Elfquest: The Final Quest
I was very excited when I discovered this graphic novel with Skywise, Cutter, and Leetah on the cover. I grew up on classic Elfquest and have read and reread the original graphic novels many times over the years.
A lot has changed since the late ‘80s. For me and for the elves. New elves and tribes have been added to the existing wolfriders including sea elves and another tribe of wolfriders led by Cutter’s daughter Ember. While it was great to see the elves I was familiar with, there were too many divergent plots for my taste. While I understand that there would be unfamiliar characters, relationships, and plotlines, Elfquest: The Final Quest suffers from overcrowding. Like Crisis on Infinite Earths or any superhero battle royale, there are too many characters to focus on the story. In addition to the multiple tribes and all their characters, there are new human villains with technology to focus on. All in all, like Thanksgiving dinner, Final Quest was something I had to do, but I’m glad it’s over.
Look for reviews of the aforementioned classic Elfquests in future posts. I can’t wait.
Elfquest: The Final Quest combines issues 1-6. Art and writing by Richard and Wendi Pini
Shattered Empire picks up just as Return of the Jedi ends, but the heroes of the movie are mostly supporting characters. The main character is rebel-pilot Shara Bey, a woman who has sacrificed much for the rebellion and feels guilty for her desire to settle down with her husband and child. If you were hoping to see Luke and his fellow scoundrels from the films, they’re all there driving the plot and interweaving their stories with hers.
Shara Bey accompanies Luke on a stealth mission to rescue a pair of Force Trees from Imperial hands. Princess Leia has an interesting story as she travels to Naboo with Shara Bey and interacts with the planet made famous in Episodes 1-3. What is noteworthy about this storyline is what is unsaid. Naboo is the home of Queen Amidala, Leia’s biological mother, a plot point I hope the comics follow.
The art and storytelling are excellent, even if I was distracted by the space battles. The whole “Red One” to “Red Leader” type of dialogue works in the movies but falls short in a comic book. Otherwise, the art from paneling to colors, to inks and lettering are well done.
Shattered Empire kicks off a new line of Star Wars comics featuring new and old characters. Is it a must-read? Not really. There aren’t any new plot threads left hanging, nor are there any dramatic moments that make this story stand out. Shara is a competent character with a believable back-story, and the returning characters are fun but aren’t necessary other than to give readers a hook.
Also, included in the collected edition is issue 1 of Princess Leia and a throwback first-issue of the original comic adaptation of the first movie. Leia is excellent (look for that in a future review) but 1977 Staw Wars is missable if you saw the movie.
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1-4 is written by Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta with Emilio Laiso. It also features Princess Leia #1 and Star Wars (1977) #1. It is published by Marvel/Disney
My goal for 2019 is to read a graphic novel or comic book trade paperback collection and discuss them each day. I will write about the plot, art, relevance, links to a continuing mythos and/or my personal connection to the book. Think of it as a mini review. Feel free to debate my thoughts. Tell me why I’m wrong and missed the whole point of a revolutionary graphic novel, or how I elevated some piece of shit to undeserved artistic status. Or, <gasp> how you agree with my findings. Let’s discuss.
Just Can’t Seem to Win
A novel by Jan-Ives Campbell
My search for the father I never knew began with the death of my mother. The journey is real, and what I found out about him is true, but the characters are fictionalized. It turns out that you can’t tell a true story without hurting someone, so I did my best to describe my search without reopening old wounds.
“Who are you visiting today?” said the perky woman behind a plastic window within the Naples Senior and Recovery center. She looked at me with a big smile, but with just a glimmer in her eyes that said, “Hurry this up, pal. I have shit to do.”
I blinked at her, slowly as if stepping out of the darkness and into the unforgiving sunlight. My mind went blank. Why the hell was I here? In a Florida nursing home. Stupidly I stared. Her eyes opened wider and she tilted her head as if to say, “Are you okay?” I must have looked crazy, I certainly wasn’t dressed for southern weather. I wore ripped jeans, a thick red and black flannel button-up shirt, and fawn-colored Timberland work boots, two sizes too big that clomped when I walked. I looked like a lumberjack.
“Franklin,” I said. “Thurgood Franklin.” How strange it felt to say his name. I knew it like I knew my own. I had thought it many times, I had even typed it more than once into search engines, but I hadn’t said the man’s name aloud once in my entire life.
“I see. Are you a friend or relative?”
A sudden catch in my throat. A cough. After several more, I recover and say, “I’m his nephew.” That was the truth. “He hasn’t seen me in a while; I’d like to surprise him.” In fact, he had never in his life seen me. “Is that okay?”
She stood up, looked me up and down and said, “I don’t think he’s ever had a visitor before. I see you’re not on the list of approved visitors, but he’s right over there in the main room, so I think it would be okay to sneak on over and say ‘hi’.” She smiled again and pointed to a room around the corner that was still visible from the main desk. “He’s the one with the green blanket on his lap.” He sat in a wheelchair with his back to me looking up at the television suspended in the corner broadcasting a fishing show. I took a deep breath. There he was. That was him.
The woman exited the room behind the window and appeared beside me. “Did you bring enough for everyone?” she said with a smile, nodding with her chin at the Dunkin Donuts bag I held with two hands. It felt heavy and seemed obvious that there were no donuts inside. I chuckled but never took my eyes off him. It seemed ludicrous to me that I would be able to get this close. I graduated high school four years ago and I couldn’t remember a time when there weren’t metal detectors or armed guards at the entrances. School shootings were a fact of life. I guess it wasn’t a problem in old folks’ homes.
I followed the woman into the common area. It was empty except for Thurgood and a bag of bones who stared unblinking from beneath a mountain of blankets in the far corner of the room.
“Mr. Franklin. You have a visitor.” I held the bag tightly as he slowly maneuvered the wheelchair around to face us. I don’t know what I expected. He looked shriveled in his chair wasting away from inactivity. The pictures and the descriptions were not of this person. They were of a man who was nicknamed Thor and with good reason. Once, he had a wild mane of red hair and a body to match. His hair was now faded and white; this pathetic creature before me had been withering for twenty-three years, first in jail and now in this tomb.
I expected a different reaction from him. He looked at me as if I were a stranger on the street. I wanted him to react, to shout out, to clutch at his heart and fall over at seeing the resurrection of the man he had killed more than two decades ago. Instead, he took a deep breath. The receptionist said, “Do you know who this is?” she said loudly, almost patronizingly.
“Yup. This is Anthony. I’ve been expecting him.”
“He brought you donuts.” She smiled and left us alone except for the corpse under the pile of blankets. A fan hanging from the ceiling stirred the air with a slight wobble. With a booted foot I dragged a table until it was in front of him. I sat down across from him and placed the bag on the table with a clunk.
“That for me?”
“You look like your father.”
Was he trying to distract me? To make me feel pity for him? I absorbed his appearance,
faded and withered as it was.
“I could yell for help,” he said.
“It wouldn’t make a difference.”
“Is that why you came? To kill me?” He wheezed. “Maybe you’ve seen too many movies and you think I’ll beg for forgiveness so you’ll spare my life?” A slight guffaw escaped his mouth.
