01-11-2012, 09:35 PM
Springs set down his pen, sighing with satisfaction. It was finished--done and done. Now he just needed to get it typed up and sent to a publisher. He picked up his address book, found the number he needed, and dialed. A pause while the phone on the other end rang, then a female's voice answered. "Hello?"
Well, this book's done now. Just about everybody I wrote about is gone--Mick, Blusey, Shorty, Tina LaRue, Bugsy, Lansky, the Rat Pack, Mick, Jr.--everyone I knew from the old days have gone on to the great hereafter. Now, it's just me and my memories. Like the man said, the dance is over, but the melody lingers on. There's only me left to tell the story, and I told it to you right here. Everything in this book is as true as I'm sitting here, no crap. Take it or leave it
"Hey, sweetheart, how ya doin'?" Springs greeted her jovially.
"I'm fine, Mr. Springs, thank you," Heather Piccucci replied. "You have your manuscript ready?"
Springs held up the sheaf of papers on his writing desk. "Right here, sweetheart. Think you can decipher my chicken scratch and make it look like a book?"
"I worked in a pharmacy, Mr. Springer," Heather replied. "I can decipher anything."
Springs laughed. "Then you should have no problem with mine," he said. "By the way, how you holdin' up? I mean, with your mother...you know..."
"In all honesty, Mr. Springer, I feel no more grief for her than you do," Heather admitted. "I was just in the way, that's all. Mother would scream at me, belittle me, and order me about--when she wasn't ignoring me altogether. My only advantage to her was for claiming the inheritance because Mick was my dad. I can't tell you how I felt when the police told me she was dead; the day she died was the day my life began. I got a good job, my own place now, and when I get that inheritance, I'm going to put it away in an interest bearing account. I'm free, Mr. Springer, I belong to myself now, and I'm happy, happier than I've ever been in my life."
Springs couldn't help but smile. "That's good, sweetheart. That's real good. So, when you comin' over to pick up the book?"
"Would tomorrow afternoon be all right?" Heather suggested. "Say, noonish?"
"Works for me," Springs agreed. "Cassie will be here to give it to you."
"I thought her name was Casey."
"Whatever. She'll be here at any rate."
"All right, Mr. Springer, I'll see you tomorrow."
Springs hung up. He began to bundle the finished manuscript with the photographs he chose to include in the book. He didn't want to lose a single one of those pictures, not a single one. They weren't just snapshots, they were history; they told his story better than what he wrote--a picture's worth a thousand words, like the man said. Springs was the only one left of The Guys, and he felt he owed it to his fallen comrades in arms to tell their story, and to set the record straight. The photos would do just that. When his book came out, The Guys of Glitter Gulch would be as familiar as Bugsy Siegel or Lucky Luciano or Meyer Lansky.
Nancy Rose pulled into the nearest parking space next to the large modern brick structure that was St. Benedict's Catholic Church. Alicia sat next to her in the small sedan, puzzled at this unexpected stop. "Uh, Mom? Why are we stopping at the church?" she asked innocently.
Her mother said nothing, but turned off the engine and shifted into park. "Out," she ordered. "Both of you."
Her two children exited the sedan quietly and obediently, but still puzzled as to why they were there in the first place. Nancy escorted them inside the church, heading straight to the priest's office where Father Michael was waiting. Alicia felt her stomach tie itself in a knot, just like it did when she was bought in for questioning in Vegas. Whatever Father Mike had to say to her, she knew it would not be pleasant. But why was Kyle coming along as well? she wondered. Probably because Mom didn't want to leave him alone in the car, more than likely--a wise precaution, knowing Kyle.
There was a wooden settee next to the door of the priest's office. "Sit there," Nancy commanded her son and daughter. "Don't move until I get back. And not a word out of either of you."
They sat on the settee, looking up at their mother in silent bemusement. Nancy knocked on the office door. Alicia heard a faint "come in" from inside, then watched as her mother entered the office, closing the glass-paneled door behind her. The office foyer was oppressively quiet, save for the muffled voices coming from behind the glass door. Alicia could only guess what they were talking about. From her past experience growing up Catholic, she reasoned why she was here.
Kyle's boredom from sitting so long triggered his instinct for mischief. He turned to his sister and fired the opening salvo. "You're really gonna get it now, Alicia," he whispered threateningly. "You know what Father Mike does to kids who get in trouble?"
Alicia remained calm. "You should know, Kyle," she retorted just as quietly. "It's not like you haven't been here before. You've been sent here so many times, they should have a sign on this bench: reserved for Kyle Rose."
Kyle fired another round. "Yeah, but you skipped school for a whole week," he reminded her. "That's major big-time trouble."
"It wasn't a whole week," Alicia said, still remaining calm. "Just four days."
"That's still a whole week," Kyle argued.
Alicia knew that Kyle was trying to drag her into a fruitless "is-not-is-too" debate. Refusing to take the bait, she simply shrugged. "Whatever," she deadpanned.
"I bet you get grounded for a whole year!" Kyle went on. "I bet Father Mike makes you say a million rosaries as penance! I bet you have to stay after school every day for ever and ever! I bet they won't even let you graduate! I bet you get paddled on your butt until you can't sit down--"
"He can't do that," Alicia said. "That's illegal."
"So's running away and skipping school," Kyle argued. "I bet you end up in Juvie!"
Alicia smiled. "That'd be nice," she retorted lightly. "I'd be away from you, anyway."
