Friday, June 17, 2011

Fucking Cold

A wave of frigid air blasted into Moe as he stepped out of the diner.  He quickly closed his leather jacket against the Maine winds.  Fuck, New England was cold.

He slumped onto the unfinished bench, next to the yutz in the ridiculously poofy fleece jacket.  Moe pulled out his Camels, patted his coat pockets for some matches.

The yutz smiled at him, struck a wooden match, cupping his hands around it.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” said the yutz.

Seriously.  What was up with that jacket?  Guy looked like an overfed deer tick.  Moe may have been banished up here into the sticks, but he’d die a slow hypothermic death before he abandoned his New York style.  A sharp wind gave Moe a huge shudder, that hypothermic death less of a hypothetical suddenly.

Moe sucked in a drag, warming the air in his lungs.  It was all perspective, and Moe knew that he had a lot more blessings to count, than fates to curse.

Sure, Maine was cold, but New York was hit with eight inches of snow the morning he left.  At least in Maine, the snow was still white, pretty.  Not the slushy Hershey-squirt brown that Manhattan snow morphed into an hour later.

Moe thought he’d miss it more than he did.

After forty years, Moe was finally out from under the Bass family.  Wasn’t so bad when he was just a pup, running numbers for old man Vinnie Bassichi, but since Johnnie took over…  Jesus.  Nobody got nicknamed “Butcher” as a compliment unless you were good with a pork chop.  Johnnie Bass wasn’t gonna be working at a steakhouse any time soon, though depending on who you asked, maybe he should, considering the talent that the man supposedly wielded with a cleaver.

No, Moe made the right decision.  It was time.  So, he sent a little UPS package to his cousin in ME, called the F.B.I., and made himself a D-E-A-L.  He didn’t feel the slightest guilt over it, either.  Moe’d been running numbers in the West Village for forty…forty fucking years!  And how did that punk Johnnie treat him?  By slowly squeezing him out with the niggers and spics that Johnny loved to use so much, those little pack animals that roamed the streets, terrorizing the old ladies.  Tell you what, Vinnie would have sooner stuck his spaghetti fork into his own eye than work with any of those animals.

But times changed.  Vinnie was long dead.  Johnnie was boss, and Moe was too old to be putting up with that shit any more.

A woman with a stroller walked along the parking lot towards the diner.  In an unexpected flash of self-consciousness, Moe waved the smoke away from the door.

Moe smiled.  A week out here, and already his demeanor was softening.  In New York, he didn’t give two shits if a pregnant woman with asthma passed through the acrid clouds of smoke he left in his wake.  But that was New-Fucking-York.  Bad enough they made him smoke outside.  The hell with you if you couldn’t take it.

But he wasn’t in New York any more.  And he wasn’t going back.  He was done.

No, all things considered, Maine wasn’t going to be so bad.  Maybe he’d even quit smoking, now that he had reasons to live a long life, now that the constant pressure of Johnnie’s thumb was off the back of his neck.

Moe took another drag, hacked a long one as he opened his phone.  Moe couldn’t tell how much of his cough was smoke, or the air freezing out of his lungs.

“Jeez, buddy, that doesn’t sound healthy,” said the smiling yutz.

Moe curled his own smile, dropping the Camel into the sand-filled ashtray.  “Might be my last one anyway.”

Moe dialed his cousin.  The phone rang until voicemail picked up.  Goddamn it, Harry.  He was supposed to be at the diner with the package twenty minutes ago.  The Fibbies warned him against contacting family, but fuck it.  Harry was his aunt’s second husbands’ kid from a previous marriage.  Not only was he the only person close to family Moe had left, but he doubted that even Homeland Security could successfully establish a link between them, much less Johnnie Bass’s Mutt Mafia.

“Harry running late?”

“Yeah.  Goddamned old man’s gonna be late for his own…”  Moe trailed off, the Maine air feeling that much colder.

The yutz saw the question, unasked on Moe’s face.  The guy who was outside on the smoking bench, but never lit a cigarette other than Moe’s.  Sitting in the freezing air alone, for no good reason—apparently.

The guy smiled gently, an apologetic look in his eyes as he answered the question that Moe didn’t ask.

“Same way I know that was your last cigarette, Moe…”

~FIN~