To be honest, I didn’t know why I came. I wanted something from him. Remorse. Empathy. Understanding. Truth? I wasn’t sure, but the only way I would know is through confrontation.
He looked at the floor and said, “I am sorry.” My eyes narrowed. He looked up and into my eyes. The whites of his were bloodshot, but the irises were a crisp blue of the deep ocean. “Not because I care about my life or what I lost. It’s all the hurt I inflicted on everyone else.” Was this it? Was this why I came here? “Go ahead, kill me. Hell, leave me the gun and I’ll do it myself.” His breathing was ragged. The skeleton in the corner coughed.
“I suppose you’ll say I shouldn’t do it because my father wouldn’t want me to throw away my life?”
He laughed. It was a breathy rattle that caught us both by surprise. “Are you okay, Thurgood?” a nurse poked her head into the room. He nodded and smiled a mostly-toothless smile. She slipped away.
“Shit, I could go for a cigarette,” he said.
“Too bad. What’s so funny?”
“Your father absolutely would want you to kill me. He wouldn’t want a score to go unsettled. Neither did I. I guess that’s why we’re here. He would just love that his kid had the balls to take care of the son-of-a-bitch who killed his old man.”
The stories, the recent ones my grandmother, aunt, and my father’s best friend had told me didn’t give me the feeling my father was a vengeful man. But they loved him; they would never speak ill of the dead.
As if reading my mind he said, “He was my little brother, in a sense. I practically raised him. I loved him, too.”
His words filled me with anger. He loved him? I grabbed up the bag. Frightened, his eyes went from mine to it, but he did not move. Resolution to his fate calmed him, but it took an effort. Years of violence and self-preservation was hard to ignore. My index finger pierced the paper of the bag to rest on the trigger of the gun inside. The silence threatened to suffocate us. Finally, Thurgood said, “You never got to meet him. I’m sorry about that.” He stares at the coffee table. “He was excited. Happier than I’d ever seen him.”
“Why did you do it?” I ask. “You say you loved him. Why did you kill him?”
“You really want to hear?”
“He beat the shit out of me.”
I laugh despite trying to be intimidating. The snort just bursts out.
He was right, my father would want me to gun him down. To blast him where he sat. Fire five rounds into his chest, and as he slumped in his chair shatter his skull with the final bullet.
The gun felt light in my hand. It felt good. Right.
And my father, gone for twenty-three years, was telling me to pull the trigger.
I wrote a book. Well, it’s not a book yet. I wrote a story, and I’m nervous as hell to release it into the world. Why am I afraid? For over a year it has been just mine. I have slaved over it, changed it, deleted parts, and added others. I gave it to a friend who reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy to get his thoughts: What didn’t he understand? What did he like? What did it need? He couldn’t get into it. I gave it to a successful writer of nonfiction, and he was “stopped dead” after the first page. My girlfriend got lost in all the characters. Then I paid someone to read it and though she was very helpful the lack of interest by everyone else was not a good sign. If my friends and loved ones can’t get through it what chance does a stranger?
So I rewrote it. I added some excitement to the opening chapter (in the form of a new chapter) to get the reader interested in the story and characters. I set a launch date for September 20th, a monumental day in my life, but more on that later.
I read the reviews of a popular writer’s first book to get some perspective. This author has met with a lot of success, but I guess that depends on your definition. The author made some money by self-publishing and continues to reach new readers, even selling the rights to have the book made into a motion picture. Financially successful. They wrote the book on their own terms and published it non-traditionally. Success. It has opened up other opportunities—earning a degree, future novels. Success. I assume these things brought happiness. Major success.
What does success mean to me? One might say that writing a book and putting it out into the world means I am successful. Yeah, that’s true, but as a writer, I want to have people read and like what I wrote. But a “true artist” doesn’t care what people think, right? I don’t know what a true artist feels, but I want to write and have my stuff read and enjoyed. Perhaps that’s a bit shallow, but that’s me.
I know human nature is to complain before giving praise. People are more likely to call up and gripe about poor service than to give compliments. Therefore I dread those one and two-star reviews on Amazon. I read the comments on the author above, and I focused on the one stars, which only accounted 2% of the total reviews. I won’t go into details but suffice to say that I came away realizing that you can’t please all the people all the time. Probably more than 2% will hate what I wrote and demand their money back. Likely a lot more.
I said I was done. Like a download that’s stuck on 99%, I finished the story, but it refuses to let me walk away. Since my editor read it I’ve made some changes. I will spend the next six weeks reading it out loud, stressing over comma placement, and being frustrated by formatting issues. I’ll worry that the characters won’t “ring true” or the ethnic characters are stereotypes, or don’t accurately reflect their cultural histories. Or that my female characters aren’t strong enough, or are too strong and do not speak to the female experience. My worst fear is that I will have used “too” and “to” incorrectly. I like what I wrote. I spent a lot of time with my characters, working hard to flesh them out without repeating myself. Or breaking the ultimate writer’s sin of telling not showing. Gasp!
I’m going to write about the writer’s experience for the next few weeks. Maybe fledgling writers will ask me questions, and maybe I’ll have helpful answers. “Successful” writers might have inspirational suggestions. I’ll talk about my journey, my hopes, and fears, and hopefully, create a dialog. Here are some subjects I will be discussing.
-Self-publishing vs. “traditional” (How fast do you want it?)
-My history as a writer (The hero’s Journey)
-Marketing (Selling out!)
-The politics of the writer (What statement are you making?)
-Categorizing one’s work (What shelf do you want to be on?)
Stay tuned. Comments welcome!
Bursting as it was with people from all over the world, Mexico City International Airport did its best to slow Daisuke’s progress. The Japanese sarariman hurried to make the last plane to Brazil, a trip that had begun in Taiwan and was full of long flights and one very long layover. Moving as fast as his tired body and the crowd permitted, he glanced out the airport windows at the dark skies, fearful they might further delay his trip. Fellow travelers battled him and each other in an attempt to reach the next stage of their individual journeys.
Stopping without warning, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was no longer Daisuke. His consciousness had been invaded and overwritten by an alien force. He became a dormant passenger as the entity known as Tvrkialk took command of his body. The ancient being stretched the man’s arms in triumph. How beautiful and strange were the sensations of physical form! Although, for a moment, the memories and emotions of the host body were nauseating; Tvrkialk sat down on an empty bench until the sickening feelings passed. The being dropped the man’s briefcase onto the floor and watched the crowd with keen interest.
After several minutes, a man wearing an official identification lanyard and a jumpsuit uniform stopped pushing his broom to sit on the bench next to Tvrkialk. Without looking at the custodian, Tvrkialk said in an alien language, “Greetings, P’strth. The approaching storm—is it your doing?”
P’strth said, “No, but can you feel the chaos rising to the surface? It searches for recipients worthy of its power.”
