and shut his eyes for a moment.
“Somebody help Ralphie,” said Al. “Somebody give him a hand.”
Ralphie shook his head. He opened his eyes again.
“Quentin,” said Ralphie. “Pick up the kid’s gun.”
Quentin took a step to where the pistol lay on the floor, and he bent over and picked it up.
“Give it to me,” said Ralphie.
Quentin handed over the revolver, and Ralphie turned it around in his hand. The metal felt hot against his skin. Wincing, he lifted it to his face and sniffed the barrel. He kissed the gun.
Ralphie looked around at the faces in the crowd circling him.
“Who’s the fucking King of South Philly?” he said.
“You are!” said Dickie.
“King Ralphie!” said Pat the Boozehound.
“Ralphie’s the King!”
“Hear that Turk?” said Ralphie, raising his voice. “I’m the fucking King of South Philly. I am!”
Ralphie wobbled, lost his balance, and fell to one knee. Quentin and Pete rushed to help him. They each grabbed an arm and got him to his feet.
“Fuck off,” said Ralphie.
Quentin and Pete let him go and stepped back.
Ralphie shuffled towards the Turk, still laying on the floor, and pointed the revolver at him.
“Do it!” said Pat the Boozehound. “Kill him!”
“Shoot him, Ralphie!” said Al.
Some of the girls turned away.
The Turk put up a hand in defense.
“Bang,” said Ralphie in a weak voice. “You’re fucking dead.”
He dropped the revolver onto the floor next to the Turk. It landed with a thud.
Ralphie started hobbling away from the Turk, towards the front of the bar. Blood had run down his leg, so he left a trail as he went. People stepped aside to let him through.
“Any time you want to, kid,” Ralphie said over his shoulder, “go ahead and take another shot at me.”
“What?” said the Turk, behind him.
Ralphie paused and looked back. “You heard me,” he said. “Take your shot any time.”
“What’re you doing, Ralphie?” said Pat the Boozehound.
“King Ralphie’s invincible!” said Dickie.
Ralphie smirked and grimaced. “I ain’t invincible,” he said.
“Then why’re you doing it?” said Al.
“Why?” said Ralphie, looking around the room at the faces staring at him.
“Yeah, why’re you giving the kid another shot?” said Dickie.
Ralphie cocked his head to the side and spit blood onto the floor.
“’Cause I just don’t give a shit,” he said.
Ralphie pressed his hand harder to his side. He limped towards the exit and went through the door, and into the South Philly night.
[This story originally appeared on TheRogueReader.com]