Mugsy was an idiot.
He’d always been one. Ever since the day I’d met that fat kid, his pants so tight he wore them below his gut. They were the only pair he had for years, his mom just barely keeping her son fed, she just couldn’t afford to get him anything else. But she was a piece, that mom of his. A real caring lady that one. She coddled that sack of hers everyday of her life like he’d just come out of her. When she died he became my weight. I ‘d never known what a tub he was until that day. But I jump ahead, let me cut back a bit.
My name is Ray, Raymond Danos Pemiso by birth. The only real memory I got of my father was when he told me that ain’t no one ever took a guy seriously that call himself by his given name. That guy always ended up a punching bag or dead. That was my fourth birthday present from the old man. That was the last I ever heard from him. I’d find out later that I never knew him. I’d always called him dad, and mom always called him Frank, but everyone who didn’t live with him called him Richard. Not Rich or Richie, but Richard. The name he was born with. The name he died with.
Not two weeks later a body comes up all bloated and purple on the banks. I didn’t get to watch the TV that night, I had to stay in my room and listen as my mom just cried. But I weren’t no dummy. Soon enough I figured on who washed up, and why my mom was so sad and angry all at the same time. I knew he was dead, but I weren’t the least bit sorrowed by it. The only place my old man ever felt any respect was when he was at home, when he was Frank. When he was beating me and my mom and then going off to pass out in the living room. I didn’t have to be quit anymore at night. I weren’t gonna wake no one up anymore.
This is when I met Mugsy. I’m sure he had a different name, but no one around here ever asked such things of anyone else. That was their business, and you learned real quick to let them keep it. Some kids was picking on him, Mugsy, the kid twice everyone else’s size was always getting picked on. And sure, I’d had my rounds with him, poking that gut of his, telling him he stunk and what, but he never raised a fist, just kept on walking, head to the ground, taking it, and never saying a word.
But I was done. Can’t say why. Maybe it was my old man being gone, that part of me that was from him finally came out or something, but I just stepped in between these kids that were my friends, and just started hittin them. There was three of them in all, and once I started on one the other two tried to jump in. Now I’d been beat by my old man, so these kids weren’t nothing. But I was still just a kid, and taking on 3 was still something I couldn’t do. So while I was taking care of two, the third finally caught the better of me, kicked me down and was about to stomp my face when Mugsy bear hugs him until the kid starts crying and then he drops him. We left them laying there as I walked with Mugsy the rest of the way to his house. I gave the two I’d whelped a couple of bruises, but the one Mugsy got, he had two broken ribs.
I asked Mugsy why he always let everyone pick on him, kick him around, poke him and stuff. He just shrugged it off, said he didn’t have anyone to play with, so he just thought of it as playing when anyone did pick on him. I asked him if it ever hurt, he said yeah. So I took in a breath and apologized. It was the first time I’d ever seen him smile.
From then on, Mugsy and I were friends. Really we were eachother’s only friends. It didn’t bother us none though. No one ever messed with us. Not saying we was popular or nothing, but we had respect, and I gotta say it was nice.
But Mugsy and me didn’t have much care for books or school or people telling us what to do, so we weren’t there much. So we hung around with the guys outside on the streets. The ones in the hats and the suits and just talking as they stood out on the streets in front of restaurants and stuff. They didn’t seem to mind us, and we gave em a good laugh now and again. And sure, they tried to make fun of Mugsy, but I’d always be there to keep it straight. They’d say they’re sorry, and just rub our heads.
So after a while, we was getting to be a good age, so we dropped school and just started helping out at the restaurant. A place called Geno’s. We got all the food we wanted, and even a little dough on the side. Mugsy went out and bought himself a suit. It was a joke at first to all of us, but the Sunny, he owned this place, and he liked that Mugsy was takin it so serious. Dress for Success he’d say. So I went and done the same. That’s when Sunny started giving us errands. Little stuff. Delivering papers, books, food, whatever. After a while he saw we was good at this so he got us a car to use. It was the first car I’d ever driven, and Sunny showed me how to work the thing. He tried getting Mugsy behind the wheel, but he didn’t really fit, and just ended up backing into a newspaper shed. So Sunny said I was the driver, and Mugsy was the muscle, and that never should I ever let Mugsy behind the wheel again.
One night I woke up to people yelling outside on the streets. It was a couple of Sunny’s boys yelling at a guy in the street. It’s when I saw that other guy pull a gun, something in me just clicked, and I went to the kitchen, reached back behind the piped under the sink, and found that old pistol of my dad’s. I owed Sunny to help any one of his boys out. I made it outside just as the guy holding the gun fired, and one of Sunny’s men fell down dead. The man was yelling at the other guy, the one still standing with his hands in the air.