They spoke a language lacking in structure and familiar sound. Guttural almost to the point of being animalistic, their words would have been unrecognizable to anyone in the airport, had they heard it spoken. Subtleties and emotions, even personal histories filled their conversation. The language was full of so much information and nuance that it would have been impossible for mortals to follow, much less comprehend. In their true form, they could communicate more effectively, but in the flesh prisons, their vocal cords strained with each word. “You are enjoying this,” said the spirit through the Japanese businessman. “Why are you here? Of all the places in the world, why this place?”
P’strth, through the body of the custodian, made no expression, nor did it look at Tvrkialk when it replied. “I suspect I am here for the same reason as you. I detected two mana recipients.”
Throngs of people moved past the two, without noticing their strange conversation. “I had hoped I would be alone.” Tvrkialk chuckled. The laugh was awkward, dry and gravelly, as if by one who had not spoken in a long time. “It is so unlikely to find two in the same city, much less the same location.”
Tvrkialk moved to the edge of the bench. “What do you think of that one?” Within the crowd, a young woman hurried by. Her fellow humans did not take notice of her, however, to the strange pair, she might as well have had a light shining upon her. They did not notice her youthful skin, her curly black hair, or her curvy waistline, nor did they have any concept of her ancestral origins. They did, however, see her soul as a near-blinding vivid multicolor glow that indicated she was already a bearer of the link.
P’strth squinted at the girl as she disappeared into the crowd. “It has a versatile aura. Beyond that, I see a capacity—a powerful mana. For the group I am assembling, it would not fit well. You may have the creature,” adding, “It has a glaring weakness, as well.”
“Yes, I noticed that,” Tvrkialk said. “I can work with it. You have seen the other female?”
P’strth said, without emotion, “Yes. It has a susceptibility making her perfect for my intentions.” P’strth’s disgust and confusion at the concept of gender were palpable to Tvrkialk, who had always found the sexual specifics of physical beings to be delightfully peculiar.
P’strth’s words conveyed a subtle warning, a reminder how much was at stake. “I worry about your intentions, my old friend.” They both laughed. “Remember, the bearers of the maelstrom must endure a great burden.” An elderly man turned to them upon hearing the strange sounds they made, then immediately hurried away.
Tvrkialk stood. The words “Then it is decided?” communicated an understanding, but also a joy at the uncertainty of the situation. They had vital parts to play, but there was no reason they couldn’t have fun while protecting the fragile fabric of reality. They were spawns of chaos after all, and thus they tended toward mischief.
“Yes, I do not care.” P’strth surrendered any claim on the woman with a wave of the janitor’s hand. “Good fortune to us all.” The presence that possessed the worker left him. Freed, he looked around, confused. He was sitting on the bench next to an Asian man in a suit who turned to him and smiled a wide smile. The janitor stood, looked away from the odd man, and resumed sweeping.
Tvrkialk, still in the body of Daisuke, left the briefcase behind and began following the black-haired girl. The mana entities felt it was important to shepherd the humans, to guide them to reach their destinies, for the unrestrained energy only knew chaos and violence, and would naturally lead its bearer to the same.
“Yes. She will do fine.”
I am six-years-old. It is midnight. I am debating if I can survive jumping from the backseat of a car traveling at sixty-miles an hour onto the highway. I’m not even tall enough to see out the window. I will have to hope I get lucky.
As I contemplate the leap, I decide to question my captors hoping they will set me free or turn the car around and bring me home. “What did I do?” I ask the blonde. I try to be cold and emotionless when I say, “Where are you taking me?”
She responds with a smile so wide it shows her back teeth. Her smile is that of a wolf. “Jan-Ives, you didn’t do anything,” she says, emphasizing the word “you.” She drags it out like laundry from a washing machine. Her words are heavy, cold and wet. “Your mom just needs some time to get back on her feet. You are going to what is called a foster home.” She uses my full first name, proving that she doesn’t know me.
“My name is Jan,” I say through clenched teeth. Her smile fades and as she turns away.
I have never hated anyone before. I am six. I hate this woman.
I don’t know the man and woman in the front seat. I was never introduced, but I silently select the names Dick and Jane for them. I do not respect them, so I do not ask them their real names. I don’t care. My mother held back the tears when she told me I had to go with these people. She said I would be all right–that she would get me as soon as she could.
Alone in the backseat of the speeding car, I stare intently at the lock. It is a silver piece of metal that looks like a skinny bullet the Lone Ranger might load into his six-shooter. With no plunger to press against, the bullet hurts when it is pushed to lock the door. I am deciding if I will pull it. I am contemplating pulling it to unlock the door, open it, and jump onto Route 495.
Jane tells Dick–the driver–that the next exit is the one they should take. I know my chance of escape is growing smaller by the second. I don’t know why my mother told me to go with these people in dark suits in the middle of the night. I have school–1st grade– in the morning. She must have forgotten. I don’t understand why she would let me go. If I can get out of the car, I can get back to her. She will apologize for the mistake. Everything will be okay.
When I leap out of the car, I tuck and roll along the pavement to the grassy median strip. I execute a perfect somersault and rise agilely to my feet and begin pumping my legs for the other side of the highway. I hear the screech of brakes and the blaring of horns behind me and the inevitable crash of several vehicles. I dare not look back as I run onto the opposite highway that leads home. Cars and trucks slam on their brakes, and another pileup ensues. As my feet touch the grass that precedes the safety of the woods I hear shots ring out, and I see several bullets explode into the wood of the trees ahead.
I open my eyes as my fantasy and my journey come to an end. I decide that even if I survived the escape, I wouldn’t know where to go to get back to my mother. The car slows down and pulls into a driveway. I look out the window and see a gold Cadillac though it is too dark to see the color and I am too young to recognize the make. The only car I am capable of correctly identifying is a Pinto. I received the Matchbox version for my sixth birthday. It was my only present.
The engine turns off, and Jane turns toward me. The headrest obscures the right side of her face, and with the warmest smile she can muster she says, “Jan-Ives, we’re here. This nice family is going to take care of you.” She keeps smiling her wolf smile.
Dick opens the door. I step out and take a good look at him. He is wearing a dark suit like Jane’s, and an offensive amount of after-shave. I hold my breath as Dick puts his hand on the back of my neck. It is a loose grip, but if I decided to bolt, it could become tighter. He gently pushes me toward the front door of the largest house I have ever seen. There is an attached garage, but it is empty.–or perhaps it is too small to fit the monstrous luxury vehicle in the driveway.
Dick releases his grip on my neck, steps forward and rings the doorbell. Soon, I am welcomed by the Coutu’s. A father, a mother, two boys, and two girls, all of whom are older than me, greet me from inside what seems like a mansion. Compared to the one-room motel I was living in an hour before, it is.
The kids show me around while the parents discuss ransom with my captors. In the kitchen, Marky, the youngest boy, introduces me to the canine member of the family. I look down to see Sparky a short-haired Dachshund. I have never seen a dog of this breed before. “Go ahead, pet him,” urges Marky with a sly smile.
Butchy, the oldest boy–big and meaty like Thurgood–attempts to assuage my fears, “Don’t be afraid. Sparky won’t bite.” He is an enormous seventeen-year-old with muscles that give shape to his t-shirt, and a buzzed haircut. I doubt he knows the meaning of the word “afraid.”
