The Piece

Posted: June 7, 2014 in Fiction, Short Stories
Tags: , , , ,

Disclaimer: This story contains graphic writing about spousal abuse and is not for those under the age of 18 or those who are sensitive to strong language.

The Piece, a beautiful shiny chrome .38 Special revolver with a power all its own—a means to an end.

He signed a contract that stipulated he would recruit 666 souls who, of their own free will, would pull the trigger six times. The contract also stated that he would guarantee at least one death with each transaction. He didn’t worry about the guarantee because he knew the individuals he’d choose would use the gun just for that purpose. Their emotions were as clear and easy to read as their tattoos that signified their gang affiliations and kills from within their dark dirty world of existence. There was always someone to take out for some reason.  It was the pain of each death he felt that was the real bugger to this contract. He needed one more client, just one more, and his soul would be free and his life would be his again!SW38

***

The mini-van whizzed around the outer-belt and Melinda wondered, what the hell am I thinking, driving out here to buy a gun? Her side ached with every deep breath from the sore muscles surrounding her almost healed ribs  She gripped the steering wheel of the mini-van tight trying to push her fear and nervousness away. She signaled and exited the highway taking the Cross-town Expressway exit towards the south side of the city. Her tongue touched the new tooth, a canine implant, which replaced the original. Memories flashed in her mind’s eye and she winced as she pulled her left hand from its place on the wheel to touch her nose and feel the smooth contour of the surgically repaired bridge.

The mini-van signaled again as she took the exit for South Main street.

Mayonnaise, it was the mayonnaise that had set her husband Jim off that night. Melinda tried to focus on the street and its potholes.  This was not the side of town to breakdown but it was impossible to keep her full focus on driving; the scene in her head had played itself a thousand times over and it was doing it again.

The day of the incident, Melinda pushed her wobbled-wheeled shopping cart down the condiment isle of the local Piggly-Wiggly. She needed a jar of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip was on sale. Hellmann’s, Jim’s favorite, was fifty cents higher and who could tell the difference anyway? She passed on the Hellmann’s, grabbed a jar of Miracle Whip, and set the sale brand in the shopping cart along with the rest of the week’s groceries. Melinda checked out with the cashier, loaded the groceries in the van, and drove home.

Her mind paced through that night—scene by scene—as the mini-van motored along the almost barren street. Melinda walked into the house through the back kitchen door with two large sacks. Jim stood there, with sleeves rolled up exposing hairy wrists, leaning his large frame on the counter. He watched her set the two large brown paper bags by the sink.

“When you get those groceries unloaded make me a sandwich.”

She could tell he was already in a mood.

“What do you want on it?”

“I want ham with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Oh, and bring me a beer.  The game’s about to start so don’t be long!”

“Ok Jim, give me a minute.”

“Just move that slow poke ass of yours.”

Melinda was breathless from bringing in the other five sacks. The frozen foods could wait. The sandwich would only take a minute and then she could put the perishables away. No need to start an argument now.

The sandwich was made and placed on a plate.  Melinda pulled on the fridge door and reached inside for a cold beer.

Honk! Honk!  The light had turned green and Melinda held up a small red beater of a car.  Honk!  She hit the gas and continued driving in a southerly direction.  Her mind played its secret movie and she was unable to turn it off.

“Damn it woman where is my sandwich and beer!”

“Here it is Jim.”

“It’s about time you slow, worthless bitch.”

She retreated to the safety of her kitchen.  Jim yelled from the living room, “Goddamn it Melinda! Are you trying to poison me you poor excuse for a wife?”

“What’s the matter Jim?”  She raised her voice so she could be heard over the roar of the tv in the living room.

She heard boots thumping the floor and she moved to the other side of the kitchen table, pulling her arms close to herself to make herself smaller, maybe invisible. Jim walked in with the sandwich and threw it at her. It sailed past her head hitting the wall behind her, sticking briefly, then sliding down leaving a trail of white slime until the floor took possession of it.

“What the hell did you put on this sandwich?” He said.

“Mayonnaise.”

“Like hell you did!  It doesn’t taste like Hellmann’s”

“I bought Miracle Whip.  It was on sale.”

Jim stretched across the table and reached out with a large rough hand and grabbed her blouse.  He pulled her across the table and dragged her to the living room.

“Jim, no let me go! Jim, don’t hurt me!”

