Spider Rickey

They say to be one of the tough guys you have to make your first kill in cold blood. You gotta have your gun at point blank and shoot without flinching.

They say for you to be a man you have to leave all your childhood behind with your mother, ‘cos you aint going to be needing it no more.

They also say that to be one of the Slim Jims, the Cool Cats, to be in with ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and ‘Lucky’ Luciano, you gotta to be a full blooded Sicilian animal. Now we aint talking about no half Sicilian half American blood here. We’re talking about the full 100% Italian.

I’ve managed to tick two out of the three statements above on my check list. I aint got no mother or other family anymore, but when I did have them they were as Sicilian as the Cosa Nostra. There’s only one thing standing in my way. One thing that will take me from being a run around kid pouring the drinks and lighting the cigars, to one of them. One of the big guys, the top cats, the killers and the givers, the fixers and the breakers. A tough guy. A real gangster. All I have to do now is whack a man.

Holding a gun in a hand that two years ago used to hold a school satchel is a chilling thought for some. For me, its progress. Two years ago I had no idea what I wanted from life, what life even had to offer me. Two years ago I was a nobody, I didn’t even know how to make a White Russian or a Dry Manhattan. Now I got myself a full working memory of all kinds of drinks, guns, suits and even a few names of the top level guys.

Two years ago if you asked for Spider Rickey, not one soul could tell you who that was. Now you ask for him, you get a smile and a nod towards the back of the bar where I pull a few shifts, making things sweet with my landlord as a way of paying for my bed upstairs.

Making a life for myself as someone who carries a gun can go two ways. Either I become a good time cop, taking a salary, a wife and a kid who likes to brag about his old man in class to all those bullies that I teach him to stand up to. Or I take to the back streets, with my name on the pin boards of every cop and police station from here to Hell’s Kitchen. No kid I can disappoint with the lack of support. No wife to slap silly because she’s asked “Honey! What’s happened?” when I come home with bloody hands and a bruise on my eye the shape of a fist. It may not seem like the good life, but I know I aint going to be no rooky cop for the rest of it…

I look down again at the gun I carry in that hand. I raise it so the guy can see I mean business. I’m not alone, I know I’m not. There’s always a couple of the big boys to make sure I do the job right, to make sure I don’t miss. Miss? How can anyone miss a skull a few centimetres, millimetres away from the barrel? I’m getting nervous, edgy. It’s okay, Rickey, I say to myself. But there’s only so many times I can say it before the effect of being okay wears off, and all you feel is the feeling of not being okay. I’m starting to ramble. I can’t back out now, I’ve given up my whole life to be a part of something big, something bigger than the law, something stronger and greater than anything I’ve ever been a part of.

The gun begins to softly shake and I realise that it’s my hand that’s shaking it, the nerves that are causing my hands to move without me asking them to. Breathing is the hardest part. The thought that I might be breathing the same air as a person who’s going to take his last breath next to me because of me, is something that stays with a person forever. I look at his face and think of all the things he could have done to land him here in front of Fat Al, Big Jim and me with the slender beauty of the pistol stuck on the side of his head.

“Do it, kid.” Big Jim’s hand on my shoulder gives me the extra drive. But it’s more than that, much more. I’m not encouraged by his words…I’m enraged. I feel the need to pull the trigger and then turn it onto Jim’s face too. Do it, kid. The words begin to replay in my head, until I just being to focus on one. Kid.

I forget about the others in the room, I forget about the curiosity I had over what this guy had done to have a bullet fuck his skull. I remember why I’m here, to have my picture on the wanted list, to have people speak my name with fear and respect. At the end of the day, that’s all everything comes down to, respect. At the end of the day I’m here to be a man, not just some kid.

I press the magic button that throws me into my new manhood, and with the spray of blood against my face I welcome my new beginning.

The other guys take care of the body, no need for me to do that, I should be celebrating. Some people have Hanukkahs, some have birthdays, rituals and get given gifts. For me it aint nothing like that. For me it’s better. Because for me it isn’t just a show, it isn’t just family and friends pretending that you’ve turned into some man who’s left his childhood behind. For me this is the big leagues.

“Good job, Rickey. Welcome to the family,” Big Jim says to me and I look up and smile as I hand him back his gun. “You keep it,” he says, “You can go a long way with that smile. You can go a lot further with the smile and a gun.”