I crouch down and pet Sparky’s soft fur. The little red dog turns around and chomps me on the wrist! I am shocked, but I do not pull away because he is not biting me hard. I look up at Marky with questioning eyes. All four kids are laughing with joy as Sparky begins to pull me toward a cabinet below the sink.
“Go ahead,” Marky urges. I open the cabinet to find a box of Alpo dog biscuits. I take out a small treat, and he politely takes it from my fingers. I smile and pet Sparky again. I like this dog.
“He can give paw, too,” says the oldest girl, Suzanne (though I have no doubt they call her Suzy).
The four adults have entered the kitchen. “You are going to like it here. The Coutu’s are very nice people,” says Jane. I stare at her. My hate wells up behind my eyes and is released in salty streams of despair. The men shake hands, and my two abductors leave me with my new family.
Mr. Coutu looks at me and extends his hand. I can only stare at it. He is wearing a dark green polyester suit, and I wonder if everyone got dressed up for my capture and delivery.
He is still holding out his hand as I look dumbly at it. I have never shaken anyone’s hand, let alone an adult’s. He takes his hand back and puts it in his pocket when I don’t give him paw.
Mrs. Coutu crouches down to my level and puts her hand on my head. She is wearing a green skirt and white blouse and has wavy, shoulder-length hair. She looks like the stereotypical housewife character on any number of 70s sitcoms and dramas. She strokes my long brown hair, and I suddenly feel like Sparky. I wonder where my biscuit is. “How do you say your name?” she asks me with a genuine smile. Speak! A new command.
“Jan D’Alesio,” I reply with practiced ease. I am new to the first grade, so I am used to annunciating my strange name. I drop the “Ives” purposely.
Mr. Coutu shakes his head. “Jan is a girl’s name,” he says as he runs his fingers along his thick mustache. “Let’s call you…” he ponders for a moment before finishing his thought, almost as if he were indeed thinking, “J.D.”
Now, I hate two people.
As an adult, I continue to use my name as a mental litmus test. The speed at which someone grasps it is the amount of mental lucidity to which I give them credit. All of my adopted animals retain the name they know. To change their names would be to cause them the same subtle trauma I suffered in the foster home. I wouldn’t change my name now. To me, my name is a badge of honor. It is like a tattoo or scar. Names are important. To take a name away from a person is to take away his or her power. This is true when it is done to an animal, or a six-year-old boy who has just been taken from his mother.
I am seeking readers for my unreleased novel Tragic Heroes. Below is the first chapter. The book is modern fantasy and asks its characters what they will do with godlike power. I hope you enjoy it, but I want to get as honest of a review as I can. What characters did you like and why? What characters didn’t you like? Would you have liked to see more or less of a particular subplot or character? Did you not understand a particular segment? Feel free to comment on anything that you notice. You might find it best to keep notes of particular passages to which you are referring. While I’m not concerned about typos and other such errors, if you notice something and want to comment please be specific so I can address such issues.
Your comments are all helpful and will help create a better final product. I don’t need you to write a deep analysis of the work, just note what you notice. I hope this will be a fun process.
Please contact me if you’re willing to read and review the 300 page novel. It is available as a Word doc and reads great on a Kindle.
Volume 1- Sparks
Tragic Hero- Noun- a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat: Oedipus, the classic tragic hero.
Chapter One: The Soothsayer
Hannah’s nightmare began with the slash of a whip across her bare back. Wielding the cruel weapon that bit hungrily into her soft flesh was a mechanized woman, part machine part human, entirely without emotion. Before her, a man stood next to an antique television set. Again the whip cut into her already opened skin. She screamed, a shrieking wail. The man, dressed in a formal suit with a white goatee, described what appeared on the t.v.—invasions, worldwide financial collapse, and nuclear war. She begged the woman, al Shiva was her name, for mercy. CRACK! Another lash tore open her already scoured back. The television revealed images—fantastical people acting out violent scenes. A man glowed with white hot energy, so hot that it melted everything around him, his energy pouring into a young black man. A beautiful winged woman soared from the clouds carrying a sword of pure flame. Emanating from the angel, Hannah felt the presence of God .
She tensed in anticipation of another slash of the whip, but it never came. There was no mechanical woman, no television bombarding her with chaos and violence. She was awake, but she could still feel the lingering painful twinge of the whip.
Twisting to look at her back in the full-length mirror on her bedroom door, the eleven-year-old girl hoisted her night dress to see there was no wound. It had felt so real. She could still feel the pain, the terror. Her head swam in a thick stew of painful memories. In the dream, she knew the names of the powerful figures, some she felt she knew personally, but the details were fading upon waking, leaving only their strange appearances. Confusion and fatigue were anchors weighing down her body and mind. Never in her short life had she had such a vivid dream.
She moved down the wooden staircase, her hand sliding along the worn banister. Still in a dream state, she saw the stairs change, transforming into a massive sweeping marble staircase before her eyes. She blinked and the monumental stairs narrowed becoming wood again.
Still in a daze, she shuffled through her family’s small stone house. The combined snores of her aunt and uncle rumbled through their bedroom door. As she tiptoed down the stairs, they creaked, but not louder than the grumbling and rumbling coming from her aunt and uncle’s room.
Though it was only two stories and had no moat, she had always thought of the house as a castle. It was located close to a group of Scottish lakes known as the Fairy Lochs. She enjoyed exploring the lake shores and adjacent woods alone. Born in Greece to an English mother, the red-haired lass thought of herself as Scottish. The modest house had been her family home for almost her entire life. In stressful moments like these, she liked to imagine she was an elf in a mystical realm.
Stepping out the back door, she breathed in the fresh early-morning air. It was cool and damp with a slight breeze. A few fluffy white clouds sailed slowly on a sea of blue, as the sun ascended, moving slowly on its own schedule. She could smell the musty lake less than a mile away.
She felt the need to clear her mind of the terrible dream. Still in her nightgown, she set out for the lake —the fresh air and clear cold water might cleanse her mental wounds.
Though the morning was perfect, the forecast called for increasing heat throughout the day and storms as evening progressed.
What follows are excerpts from my senior thesis that I read before a small group of colleagues, friends, and family at Goddard College in Plainfield VT. The words in bold are intended to inform the audience of some of the back story and connect the dots between scenes, because I only had 45 minutes therefore I couldn’t read everything. For the record, the following story is an amalgam of truth and fiction. Some of it happened, but not in the way I’m telling it. Some of it happened exactly the way I tell it, and some of it is entirely fictionalized.
In 1981, my oldest brother, Domenic, was murdered by our sister’s husband. I was only nine and didn’t really know him, but I was fascinated by the way he was revered by his friends and family. This is a story that I have wanted to write since I learned such a thing was possible.