The rest was a blur like she watched the action from some secret invisible vantage point.  Jim didn’t say another word.  His large calloused open right hand did all the talking as it connected with her left cheek and caused her to bite through it.  She fell to her hands and knees.  The instep of his boot connected hard with her ribs and she groaned trying to catch her breath.  Jim grabbed her dark silky hair with his left hand and pulled—hard. Then a fist drove into her the face breaking her nose. He punched again and Melinda’s lip split sending blood and a tooth across the tile. It skipped and rattled until it came to rest on the beige carpet in the living room.

Her vision was blurred but she saw Tommy, her twelve year old son, charge and knock Jim over.  Melinda remembered grabbing her cell phone and running out the door and across the street to the Heath’s.  Tommy was right behind her.  The 911 call from her cell phone got an unusual quick response. The police car came around the corner with its lights flashing and its siren screaming at the night. Jim was forced back into his home.
Melinda got a restraining order, with the help and insistence from her family, and Jim was forced to find other living arrangements. It had been difficult but there had been a lot of support for both Tommy and her.

The movie was almost over when she pulled into one of many open parking spots along the street. It had to show her the last scene the reason she was down here on the South Side.

“Girl, you need to protect yourself!  If I was you, I’d go to the South Side and buys me a piece. That ways nobody knows I got it but me and the man that sells it to me.  Know what I’m sayin’ girl?” Kirtae said, a newly hired workmate that Melinda had confided in at break time earlier in the day.

The sun was close to setting when Melinda stepped out on to the dirty, litter-filled sidewalk with the bums, winos, and God knows what else.

Ok Kirtae.  All I need is to find someone to sell me a gun.

Melinda looked at the closed up storefronts and iron-barred windows of those that struggled to eke out a living in the roughest part of the city.  She shifted her eyes from front to side, looking down the alleyways, trying to assess the people that were filtering to the street.

“Lookin’ to score babe?” Asked a tall thin man with a pot-marked face.

He blocked her path on the sidewalk.

“I’m, ahhh, looking to buy a gun,” she said.

Melinda froze.  Where did this guy come from?   She wanted to run but her legs were frozen and her heart was beating like a pair of hummingbird’s wings.

“A gun?” Said a second short man with a shrill squeaky voice.  “What’s a tight ass bitch like you want with a shooter?”

Tall Guy was in now her face.  “How about a party?” A foul stench followed his words and she could see his brown and green rotted teeth as he grinned.

He ran his dirt caked hands from her shoulders to her breasts.

“Mmmm, nice titties”, Tall Guy said.

“Let’s take her around the corner here and show her how it’s done on this side of the City,” Short Guy added.

Both men smiled; she knew they smelled her fear and were going to take advantage of it and her.  Melinda felt them tug and pull her into the darkness of the alley.  She struggled but it was weak and they easily guided her out of sight from the rest of the world.

Melinda saw Short Guy pull an automatic from his stained and ragged pants once they turned the corner and it made her move deeper into the narrow space.  Pulling her arms to her body Melinda imagined she was somewhere else.  Tall Guy stroked her face with a harsh touch.

“You are in for an experience babe,” he said.

Melinda could feel his fingers fumble with the buttons on her blouse. It was then a figure appeared at the back of the alley.  Melinda thought it must be their dealer or boss until the addicts showed their surprise.

“What the fuck do you want?” Tall Guy pulled a long, thin butterfly knife from his pocket.

He freed the blade with a quick flick of the wrist that comes from practice.  The man didn’t say anything choosing to stand in the shadows.

“Squid, I’d leave before you get fucked up,” Short Guy squeaked as he pointed the gun in the intruder’s direction.

But the man didn’t move.  He only stared at the three and, as he did, they were all taken in by his gaze.  Melinda and her two captors were drawn into black eyes, as dark as indigo ink, that seemed to pull them into forever and a black endless and foreboding destiny.  Fear was thick like smog and filled the deepening darkness of the space.  Short Guy was squeezing his gun trying to stop his hand from shaking and Tall Guy moved his knife from hand to hand in nervous movements.

Tall Guy was focused on the stranger in front of him trying to stare him down.

“Shit,” he said.  “Let’s get the hell out of here, Squeaks!”

Tall Guy lost the contest and the two men sprinted like beaten dogs, neither looking back.

