A mob story about finding inner peace.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
The glaring sun beat down on a dry patch of grass right next to the old, abandoned railroad. The area was silent, with the exception of the warm breeze breathing through the long, brittle blades of grass that swayed in unison. This forgotten industrial block had been abandoned for close to a decade now, rarely seeing any visitors besides your usual tramps and vagabonds looking for a dry place to sleep. But today, a lone coyote weaved through the grass patch, hot on the scent of dead flesh. He had followed his snout for hours and he was close now. The four-legged traveler’s heart raced with anticipation, eyes darting back and forth, his wet nose fluttering violently, his tongue wagging heavily with each breath.
The coyote stood at the top of the hill, looking down at four black town cars parked in the parking lot of the old abandoned factory. The sun beamed off the chrome lining around the tinted windows. The scent originated from the trunk compartment. From the trunk compartment of all of them. The coyote wiggled his nose. No. Just three of them. His tail wagging, the four-legged traveler raced down the hill, kicking up dirt clouds as he went. Once at the foot of the hill, he pawed at the first town car… but it was no use. It was locked shut. The delicious meat was trapped in there. He let out a soft whimper and tried his luck at the second car, and then the third. All of them were locked shut. The coyote somberly realized that he was wasting his time and decided it would be a better idea to head back into the bush before the humans that owned those town cars returned. He could smell them. They were in the factory…they were predators.
Four men in suits sat around a long table dead in the center of the old, abandoned factory. Each of them was impeccably dressed and well-jeweled. But despite their fashion and riches, these were not what you would call happy men. These were tough men. Vicious men. The empty space around them echoed every clink of a Rolex, every face scratch, every shift in a seat.
Donny JeBroni sat at the head of the table. He was the eldest of the four and the head of the crime syndicate. After taking a sip of his water, he placed the slender glass down on the table and dabbed the bead of sweat sinking down his bald head with a napkin. His took his time, cleared his throat and said, “Welcome and respect to the three families from the east, west, and south, for coming to this monthly congregation. As we all remember, at last month’s meeting I swore vengeance on my enemy, Joey Twinkle Toes. I am happy to announce, as of last Thursday, Joey Twinkle Toes has been whacked.”
The three men surrounding him rapt softly on the table, nodding their heads in approval. Next to Don Donny sat Vinnie Malone of the east side. He was short but built wide and strong. After adjusting his tie he leaned in and spoke, “At the last meeting I too vowed vengeance on my enemy—on that no-good rat, Jimmy the Rat. As of this morning, Jimmy the Rat has been whacked.”
Once again the other men rapt on the table gently, nodding their heads. Next to Don Vinnie sat Southy Joe from the south. His face was long and thin like the rest of him. His emerald green suit seemed more draped on him than fitted. Even the highest paid tailor found it a near impossibility to fit his awkward, slender figure. There were a lot of missing tailors in the south. He crouched over the table, eager for his turn to speak. “And as we all know, I had some problems with my most recent tailor. That Polish hack couldn’t dress a salad! Look at me! Such disrespect! So you know what I did? I strangled him with a wire and then I shot him in the head! Bing! Then I cut him up into little tiny pieces and I buried him in a cornfield!”
The other three stared at Southy Joe, leaned in, awaiting something. He looked back at them, unsure what they were waiting for. Then it came to him. “Whacked,” he said, rolling his eyes. “He got whacked.”
The three men relaxed, nodded and rapt against the table. Then Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence and extended his arm towards Willy the Bodybag from the west. “And what about the vengeance you swore at last month’s meeting?”
Willy the Bodybag adjusted the cufflinks on his brown suit, cleared his throat and pulled in his chair. He ran his ringed fingers through his silver-fox head of hair and spoke, tripping over his words slightly. “Yes. Um, last week I did do that. I did swear vengeance on my enemy from the competing family in the west, Don Fazool. The truth is, I saw Don Fazool face to face just the other day. We were both at the orange stand, buying oranges. I had the chance to whack him and I didn’t whack him.”
Southy Joe cleaned out his ear with his pinky. “I’m sorry; I must have not heard you so good. Did you say you didn’t whack him?”
Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence. “Please, Southy Joe. Some respect. Bill Bodybags is a cold-hearted killer. To suggest that he would forego a chance at vengeance is an insult. You must have heard him wrong.”
“No,” said Willy. “He heard right. I didn’t whack him. He was right there and I didn’t whack him.”
“Why not?” asked Vinnie Malone. “Were you out of bullets? Was it the cops? I hate those fucking cops.”
“Fucking cops…” muttered Southy Joe.
Willy the Bodybag shook his head. “No, I had bullets. Wasn’t the cops either…I just had a change of heart.”
Don Donny looked back at him, lost. “A change of heart? What do you mean ‘a change of heart’?”