I took the personal stories of my brother (Dean in the story), my sister (Diana) and my mother (Lynn), mixed in court records, newspaper clippings and personal reflections. I stirred the mixture by connecting the dots, an imagining here, a bit of psychology there until I had the beginnings of a complete story. There were people who didn’t want this story to be told. The research, they believed, would be like disturbing a grave after thirty years. Others had their own recollections of the young man who was idolized by so many. The three family members who read the final draft of my senior thesis said I had gotten it wrong. My mother said it didn’t ring true. My brother said I was sensationalizing a family tragedy and that he wanted no part of this project.
Domenic had done his best to look parental when he got ready that morning. He pulled his long wavy hair into a ponytail, tucked his flannel shirt into his paint-spackled jeans; Even his work boots were laced and tied. He had employment and a place to live. He felt as if he were doing everything right.
Billerica Elementary looked the same as he remembered it when he went there. The small building was covered in fake red bricks, a stick-on facade that gave the illusion of craftsmanship. Diana rushed forward and pushed on the door’s silver bar, but the doors held fast. Only with her brother’s help did they yield. The hall beyond was quiet. Their footsteps echoed despite their attempt to be silent.
Soon they had reached the principal’s office. “How can I help you?” asked the secretary, a thin woman who wore a brown scarf and a heavy scowl. A metal sign on the desk proclaimed her name was Ms. Tibble.
“I’m here to register my sister for school. Fourth grade,” Domenic said with a smile that showed just a hint of his crooked teeth. He gripped Diana’s hand a little tighter.
“I see,” said Ms. Tibble. “Do you have an appointment?”
“No. Sorry. I didn’t think I needed one.”
“Wait here, please,” she said motioning to a row of metal chairs with plastic cushions. She went into the office marked “Principal”. The two sat down; the plastic cushions made matching fart sounds. They both snickered into their hands.
Dommy crossed his legs as they waited. Diana had seen her mother and her older sister Darlene sit like that, but never a man. How funny it was that a man as rough and tumble as Dommy could sit so ladylike! His hand went to the cigarette behind his ear. He removed it from its perch and hid it in his shirt pocket.
The secretary returned and escorted them to meet the principal. The plaque on the door read Mrs. Regina Sibayan. In the wood-panelled office, a well-fed woman in a purple blazer sat behind a large desk. Her glance up from the appointment blotter ended in a smile that was even bigger than the desk. After some introductions, Mrs. Sibayan said, “Tell me, Mr. D’Alesio, where are your parents? Why are you here registering Diana instead of them?” The questions were like the preparatory punches from a boxer–they sized up and primed the defender for a beating. Her eyes moved from the little girl to her brother and back again as she waited for his reply.
Domenic’s patience was wearing thin. He had no experience with bureaucracy and rarely in his life had smiling and making nice been encouraged. He wasn’t foolish, however. He did his best to be diplomatic. He said, “I have temporary custody.”
“Indeed,” she scoffed. “How old are you? You look barely old enough to be out of school, or have custody of anyone–much less a ten-year-old girl. Do you have any paperwork–from a judge?”
He patted himself down hoping that somehow he did have the necessary paperwork. He shrugged after his search yielded no documents.
“Do you have any identification? A driver’s license, perhaps?”
His reply was a glare and a clenched jaw.
The purple-clad Principal leaned over her desk, her breasts forced against it so hard they seemed like they might burst from the sides of her suit jacket. Diana bit her tongue to contain her laughter as she watched the blazer do its best to contain the lady’s breasts. The Principal said, “Young man, who told you that you had custody?”
Domenic looked at his sister with a questioning blank expression. “Mrs. Reynolds, the caseworker,” she said.
The Principal sat up straight and shook her head with a frown, “I’m sorry. Without the court-ordered paperwork indicating custody, you can’t register her for school. If you can locate it before the first week has ended, I can allow her to start classes. Or call Mrs. Reynolds and have her call me. Otherwise, one of her legal parents will have to call or come in.”
Domenic leaned his head back in frustration looking directly at the white drop-ceiling filled with tiny holes. As his eyes unfocused the hundreds of dots merged into a single black pool that dominated his vision. Why had Reynolds said he could take Diana and not given him the paperwork? He didn’t know why they were making this so difficult. All he wanted was to take care of her until–well–until he figured something else out. Forever, if he had to. He could do it. He had a job and a place to live. How hard could it be? The welfare check helped. What the hell was he going to do with her every day? She needed to be in school. He and Danny had a job with Fasciano painting; Fasciano even rented a place to them and took the rent directly out of their paychecks.
His eyes begged the woman as he said, “There’s nothing I can do?’
“Not without legal documents. What is your address and phone number?” She held a pen against a pad of notepaper ready to transcribe his response. Her smile faded as she waited.
He stood up. Without a word, he hustled Diana from the office.
“Fuck!” Domenic shouted when the double doors at the entrance of the school closed behind them. Outside, there was no one to hear his curse.
“Fuck,” Diana mumbled as she kicked a small rock. No one heard her swear as it skittered across the parking lot. She liked hearing people curse, but she never did it. ‘Fuck’ was an all-purpose word used to strengthen a sentence, and she felt powerful when she said it–just like her brother. But his strength was gone. Defeated, the walk back was slower–more of a death march than the triumphant walk home they had anticipated. There was no hurry to be anywhere at any time. The two shuffled along.
The rail vibrated warning them of oncoming danger. They stepped off the track. The train rumbled along back from its destination. This time it was full of coal; the mounds poked out of the tops of the cars slowing its return. The train too, laden with its heavy burden, seemed less anxious to reach its place of origin. Black smoke came out of a stack in short bursts.
Domenic stopped to pull out a joint–a curly little deformed thing. He lit it and inhaled before offering it to her. She looked at the marijuana cigarette and at him without comprehension. “Want a hit?” he said. She shook her head. He shrugged and let out a blast of smoke. They resumed their silent walk. Diana was angry at herself. She wanted to be like her brother, but she was too frightened to try the drug. She was afraid it would burn her mouth and throat the way she had seen others choke and sputter after taking a hit. She didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the greatest man she knew. On their solemn return, she decided she would learn to swear properly–loudly and with conviction.
She make an oath that she wouldn’t let anyone hear her swear or see her smoke until she had some practice.
My family was upset about what I had written. I wondered how my perception of the events could be so different from theirs. After all, I recorded the interview so there could be no confusion on my part. I didn’t ask them to elaborate, I felt if they had more to say they would. They never did.
I worked hard to make everyone shades of grey rather than strictly good and evil. Even the man who murdered our brother in a fit of revenge was once a trusted member of our family. Their father, not mine, a man who they hated for his strict, often cruel, behavior is shown as a man who loved his oldest son. I changed most of the names, but anyone who lived it knew who is whom. I characterize Dean as a young man who felt guilt for his inability to save his brother. Though the reader, and no one who knew first hand what happened, would blame him, maybe he felt I was blaming him. Lynn, the mother character, could be judged harshly. Her children live as adults, separate from her, from their father. Their reflections on that time are clouded, they no doubt feel that they were no longer kids. I see them as children living the lives of adults and attempt to show that cloudy distinction.
In this next story, Diana has just arrived after hitchhiking thirty miles from where she lives with her mother to her brother’s place in Billerica. She did this often. She was fourteen.
