Her Father’s Son

“She was her father’s son. He used to take her with him down to Uncle Joe’s club, where the old wiseguys would hang out. Playing cards and talking about business. They would put her up on a table or on the bar and she would belt out songs for the crowd and they’d cheer and shower her with money and give her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. An old guy named Rubio would draw a fancy crosshairs in ball point pen on the back of her hand and chant, ‘this is the secret symbol of the secret club…!’ Every visit, initiating her again into their secret society. Uncle Joe used to pull her aside and tell her, ‘Hey, kid. If anybody ever bothers you, just write their name on a little piece of paper and put it under your pillow. I’ll take care of it.’ She was one of the wiseguys. Carrying envelopes and taking calls from Ray, their bookie. They were her protectors. 

Her father taught her how to box. And hand to hand combat routines. Stuff he’d learned from Sergeant Sweetapple when he’d served in the army. But he also taught her the difference between a boxer and a fighter. Fighters were tough to spot sometimes. Often quiet. Fearsome at any size. They had a special fire inside of them. Power. She was a fighter, he said. He made her practice throwing punches. Again and again. Til her knuckles bled and she cried. But he also taught her how to take a hit. She was exceedingly good at taking hits. There is something menacing, perhaps, about a person who can withstand that type of punishment and just keep going. Relentless. It’s the fight inside them. The life. At the end of every training session he always left her with the same pieces of advice: ‘Remember, fighters never start fights’ and ‘Don’t ever fight a crazy person. Crazy people,’ he told her, ‘don’t care if they live or die. They’ll just kill ya.’ 

And now he was gone. Last of the wiseguys. Last of her protectors.

Before the wake she asked the funeral director if she could have a private moment with her father, before everyone came in for visitation. He closed all the doors and she kneeled before the casket. She slid an old photograph of them together in the pocket of his suit coat, where no one could see. And she whispered a prayer to him through her tears. ‘Please watch over me. I can’t stand that you are gone. I am losing the fight and I have no one in my corner.’” 🧿

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