Melinda looked at the man.  She still had her arms pulled close trying to be as small as possible.  Her mind was swimming then a thought bobbed to the surface of her consciousness; have I been saved from one damnation only to face another one?

“Are you hurt?” He asked.

“No,” she said.

“Good, then let’s conduct a little business.” The stranger’s voice was deep and soothing.

“Business? What business do I have with you?  Do we know each other?” She was shocked by her own boldness.

“I overheard you trying to purchase a gun but stepped back in the alley when those two worthless assholes cornered you.  Lucky for you I was here.”

The corners of his mouth turned slightly upwards into an almost devilish smile.

“What are you looking for exactly?”

“I want something that will help me to feel safe, that will protect me and my son from my husband.”

A slim slant of light from a streetlamp played across the man’s eyes and she could see the infinity behind them and shivered.

“I see,” he said.  “I have something that will be perfect for you.  It’s a Smith & Wesson snub-nose 38 revolver.”

He produced a weapon from a pocket of his coat.

“It’s clean, has almost no-kick.  All you need to do is point and pull the trigger.  It’s yours for a grand.”

She looked at the weapon as he held it out to her. She took it, her reluctance overshadowed by her need. It felt lighter than she imagined a pistol would feel, a bit heavier than a toy gun.The chrome reflected street light that had fought its way into the alley. She could see a clear reflection of herself on the barrel.  It felt perfect in her small hand, she suddenly felt empowered, and a tingle shot through her body.  Then disappointment clouded her thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “This gun is perfect but I don’t have a grand.  I only have a couple of hundred dollars.”

Melinda’s face was full of disappointment and tears welled in her eyes. So close.

 “Look my name is Joey and I like you Melinda”.

The tone and sound of his words made her feel safe and comforted.

“I will let you have the gun for two hundred dollars,” he said.  “If you like it and want to keep it meet me here at this corner in six days. Pay me the rest or return the piece.”

Melinda had the two hundred dollars in her purse but how did he know her name?  The thought floated away as the deal was struck, money was exchanged, and the .38 Special was put in her purse.  Melinda felt safe, empowered, and in control of her life; something that she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

***

Jim was pissed.  That fucking bitch.  He was at work and sitting on the other side of the desk was the Human Resource Manager.

“Jim, we received a notice from the courts to garnish your wages for child support,” she said.  “Here is the notification and the amount that will be withdrawn from your weekly check.”

Jim seethed as he took the papers but didn’t let his anger show through.

“Okay,” he said.

“We need you to sign this form and if you have any questions please address them with your attorney.  You do have an attorney don’t you?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am. I do as of today.”

Jim had already missed a day of work because of court and another to find a lawyer.  He was forced to use his precious vacation time to cover his wages as a line worker in the factory.

That little cunt will pay and pay good.

He finished with the Human Resource Manager and headed back to the line to start the rest of his shift.  Lunch break was almost over and some of his work-buddies were coming back to their line positions. They watched him walk up to his station.

“Hey, you only workin’ half a fuckin’ day today?” John shouted.

“Mind your own ass,” Jim said.

All the guys in his work area were laughing at the exchange.  Jim had always bragged about the fact that he kept his woman in check. He made sure all his “buddies” knew he was the Fucking King of his Castle!

Gene said, “So where’s the King of the Castle sleepin’ now?  With the fuckin’ sheep?”

All within hearing distance laughed.

Jim walked over to Gene and decked him with a straight right punch to the jaw.

“Fuck you, you gay fuck!” Jim said followed by another hard fist.

His anger was no longer contained. It had been let loose like a volcano. Anger spilling like hot lava and impacting everything in the immediate vicinity. John and a couple of other workers rushed Jim and grabbed him. It took several men to subdue him and everyone, including Jim, had the marks to prove the exchange was painful.

Jim’s supervisor had just walked onto the line when he heard the scuffle. He ran over to the pile with Jim on the bottom. They laid there  like a heap of dirty rags.

“Break it up, break it up you bunch of monkeys. What the HELL is going on here?”

The supervisor grabbed and pulled until he got Jim. Once they were all untangled, a truce of sorts was in place.

Jim was in real trouble and for the second time that day he was sitting across from the Human Resources Manager but this time it was to receive a week’s suspension without pay.  He was beyond angry and focused all of his aggression and angst against his wife, Melinda.  I swear this is all her fault!
Pent up anger swirled through his mind like protons in an accelerator waiting to collide and release their energy in a massive cataclysmic effect.