From behind the heavy wooden door, she could hear the notes of an acoustic guitar as it searched for a song. She smiled as she imagined her brother strumming away, with his long wavy brown hair and his intense look as he concentrated on the music. Before knocking, she paused to listen. The strings played the slow, sad notes of a song on which Domenic had been working the last time she had been there, two weeks before. Along with the music came the pungent, tangy scent of stale pot that lingered in the wood of the door. The smell permeated her nose until she could taste it.
Without knocking, she turned the knob. A single candle lit the kitchen. A large window behind the table allowed in some illumination from the single pole of the parking lot, but the kitchen was mostly dark. The lights silhouetted her brother as he sat looking ghostly at him with an acoustic guitar cradled in his hands. He looked up, and a scowl replaced his look of concentration. He shouted without raising his voice: “Diana, what the fuck!?”
She flicked the switch next to the door, and the room came alive with light. The door offered a click as she closed it. She gave her older brother a sheepish half-smile while batting her eyes. “Hey, Dommy,” she said. Her attempt at looking cute was an obvious tactic, but more often than not it worked.
He squinted against the light from above. “I told you not to come here alone,” he said as he placed his guitar against the table. “I don’t want you hangin’ around here anymore,” he said with all the sternness he could muster to his baby sister, which was far less than she had seen him aim at others. He crossed the small kitchen with a few steps, his untied boots making hollow clumping sounds that seemed angry to Diana. He enveloped her in a hug that lifted her from the puke-green linoleum. “It’s not safe,” he whispered into her ear through her long brown hair. “I should call Ma to pick you up,” he said, placing her down.
“Can’t. She’s workin’. Plus, she doesn’t have a phone.”
Dommy took the cigarette from behind his ear as he sat down at the table. Diana sat opposite him and watched him light his Marlboro. He took a deep drag and let out a wisp of smoke through his lips.
Placing the cigarette in the ashtray, he picked up the guitar. “Do you know why she took Jan to live in New Hampshire?” He asked about their kid brother, barely eight years old.
She shook her head, even though she knew all too well.
He looked unblinking into her brown eyes and said, “Because she didn’t want him to turn out like us.”
“I love it here,” she said sweeping loose ashes off the table with one hand and into the other. She dumped the contents into the ashtray. She stood and looked around for a trash bucket. Finding none, she brought the tray into the bathroom, flushing it down the toilet.
When she returned, he said, “I love it too. But it fuckin’ sucks. Don’t you get it? Every night there’s police cars. They don’t even come half the time when they’re called. When they do, they take their sweet-ass time. Something’s always happening. People are always yelling and screaming. They buy and sell drugs in the parking lot next to where I live. I’m not just talkin’ pot; I mean real shit. Heroin. Coke.” He took another drag. After letting the smoke out of the side of his mouth, aiming it away from her, he said, “Not that anyone here can afford to do drugs. There’re no jobs. People hang out all fuckin’ day. This place is a shit hole. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”
Diana’s face was blank. She said, “What if Jenny got pregnant? Would you leave The North?”
“Don’t call it that. And yeah. I wouldn’t want to raise my kid here. There ain’t nothin’ for anyone in Billerica.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know yet, but I gotta get out of here.”
“Would you want a boy?” she said smiling.
“Why are you on me about this?” he said. “I don’t know how to raise a girl. I already proved that when I took care of you.” They shared a smile. “I don’t know how to raise a boy, either. I guess I’d just do everything the opposite of what our father did.”
Her lips snapped down covering her teeth. She looked at the table searching for more ashes. “Are you and Jenny gonna get married?”
A cough struck Dommy’s throat, and it was a few moments before he could speak again. When he caught his breath, he said, “I don’t have a way to bring you home, and I shouldn’t let you stay here…but I have to. Maybe in the morning Ricky can bring you home.”
She felt as if everything was changing. Her few friends were getting older. Some were having children of their own. Even her boyfriend lived in Billerica. She wanted to absorb every moment before they were gone forever. Most of all she wanted to be with her brother. Just being around him made her feel important. He was the center of their friends and family, of the whole town. She felt like the little sister of a rock star. She was Dommy’s little sister which made people smile and said “hi.” Sometimes they asked if she needed anything. People treated her better–with respect.
Dommy began to play his guitar. He played the same song he was playing when she arrived, but this time he added lyrics.
Shoulda known better
And it took me all day to figure out a reason why
Why my pretty little baby girl had to say goodbye
My precious little baby girl had to go away
Shoulda known better
Than to ever let her get away
Than to ever ever ever ever ever ever
Let her get away
Oh Lord, I just can’t seem to win
In this next scene we see the difficult life that Lynn lives. A single mother living with her two youngest, she is forced to take in a border. This scene shows the flexible nature of the family friend Ricky, a man whose size and violence has benefits if he was on you side.
“Jeep, you have to go.”
Lynn stood tall as she commanded the man who rented a room in her house. Renting to him was likely a violation of her lease–if she had one. He was short but lean and muscular with blonde hair. Manual labor and hard drinking had given him a firm, yet aged, physique.
“Now,” she said.
Jeep scoffed, “I’m not going anywhere, Lynn. I’m paid up through the end of the week,” he said before opening the refrigerator.
“Diana told me what happened,” she said.
Diana was only eight, with long brown hair like her mother. She shared a room with her one-year-old brother, but he was not a reliable witness.
Jeep took a long swig of beer. He wiped the foam from his lips with the back of his hand. Smirking, he said, “I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I’m not going anywhere.” He chugged the remaining liquid and placed the empty beer can on the table.
Lynn ran her fingers through the thin brown wires that extended from her scalp. She had just turned forty and right on schedule her hair had started to dry and gray. In frustration, she grabbed a thick handful and pulled. It wasn’t hard or sudden enough to rip any out, but the pain gave her some sense of satisfaction. It helped her focus.
“I don’t want you getting any ideas. I have a reputation…” Jeep said.
Diana appeared in the kitchen. Like a specter, the little girl did not move. Faced with the confrontation before her, she was frozen in time. Her mother and the tenant faced each other in silence while Diana lingered.
The front door swung open, slicing the room in half with the sudden force. The crash of it hitting the wall caused Diana to jump. Barely squeezing through the doorway was a lumbering behemoth. Ricky stomped into the room. The menace of the man did not come from his height, but his girth. Ricky wasn’t fat, but he was big–enormous! When he moved, he did so with the unstoppable force of a Mack truck. His arms had mass and strength from lifting weights often. His neck was thick, so thick one could barely see where it ended and his cement block of a head began. No one in their right mind would look sideways at the brute, let alone challenge him.
“Diana, go upstairs and see Jan,” said Lynn. The girl didn’t move. Her eyes were frozen open. Though she was scared, her face flirted with a smile. The violence had an electric effect on her. It hurt, but the sensation was exciting.
Behind Ricky, looking insignificant, was Domenic wearing a Paddy cap and blue coveralls. The door remained open. The empty beer can fell to the floor. No one noticed the can. All eyes were drawn to Ricky.
