Thomas Larsen

Thomas Larsen has been a fiction writer for twenty years and his work has appeared in Newsday, New Millennium Writing, Best American Mystery Stories and the LA Review. His novels INTO THE FIRE and FLAWED are available through Amazon.

GOOD BOY

I’m waiting for Bobby when there’s a knock at the door, hard. Someone really wants in. Evie’s mom gets it, but there’s some commotion so we go see what’s up. It’s Donna from down the block and she’s crying. There’s a car at the curb and someone’s calling from the street.

     “GET OVER HERE DONNA!”

     Boyfriend, Frank, tough guy, moved here from the city.

     “No!”

     “I’M NOT GONNA TELL YOU AGAIN.”

     “LEAVE ME ALONE”

     “GODAMMIT. DON’T MAKE ME COME UP THERE!”     

     All eyes on me, of course, not even my girlfriend and I get to face the music. I push through the door and step outside. I’m not so tough but I talk the talk.

     “She’s not coming, Frank. You got a problem take it up with me.”

     “You don’t want any part of it, Larsen.”

     This sort of thing, the more you say the stupider you sound. So, I don’t say anything. Frank holds up his arm.

     “SHE FREAKING BIT ME!”

     He starts across the lawn. I step out so the door swings shut. Frank stops and slips his hands in his pockets. I mark a spot on the bridge of his nose.

     “She’s with me, Larsen. You got nothing to say about it.”

     “OK. Come and get her.”

     It’s all bluff, but I’ll back it up. My take on Frank, he’s mostly mouth, so no way do I back down. Besides, Bobby should be here any minute. After that this kid’s toast.    

     We hold our poses as lights go on across the street. Behind me momma jabbers away in fractured English. Evie and Donna try to pull her from the door, but she’s a big woman and she loves me like the son she never fed.

     “You go home now,” she yells to Frank. “You go or I calla cop.”

     Frank goes all cold-blooded.  “I won’t forget this, Larsen.”

     I hold his eyes and move not a muscle. He turns with a scowl and fires off the curb in a screech of rubber. 

     OK. My work is done here.

     “… and then he made me get out right there at the intersection!” Donna gives the rundown, how she had to walk here from the light, how Frank trailed behind her flashing his high beams. Works herself up good, though that light is only two block away.

     “My hero!” Evie wraps her arms around me.

     “How you like dat galumpa?” momma wrings her hands. “Yellin’ like dat. You a good boy, Tommy. You stand up to that boy real good. How do like like dat guy? Crazy, I tell ya. You want I make you a sandwich, Tommy? Let me make a nice sandwich.”

      Bobby rolls in an hour later, Donna’s still here and momma is still up. Another sandwich and the whole story later Bobby and I take Donna home. And she won’t let it go, how Frank treats her in public, his low life friends. Bobby seems to be listening. It’s hard to tell.

     “You watch, Tommy,” Donna taps my shoulder. “He’ll go after you.”

     Don’t tell me that. Having someone after you has long been an aversion of mine. Wears you out just thinking about it, just like it’s supposed to. Not that I know first-hand, but my boys make a lot shit lists. An enemy, Italian, no less, struts around like little fucking Caesar.

      Donna gathers her things as we turn in her driveway. “Well, this has certainly been a lovely evening.”

     Bobby catches her arm as she moves for the door.

     “Forget all this and get some sleep. I’ll talk to Frank.”

     “You WILL? Oh, Bobby he’ll listen to you. I know he will,” Donna hugs him tight. “Oh, thank you, thank you.”

     That done, we head for home. At least that’s what I’m thinking until Bobby makes an unscheduled turn.

     “Where we going?”

      Bobby grins over. “Talk to Frank.”

     “Now?” I check the dash. “It’s almost two in the morning.”

     He punches the pedal. “Good chance we’ll catch him at home,”

     I don’t say anything. The Good brothers deal in mayhem and trying to talk them down

will get you nowhere. I crack the window and light a smoke, the long night getting longer.

     Everybody knows Frank’s place, out by the golf course, jive ass modern, big as an airport. Where they get their money, I don’t want to know. Bobby pulls down the drive, bright lights flashing on the windows.

     “What the fuck would you do with all that room?”

     I smack my lips. “Maybe start a gun collection?”

     Then I cringe in horror as he lays on the horn. And not just any horn, this one blares “La Cucaracha” in trumpets. And again, until the front door opens and Frank steps out, shields his eyes and hustles over.

     “Hey! Hey! Hold it, come on hey!”  Through the high beams as a last blast sends him reeling. “Whoa, Jesus, hey!!”

     Bobby cuts the lights and kills the engine. A deep silence falls over. This would make me nervous if I was in Frank’s shoes.

     “Who is that, Goody? Is that you?”

     Bobby leans a bicep out the window. “Evening Frank.”

     “What are you doing here?”

     He shrugs. “Wanted to take a look at the place. Used to be Ben Halsey’s farm, you know.”

     Here we go, Bobby rap.

     “Halsey Road, this used to be,” he nods.

     A mom voice calls from the shadows. “What’s going on, Frankie?”

     “Nothing, just some friends.”

     “What, they got Mexicans in that damn school?”

     “Ma, please. I’ll be in in a minute.”

     We hear a door slam then again that silence. Bobby breaks it getting out of the car.

     “I remember they used to plant these fields with alfalfa one year and corn the next. Little Tommy Larsen can tell you.”

     That’s me.

     “This is nuts,” Frank keeps his distance. “My dad wakes up and we’re all history.”

     Bobby leans back into the fender, arms folded, hair perfect.

     “Got a message for you Frank,” his voice goes serious. “You’ve been stepping on some friends of mine. That’s a bad move, son. Worst move you can make. ‘Cause now?” Dramatic pause. “You even look at ‘em wrong and a world of bad comes down on you.”

     Frank tries for defiant. “What, you’re threatening me?”

     “Absolutely.”

     “Who do you-” he starts but thinks better of it.

     The whole time I’m watching the door, the windows, praying daddy or his capos don’t show. I think of home, my bed, how I’d love to be in it. How maybe I need a break in the action. Christ, a week of sleep, starting tomorrow.

      “Yeah, old Halsey was a crazy fuck,” Bobby pushes off and circles behind the car. “Used to keep a still up in those woods back in the day.”

     At first, I think rain, but it turns into Bobby hosing down the driveway, Frank right there squirming in his pj’s.

     “Those were the days,” Bobby zips up loudly. “Yeah, my old man hauled some rotgut outa here.”

     He comes back around and calls to me. “What time we got, T?”

     “Two-thirty,” I tell him.

     “Whoo, that’s late,” Bobby stares off like the cameras are rolling. “Tell me something, Frank. How many bathrooms in that hotel?”

      He can’t help but answer. “Six.”

     “Imagine that!” Bobby slides behind the wheel. “Six motherfucking bathrooms!”

     The old Ford roars to life then settles in a killer rumble, Bobby’s cars, every one a honey. Lights dance on the house as we back out the drive, U-turn over the front lawn and baffle off in a blaze of trumpets.

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