Short Stories

A Glass of Wine

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Billy locked his apartment’s door as he stepped down from the pavement. Every evening he went for a stroll to lift the burden of his mind, to decompress and rejuvenate. Pacing through alternate sections of light and dark casted by streetlights, Billy wasn’t his usual self this very evening. Hood over his head and a walkman humming in his ears to safeguard his solitude, he went through his usual track akin to a ghost on the corner of the boulevard, gliding at dusk. As he wiped the sweat off his brows, he could feel the heaviness in the air. Heaviness sprouting from nervousness, Billy was quite concerned about his metaphorical path in life now. A path in life which needed resolve, conviction and kismet to be in his corner. Absorbed in his thoughts and the jazz that played in his Walkman, he reached a little establishment, a winery of sorts. Pulling the hood down upon entering, Billy went straight to the cashier’s desk in the seedy store’s interior. The store had two other figures present in its premises, the cashier and owner Bob and Officer Smith. Both gentlemen were acquainted with Billy, some more than others. Billy glanced straight into the beady eyes of the lanky yet well dressed cashier’s eyes and asked.

Billy – “I hope you have the wine I’ve ordered a few days back.”

Bob – “Yeah, just arrived this afternoon. Fine quality stuff, I reckon there is quite a celebration, huh?”

Billy – “ I’m expecting a guest of high regard tomorrow, perhaps I’m lined up for a promotion.”

Bob – “Good for you mate, good for you.”

As Bob lifted an exquisite bottle of liquor from the caved inwards of his cashier desk and cleaned it with a flannel cloth before packing. The burly and mustached officer chimed in.

Officer Smith – “ Good for you Billy, Congrats”

One could clearly note the mockery wrapped in hollow best wishes from the condescending tone of the Officer. Billy replied scornfully as he carefully held his purchase and handed Bob a crisp currency note.

Billy – “Thanks Officer, well lets hope we hear some good news from your side soon”

Billy bid Bob an evening and left the establishment’s premises. Sauntering towards his apartment, Billy had a change of heart. This moment that came, brought him the courage to seize the opportunity that would present itself tomorrow. He felt certain and that certainty could be seen in his stride now. He knew that tomorrow would unfold a new path in his life.

The Next Evening 

Tonight Billy stepped down from his pavement again. This time in a starched white shirt tucked neatly into a pair of blue trousers. The streetlights lit alternate sections of road which resembled  keys of a piano. As Billy gazed into the abyss, he could see a sedan entering his street from the corner. Clenching his fist tightly, Billy collected himself and realized that it was showtime. The sedan moved closer and closer to the apartment and finally it halted in front of Billy. A chauffeur dressed in white overalls swiftly exited the driver’s seat and pounced towards the passenger’s door. Out of the sedan stepped the car’s enormous occupant. Billy stood stone faced in front of the apartment, ready to welcome the Caporegime (Captain of the regime in Italian/ mafia terminology) of the organization, Mr Costello. Costello extended his sizable hand towards Billy and said.

Costello – “ Doesn’t it hurt the heart to be workin on such a beautiful winter evening Billy ?”

Billy replied while shaking his hand – “No rest for the wicked, sir”

Billy signaled towards his door in a welcoming fashion but Costello held his arm and waved his chauffeur to make a move for exit. Costello whispered to Billy.

Costello – “We can’t have him hanging out in your neighborhood without raising a few eyebrows, he’ll return when he’ll be needed.”

Just as the sedan faded away from the corner, Costello released Billy’s arm and proceeded to enter inside. Billy could still feel the effect of the vice like grip Costello had on his arm, almost paralyzing him, not with size or strength but with sheer authority. Billy guided his guest to a well furnished hall. Costello entered the room and relieved himself of his overcoat & hat and sat at the head of a table on a carved wooden chair. Billy was still trying to register the presence of his guest. The elderly gentleman with a titanesque frame draped in a pinstripe suit , a crown of thinning silver hair neatly parted to one side, a trimmed mustache from one corner of his mouth to another and signet on his finger representing his authority over mere foot soldiers of the organization. Billy realized that Costello dwarfed him in stature and persona to such an extent that he was equally in awe and terror. Costello asked Billy in his baritone.