“Ma, you okay?” said Domenic. She nodded and mumbled, “I want Jeep to leave. He…Diana…”
Domenic licked his lips and clenched his fists.
“I didn’t do anything.” Jeep had a surge of strength spawned by a panic that gave his words false courage. “And I’m paid through the end of the week.”
His bravado couldn’t equal Ricky’s gravity. Diana smiled in anticipation of the confrontation. Surging forward, Ricky’s meaty hand latched onto Jeep’s scalp. Lynn gasped as his gargantuan paw wrapped around the man’s skull. He hoisted him out of his seat, banging him into the hanging light above the table. He pushed his beefy red face close enough that the younger man could smell his breath. It stank of cigarettes. The lamp swung back and forth casting shadows that ran wild through the kitchen. “Ten minutes. Pack your shit. You’re gone. Call the cops and you’re dead.”
Dommy was smiling as Ricky let his victim go. Jeep passed Diana, who wore her smirk like armor. Lynn poured tea. They sat down and drank, the hot beverage burning their mouths. They listened to her former tenant bang items and stomp around upstairs as he packed up his life.
“Thanks for coming so quickly.” She hugged Dommy as Ricky sunk into Jeep’s chair. It groaned in protest of his bulk, but it held. Ricky looked at his watch and said with a smile, “Hey, Lynn. Ya got anything to eat?”
Ricky gave Jeep ten minutes. He was gone in five.
Dommy and Ricky did construction. This story takes place during a job in Maine.
I spent all day doing nothing–riding in a truck–and somehow they got dirty again, Domenic thought as he glared at his fingertips. The intermittent lights of the city shone through the windows, flashing on his dirty hands.
He rode in the front seat while Ricky drove; Dommy didn’t have a license, but that didn’t stop him from sometimes sharing the responsibility of driving. In the back of the van, hunched in the cargo area were Domenic’s brother Danny, Danny’s friend Dave, and little RJ. The five were returning to their motel after having dinner at Captain Jack’s Lobster Shack, one of the many seafood restaurants in Saco, Maine.
Danny squatted on his haunches, balancing himself as Ricky made sharp turns and rapid stops and starts. “Good meal, huh Dommy? I love fish-n-chips, but they never give you enough tartar sauce,” he said.
Domenic stopped looking at his hands and nodded. “I thought the waitress was hot,” he said smiling at Danny. “RJ, did you get enough to eat?” he asked the boy who had his back to the wall of the van. Ricky Junior mumbled his response. “Yeah, it was good.”
“He fuckin’ better have! The kid’s plate cost me ten bucks,” Ricky said without a smile. Domenic looked at Ricky and thought, Yeah, he eats like his old man. He remembered his own father and what a struggle it had been to get quality food. Years and years of plain spaghetti and PB&J, while his father, and a woman who wasn’t his mother, ate Chinese food and other take-out meals. He and the other kids didn’t starve, but they were second-class compared to the two adults–or her fuckin’ kids. He didn’t care. He ate their leftovers. Fuck them.
“Hey, pass me a joint,” said Ricky with a nod of his head in the direction of the glove compartment.
Within the glove box, a zip-lock baggie contained a half-dozen rolled joints and some loose seeds and stems. He gave a joint to Ricky and returned the bag. As Ricky lit the marijuana cigarette with the in-dash lighter, Domenic said, “Hey, maybe you should wait ‘til we get back to the motel.” Domenic knew that Ricky already had four beers at the restaurant; he was a big guy, but why risk it?
Ricky stopped at a red light by jamming his foot on the brake. Domenic heard someone tumble to the floor of the cargo area. With the joint sticking out of his mouth, Ricky turned to Domenic and said, “Shut up Dommy. When you drive, you can not smoke a joint.” His face was red like a peeled tomato, and Domenic knew better than to push him when he was like this.
A horn blared behind them. Both men looked up to see a green light. The car honked again. Domenic watched Ricky’s anger change targets from him to the driver of the car behind them. Shit, Domenic thought as Ricky looked furiously into the side mirror. Ricky’s hand went to the door handle. Domenic knew what was about to happen. He had heard from Dean of the incident in which Ricky had savagely beaten an old man who had cut him off. He also knew the brute had ripped Diana’s boyfriend from his car by the kid’s hair. Dommy wasn’t afraid of him, but he was afraid of what the man could do.
Domenic’s shout brought the big man out of his rage long enough for him to forget the car and jump on the gas. The van roared through the intersection. Ricky took a hit off his joint, turned to Domenic and said, “Don’t fuckin’ yell at me.”
Domenic said, “You were about to go after that guy.”
Ricky glanced into the rear view mirror. “Fuck,” he said.
The blue and white lights halted their conversation. Ricky kept driving. He leaned over Dommy, reaching into the glove box. He withdrew the transparent bag of marijuana, turned to the cargo area and put it in Dave’s hand. “Hide this,” he said. Without objection, Dave stuffed the bag into his pants.
“Pull over,” Domenic said.
“I am. Fuck you!” Ricky steered the van off the road. He extinguished the lit join on his tongue before swallowing it.
The blue lights kept flashing. The five waited. A slim officer walked around the vehicle. Domenic could see him in the side mirror looking for anything out of the ordinary, a reason he could write a ticket. The cop took his time checking the windows; he scrutinized the bumper, the license plates, and the inspection sticker before coming to a stop slightly behind the driver’s side window. “License and registration,” he said. Ricky had them ready. He handed them off and started to roll up the window, but the cop put out his gloved hand. Ricky stopped turning the handle. The cop sniffed the air. “Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?”
“You took some time at the green light back there. Have you been drinking?”
“I had one at the restaurant.”
Dumbass! You always lie and say you haven’t had a drop, Dommy thought.
“Please step out of the vehicle.”
Another cruiser pulled in behind them. A second officer joined them. They put Ricky through a standard DWI investigation–walk a straight line, hands on your nose. Four beers and a joint barely registered with the giant. “Stand over here,” the second cop directed Ricky to the side.
A third squad car arrived. The pigs were ready for trouble.
“I detected the scent of marijuana. We will need to search the vehicle,” said the first cop to Ricky. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me before we look? Will I find any weapons or illegal paraphernalia? Best to tell me now. I don’t like surprises.”
“No,” said Ricky with a glance at Dave.
The cops searched the van and questioned the men, but not the minors–Dave and RJ. Domenic had experience talking to cops; he looked them in the eye and answered their questions with confidence. No, he hadn’t been drinking (he didn’t drink). No, he hadn’t smoked any weed this evening (he hadn’t). No, he had not seen anyone smoke pot in the van tonight.
“Please lift your shirt,” the second cop said to Dave. The sixteen-year-old did as he was told. In his waistband was the baggie full of joints. The cop slammed him against the van and cuffed him. Domenic glared at Ricky with sharp eyes. He pulled the man aside and said through clenched teeth, “You’re gonna let him take the rap for you?!”
Ricky put his paw on Domenic’s shoulder and pulled him close, “Keep your fuckin’ mouth shut, Dommy,” he said in a whisper. “You were gonna smoke some, too. He’s a minor. They won’t do anything to him.”
