Mike Albanese



You look at me and you think, pshaw! An old man whose had too much to drink and not enough counseling to boot. You see so many wrinkles, so little life. You see my emptiness; you see my shame. You see my name written on the walls that bounce back at you. You see the dulled spark in my pupil; you see the chipped tooth under my lip. But what you don't see is the years that lie behind my tired eyes. What you don't see is the broken heart lodged in my copper-rusted ribs. You don't see the hurt responsible for the barren canals under my eyes. What you don't see is my story.

It seems like yesterday I was so much like you, full of youth, sanity. I can't remember when I stopped watching the mailman bring the paper up to the stoop. Or when I stopped waiting for Father to come home from work. Fate and my dad's drinking seemed to loom over me like two gargantuan clouds and finally clicked in place directly above to deliver the most devastating thunderstorm imaginable.

I must have been ten or eleven when my mother past away. I didn't become completely withdrawn, but my teenage years swamped past in a daze, a daze consisting of the 50's, my father's drinking and my father's suicide. They thought I was experiencing symptoms common of the traumas that had been brought on in the past years. Until I killed Jimmy.

Until the day at the pier, my stepparents and I were getting along. We didn't speak, I was fed, I slept. School was just part of the routine. I went along and didn't make much noise. I'm not sure what it was my father said to me the day she shot himself in the mouth. The only thing I've ever been sure of is that, power, the feeling of control, holding a situation in your right hand with a grip to make oak bleed, is the greatest thing that could happen to a person. I haven't held a single thing with that right hand in thirty years, besides a knife sharp as the tablecloth it rests upon each meal. Even my spoon is dulled at the edges by sandpaper.

Though the murder of Jimmy Cunningham is a mere footnote to the story of my life's mischief, it was one of the highlights. He was a friend. I remember him messing around with my sister. I remember him, gazing upon the ashes of Spike and every possession that had any value at all to him, taking it all in. And as I knocked him to his knees with a two by four, I heard the splinters crackle and pop on the back of his skull. The look on his face as I paced the desolate planks of the pier! His lips began to move. They formed words of courage, of defiance. But his actions were speaking so loudly of wane I couldn't hear a word he was saying. "Don't worry, Jim. It will all be better when you wake up."

"G-Get away from me you… you freak!" He scrambled with his arms closer to the water, further from me. "What the hell is wrong with you?" His entire face ticked and stuttered with every word. "Why?" He slurred and began to lose consciousness from all of the blood that had seeped from the back of his head. With that, I hardly gave it any mind as I poured the fluid, dousing his ragged clothes. His eyes still glazed straight ahead in awe, a sight that hasn't left me.

My stepparents disowned me. I was just sixteen, and I laid low. I walked the streets at night, found odd jobs when I wasn't running backpacks for dark and pale faces. I knew the streets and the stories they told; I felt the powerful aura emitted from every corner's "merchandise." I'm not completely sure what my twenties consisted of, but liquor was big, drugs were bigger. My hunger for power grew stronger no matter how much I bottled it up. I was sure that it was just a matter of time before the cork came undone. And it did.

94th and main, a small convenience store. I had about two large in dirty money on me. I was second in line when the masked man strutted in. The clerk cooperated like clockwork. But that pistol, wagging along with the masked man's wrist, back and forth, taunting me, hypnotizing me, controlling me both by its threats as well as its presence. The man hid behind that mask and that gun. He was a coward. He thought he held the trump card. I lunged for the gun. The pain in my chest was immense. But I didn't feel it. I was too hungry. Hungry for power. Hungry for control. My adrenaline was flowing out the hole in my chest. But once I had that gun, he did not have his life. I blacked out. And when I woke up, my blood flowed right along with the other six patrons' and the pistol's twelve-lock chamber was empty, with about as many of my fingerprints they later found on the trigger. My hunger had finally been satisfied, and I've had to the past thirty years to think about it.