Salvatore Buttaci, Flashing My Shorts
excerpt: “Day of Reckoning”
Flashing My Shorts
All Things That Matter Press, 2010
Length: 166 pp.
The flash-fiction stories, all under 1,000 words, run the gamut from horror to humor, crime and detective to science fiction and alternate history, and all genres in between.
In today’s hectic society, this is the ideal book. These quick reads are like the food offerings at a smorgasbord where diners come and sample a little of this and a little of that without having to order a full meal of turkey and mashed potatoes. Readers can delight in complete stories told in a limited number of words without limiting their satisfaction. Judging from customer reviews at Amazon.com, I would say buyers of Flashing My Shorts are glad they ordered copies.
Day of Reckoning
As I walked into the room, a breeze blew goose bumps all along my arms, making me shiver. The lights were off, but I knew who was sitting there in the living room. I can’t say that I wasn’t afraid for my life.
What was the use of running? Ever since Vincenzo made it clear to me, not in words but in that look of defeat on his granite-hard face, I knew they were out to burn me. He was my brother, but his loyalty was with them, and nobody crossed the Family. The odd part was I hadn’t done a damn thing. I was innocent!
Standing in the center of the room, I saw the lights go on and in the love seat Don Silvio Firpo sat in his white sharkskin suit, his red tie held down with a huge diamond tie tac, his gray fedora still on his bald head. Love seat. White suit. And to add to the irony, the don was smiling.
“Don Silvio. A pleasant surprise.”
He did not get up. He did not even turn his head to face me, speaking instead into the space in front of him where Tony stood beside the light switch, looking his usual mean. In Tony’s hand was the ubiquitous stick he carried like the policemen in the old days: wood with a center filled with lead, a billy stick that looked harmless but was quite adept at cracking bones, especially the skull.
“You don’t listen so good,” said the don. “What you got? Ear troubles? Somebody drop you on your head, rattle those marbles you got for brains?”
I did not say a word. Don Silvio was notorious for his gangster soliloquies and we all knew you didn’t reply, you didn’t interrupt, you did nothing till he ran out of speech and asked you pointblank to say what you had to say.
“I send Tony. I send Quinto. I even send your brother and Vincenzo comes back and says, “I can’t find the guy. Nobody knows where he’s hiding.’ Your own brother!”
Then Tony called out, “You can’t run forever, punk, ‘cause we can always—” Then the don waved his hand to shut Tony up, which he did in a hurry; mid-sentence, in fact.
“One time I had big dreams for you, Kid. I figured, hey, maybe you could fit into these black leather Florshiems of mine, do the walk like the top made-man, but now I’m thinking something else: Maybe your shoes ain’t made for walking; more like they should be dipped in cement and your whole rat body dropped in the Hudson!”
Tony the idiot with about as much brain matter to fill a small thimble broke out in tittering laughter, almost like a woman, which was so damn incongruous with his brick-wall-tough-guy appearance that it made me chuckle out loud.
“Something funny?” asked Don Silvio. “I’m layin’ out plans to cut you outa this world and you find that funny?”
I shook my head but the remnant of a smile still played on my lips. I wiped it off with the back of my hand. “Mind if I smoke?”
“Your funeral,” said the don. “Smoke.”
I lit a Camel with a hand so shaky I had this absurd vision of setting my nose on fire, then the flames reaching my black wavy hair until my head was wreathed in flames like a dummy set afire. It was a scene with consequences not unlike the scenario Don Silvio had planned for me.
“Who sent you to college so you could be a C.P.A.? Your old man? That load of booze freak who didn’t have the guts to straighten out, took the big leap from the top of George Washington and sailed into the river, drunk as a freakin’ loon?”
He had that right. My father never spoke a word that wasn’t the slur of the 24/7 drunk who carries the bottle in one trembling hand and a fist in the other. Mom and Vincenzo and I...the three scared-as-mice musketeers! When he finally took his life, he gave us back ours.
Don Silvio finally took his cane in his arthritic hand and, leaning his plump weight on it, slowly rose to his feet and turning to me now, he said, “O Ciccio, Ciccio. Why you back me in a corner like this? This heart now gotta kick you out of a favorite place inside here.” He tapped his vested chest. “You was like a son to me or maybe you didn’t know that, huh? I didn’t spell it out so you were too stupid to figure, Hey, this old man loves me like a freakin’ son?”
All the while Tony stood there by the light switch as if he were waiting for the don to give him lighting directions in this little drama of ours. He looked a little too sure of himself. I knew the guy hated me. I also knew he wanted to be Don Silvio’s fair-haired boy, something too many suspected I was, at least until now.
“You gonna come clean, Cicci?” Don Silvio was asking now. “Tell me a bedtime story so when you lie down you can tell the next world how the good don tucked you in?”
“I didn’t do anything. Who told Caporale’s boys? You got me! I was always in your corner, Don Silvio. Still am, but you want me dead. You’d be killing the wrong man.”
“I smell a rat and I want it dead. They say you’re the rat, Ciccio. So you gotta take the rat poison. That’s the name of the rat game, right?”
Then the don took out his pistol, moved slowly toward the light switch and fired the pistol several times into the head of a surprised Tony.
“Only way I knew to get him in the same room with me was to let him stage this little show. Tony did a lot of talkin’. Hey, seein’ green’s bad for the healt’. He shoulda knew: jealousy ain’t love.”
Copyright © 2011 by Salvatore Buttaci