Monday, July 15, 2019

Louie the Hatchet by Mark Tulin

When his father befriends a hitman, Mark's character feels the consequences; by Mark Tulin.

My father did not discriminate when it came to choosing his friends. So, it wasn't a big surprise that he befriended a notorious hitman. This particular hitman didn't wear a shiny suit, have gold chains around his neck, or wear a pair of sharp alligator shoes, but he did have a scary scar on his hand and an aura that made my teeth chatter.

I remember staring at this hulking man like an infamous celebrity, looking at his big, stubby fingers that could probably tell of a thousand deaths and the keloid scar on his right hand the shape of a lightning bolt. Those bear-like claws of his were capable of things that my naive mind could never imagine. He had the power to destroy life without the least bit of hesitation.

It was interesting to see how relaxed my father was with such a hardened criminal, almost as if he were a respectable member of society.

"They're not as bad as everything thinks," my father said. "They tend to help a lot of people."

"Sure, dad," I said, not wanting to be disrespectful.

“He just went down the wrong road, that’s all,” Dad continued. “His brother, on the other hand, is the superintendent of schools. Things happen for a reason.”

My dad was a practical man. He accepted reality no matter how immoral or unfair. Dad was a former soldier in the Army who saw the worst kind of brutality, so a hitman in the mafia wasn't someone who scared him off.

"There are all kinds of people in the world, son. If they're nice to me, I'm nice to them."

It was a simple rule he lived by that seemed to work to his advantage. He knew that the guy was a killer and one day he wouldn’t see him anymore. The hitman would disappear off the face of the earth, probably at the bottom of a river somewhere.

"As long as he's nice to me, I’m nice to him,” Dad repeated his mantra as he meticulously wiped down the silver meat slicer. He grew up during the Depression, and he saw things from a different point of view. “Whatever a man does is his business. Who am I to judge? I’m not such an angel myself.”

It was true. My father was no angel. He often bought trailer-loads of stolen merchandise from scoundrels and thieves and thought nothing about who they victimized.

"A guy’s got to make a buck. God’s the only person that should do the judging.”

Dad was convincing in a common sense way no matter how much I disliked the idea. I began to wonder if my idealistic way of thinking wasn't the best way to go in such a dog-eat-dog world.



One day, I was by myself in my father’s convenience store. It seemed like a normal day, a steady stream of customers buying their usual allotments of produce, canned goods, and lunchmeat.

Then the hitman walked in. Each step he took was with a strong sense of entitlement like he owned the place, me, or anything else that got in his way.

My heart skipped a beat, and all the air seemed to leave the store. My chest tightened from anxiety so much that I held onto the counter to keep my wobbly legs from collapsing.

I began ringing up an elderly woman with rosy cheeks.“I just made a tray of Halupkis,” she said, expecting me to be overjoyed.

“Oh, that’s nice,” I responded with disinterest. I was more concerned with the beast that was going down each aisle with a shopping cart. It looked like he was a contestant in the old TV show, Supermarket Sweep, where he had a minute or so to stuff his shopping cart with anything he wanted.

“I’ll bring some Halupkis for your father because I know how much he loves the potato ones.”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it,” I said as the hitman was taking the most expensive tubs of Pure Virgin Olive Oil.

The voice in my head kept saying, "Business is business. It's not my business what people do in their private lives."

I took the lady’s bag to her car as the hitman ransacked the place and there was nothing I could do about it. The longer he was here, the less inventory we had on the shelves.

Although he occasionally smiled at a passerby, he had a hardened, rigid face with an equal amount of folds on each cheek. I could hear his big sneakers squeaking against the concrete as if it was Godzilla coming out of the water. He put tubs of lard, cans of tuna, bags of pasta, packs of frozen meatballs, armfuls of apples and oranges into his bulging shopping cart. When there was no room in the cart, he loaded up the bottom with cases of soda, seltzer, and bottled water. I couldn’t imagine anyone except him being able to push such a weighty cart.



I stood at the register like a complete fool watching the menacing man pull up to the counter with a cart piled so high that boxes of donuts and bags of pretzels kept sliding off the pile and onto the floor.

He gave me a deathly stare that froze my movement. I anticipated he would take all the money out of the register and ask me to empty my pockets. I would kiss my college tuition goodbye.

I prayed for my father to walk through the door and bail me out. But he was roaming around some hick town, delivering merchandise to jovial customers, shooting the bull and probably sharing a cold one. Meanwhile, in the store that he invested his life in, his only begotten son, a little shrimp of a human being, was face-to-face with one of the worst scums on the planet.

"This is what I got,” said the hitman, commanding me to take a mental note of the merchandise in his shopping cart that he refused to put on the counter.

As I began to ring up the groceries, he grabbed my arm and shook his head no. After a few seconds of staring me down, I understood that he wasn’t paying, and he gave me a gap-toothed smile before releasing my arm.

"You must be Marty's son. You have his face. I bet you’re popular with the ladies?”

I gave him an awkward smile like I had constipation.

Once he had released my left arm, it went limp as if all the blood had been drained out. It was all I could do to keep from wetting in my pants.

The hitman's name was Louie “The Hatchet” Samone, and he wasn’t much of a talker. Once he finished complimenting me, he put a large silver flashlight on the counter and said. "This is for your pop."

At first, I looked at the flashlight like it was the Hope Diamond or something equally as valuable. But after inspecting it further, I realized it was nothing more than a cheap flashlight that he bought on sale at Home Depot and it probably didn’t even come with batteries.

It was all I could do to keep from saying, "Aren't you going to pay for all this stuff? You have over a thousand dollars of merchandise, and you’re just giving me a damn flashlight?"

"I'll get this squared away with your pop," he said in a gravelly voice that made the floor shake.

I stood frozen.

"Tell your father Hatchet was here. He'll know."

Speechless, I watched the man push the cart full of free merchandise out the door. He didn’t even have the courtesy to bring back the shopping cart, just left it in the street and it eventually rolled into a parked car.



In my delusional mind, I wanted to run after him and scream, “You have to pay for the merchandise just like everyone else!”

I dreamed of telling him that he's not special because he's in the mafia, and whacking countless numbers of people doesn’t give him the right to take advantage of a poor store owner.

But I wasn't stupid. I was a sophomore in college and had a reasonably high GPA. I had a long life ahead of me. I wanted to graduate, become a clinical psychologist, and perhaps get married one day. At the very least, I wanted to have both of my legs intact and no digits on my hands missing.

I kept hearing my father’s voice in my head. “He just got some bad breaks in his life, that’s all. He’s no different from any of us.”

I was afraid to touch the flashlight with the fingerprints of a murderer on it. As I looked at the flashlight, I wondered if I should take it to the police station, but then I realized that the cops were probably in cahoots with the mafia and I’d probably be the next person to be whacked and found at the bottom of a river.

So, I smiled awkwardly as he waved to me driving by in his Cadillac SUV, and I watched him speed down the street to another place where he would ransack another poor, defenseless soul.

“Business is business,” I muttered to myself, realizing that you couldn’t learn this stuff in college, nor would you want to.

4 comments:

  1. The tale of a hungry hitman. Wonder why the father befriended him....perhaps we will find out in chapter 2.

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  2. Favors paid with favors...a new concept for Marty's son, but I suspect Marty will explain in due time. In the meantime, humoring the hitman seems like a very prudent choice!

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  3. Great, and well told, contrast of the hitman and the college student. Excellent inner dialogue. But I was also left with unanswered questions regarding the reasons the hitman could get away with it, and the role of the flashlight.

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  4. Well written, tension builds nicely throughout and nice contrast between innocence and corruption

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