“I mean, I changed my mind,” answered Willy. “You see, as I was looking over to him, reaching for my gun, I realized something. It occurred to me how many people I’ve whacked over the years to get to where I am. And when I looked inside myself and saw what kind of person I have become…well, it made my stomach turn just a bit. Not with regret, not with remorse; it was like when you’ve eaten the same thing every single day for ten years and one day you decide, that’s it. I never want to eat this again. I’m sick of it. I’m tired and worn from it. It no longer satisfies me. Even the smell is enough to make me nauseous. That’s how I feel about all this whacking.
You see, when I was younger I thought maybe I would have to kill ten, twenty people max to assert my place and be safe from my enemies but, the truth is, it never stops. There’s always someone else that needs to be whacked. They’re out to whack me before I whack them; I’m out to whack them before they whack me. I’ve become a lonely, untrusting and paranoid old man. And all of this leaves me feeling very tired and unfulfilled. Will there ever be a day that I don’t have to look over my shoulder? Will there ever be a day I can stop whacking all these shmucks and settle down? A time where I can enjoy my life rather than fighting for it? A time of peace?”
Vinnie Malone’s face went cautious as he said, “You ain’t going soft on us, is ya, Bodybag?”
“If wanting to live a life free of looking over my shoulder, free of greed and of pride, is called soft. Well, it doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds kind of nice actually. In fact, I would be willing to give away my fortunes to obtain it.”
“But if we stop killin’ people, howz we gonna punish those no-good-stinkin’ rats when they go to the cops?” asked Southy Joe.
“Our lifestyle invites all kinds of conflict,” said Willy. “I mean, the cops want to set us up, informants want to give us up to reduce sentences. And so what do we do? We whack the cops and we whack the informants. The guilt of all the people I’ve whacked just sits right here on my chest and, guys, it’s suffocating. Really.”
Don Donny thought about it for a moment and then said, “I think Willy the Bodybag is on to something. The more people we kill, the more enemies we make. Maybe, instead of whacking our enemies in the territories we are looking to take over, we can buy them out. And then, if they still refuse, then we whack them.”
“Hey, ya,” said Vinne Malone. He appeared as though he had just had a revelation. “Give them a chance to join us before we whack them! That’s pretty smart, Willy.”
“Yeah,” agreed Southy Joe. “Good plan, Willy! We can expand our numbers and grow our syndicate by buying out the competition. Merging, like corporations! That way we can take over more territories!”
Soft applause went around the table but stopped at Willy the Bodybag.
“That’s not what I was getting at,” said Willy. “Why do we always need to expand? To take over more and more territories? Why is it never enough?”
“It’s simple math,” answered Donny JeBroni. “More territories mean more money rolling in. More money rolling in means more politicians in our pocket, which means the cops ain’t hassling us for putting the drugs and the girls out on the street.”
Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe agreed.
“Okay,” said Willy the Bodybag. “But if we stopped putting drugs and girls on the street, we wouldn’t need to worry about the cops, which means we wouldn’t need to pay off politicians which means we would have to spend less money and would be financially secure with fewer territories.”
Southy Joe pet his pencil mustache. “So then what are we selling if we ain’t selling drugs and girls?”
“How about shoes?” said Willy.
Southy Joe recoiled. “Sorry, I don’t think I hears you right…did you say fucking shoes?”
“Everybody needs shoes,” explained Willy the Bodybag. “And we would be helping people get to where they need to go. We would be a positive contribution to our community.”
Donny JeBroni took a calm sip of his water and placed the glass down. “I think Willy the Bodybag has a point,” he said. “It’s time we focused our efforts away from drugs, guns, prostitution, and gambling. These things have poisoned our communities for too long. Familia, destroyed. With our fortune and our political friends, we should be investing in a future for the next generation. Things like clean, renewable energy and better schools for the children. And shoes for the people’s feet so that they can walk around the town without stepping on glass or rigid stones.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Willy exclaimed.
Don Donny continued on, “Starting immediately our organization will cut our ties in the narcotics business and go completely legitimate, crafting high-quality shoes for other legitimate businessmen like ourselves is. Not one more man shall be whacked, does everyone understand?”
The three men around the table nodded.
“And in closing,” said JeBroni. “I would like to thank Willy the Bodybag for having the bravery and the respect to bring up these issues to the family.”
Willy stood up from his chair and gave a small bow to the Don, Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe. “You have always been reasonable men,” he said. “Thank you and respect to you all. Now I must take my leave. I’m trying out this new thing called Yoga. I hear it really helps center your energies. Ciao.”
And with that, Willy the Bodybag walked out of the old abandoned factory with the weight on his chest lifted and new hope for the future.
For a moment the other three men sat in silence around the table, casually sneaking peeks at their shoes when they thought the others weren’t looking. Finally, Donnie JeBroni looked up and said, “Someone needs to whack Willy the Bodybag.”
Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe both let out a sigh of relief.
“I was just thinking that,” said Vinnie.
“The guy’s talking about shoes…” said Southy Joe.