Family Business by Micah Lally

Sunday, January 11, 2015
Dara faces the uncomfortable truth about her father's job; by Micah Lally.

"What do you think he's doing in there?" Dara asked. Muffled grunts and low whispers permeated through the door occasionally, but it was never very clear. It took a great deal of her will power to keep her black boots facing outward and her shoulders pressed against the door, arms crossed.

"You don't wanna know. I can promise you that," Greg said, chewing on his toothpick. He stood in the same formation as Dara against the wall beside her, only his eyes were closed.

She envied the older man. He had been working with her father for years. The scars on his knuckles and lines in his face told more stories about their endeavors than she could ever learn. Dara wasn't inexperienced either, sporting her own share of marks, but it was rare for her to get to accompany them personally. She'd spent most of the night rocking on the thin heels of her boots, chewing on the inside of her cheek. By this hour, she tasted blood and swallowed hard. "They've been in there for forever."

"So you're an expert on eternity now?" he said.

"No," she scowled. "Dad just doesn't normally take very long when it comes to business."

"Baby, this ain't business. This is personal."

"What do you mean?"

Greg peeked one eye at her. Shifting his footing, he pointed his thumb at the door. "You know what we do. We keep the streets clean of scum. But we get a bit dirty while doin' it, yeah? That's what's happening in there. Your dad's gettin' dirty."

Dara tried to swallow around the lump in her throat and failed. "Who's in there with him?"

"One of the bigger crime bosses."

"Why don't we bring him in then, like we normally do?"

"Like I said. It's personal."

An agonized cry erupted from the room, followed by an angry, unclear demand. Dara reached to open the door, but Greg's fingers snatched her wrist away so fast she had not even seen him move until he shoved her away. She stared at him with suspicion. "What makes this so personal? What's Dad doing in there?"

He blinked at her.


"Go home, Dara. This stuff ain't for you."

She pressed a hand to her chest in offense. Greg was like an uncle to her. Hearing the disdain in his voice was enough to make her eyes itch with the threat of tears. "I ain't goin' anywhere until I see my father."

"You see him, you'll never speak to him again."

"And why's that?"

"'Cause you couldn't handle lookin' at a killer."

Dara stumbled backwards as if he had struck her. Her long, thin fingers curled into fists, biting deep into her palms. "Dad's not a killer."

"Kid, this is what we do -"

"No! I know what we do. We catch criminals, rough 'em up a bit, and then turn them in. This isn't my first time, Greg. We don't kill people."

"You don't kill people."

"What does that mean?"

Greg's lip twitched and he took a step towards her, his eyes bright and threatening. "Your daddy and I do jobs without you, kid. We've been doin' jobs since before you were born. There are things we ain't proud of and there are things that we are. Some lines get crossed when you do work like we do. He's always tryna' protect you, actin' like we ain't a bit dark too. Always tryna' pretend to you that we're some sort of vigilantes. Well, baby, that just ain't the truth. Only reason we're not locked up for the stuff that we've done is 'cause we clean up the other trash around here for the pigs. Immunity. That's what they call it. As long as we do our job. But some things just get personal, and the law ain't got nothin' to do with it."

Dara cowered further and further away with each revelation, her eyes wet and her vision blurred. She placed a hand on her stomach as if she could hold in the vomit that churned within her.

The man's face didn't soften as he strode back to his place of duty next to the door. He only watched her with an unflinching gaze, his jaw working the wooden pick between his teeth into a pulp. He didn't move a muscle when the door flew open and his partner, Howard, stepped out, rubbing a cloth over his bloody hands.

Dara moaned at the sight of her father's knuckles, swaying uneasily as her eyesight grew dim around the edges.

"What's goin' on out here? I heard yellin'." Howard's eyes flickered between the two of them.

"All's fine. Dara just got a little sick," Greg said.

Howard looked his daughter up and down. "You okay? Need to sit down?"

Dara burped a bubble of nausea in response.

"I'm almost done in here. Dara, get back in position and then we'll be on our way." Howard made to reenter the room, but hesitated when his daughter didn't move. He gave her a pointed look and stuck a finger out at where she was meant to be. "Dara. Back in place."

The young woman wrung her hands together, unable to meet the gaze of either man. The alley seemed a lot more menacing, with its low, flickering lights and the breeze that carried the subtle stench of waste. It was nothing like a half hour ago, when it seemed very noir and romantic that she was getting to work one on one with her hero.

Her hero who was no better than a villain now.

"Dara, if I say it again, you won't like it," Howard threatened.

A shaky breath escaped her and she dragged her foot back as if to escape, but there was hesitation in her movements.

Family business, she thought.

Squaring her shoulders, her lip quivering, she stepped back into place under the lamplight beside Greg and tried to ignore the click of the door shutting behind her.


  1. this really is first class, brilliant descriptive, fantastic use of words.
    captures the realisation of disappointment perfectly.
    well done


  2. Very expressively written, visceral and exposed. The 'coming of age' of this is child of the mob, when the scales finally fall from her eyes is devastating for her. Dramatic and extreme in this narrative, the process is mirrored in most of our lives when we realise that our parents are flawed, in minor or sometimes major ways. They are not the arbiters of what is right. As Mike has said the use of language is fantastic; selective and spare with maximum impact. Thank you very much,

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Great piece, classic exposition of our society especially in the 21st century. Disappointment couldn't have been more hurtful than when its stings stems from your blood and hero. The descriptive skill in here is just on point. Great work Micah!

  5. Hi Micah, I enjoyed your writing style and the easy continuous flow of words that presented clear imagery and characterization. One point of criticism is the context, surely Dara 'wasn't inexperienced' and having been in the business with her Dad, she was well aware of what was going on. To me this naivety you presented seemed contradictory to the back story. I may have misinterpreted this (readers often do), I would welcome your thoughts. James McEwan.

  6. Great, engaging story! A sad coming of age, but an effective one. Nice work!