If she hadn’t kicked my ass out on the street, none of this would be happening; GODDAMN BITCH!

He knew what he would do and it would be tonight.

“Restraining order or no damn restraining order that fucking bitch was dead,” he said under his breath as he gunned his pick-up truck out of the gate.

***

Tommy was twelve years old; he had his own house key so he could  let himself in after school.  He had watched his dad slap his mom around when loud voices billowed through the house.  The last time was too much for him.

Why is dad holding mom by her hair?

Then a large fist smacked his mom in the face so hard that he saw a tooth fly across the kitchen into the living room.

“Nooooooooooo,” Tommy screamed as blood drip from his mother’s mouth.

His father looked up grinned and said, “See boy, this is how you keep a woman in line!”  The cold and lifeless eyes glared at Tommy, they made him shiver.

Tommy jumped down the last couple of stairs, “Leave my mother alone!”

He charged this strange person, this person who couldn’t be his dad, and hit him with all the fury his hundred pounds and five-foot frame contained.  It surprised Jim, knocking him over, and forced him to let go of his mom.  Tommy continued to drive his legs with fists flaying.

“What are you doing you little fucker?” He heard his dad say.

Anger welled from an unknown depth and Tommy took advantage of new found strength to keep his father off balance.

His mom got to her feet grabbed something off the stand and ran out the door.

“Tommy leave him!  Run!”

Tommy turned to run but his dad grabbed his leg.  Tommy kicked; he kicked as hard as he could and caught is dad solid on the crown of his head.

“You little fucker!”

The hand let go and Tommy raced out the door.

Lights were on at the house across the street and the front door was open.  Tommy headed to the open door of the Heath’s.  A police cruiser was pulling up with its lights flashing just as Tommy reached the neighbor’s porch.  His dad had started across the lawn, saw the cop car, and slammed the door as he ran back inside.

There was so much more to that night; his dad being arrested, grandma and grandpa rushing over to take care of mom and him.  His aunts stopped by the next day and there was a lot of grownup talk about what to do and how to do it.

Dad never came home after that night, he wasn’t allowed to, and Tommy only got to see him at that special office in town along with another person. He only met with Tommy a couple of times and then Tommy didn’t have to go anymore.  He really didn’t want to in the first place but his mom told him he had to.  He was glad when it ended.  Life seemed so much easier with his dad gone.  He still didn’t understand, he wasn’t sure he really wanted to.

***

Melinda had the weapon in her purse and headed for her mini-van.  The street lights were on, well some of them.  The city should make more of an effort on this side of town. She felt strangely confident, more so than she had ever felt in her life. She now had a way to protect herself. If Jim ever tried to hurt her or Tommy again, he would find out real quick that she was no longer his punching bag. Melinda opened her purse pulled out her keys and unlocked the door when she sensed a suffocating dirty presence behind her.

“Hey Squeaks, look what we found,” Tall Guy said.

Melinda turned around and there were the two junkies from the alley.

“Hey, Squeaks, looks like we just got ourselves a new set of wheels and some fun tonight,” Tall Guy said staring Melinda down thinking he would take advantage of that fear he tasted in the alley.

Squeaks grinned with anticipation and enjoyment from the rush of the last rock they had just smoked.  He pulled the automatic from his waistband but the rush was so good and then—life no longer existed for Squeaks.

Melinda’s hand pulled the .38 from her open purse and fired two shots.  First she fired at Squeaks who took the hit in the chest and then crumpled to the ground.

Tall Guy charged her, “You bitch!  You killed Squeaks!”

The second bullet hit Tall Guy in the face and he dropped in mid-stride.  It had happened so fast; her hand was in her purse, then it was wrapped around the butt of the revolver, and she had squeezed off two rounds hitting both targets square on.

“How did this happen?” Melinda said.

She was dazed; she had taken two lives, made the world a better place, but her mind could not quite around the action and the result.  She was again aware that someone was standing near her.  Her arms automatically came up with hands together cradling the shiny Smith & Wesson and pointed it directly at the new threat.

“Whoa, hey it’s me, Joey!”

She looked at the stranger that sold her the gun. He reached out and pushed her hands down.

“Get of here,” Joey told her.  “I will take care of this no one will know.”

