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.I slowed my speech down and lowered it, and spoke as seldom as possible.Every loner high school kid should be given a deadly serious incentive to fit in.It cools you up fast.I also started dealing drugs.I had a connection through a nerd I’d known at my old high school, before my grandparents were killed and all my friends had stopped speaking to me because they didn’t know what to say.The nerd’s older brother was making a business of it, and got me eight-ounce bags of weed and full-on ounces of cocaine for a good rate.I think the two of them thought I was self-medicating.I ended up having to sell for below cost anyway—it turns out buying friends is not the world’s most unique idea—but it worked.It was through pot that Skinflick and I met.He passed me a note in class one day that said, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”I am surely God’s original asshole—a monkey in the Mayan ruins, shitting on what I can’t understand, worse than a Neanderthal.But of all the shameful things I’ve done, the easiest for me to understand is falling in love with Adam Locano and his family when I was fifteen years old.Years later, the Feds tried to break me down with it: with how only a complete dipshit could go from finding his grandparents killed by mob scumbags to living with mob scumbags, and working for them, and sucking up to them, and needing them.But the reasons were obvious.There are cops who go bad for 70,000 dollars and half a kilo of cocaine.The Locanos took me into their family.Their literal family, not some mafia movie bullshit.They took me skiing, for fuck’s sake.They took me to Paris, and afterwards Skinflick and I went to Amsterdam on the train.They were not fundamentally kind people, but they did have empathy toward others, and they were remarkably kind to me.Besides Skinflick and his parents, there were two younger brothers.And no one in that family had haunted looks, or a constant awareness of mass murder.They all seemed to face forward, into a world of life, instead of backwards into a deathtrap they couldn’t explain.And they seemed like they wanted to take me with them.I wasn’t even close to strong enough to pass it up.David Locano, Skinflick’s father, was a lawyer at a four-partner law firm near Wall Street.I later learned he was the only partner who did mob work, though he was also the one who kept the firm afloat.He wore sloppy expensive suits and had black hair that winged down off the back of his head.He never managed to fully hide how sharp and competent he was, but around his family he seemed mainly befuddled, and in awe.Any time he needed to know something—about a computer, or whether he should take up squash or go on the Zone diet or whatever—he would ask us.Skinflick’s mother, Barbara, was thin and humorous.She made appetizers frequently and either actually cared about professional sports or did a reasonable job of pretending to.“Oh please,” she liked to say.Like “Oh please, Pietro—now you’re calling him Skinflick?”(Pietro was my actual name, by the way.Pietro Brnwa, pronounced “Browna.”)And then there was Skinflick.Hanging out with him was not exactly like being brainwashed, in that brainwashing usually tries to get you to accept as desirable a reality that is, in fact, shitty, whereas hanging out with Skinflick was fun.But it had the same effect.Tell me this, for example:What is the value of one night at a bonfire party on the beach? How about if you get to be sixteen years old at the time? And you can feel the fire on one side of your face and the wind on the other, and the cold sand on your ankles and through the butt of your jeans, but the mouth of the girl you’re kissing and can barely see is hot and wet and tastes like tequila, and you feel like you’re communicating with her telepathically, and furthermore you have no regrets or disappointments in life, because for all you know the future’s going to rock, and you’ve had losses, sure, but it seems only right to expect to gain just as much as time goes on?What are you supposed to give up for that? And how do you weigh it against your obligation to the dead?It isn’t complicated: you take one look and walk away.You shake your head and go back to being a giant, lonely geek whose grandparents are dead.You be happy you’ve kept your soul.I didn’t do that.I stayed with the Locanos long after I’d gotten what I’d set out to get from them, until my life became a mockery of my original mission.I could say being raised by my grandparents had given me lousy defenses against people for whom lying and manipulation were ways of life and forms of entertainment.But I could also say that being with the Locanos made me sick with happiness, and I didn’t want it to end.And the truth is, I’ve done plenty of worse things since.3The man in the bed in the Anadale Wing is a guy I used to know as Eddy Squillante, aka Eddy Consol.“What the fuck?” I snarl, grabbing up a fistful of the front of his gown.I double-check his chart.“It says your name’s LoBrutto!”He looks confused.“It is LoBrutto.”“I thought it was Squillante.”“Squillante’s just a nickname.”“Squillante? What kind of nickname is Squillante?”“It’s from Jimmy Squillante.”“That shitbag from the garbage industry?”“The man who reinvigorated the garbage industry.And watch your mouth.He was a pal to me.”“Wait a minute,” I say.“You’re called Squillante because Jimmy Squillante was a pal to you?”“Yeah.Though his real name was Vincent.”“What the fuck are you talking about? I knew a girl named Barbara once—I don’t ask people to call me Babs.”“Probably wise.”“What about ‘Eddy Consol’?”“That’s another nickname of mine.From ‘Consolidated.’” He chuckles.“You think somebody’s real name is ‘Consolidated’?”I let go of him.“No, I got that part, thanks.”He rubs his chest.“Jesus, Bearclaw—”“Don’t call me that.”“Okay.” He trails off.“Wait a minute [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]