“Wine & Spirits” by Gordon Douglas Ison
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Gordon Douglas Ison remembers a childhood bully.
Bobo’s nickname was all it took to get his reputation started. The rest was up to him. Even the street gang known as the Errol Flynns knew to steer clear of the teenager who was hell-bent on making a name for himself. Bobo was a loner. Me? I had friends.
Somehow Bobo singled me out one day, out of all the other kids on Detroit’s east side—we locked eyes, and that was all it took. He saw the fear in me, and I have to admit, even after all these years of tough-guy swagger, the fear was real. He honed in on me like a wasp set to sting, after which he began saying things to me every time we saw each other. Taunting, as a kid with no adult supervision is wont to do, which was what we all were back then. I had just turned thirteen, and the year prior was told by Slim—an alcoholic who stood nearly seven feet tall and lived in his garage on account of having thirteen kids who were afforded the ramshackled American Craftsman—how I should never go to prison. I didn’t get it then, but I sure as hell got it quick. His inference was how I was pretty. I was soft. The only thing I was guilty of at that time was being too shy, especially around the neighborhood girls, but I was ready to prove my manhood beyond heavy petting and tongue kissing, which, in all honesty, could be kind of gross.
During the height of the white-flight seventies, my mother was able to make extra cash working as a cleaning lady for some old Presbyterian busybody who never compensated her enough. One day she came home with a pistol she had found at Mrs. Bergerman’s after being asked to scrub somewhere that hadn’t been scrubbed in some odd years. My mother concealed it inside her apron, as with anything else she would find in that old, decrepit house. Hazard pay, I guess you could call it.
Wine & Spirits party store on the corner of Chalmers and Mapleridge was our hangout. Me, Dave, and Billy used to take turns sweeping and mopping, putting away returnables, stealing some beer, and goofing off until about eight p.m. every night. More about bubblegum cards and bottle rockets than anything dastardly. One day, we were out front leaning against the mailbox, me cupping my cigarette in case my mom drove by, while the other guys’ moms couldn’t care less. Bobo walked up to us from behind. We turned around and stared. Billy and Dave were older than me, but neither one had ever stood up to Bobo either.
“What’chew lookin’ at, boyee?”
I decided to puff out my pubescent chest and step toward him just as he took a final drag from his menthol and flicked it at me. Sparks flew off my corduroy bell-bottoms, but I just stood there. Frozen. The same way I used to stand there during Little League baseball and why I got the nickname Statue of Liberty—on account of not being taught a strike didn’t just mean an empty swing of the Louisville Slugger; it also meant the pitcher’s ball across the plate. My dad wasn’t there to teach me. We came in third place.
Sure I was humiliated, but it was more of a letdown due to the fact that ever since I told my friends about Bobo, they said we would all kick his ass. Collectively. I fantasized about movies like The Warriors and began thinking up a name for our new gang. I also managed to grab that pistol from my mother’s hiding spot.
I tried keeping it in one of my socks, the way I hid my Newport soft packs, only the metal was too hard against my ankle. I tried the waistband, like in the television show Baretta, but it kept slipping through. Finally I put the .22-caliber revolver in my right front pocket, and it felt damn good every time I gripped it.
I was already on Dave’s porch when Bobo appeared out of the adjacent alley. We had just missed each other. A few seconds’ difference and we would’ve come face-to-face in a fate-defining moment like no other I’ve experienced before or since. Bobo eventually raped and murdered a septuagenarian, stole and crashed her car, and was found hung inside a prison cell. Me? I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth birthday next month.
GORDON DOUGLAS ISON was first published in Amerinda’s Talking Stick Quarterly. He currently has two unpublished novels, Two-Legged Animal: Noir Essays from a Detroit Punk and his collected fiction A Quick Pick-Me-Up. He was also prime mover in the bands Grievance Committee ’85-’91 and Linoleum Blownapart. Currently writing a second memoir entitled I,SON, Gordon makes his living as a commercial driver while chipping away at his student loan dept.
Posted: Dec 7, 2015
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