Kyle grew frustrated. Alicia's calm demeanor irritated him. He struggled to come up with an even more dire fate awaiting his sister, something that would cause her to crack, or at least make her raise her voice at him and so get in even more trouble with Mom. Suddenly, the office door opened, startling them both. Father Mike stuck his head out of the frame. "Alicia, could you step in here for a moment?" he asked.
Alicia took a deep breath and stood up. This was it, she thought, whatever it was. As she stepped into the office, her mother stepped out, leaving her alone to face her fate with Father Mike. "I'll be right outside," she said. "In case you need me."
I'm not going to break, Alicia vowed. I'm going to defend myself like never before. Father Mike can't hurt me--at least not physically.
Father offered her a leather cushioned chair in front of his desk. Instead of sitting behind his desk, however, he took the other chair beside it. Alicia was wary of this unexpected move. Father smiled reassuringly and sat back, one leg casually thrown over his knee. "So, Alicia," he began almost jovially, "I heard you had quite an adventure this week. Care to tell me about it?"
Alicia kept up her guard. "Tell you? Or confess to you?"
"Mother bought me here straight from the airport after I ran away to Vegas," Alicia said. "She figures if I came here, I'd be all weepy and sorry for my sins or whatever, and you'd give me some sort of pennance to do, and I'd go back to being a good little Catholic girl doing everything I'm told. She did it all the time whenever we got in trouble--drag us here to confession, then punish us in some way when we got back home."
Father shifted in his seat. "Well, could you just fill me in on why you ran away like that? You're mother was very worried about you these few days--in fact, she'd come here and pray for your safe return. Tell me, why did you run off like that?"
Alicia sighed and told the priest about her boredom, her frustrations, her brother's incessant taunting; her love for Criss Angel, her overwhelming desire to go to Loyalapalooza; her plan to get there, even to the point of selling some of her brother's old video games and conning her father out of sixty-five dollars using the Youth Retreat as a ruse ( "I have the money order right here," she insisted. "I can mail it back to him if you want."). She also told him about witnessing the murder of Tina LaRue in the hotel restroom, stressing the point that she had fully co-operated with the police during the investigation. She told him about her being taken hostage by Pamela Piccucci who had murdered Tina, and how Criss saved her life by shielding her with his own body. "He's really a great guy, Father," she insisted. "You'd like him if you met him."
"Well, I'm sure I would," Father conceded. "It was very brave of him to do that. But, Alicia," he continued, leaning a bit closer to her, "let me ask you something, and I want you to think about it very carefully: Do you honestly believe that all you had suffered in Las Vegas--the worry you caused your family, the loss of esteem in the eyes of your peers, the danger in which you put yourself while you were there--was it all really worth it just to see some magician? No, don't answer yet, I want you to go home and take some time to think about it."
"I don't have to think about it, Father," Alicia said, her head held high and staring at the priest straight in the eye. "You asked me if what I did, and what I saw, and what I went through was worth seeing Criss Angel. Well, I have to say in all honesty--yes, it was! Oh, sure, I'm sorry for stealing the money for it, and I'm sorry for causing Mother so much worry, but put yourself in my place for a minute. I'm stuck in this little one-horse town, confined in a tiny space--school, home, school, home, church once a week, then back to school, home, school, home, school, home. My brother, Kyle, is an insufferable brat--just look at his behavioral record! Mom's living in a time warp--she thinks it's still the Nineteen Fifties! And the school is so out of touch with the real world; it's afraid to move forward, get with the times. All you're doing is preparing us for the religious life instead of real life. There's a whole world out there, Father, and I want to experience it! I know the real world can get ugly at times--I've seen the headlines--but it has so much to offer, too. I love Criss Angel because he was my key to opening up a world of possibilities to me. Do you know what he wrote to me when he gave me his autograph? He wrote, 'Don't run away from your problems--conquor them!' Now that's pretty good advice, don't you think?"
"In itself, yes," Father replied. "But, Alicia, you don't understand--"
"No, Father, you don't understand," Alicia interrupted. "I've changed in these past few days. I've taken risks I would never have even considered. I've seen the world as it is, not as the church says it is--or should be. I saw evil, but I also saw good. I experienced terror and lived to tell about it. I saw reality, Father--real reality, not the reality you present in those old films you show at assembly. You could order me to say a million rosaries as a penance for stealing and lying and running away, but it wouldn't make any difference. I've changed. I'm not the little girl you used to know anymore."
"You're experiences may have changed you, Alicia," Father Mike said seriously, "but they do not justify your actions. Did you ever stop and think about the consequences of what you have done? Did you ever stop to think about how running away all the way to Las Vegas would hurt your family? Did you consider how this would affect your future? Did you ever stop to think?"
Alicia remained silent. Father Mike sat back. "I didn't think so," he said. "You're still a selfish, impusive child, you know that? You have no consideration for other people's feelings. Maybe you don't feel sorry now, but I can only hope and pray that when you think about what you've done, you'll do something to make amends."
"I already promised to give Dad back the money, didn't I?" Alicia argued.
"It's not just the money," Father said. "It's the fact that you betrayed the trust of those who love you. It's the fact that you acted upon your own selfish impulses without even thinking about the consequences. Now, I want you to go home and think about what I said. Hopefully, you'll have come to your senses by Mass tomorrow. You may go now, but send in Kyle on your way out."
Alicia rose and turned away. She couldn't help but feel a bit proud of herself for standing up for herself, and not breaking down in tears before Father Mike's browbeating. Even in her disgrace, she felt a sense of victory.