A Friend of the Family: Chapter One
The fisherman and I both turn. The red and white cigarette boat is stalling in the water about fifteen feet from where I sit, and its young captain has perched himself up on the deck, a pair of binoculars around his neck.
"You know who I am?" the kid shouts.
I stand to get a better look. It takes me a minute, but I do in fact know who he is: Roseanne Craig's brother. A nasty piece of work; he used to torture his sister, my patient, Roseanne. They worked together on the floor of Craig Motors. He's been bumping into me every so often these past few months, on line at the Grand Union, buying beer at Hopwood Liquors. He even slashed two of my Audi's tires last September, before I traded in the Audi for the Escort, which I don't think he recognizes as mine. An elderly patient saw him do it and called the cops, but I didn't press charges.
"We're gonna fucking have your ass, Dizinoff!"
Slowly I put my hands on my knees; slowly I stand up. "Are you stalking me, Craig?"
"We're gonna fucking have your ass! I'm just telling you now! Get ready!" His voice is strained across the water.
"Have you really been stalking me?"
"I'm not stalking you, Dizinoff. I'm warning you."
"Very kind of you," I say. How did he know I would be at this park? Why does he have a cigarette boat? I look up and down the river, not sure who or what I expect to find, but I expect to find something: a camera crew, the long arm of the law.
"I'll get you!" the kid on the boat screams.
"You should get out of here," the fisherman mumbles in my direction. He's slitting open the side of a bluefish, the blade of his knife sliding neatly through the pearl gray skin. With a bare hand he slides out the fish's entrails and throws them back into the river, where they roil for a moment before disappearing. I don't want to get out of here. This is my park. This is a place that's still mine.
"Kids like that…," the fisherman warns.
"He doesn't know me," I say, absurdly.
"You never know what they're gonna do." He puts the bluefish fillets in his cooler, picks up the next wriggling fish, knocks its brain loose against the piling, and lets it rest on the bench to be gutted.
"Dizinoff, you listening to me? We're going to have your ass! Decision comes fucking Monday. You listening, motherfucker?" The kid bends down into the cockpit of his boat, and despite myself, I shiver. From the interior, the kid removes something small, silver, shiny. Aims it at me. I take a deep breath. Squint, try to figure out what he's holding.
A can of beer. For Christ's sake.
Today is Saturday. On Monday, the judge will let us know whether she'll take the Craig family's case. On Tuesday, my wife will finally go see the lawyer about the divorce. And then I will know what's what, and I can plan for the rest of my life.
"We're gonna destroy you," the kid says. Then he pitches the can of beer at me, unopened, surprisingly hard and fast. It hits my shin before I can move, stings like a bitch, falls to the pavement, and explodes, sending up a geyser of beer against my legs.
"You should get out of here, man," the fisherman mutters, almost as if he's talking to his fish.
A few feet away, the beer-can bomb rolls to a stop, foams, and hisses. I cross my arms against my chest. My pants are drenched, my heart is thrumming, the kid in the boat sneers but does not laugh.
"Are you crazy?" I shout.
The Soviet Union. Good and evil. Once upon a time I knew what was right and what was wrong.