Real Amish

“They probably ain’t even real Amish!  I mean, whoever heard of a 30-foot neon fucking billboard advertising an Amish market?”

My cousin Bobby wasn’t a particularly bright guy.  One time, he got chemical burns on his urethra for trying to piss into his ex-girlfriend’s gas tank.  But maybe in this, he had a point.

I took a swig of my lager.

“You really think this could work?”

“If they’re real Amish, it could work,” conceded Bobby.  “You’ve seen how packed the parking lot gets on Sundays.  They don’t like cops; they don’t like violence… it’s gonna be like taking candy from a baby.”

“And if they aren’t really Amish?”

Bobby shrugged and tossed his empty bottle in the ditch.  It shattered in a million glass splinters on the rocks below.

“I dunno.  I guess if they ain’t Amish, then they’re taking in all that cash tax-free, right?  Fucking tax cheats, man.  And then they deserve what’s coming to them…”

Bobby lit up a busted- looking joint that he produced from the back pocket of his jeans.

“Fucking tax cheats, man,” he repeated as he exhaled.

I nodded and took another swig of my beer.

“Go over it again.”

The plan was simple enough.

Smash and grab, following one of those Sunday tourist feeding frenzies.  We come in fast and hard, masks and shotguns.  No need for ammo – guns are only there for show anyway, to convince the Amish we aren’t fucking around.  Bobby’s high school buddy, Trey, works at an auto body shop in the next town over, and can get us a getaway car with swapped-out plates.  In and out and a big-ass payday.

The weekend before the job, we cased the market to get a lay of the land.  Bakery, woodworking stand, a place that sells those pounded metal stars they put on the sides of barns, butcher shop.  Girls in long, plain skirts and hair coverings, guys in long beards and wide hats attended to the needs of fat, loud and balding tourists who frankly could have gone without that second slice of Shoo-Fly Pie.

Maybe it was pre-heist jitters or a bit of paranoia from the spliff I split with Bobby before we went into the market, but I could have sworn the big oaf behind the meat counter was eyeing me up.  Guy was a head and a half taller than anyone else in the market and looked like he was carved out of solid oak – and he was giving me serious stink-eye.  I chalked it up to overactive imagination and didn’t mention anything to Bobby about it.  I didn’t need him thinking I’m chicken shit.

The day of the job, we hung back on the freeway, and watched until the neon billboard went out, signaling that the market was closed for the day.  We pulled down our ski masks and sped into the parking lot.  The door was chained shut with an ancient looking padlock that gave way easy enough with a good shot from the stock of Bobby’s shotgun.

We charged into the market.  Amish shopkeepers were busy closing up for the day – cleaning counters and counting piles upon piles of cash.  I grabbed one of the nearby elders and bloodied his nose to make my point.

“This is a fucking stickup!” I screamed.

CRACK

Bobby dropped to the floor next to me, unconscious.

“What the…”

I spun around, coming face-to-fist with the big guy from behind the meat counter.  Everything went dark.

When I woke up, it was cold and dark.

“Man, I knew they weren’t Amish.  Fucking tax cheats, man…”

Bobby was babbling behind my back.  Our hands were zip-tied behind us.

The freezer door opened.

“Not even fucking Amish…” Bobby muttered.

The old guy with the bloody nose stood, framed in the doorway.

“’Fraid your mistaken, English.  We’re Amish through and through.  But Samuel here – “ he motioned to the big guy from the meat counter “– well, he isn’t Amish.  We hired him to turn on the billboard and do other chores, like take out the trash.

“Samuel, if you please… would you take out the trash?”

Samuel grinned and cracked his knuckles.  This was going to hurt.


Immigrant Story

I stuff my hands inside the pockets of my pea coat and square my shoulders to make myself look bigger than I am as I cross the street in front of the Bank of New York building on 34th and 5th.

My grandfather helped build this bank.

He came over from Ireland, one of thousands of tempest-tost tossers looking for a better world and better opportunities on the other side of the proverbial golden door.  He came from a family that had survived famine, British subjugation, poverty and despair.  He traveled across the ocean in cramped quarters where sickness ran rampant among the passengers.  He was met in America with closed doors and “Irish Need Not Apply” signs on unwashed windows.

When he finally did find work, they put him on the 13th floor of the Knickerbocker Trust Company building, lugging bricks.  One day in 1935, he caught a bucket of mortar dropped from the 15th floor with his forehead, and the lights went out for good.  The bank never paid a dime of restitution for his injuries.

With no sight, no savings, and a sizable dent in his forehead, he couldn’t provide for a family.  To make ends meet, my grandma, a Polish-Jewish immigrant whose mother died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire when she was a little girl, opened a seamstress shop out of their one-room apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.

Halfway across the street, I roll the ski mask down over my face.

One day in 1947, my grandma was walking home from the butcher shop when she was grabbed by three men and dragged into an alley.  She fought them off as best she could.  My grandma was a fighter.  When she jammed a sewing needle into the arms and neck of one of the men, they got even more violent.

When she got back to their apartment later that night, her shirt torn, her eye swelled shut, her lip busted open, she was still clutching the sewing needle in her left hand.  Three days later, the police arrived at the apartment to question my grandmother for assaulting the men who attacked her.

