An Etched Past

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Black outlines of the window’s bars stretched across the icy concrete floor. The moon penetrated between the lines exposing the floating remnants crossing in and out of its darkly illuminating rays. The room was silent except for the creaking of the ancient bed made of rusty wire and wood. Distant groans and mutters could be heard but other than that, chilled silence. He sat starring at the concrete ceiling, scarred from past inhabitants. The worn out mattress gave way to the springs, which pressed boldly into his aged body. He squinted up at the ceiling trying to make out each engraving; scanning through pinched eyes he freezes, and reads a small cut barely visible. It say’s “I DIDN’T MEAN TO”. The words resonate through his body, his eyes glaze, and his heart stops. He is fixated on those words he can’t stop looking, he can’t stop thinking, he tries not to but he’s is taken back to were he never should’ve been from the beginning…

The smells of cigarettes and alcohol collapse on him as he walks through the door. The smell is stifling, and the forboding glares from seated men rip fear right through him as he stiffly and shakely walks toward the back room. The back room is still spinning from the massive amount of second hand smoke, but the piercing stares. of so called questionable business men, are behind the closed door. Now he just faces one face but not just any, the Mafia King of Chicago Louie Vanaldi. His figure is round, and menacing. His bald head gleamed with persperation and his brow sported a look like he was going to ask a question. His suit was black with pinstripes, his tie was gold as well as his hankercheif. He looked at the boy like he was nothing but just another henchman, another goon. The shaking boy tried to stay still, but his long slender legs quivered under his lenky frame. He spoke respectfully to Vanaldi, “Hello, Sir” in a shaky voice. He answered back, “Who are you?” Again with a quiver in his voice, “I’m Frank Ladano, Sir.” “O yea! Walter’s boy, he was a good man you know…” “Yea I know he was,” Frank answered back in a more confident voice. “Alright, what is it you need boy?” The boss asks inquisitively. “I wanna be a part of the family, I wanna make my father proud.” Vanaldi looks hesitantly at the slender young man, “Alright kid, but it ain’t that easy to just make a name for yourself.”

Frank knew that he had hung out with those types before. Those types that would do anything to make a name for themselves, and he wanted in, but felt he had an edge. He had it in his blood. His father had been a legend and unstoppable force in the Chicago mafia, until he was murdered when Frank was only five years old. Frank had never met his mother and had never had anyone to raise him but himself. So maybe it was the longing for a family that led him to mafia life. Or it may have been the stinging taste of vengence in his mouth. Whatever it was Frankie was good and learned fast.

Two months later he was back in the same club he was when he first came into the family. But now he was one of them. The same men that glared at him were now business partners and friends. Frankie was a smooth talker, that’s why he was so liked. He could talk anyone into anything, it was a gift given to few, at least thats what Louie said. By this time Louie had taken him under his wing, he liked the kid saw huge amounts of potential. Anyway, Frankie was learning and creating, he was especially good a trafficking. It was because he was such a smooth talker, no one could say no to the kid. But trafficking was considered the low end of the spectrum for mafia men, he wanted to be were the action was.

By this time Frankie had gotten in with some bad people, who he respected. They were the real mafia men. They were the ones deep in the system, high in the system. They were incharge of the money and the murder. Frankie knew there were people every night being hit either because they were rivals, or they borrowed money from the wrong people, or they looked at someones mother the wrong way. But Frank had never experienced this first hand.

On a slow night Frank had tagged along with a group of men much older than him who said the would “show him the ropes”. They said that someone had borrowed money from them and they were going to collect. They arrived at a small diner and parked in front. Frank followed two men into the diner looking very tentative. The two men muttered something to the clerk who pointed them in the direction of the kitchen. They walked behind the counter and past the intimidated clerk and into the kitchen. The hiss of rice on a hot pan whistled about the tiny room, the clanging of cooking instruments was a percussive undertone that made a euphonious racket. The kitchen gave way to another door, the three entered. A man in a stained white t shirt and ratty jeans rose and tried to make a break past through them, but was caught and thrown back in his seat. He was questioned about money, and some other things Frankie couldn’t understand very well. All he knew is that this man didn’t have the money, and his two companions were not happy. They rose to leave, and just as they were about to step out the door one of the two men pulled a gun and pointed it right at the man in the white t shirt. He froze in fear, Frankie also froze. He didn’t know this is how it went. The man next to him with the gun said, “Frankie, you wanna earn a name?” “Yea,” replied Frankie. “Come here, you know how to use one of these right?” his partner said. Frankie knew what he meant, he couldn’t believe he played this man’s life off in front of him like a training opportunity. “Yes,” Frankie replied. The partner handed Frankie the gun, it was still cold, and he felt it’s weight. He pointed it at the shaking man and made the decision this man’s life is less important than is status, and closed his eyes and shot. He opened, a limp pile lay on the tile floor. He lower the gun and turn to his partners only to see a young boy behind them starring at him with glassy eyes and a hateful look. Frankie froze and saw only himself looking at him. He saw his five year old self starring back at him like he had felt when his father was killed. Frankie collapsed. He slid down the wall still shaking and in shock, he was no better than the man who killed his father. He heard the sirens coming and did not care.

He jolted upright, the mattress buckled under his weight. He was dripping with a cold sweat which was shimmering in the beams or moonlight which had moved across the floor. He lay back down, his back still cold with sweat and his heart still racing. His eyes fixed upon the same thing, the same words he had been muttering for thirty years. “I DIDN’T MEAN TO.”





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