Costello – “Billy, quit standing there and get me the necessary stuff for the evening.”

Billy realized that his apartment was his no more, he was now standing in the organization’s headquarters and Costello owned him there. He disappeared quickly to reappear with a few blueprints, files and a record player. Costello went through the paperwork as Billy was setting the record player. Costello was flicking pages just as a jazz melody filled the room. Billy stood in one corner of the room and Costello infrequently asked him certain details. Costello finished going through the files and questioned Billy.

Costello – “ So I hope you understand the entire operation of unloading and transportation from docks to the warehouse, do you ?”

Billy replied – “Yeah boss”

Costello – “ It better be, I wouldn’t want a loss at your first job and one of my last ones.”

Billy assured him – “ Nah boss, we’ll be sure to score at the docks”

Costello – “ The organisation looks forward to profits rather than false assurances or excuses.”

Billy stood silently, peering down at the tip of his boots.

Costello further spoke

Costello -” We’d be having this meeting at my residence but I’ve been informed about certain infiltration and bugging at my place, I’m glad you invited me here.”

Billy replied soberly – “ Pleasure is all mine boss”

Costello – “ So who did you work for in the organisation, before me”

Billy answered -” Marvin, your son”

Costello without changing his tone -” Ah Marvin, may he rest in peace. He’d be heading this operation had he still been with us.”

Billy glanced at his boss, reminiscing about his deceased son without a tremble in his voice. 

Costello – “ So you’re heading the job instead of him, I hope you’re worthy of the position”

Billy – “ Marvin was not only a brother and leader but also a mentor to me”

Costello – “ I hope he’d glad if he saw you heading the operation for the organisation”

Billy – ” Let’s raise a glass to Marvin’s memories, huh Boss”

Costello inquired – “ You got some beverages here, right now”

Billy answered – “ Yeah boss, I got some fine stuff yesterday, the kind a man of your taste would fancy.

Costello – “ I’d appreciate a glass then, compadre”

Billy supposedly  went to his cellar and came back with two tulip glasses. He crossed the distance between him & Costello and handed him a glass.

Costello proclaimed – “ To the memories of Marvin, may he reside in heavens till eternity. “

Billy raised his glass in unison with Costello and said

Billy – “ Boss, I’d love if you’d join me for dinner”

Costello nodded as he sat sipping from his glass. Billy tiptoed out of the room. 

As evening matured into the night, Costello sat leaning on the carved wooden chair sipping from the glass. He was amused by the peculiar flavour this wine left in his mouth. He sipped again and suddenly spat the wine out. Wheezing and coughing erupted from Costello’s lungs as he struggled to maintain himself on the chair. He coughed and coughed till his unsettling breath drowned in jazz music playing beside him on a record player. Billy tiptoed back into the room with a Cheshire grin that bejeweled his lips. With the tip of his boot, he tried to lift the massive head of the fallen titan of the ground.  Once he was certain that his guest had left the realm of living to join his son, he called for an ambulance.

The Next Morning

Billy locked his door as he stepped down from the pavement and walked towards the diner they had in vicinity. The late morning sunshine reflected from his eyeglasses as he walked down the street from where the sedan came last night. As he entered the diner, he was greeted by the owner, who was busy brewing fresh coffee. Billy paced towards the last diner stall, which was occupied by a familiar figure. Officer Smith sat there sipping from a coffee from a china cup.

Billy sat opposite to him and said – “ Well, I’ve completed my part of the bargain, now you better handle the doctors and the reports for our sake”

Officer Smith smirked and said – “ Covered already. What now? ”

Billy answered- “ Costello’s were a big name, someone wanted them down. Seems plausible moreover organisation wouldn’t buy the story that a pawn of the game eliminated the rook.”

Officer Smith – “ Fair Enough, you better not forget the deal we’ve had.”

Billy – “ As long as you’re not trying to screw me over”

The diner’s owner asked Billy for a cup of coffee, he politely declined, adjusted his sunglasses and exited into the bright light.

 

Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

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