The owner of a taco stand on the corner of the street sees me crossing, and slides the order window shut.

My mother came here from Guatemala in the 1970s, a refugee of that country’s civil war.  She met my Polish/Jewish-Irish father with the sky-blue eyes, and fell in love, despite her parents’ protests.

My father always wanted more, and developed a gambling habit which ended up getting him killed by a local wannabe mobster over a couple hundred dollars bet on the Buffalo Bills during the 1989 AFC Championship game.  My mother worked double shifts as a housekeeper in New York Presbyterian Hospital to support me and my sister.  She died last year of a heart attack.

I swing the door open, and pull the handgun out of my coat pocket, cracking the surprised security guard at the door on the side of the head.  I think of my grandpa, “Paddy” O’Halloran, and that at least I didn’t dent this poor bastard’s forehead.

An older woman tries to grab for the gun, and I push her down on her ass.  I think of Babcia Irena and silently thank this woman for fighting back.

I quickly walk across the lobby of the building to where my sister, the bank teller with the sky-blue eyes who dreamt this whole thing up, feigns fear.  She dutifully starts packing large denomination bills into a bank bag, and conveniently leaves the dye pack out.

We’ll meet up later, and figure out how to sanitize the cash so we can spend it.  For the moment, I allow myself a small sense of satisfaction.  For my grandpa.  For Babcia Irena.  For my mom who sacrificed so much for us.  For the assholes in the White House who think we should all go back to where we came from.  For the bigots who call us Mick, Kike or Spic.  For me, my sister, and all the shit our family has had to put up with through the years – finally, bank bag in hand, I’m holding our piece of the American Dream.


Bar Food

Just another asshole in a sweat-stained trucker cap: the kind with a faux-vintage beer company logo plastered across the crown.

Just another loud-mouthed, flannel-clad, B.O.-stinking asshole, same as all the rest. Drunk, mean bastard, cussing up a storm and bragging to his buddies in the townie bar about his latest sexual conquest with the nuance of a fucking caveman. Tits this, pussy that, lewd hand gestures, obnoxiously loud laugh. I hated him from the moment I first saw him.

I ordered him a Pabst tallboy and had it sent over from the other end of the bar.

I’ve dealt with his type before. All he needed to know was that the brewski was from a woman – hell, any woman would do – and his little flannel entourage got banished to the pool tables so he could sidle up to me and ooze his redneck charms.

I played the sweet little lass, just flattered that he might pay me any mind at all. Once that hand of his landed on my bare thigh, just below the frayed border of my cutoff shorts, I knew the trap had sprung shut.

Stupid bastard hadn’t even realized it, but he was already snared.

I suggested we go someplace a little more private. He got up from his bar stool and staggered.

“Prolly not a good idea f’r me t’drive…” he slurred.

“That’s fine. I’ll drive.”

We went out to the parking lot, and climbed into my late-model Dodge Charger. He was all hands as I guided the car down the lonely two-lane highway and onto the dirt path. I ignored the tarnished wedding band on his left ring finger. I told myself that she was going to be better off, whoever the hell she was.

When he got particularly handsy, I had to remind him to be a nice little boy – that patience would pay off in the end. Finally, I pulled up into a dusty parking lot.

“You ever been skinny dipping?”

His eyes lit up, and he fumbled with the door handle before wobbling out of the passenger seat. I left the driver’s side, took his hand, and led him down the path through the woods.

“Just a little bit up this way,” I told him.

“… not feeling… good…” he said.

His legs buckled and he fell face first into a patch of brambles.

Fuck.

I didn’t expect him to be such a lightweight. The timing was always the hardest part. You dose him too early – like I had apparently done – and you ran the risk of having to drag his big ass the rest of the way to camp. You dose him too late, and you have to deal with him pawing at you until the roofies kick in. I grabbed a boot and lugged him along to where I had set up at the lakeside.

I pulled the contents from his ratty-assed wallet: couple small bills, an Amex card… I tossed the expired Diner’s Club card and an ancient-looking condom, and tucked the rest into my bra strap. Using a pair of large fabric shears, I snipped his clothes off, and used the strips to tie his hands behind a large tree at the water’s edge.

A few hours later, he awoke.

“If yer gonna do something t’ma butt, I ain’t into that kinda thing,” he said groggily, with all of the confidence of someone who was probably actually into that kinda thing.

“Honey, that ain’t what this is…” I smiled sweetly, pointing the battery-powered carving knife down at the stumps that used to be his legs. “…but a girl’s gotta eat.”

He looked down past the tourniquets. His eyes went wide. He screamed and screamed, but no one was around to hear him.

When I’d had my fill – long after the screaming had stopped – I tossed that stupid beer hat of his into the dying fire. I changed out of my blood-soaked clothes, rinsed my hands in the lake, and walked back to the Charger. I hopped in the driver’s seat, and took off down the road.

By the time the Podunk sheriffs found him, and the media started writing sensational stories about “Lady Jeffrey Dahmer,” I’d be in another townie bar, with new hair, new nails, and a wicked case of the munchies…