I didn’t even think twice before running over without any shoes and cracking the man with the gun over the side of his head. I used the handle of the gun a few more times on his face and then aimed and pulled. I’d never killed a guy before. Never even seen a dead person up close before. But like my dad dying, I didn’t care. But Bigsie, he did. Sure, the fella with him had got shot, but the guy that shot him was a cop. I’d killed a cop.
We pulled him off the street and I stayed there while Bigsie went for Sunny. It didn’t take long, and once Sunny got there, he just hugged me, clapped me on the shoulder, and said thank you, now let’s get this cleaned up. I stayed up the rest of the night, learning how Sunny dealt with things like this.
When Mugsy came in the next day, I was just leaving. We hadn’t been apart for nearly 14 years. But today I was someone else. I finally was Ray, and there was no going back to Raymond.
Sunny started calling on me to do other things, kill other people. Always I’d keep Mugsy out of this, but that meant I barely saw him anymore. So while I was off doing jobs for Sunny, Mugsy was back at the restaurant, making food and just cleaning up. But one day he wasn’t there. Then the next day, and the next.
Sunny got worried, said not one of us should ever be away so long, so he sent me to check on him. I went over to his place but he wasn’t there so I checked a few diners, the park, still nothing. But then I figured on giving his mom’s place a try, and sure enough he was there, but when the door opened I was met with a gun to my nose.
“Ray?” he blubbered out.
“Yeah, Mugsy, what the fuck?”
He pulled me in.
“Who else is with ya?” he shouted.
“No one, buddy. I came looking for you. Sunny was…”
“Sunny’s looking for me?! Oh no!”
“What? What’s wrong with that. You ain’t been to the restaurant for a few days.”
“You don’t understand Ray. I don something. I done it wrong.”
“Mugsy, Sunny’s a good guy. Trust me. He’ll understand.”
“No he won’t. No one will.”
“What about me huh? I won’t understand?”
“Just put down the gun and tell me what’s wrong.”
“Okay,” he said reluctant “I shot someone Ray. I killed em Ray!”
“That is Mugsy? Look, I ain’t never told you this, but I shot someone too. Long time ago. Sunny’s a good guy. He knows about me, he’ll be fine with you.”
“No he won’t Ray!”
“You’re his boy, Ray. He loves you.”
“He loves all of us.”
“He won’t love me anymore. Not after what I done.”
“So what, you shot someone, it’s not like you took out one of ours or something.”
I laughed, but nothing came back. Mugsy was dead silent.
“Who’d you shoot Mugsy?”
“N-no one, Ray.”
“Mugsy! Who. Did. You. Shoot?”
“It was Bigsie, Ray! He was making fun of me. He always made fun of me. And when you weren’t around anymore, he just got worse. I didn’t mind at first. But he wasn’t my friend, Ray. Not like you. I could tell he didn’t like me. And he was on the corner the other night, just yelling at me, calling me a cow. I couldn’t help it Ray, I just shot him. I’ve never shot anyone, Ray!”
I blamed myself. Never should have left him alone. But what I was doing he shouldn’t have been involved in. His mother was a saint, loved every fat inch of her son. So I tried not to get him involved. But now he was. But he was in it all wrong. There was no forgiveness for this sort of thing.
“You have to leave, Mugsy. Get out of here. Now! Leave town.”
“I can’t Ray! I got no money. I can’t drive. I got nothing Ray. You’re my only real family now!”
“Mugsy, you don’t understand, you have to go, now!”
“Not without you, Ray. I need a friend out there. I could do this again. I don’t want to hurt people. What’s that-“
A car skid to a stop outside, and the sound of crunching metal could be heard. Mugsy ran to the window, gun in hand, and looked out on the street. It wasn’t Sunny or anyone, just a guy that wasn’t paying attention, and he drove into the car Sunny had given me.
I thought back to when I met this fat friend of mine. He was the only friend I ever really had, still, to this day, besides Sunny. But if he wasn’t going to run, there was nothing I could do to stop what would happen to him. I could only stop how it would happen. I pulled my piece out. Mugsy was still staring out the window, muttering something under his breath as he dodged his head back and forth to look down the street and around corners he couldn’t see around. I cocked the chamber into position. This was my best friend. We grew up together. Did everything together. But I went my own way, I couldn’t be there for Mugsy anymore. Not unless I wanted to share a fate I didn’t deserve.
I pulled my arm up and looked down the smooth barrel of the gun aimed at his fat head. It’s funny, I never did learn that fat fuck’s name. Oh well.