Domenic knocked Ricky’s hand away and pushed him halfway into the road. Both men began to shove one another. Despite Ricky’s size, Domenic’s passion and agility allowed him to hold his own against the larger man.
“You better break that up, or they’re both going to jail,” the third cop said to Danny. Only a year younger than Domenic, Danny was no less brave. He inserted himself between the two. “Knock it off!” he shouted. The two fighters were still huffing and puffing when they turned away from each other.
Minutes later, the blue lights faded into the night as the cop cars brought Dave back to the station. “What happened?” said little RJ to his father. Ricky stomped his way back to the van. The remaining three were barely inside before he stomped on the gas and roared into the night.
Domenic beats Ricky. Badly. In front of the big man’s son. This does not sit well with him. He gets his brother Ron and a shotgun and go to Domenic’s apartment to get the power back.
October 17, 1981
Every night for two weeks before he fell asleep, Dean lay in his bed dreading this moment. The roar of a shotgun blast preceded screams and shouts. He remained in his bed, denying what he knew was happening. He wished he were wrong. He wished Dommy had listened to him. He wished he had done something else to help, but he didn’t know what.
He wished he were dreaming.
Time leaped forward. Dean was outside Dommy’s adjacent apartment without any concept of having traversed the distance. He watched a man with a shotgun, a man he knew, but could not place, entering his brother’s home. Glass from the window lie in pieces on the green linoleum of the kitchen floor. The splintered wooden window frame now wrapped around an empty hole. The spot where he had days earlier warned his brother was shattered. There would be no way to bring back the place where he and his big brother had smoked pot, played cards, sung songs, and strummed guitar. It was gone forever.
Through the hole, he saw Domenic barreling down the stairs. His brother was not fleeing the danger–he was racing straight into it!
Around the corner, at the doorway, Dean watched Domenic attack the man with unmatched ferocity. He now recognized the man as Ron, Ricky’s younger brother. He was built like a tank! Domenic beat Ron with a baseball bat that he wielded like a samurai sword, knocking aside the shotgun and smashing his opponent in the shoulder and head with broad swipes. After the assault, his victim was still conscious, but dazed. Blood was splashed over his head and body. It ran in rivers of red.
Dean was struck by the scene of violence before him. He had seen fights before–on tv, from his father, between his brothers, and on the streets. Those battles were just skirmishes compared to the ferocity of the hostility before him. He knew his brother could get angry, but he had never seen him fight for his life.
Time, which had raced earlier, now slowed to a crawl. The sheer savagery of his brother overtook him and froze him in place. Ron slipped on his blood as he tried to backpedal out the door. The shotgun, still steaming from its blast, lay on the ground next to Ron. “Dean! Get the gun!” Dommy’s frantic command hit the teenage boy like a flamethrower and unfroze him. As he lunged for the weapon, he was knocked into the air, propelled across the kitchen by the errant arm of Ricky charging into the room. Dean flew through the air. before he crashed through the kitchen table, Ricky picked up the gun and aimed it at Domenic. Time caught up to Dean; in an instant, he was groaning and struggling to get out of the ruins of the wooden table.
Domenic stopped. “Get on your knees,” said Ricky. Without objection, he dropped down placing his knuckles flat against the linoleum. Air rushed into his nose and came out his mouth in angry blasts. Ricky smiled a crooked toothy grin. He raised the gun so that it pointed at the plastic crucifix above the stove. The shotgun erupted spraying fragments in a controlled stream; Domenic did not flinch as the blast sprayed over his head. Jesus and the crucifix disintegrated against the destructive force of the gun’s pellets.
“Ricky, c’mon, man,” Dean said as he stood up from the wreckage of the table. Still dazed from the impact, he found the strength to say, “You guys can talk it out. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
Ricky pulled the gun away from Domenic and aimed it at the teenager. He said, “Mind your own fuckin’ business, Dean.”
In the instant Ricky changed targets Domenic attacked. He covered a half-dozen steps in a single leap. The gun clattered to the floor as he unleashed an onslaught of punches against Ricky. The big man didn’t have an instant to mount a counterattack. All he could do was try to fend off the hail of strikes. Desperate to get some distance from the relentless assault, he stumbled from the kitchen into the hallway and out into the parking lot. Domenic did not allow him a moment of reprieve. He pursued the fleeing man into the night.
Alone in the kitchen, Dean and Ron stared dumbly at each other. Both were dizzy and confused. Ron said, “I just…I just want to go home.” He wasn’t crying, but tears threatened to mix with the blood on his face. Dean picked up the shotgun from the blood-stained lime-green linoleum. He looked into the battered eyes of the man who came to his brother’s home with a deadly weapon. Dean stared at the gun. It seemed like an alien item in his hands. He aimed it at Ron’s head and rested his finger on the still-warm trigger. His eyes burrowed deep into Ron’s. He saw only a frightened man, his face twisted in fear and confusion, perhaps one who would follow his brother anywhere. “I just wanna go home,” the man said again. Dean saw himself in those eyes. He understood him.
He made a mistake he would regret the rest of his life.
He handed the gun back.
Ricky gets the gun from his brother and kills Domenic, but for purposes of the presentation I skip over the details of the murder. The men are caught and the next scene is the end of a short trial.
July 1, 1982
“Dean, you’ll never guess what happened!” Diana said, running from the courthouse. Dean sat on the steps smoking a cigarette. Diana was a young mother, but she was still a kid. Even after the judge had just told her that she was not to repeat what happened in court, she immediately opened her big mouth.
“Diana, shut up,” Dean said, as he looked around for witnesses to her contempt.
They were called back. The jury had reached a verdict.
After they shuffled inside, the judge asked if the jury had reached a decision. This was it! Dean squeezed his little sister’s hands. Finally, there would be justice. They could move on with their lives.
“On the charge of manslaughter the jury finds Richard Sullivan guilty .”
There was a noticeable gasp from the crowd that prompted a gavel banging from the judge. He could hear a woman sobbing. He knew it was Darlene. He has heard her cry before, but never with so much sorrow. He doubted she cried this much when she found out her brother was dead.
“We the jury find Ronald Sullivan not guilty.”
The crowd murmured their thoughts to one another. The judge ordered Ron to be immediately released, following some paperwork. He ordered Ricky remanded to custody.
Dean stared at nothing, his face aghast, drained of color. Diana’s eyes opened wide. Her face thrust toward Dean’s. She said, “Manslaugter and innocent? That’s it? They killed Dommy. It’s over?” She squeezed his hand with all the might she could muster. “We can have a retrial or something, right?” Her eyes made demands of his. They burrowed into him.
Dean placed his other hand across hers. He didn’t look at her as he said, “Nope. That’s it. Ron goes home. Ricky will get sentenced later. Probably spend a few years in jail.” He started to stand, but she held. She said, “Ricky gets a few years in jail and Ron gets to go home? Fuck!” The familiar, yet unpracticed, word came out before she could stop herself, a swear Domenic would never hear.