Melinda got in to the mini-van and left the South Side.  She looked in the rear view mirror and no one was there. The street was dark, empty, no bodies and no stranger.  It was like nothing ever happened.  Her consciousness tickled her mind.  Was all of this real?  Did it happen?  Why am I not freaking out?  She answered herself with a new found sense of determination; I no longer need to fear!

***

Melinda turned onto her street around 10:00 P.M.  It was Friday night and Tommy was staying with her mother and father as he often did on the weekends.

My dad is awesome with Tommy. The thought brought an easy smile to her face.

“Damn! The light is off,” she said.  “Tommy must have forgotten to turn on the front porch light when he left”

She patted her purse on the seat next to her.

Melinda pulled into the driveway, got out and locked the mini-van, then walked the eight steps to the front door. She saw Mrs. Heath looking out the window from across the street as she slipped the key into the lock and heard the sharp click as the bolt gave way. She reached around the door frame and flipped on the porch light, waved and smiled at Mrs. Heath, then walked into the entry way. She closed and locked the door behind her.

It was still inside as she walked to the wall to turn on the hall light and tripped on Tommy’s backpack.  She flicked the switch–nothing.

Damn! The lights out again and Tommy forgot his homework.

Melinda stepped into the living room to turn on a lamp. A quiet light partially illuminated the room.  It was then she noticed a familiar smell of oil and hot metal. Jim! She opened her purse to grab the piece and started to turn when she felt searing pain as Jim’s right fist struck the side of her head.

Her purse and its contents flew. She could hear the contents of her purse land in dull thumps on the carpet. The gun!  It was a tiny thought in the sea of pain whose wave crested inside her brain. Jim had caught her blind and hard.

“You fucking bitch!” His rage was evident and full blown. “You cost me my job.  Now what are you going to do?!”

He kicked her in the side. She felt and heard something pop and breathing was an excruciating pain.

“You did this to yourself, you fucking sniveling cunt!” He grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head into the coffee table.  A new wave of nauseating pain and stars coursed through her head.

Don’t blackout. If you blackout you die and he wins.

Jim threw Melinda hard to the floor. She wanted to move but couldn’t. It wasn’t because of fear, no, it was pain. Pain was overriding her ability to think or move. She tried to crawl to reach her purse; she needed the gun.  She could hear him in the kitchen like a mad raging bull. Jim pulled drawer after drawer open and finally pulled something out of one of them.

“You are dead! I am going to cut you into so many fuckin’ pieces!”

She hadn’t crawled far, her side was on fire and she could not take a full breath. Her head felt like it was wrapped in a bale of cotton and the thump, thump, thump made it hard to focus her eyes in the soft darkness beyond the lamp. She heard his footsteps, the heavy step of Jim’s boots rhythmically timed with the pounding in her head.

He reached her and grabbed her by the hair.  “Thought you’d get away bitch?  I don’t think so!  You have to face the consequences!”

Jim was beyond sanity. He was nothing more than pure rage and she was the object of all that hatred.  She knew he was blaming every bad thing in his life on her. Melinda was on her stomach and Jim straddled her back grabbing her black silky hair with his left hand.  He lifted up with a hard yank. This raised her head and part of her shoulders off the ground and a tsunami of pain crashed in her brain.  The butcher knife was in his right hand.  She could see Jim was ready to slash her throat, she said a prayer knowing she was going to die.

At least there would be no more pain, no more fear.

She was calm as she had ever been.

Jim pushed the knife in front of her face in a slow forward motion.  She knew he was showing her what he was going to do, he wanted her to fear him. He started to the draw back against her throat when a shot rang out.  Jim’s arm seemed to stop as if an off switch on a machine was flipped. He tried to complete the deadly arc but couldn’t. Melinda managed to turn her head to see Tommy with the gun in his hand.  For Melinda, the rest happened in slow motion.  She watched Tommy pull the trigger and a second round hit Jim in the chest.  He stood up letting go of Melinda.

“You little fucking prick!” His face red and bloated.

Melinda saw Tommy pull the trigger again and a third bullet caught Jim in the upper left shoulder.  Jim was a big guy but these were not ordinary bullets; each one found its specific mark. It must have been the adrenalin surge that let Jim cover most of the distance to the entry way before Tommy released the last bullet aimed at his father’s head.

Then silence…

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Comments
  1. Michelle says:

    Loove! Powerful and gripping! Short, yet totally fulfilling as readers needs!

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